This week Star Wars fans across the globe will likely have booked Friday off for Star Wars Day. No, it’s not an official holiday, but since around 2008, the Jedi faithful have been celebrating the Star Wars franchise every May 4th – ‘May the 4th be with you’ is their pun-tastic catchphrase. If you’ve decided to embrace the Force rather than work this Friday, you may want to lose yourself in a Star Wars game.
But since stamping ‘Star Wars’ on a game’s box art pretty much guarantees sales, the quality of games set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away can vary. Some publishers have turned out dreck and relied on the franchise tag to push sales – some, depressingly, have been successful. To that end, we have you covered. What follows is a list of some of the best game set in George Lucas’s space opera universe. These aren’t cheap cash-ins; indeed some of them may suck hours from your life beyond May 4th.
Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic
If you’re a Star Wars fan and you’ve never played KOTOR, stop reading now and head over to Steam or the Xbox store (sorry PS4 jockeys) and buy it. You won’t regret it. BioWare’s first set in George Lucas’s sci-fi universe is revered as one of the best-licensed games ever made, and for good reason.
The game’s story is set thousands of years before the prequels, allowing BioWare to tell its own story without worrying about tripping over filmic lore, while at the same time fleshing out the universe as a whole. Naturally, since this is a BioWare game, the plot and endings branch somewhat depending on the player’s moral choices. KOTOR made players feel like they were integral parts of Star Wars’ story and that experienced hasn’t really been matched since.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The knock on LEGO games is that they’re all pretty similar and they’re mainly aimed at kids. While there’s a kernel of truth there, what these criticisms miss is how much fun the games are for players in any age group. That, and the fact that they’re hilarious since the core mechanics are slapstick and they’re underscored with the film’s stately musical score and instantly recognisable sound effects.
Like its predecessors, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens puts as much of a premium on humour as it does on fan service. It’s a fantastic puzzler beat ‘em up, but mixing in goof and gags with dialogue from the source material is what makes the game special. Well, that, and the depth of unlockables in it means it could keep you and the tots in your life occupied until the next main film comes out.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
The recent Battlefront’s X-Wing VR mission is arguably the closest players have gotten to feeling like they’re behind the controls of a bonafide Star Wars space fighter, but before that, the gold-standard in this regard was (and still is) Star Wars: TIE Fighter. In it, players take on the role of an Imperial Pilot at the centre of a storyline set between the events of Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi.
Built n the back of the engine that powered its predecessor, X-Wing, TIE Fighter hits the sweet spot between simple and engrossing gameplay; the controls are simple and easy-to-use, while pilots have the option of channelling power from weapons to shields, or rerouting shields to speed. None of this makes the game complicated to play. Shot through with a plot that sees players rise through the ranks to become one of Emperor Palpatine’s inner circle and you have one of the best flight simulators ever made.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
After their success with KOTOR, BioWare were allowed a second crack at the bat with Star Wars lore and with The Old Republic, the developer went widescreen. What fans got was an MMO that promised to be the worthy successor to KOTOR as well as picking up on its plotlines.
The game, admittedly, was deeply flawed at launch, but over the years has grown into a very respectable experience. Players can take on the roles of Imperial soldier, Jedis and even Bounty Hunters and the game does a magnificent job at catering to newbies right the way through to veteran grinders.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is available for free (with the option to pay more) from its official website (http://www.swtor.com/).
Star Wars: Battlefront II
EA received a rather well-deserved slap from players at the end of last year for tying loot crates to a pay-to-win mechanic in Battlefront II. EA subsequently removed this aspect from its game; microtransactions are back, but you can only buy cosmetic items with them, as you would do in Overwatch. Once you’ve washed that bitter taste out of your mouth, it’s worth looking at the game, which is actually rather good.
Okay, the single-player campaign won’t win anyone over, but the multiplayer is one of the best out there. From the gigantic 32-player Galactic Assault to the Team Deathmatch (Rush) mode, to the Starfighter Assault dogfight combat, there’s a competition to tempt every online shooter fan. Recently the game also saw the new free Night On Endor update, which includes Ewok Hunt, a genuinely disturbing FPS survival mode in which Lucas’s cuddly furballs come across as savage, flesh-eating monsters. Seriously.