7. Republic Commando
It’s not often that Star Wars games get a gritty, visceral feel. With Republic Commando, they were able to give you that experience in spades. A first-person shooter that gamers would call a “Corridor Shooter,” this game was fast, action-packed, and extremely fun. While playing through this game, it calls Halo to mind with its gameplay. You went from encounter to encounter as you worked your way to the objective. It differs from Halo in one big aspect though: your squad mates. It was a lot of fun playing a clone commander who could direct the squad through different engagements all through the game. There were many different ways to tactically work your way through a droid-infested situation.
Sometimes, being squad leader means you have to get your hands dirty. Some of the best action sequences in the game involved wading through waves of those annoying bugs on Geonosis with your gauntlet spike – punching your way through and splattering bug guts on your visor. Don’t worry, though, your visor actually a wiper of sorts. Melee in this game has a very satisfying feeling that calls to mind the Lancer from Gears of War.
This game puts you in the shoes of this elite clone trooper squad and gives you a different view of the clone wars. Now you’re doing special missions and helping the greater clone army as a tactical squad. It was gritty and fun, and sometimes being a regular trooper in the Star Wars Universe is even cooler than being able to wield the Force.
For a similar gaming experience: Look at Dark Forces, which is the first game in the Jedi Knight series. While the game is old, it still put you in the shoes of a trooper wading through waves of enemies and getting work done without the benefit of the Force.
6. Shadows of the Empire
One of the best titles to come out of the N64, this was an incredible Star Wars game. Similar to Republic Commando in that you had no control over the Force, your mission is no less important. Based on a novel of the same name, the game takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Your mission is to rescue Has Solo from the bounty hunter. Despite your best efforts to remain neutral, you find yourself being drawn into the Galactic War as more than just a mercenary.
Playing the scoundrel Dash Rendar, you feel like you’re Han Solo going around blasting Imperial Troops and running up against bounty hunters like IG-88 and even Boba Fett himself. This game even featured a racing sequence where you take down a swoop gang on Tatooine. Shadows of the Empire has a ton of different gameplay elements rolled into one game, but still manages to keep the Star Wars feel. However, there’s much more to the story than what you see on the surface. Playing this game exposes players to much of the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars Universe. It’s an excellent choice for Star Wars games, because it gives us a variety of Star Wars experiences but feels different enough to be new and exciting.
One of the most memorable things about this game is a giant space battle at the end. While you fly around taking out pirates and imperials alike, the rebels are there to help you get the job done. Your goal is to take out a flying fortress, but the entire time you’ve got CD quality music playing during your battle that was composed for the story. Written by Joel McNeely, the music is easily as iconic as that produced by John Williams.
For a similar gaming experience: Look at Bounty Hunter on the game cube, a third-person action game where you take the reigns as Jango Fett. This game shows how Jango gets involved with the clone army, and how he makes friends with Zam Wessel, the changeling.
5. Battlefront II
When you combine the Battlefield series with Star Wars, you get Star Wars: Battlefront. A multiplayer battleground first-person shooter game set in the Star Wars universe is just what the doctor ordered for many of us. This game featured online capability before anything like Xbox Live or Playstation Network existed. Featuring large ground battles taking place all over the Star Wars Universe, it helped us to experience these large-scale battles for which Star Wars is known. There’s something extremely satisfying about running across the ice fields of Hoth as a snow trooper and blasting all the rebels in their trenches as you escort a hulking AT-AT to its final objective.
For many of us, a Star Wars experience is all about the huge battles in exotic locations. If that battle is in space or on the ground, it doesn’t matter to us – we just want to be there. Unlike many of the other games on this list, Battlefront gave us something extra, it’s not about Jedi vs Sith, it’s about soldiers fighting soldiers. There’s something beautiful about being a normal soldier without the benefit of Force Powers and still managing to perform feats of heroism on the battlefield… especially against enemies that have those powers.
If being a common soldier isn’t your style, the game also let you play as Republic and Separatists heroes and later Rebellion and Imperial heroes for extra fun. Adding in elements like awards, medals, and other game modes, Lucasarts did a fantastic job making the game addicting enough for repeated playthroughs. There was even a reward system based on the number of kills you made in each battle. Battlefront II did a wonderful job bringing the huge, grandiose battles to gamers and letting us slog through the trenches. It’s just like many of us were kids playing with our Nerf guns, pretending we were Stormtroopers assaulting the Rebels at the beginning of Episode IV, only this time, we don’t have to pick up the darts.
For a similar gaming experience: Play Battlefront I – a game that many people argue was even better than the sequel. While this game doesn’t feature the benefit of playing as Jedi or Sith, some people argue that this game has better gameplay and level design. Try both, they’re pretty cheap on Steam.
4. Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight
For the experience of a first-person shooter with Jedi powers, this game is the one that started it all. Released in 1997, it tells you something about how good this game was when you see that there’s still an active modding community. Featuring live-action cut scenes, a CD quality Star Wars soundtrack, and an original story, it’s easy to see why this game was so popular and played by so many.
Highly praised for the use of force powers, lightsaber combat, and puzzles in the game – some have even said that it was the best single player first-person shooter since Doom. This game makes the list for two reasons: story and lightsaber combat. The story is about the mercenary, Kyle Katarn, first seen in Dark Forces (See the end of #7 on the list). He’s a normal guy who learns he has a gift for the Force and learns that his family has a sordid history with the Jedi. His quest begins when he gets his first lightsaber, and from there he has to battle several dark Jedi in order to save the galaxy… but will he fall to the dark side? Gameplay will change depending on which path you choose, and there’s no going back once you start down the path. There are consequences for choosing a light or dark path, and it does change the gameplay as well as the ending of the game.
Jedi Knight introduced us to Kyle Katarn, a character who persisted in the Expanded Universe. His quest reminds us of what we love about Star Wars – good vs. evil, sacrifice, and magic… it’s a space opera video game. This game puts players at the helm of a Hero or Villain, and the story was so good that elements of it appeared in later Star Wars games, and even other sci-fi games. For any gamer interested in a retro experience, this is an important game and had a big impact on later sci-fi games.