Star Wars: The Best, Worst, & Strangest Games

Den of Geek takes a look at the best, worst, and just plain weird games of Star Wars.

Star Wars is the pop culture that surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the geeks together. There are so many Star Wars games that even writing all their names would be longer than an article, and we’d have to start a long time ago to be finished before the release of Star Wars Battlefront, and far far away to have enough room to write them down. And no matter which games we pick, millions of voices will cry out as their favorite entry is silenced.

That’s why, like any group struggling against an immense, all-dominating enemy, we’ve recruited a band of princesses and scoundrels to help us. We’ve asked some Star Wars characters to pick out their favorite titles, whether they’re embracing the light, turning to the dark, or just rolling around beeping at things.

The Emperor Palpatine Award for Failing A Huge Group

WINNER: Star Wars Galaxies

2003 | Sony Online Entertainment | PC

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Galaxies built an MMO inside Star Wars, and we’re lucky it failed or there’d be nobody left in the real world to maintain the servers. It would have destroyed planetary civilizations more completely than the Death Star, but like the Emperor’s Death Stars, this hugely powerful idea was released with crippling flaws. The launch code looked like a massively incomplete second Death Star, huge chunks of the planned game were simply missing, and the fact it was technically “fully operational” didn’t stop people from finding the huge gaps and blowing it up.

The game was finally destroyed by the same thing as the Emperor: Jedi. The game launched without any, which is like launching a Madden game without footballs. But when everyone got to be Jedi, everyone was upset about all the Jedi. Star Wars‘ most exciting occupation was suddenly more common than shop mannequins, and the process of unlocking them was more tedious than a job standing in a shop window. Galaxies shut down at the end of 2011, though small rebel groups still run emulators of what might have been.

R2-D2 beep beeep BEEEP deeOOOooo Award

WINNER: Star Wars 

1983 | Atari | Arcade

R2-D2 turned a few geometric shapes and beeps into one of the most beloved machines in all fiction, and the Star Wars arcade game didn’t even have complete shapes. But the wireframe graphics were even cooler. The entire game was the definition of a “good bit,” starting with your mission to destroy the Death Star and ending as you curse, having missed that tricky proton torpedo shot on the thermal exhaust port, and jangling for more coins to feed the beautiful X-Wing cabinet. Womp rats had nothing on that fiddly final shot. Because even the Force can’t help you against a credit-hungry cabinet.

The General Grievous Award for Great Idea Gone Wrong

WINNER: Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

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2004 | Obsidian Entertainment | Xbox, PC

General Grievous was an amazing lightsaber-spinning blend of machine and flesh, making him everything we’d ever want to be when we’re playing Star Wars. Unfortunately, he also didn’t really understand Star Wars. Weren’t lightsabers only for Force-wielders, because anyone else would slice their own face off? Dedicated fans filled in the missing details in linking cartoons, but the basic idea of Grievous was, “This looks cool and should make money. Don’t worry about the geeky stuff.”

The exact same problem struck Knights of the Old Republic II. The true Sith Lords were LucasArts, forcing Obsidian to complete their task far ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, it turns out shouting, “We shall redouble our efforts!” doesn’t actually let you complete twice the work in half the time. The resulting game was clearly unfinished, missing entire worlds, and while brutally destroying worlds is a very Sith thing to do, it wasn’t quite as much fun to play. The resulting game’s real tragedy was how obviously brilliant it could have been.

Rogue Leader Ribbon for Rogue Leading

WINNER: Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

2001 | Factor 5 | GC

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Rogue Leader lets you destroy the Death Star as an X-Wing and everything else in the game is a bonus. Possibly everything else in your life. The rest of the game could have been Space Hydraulic System Maintenance Simulator and it would still have been brilliant, but instead you could play in Darth Vader’s TIE fighter, the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett’s Slave I, or even a 1969 Buick Electra 225. You can also pilot a Naboo fighter, but honestly, most people would prefer the Buick.

It was the perfect sequel. It built on everything from the original, but did it better, better-looking, and with infinitely more fun. If developers Factor 5 had been working for Emperor Palpatine, the second Death Star would have destroyed the Rebels, conquered three new galaxies, and had safety gratings over all the pits to make sure he didn’t do something stupid like fall down a big hole.

Sebulba First Place Trophy for Blatant Cash-Extracting Race Sequence

WINNER: Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing

2001 | Lucas Learning | PS2

Sebulba looks like scrotums worked out how to evolve without involving any other body parts, and he still looks better than Super Bombad Racing. The game turns major Star Wars characters into super-chibi-deformed macroencephelatic protomiibos, jams them into karts, then shouts, “Those are racers. Not karts. We swear we’re not ripping off Mario!” 

Super Bombad Racing sold so badly that even the Dreamcast version was canceled, and when the Dreamcast says it can do without your game, it’s time to turn your game development experience into shiny frisbee making. And if you shouted, “May the Force be with you!” while hurling blank game CDs at strangers in the street, it would still be a more dignified use of the license.

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Ponda Baba Big Hand for Bad Fighting Ideas

WINNER: Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi

1997 | LucasArts | PS

Ponda Baba was the bottom-faced thug in the Mos Eisley Cantina who needed a translator to drunkenly threaten a stranger at a bar. Because that’s how stupid you have to be to pull a gun on a man holding a lightsaber. Ponda ended that fight on the ground, one-armed and bleeding out, and even he’d still have more fun playing Street Fighter than anyone else trying to play Masters of Teras Kasi.

A fighting game where some characters have lightsabers would be more one-sided than a press release from a totalitarian mobius strip. Solving that would require hard work and invention, which was the exact opposite of LucasArts’ plan, which was, “We already invented Star Wars and want more money.”

The game was as balanced as half a combine harvester and even less fun to fight. The only moment of invention seems to be how “Teras Kasi” is Finnish for “Steel Hand,” which seems to suit both Luke and Darth Vader, until you realize it raises far more questions than it answers. Questions like, “Did they even rip off their own name from Tekken, aka Iron Fist?” The answer being, “Hopefully not, because anyone who’d even seen Tekken would never have released a game like this.”

Jar-Jar Binks Dedication Speech for Annoying Computerized Mistake

WINNER: Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier

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1999 | Lucas Learning | PC

Jar-Jar Binks now means “awful mistake” in many languages, including English, but his commander Rugor Nass is forty gallons of offensive computer generated stereotypes in an ugly-skin bag. Nass’s idea of military strategy is “find an enemy with superior ranged weaponry and march straight at them over open ground.” He has a slightly better idea in The Gungan Frontier, deciding to get Gungans off Naboo and onto their own moon.

Unfortunately, he himself is a much worse idea, and an entire game of his blubbering is unbearable, turning a fairly inoffensive ecological educational game into an extended psychological torture designed to make Star Wars fans decide Ewoks weren’t so bad after all. On the other hand, off-loading himself and his people to a new world without any intelligent life whatsoever is about the level of tactical threat he can handle. Maybe he did learn something from the movie.

Admiral Thrawn Promotion for Expanding Imperial Excellence

WINNER: Star Wars: TIE Fighter

1994 | Totally Games | PC

Admiral Thrawn is a character from the Star Wars expanded universe, and the fact his entire continuity was recently officially destroyed doesn’t make him any less cool. If being destroyed made things less cool, we wouldn’t still be talking about Death Stars. He added immense amounts of awesome to the Imperial side of the Star Wars story, and even appears in a TIE Fighter expansion as an Imperial nod between things that make being on the Empire’s side fun.

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TIE Fighter made being a minion more fun than most games that gave you Jedi powers and a lightsaber. It let you reconfigure firing systems and reroute internal power, trading speed for shields and weapons and back again, making you feel much more like a pilot than a mere gunner. An assortment of evil missions are presented as essential for peacekeeping and stability. Fly well and you can even earn a place at Lord Vader’s side as he protects the new Death Star. Luckily, this game goes better than that mission.

C-3PO Protocol Recognition for Boring Surfeit of Text

WINNER: Star Wars: Rebellion

1998 | Coolhand Interactive | PC

You know you’re in trouble when a game starts with C-3PO talking. You know it’s really bad when there are no other characters in the universe to talk to. Talking about fleet budget requests, deployment orders, exploration reports, in all six million of his languages but only one monotone. That’s not exactly what happens, but it’s what it felt like.

The idea of managing either the Empire or the Alliance sounds great. But nobody runs away from a Tattooine moisture farm with dreams of becoming a Rebel accountant. There’s a certain level of detail beyond which army management becomes a meaningless chore, and Rebellion requires you to adjust three budget screens to requisition permission to file an application to see the zoning committee planning report on where that level might have been located.

Princess Leia Medal for Sheer Star Wars Brilliance

WINNER: Lego Star Wars

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2005 | Traveller’s Tales | Xbox, PS2, GC, PC, GBA

Princess Leia is an icon of pure Star Wars. Darth Vader might be one of the greatest villains ever written, and Luke Skywalker the most heroically named hero, but Leia’s the only one who can identify an entire franchise with a costume. She also wore the most famous costume, and is just as capable with a blaster as she is at commanding entire armies, or entire worlds. A game where you played as the princess could be the best alternate world RPG ever made.

In the meantime, we’ve got LEGO Star Wars. Which understands the source material in a way so few other titles do. Many games just licensed the name to make money, filling in the blanks like “an actual game” with the minimum of fuss, but LEGO understood the action of the premise, the deep love of the fandom, and most importantly, they understand the sheer fun of getting to play with Star Wars. That’s how good the franchise is: LEGO is toys, and even it’s excited to get to play in the Star Wars universe.

Millennium Falcon Award for Best Thing Ever

WINNER: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

2003 | BioWare | Xbox, PC

Knights of the Old Republic isn’t just the best Star Wars game, it’s a tutorial for those who want to make a game based on any beloved franchise. They took every single good thing from the setting, then set it thousands of years away so that they didn’t have to worry about a single bit of the continuity. It’s wonderful. You’re finally a long time ago, and far far away, but still utterly free to indulge in your own story. You don’t know what’s going to happen! When any other game dumps you on Hoth, you start immediately scanning the horizon for AT-ATs.

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This game corrected the big error of the prequel movies. We love Star Wars for lightsabers and blasters, not biographical details and family trees. This game skipped over everything we already knew and let us carve out our own adventure.