At the time of making this video, Episode 7 hasn’t come out, fan excitement levels are growing exponentially, but the new Battlefront is shaping up to be an awful successor to an otherwise incredible franchise. Battlefront was supposed to be the chosen one, to bring balance to Star Wars games, not leave them in darkness! Video games – and I think specifically PC games – have long been the beating heart of the Star Wars universe. From its very inception, LucasArts and its partners have concentrating on telling great stories and making the best games, rather than just trading on brand recognition. Regardless of their being Star Wars games, some of these games are considered to be the best examples in their genre. Perhaps it’s for the best then, that we reminisce over the past few decades of Star Wars games on the PC. The Force is strong with these ones, but I’ve picked out my five of the best Star Wars PC games.
One main advantage to choosing a list of Star Wars PC games is the fact that the PC has so many exclusive Star Wars titles. Practically every great Star Wars game is a near-PC exclusive. In the late 90s though, two previously-exclusive N64 games, Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron were both curiously ported to the PC. Now, it’ll be a cold day on Mustafar before I say Shadows of the Empire is a good game (the PC version is not completely horrible), but Rogue Squadron 3D is awesome! Sporting practically identical gameplay to the N64 game but with better graphics and none of that horrible slowdown that plagued the original. Hokey graphics and ancient gameplay are no match for a SideWinder joystick at your side, kid. Playing Rogue Squadron with a proper flight stick is fantastic, and feels like the way it was meant to be played. Just don’t get cocky.
When it comes to first-person shooters, Star Wars doesn’t have a lot to choose from. Dark Forces is consistently one of my favourites, mostly because it tickles my nostalgia-bone. But the best example of a modern FPS is Republic Commando. Essentially the best thing to come out of the prequel trilogy, Republic Commando is a tidy FPS with just enough features to help it stand out. You play as Clone Trooper Delta RC-1138, who commands the four-man Delta Squad. Each trooper has their own specific abilities, which Delta can command through the straightforward orders system. A generous difficulty curve and a pretty decent story shunts Battlefront off the list and makes Republic Commando the definitive Star Wars shooter.
If there’s one game genre that is absolutely overserved when it comes to Star Wars PC games, it’s strategy games. Whether you like epic space battles, or ground-based combat; if you’re after asset micromanagement, or real-time empire building, Star Wars has it in one PC game or another. My personal pick from this hefty list is Star Wars: Supremacy. Known as Star Wars: Rebellion to our friends in the colonies, Supremacy is pretty much the Civilisation of Star Wars games. Diplomacy, combat, asset management, lightsabers – it’s all here. Yeah, you know maybe it’s not objectively as good as Empire at War, but I played loads of this game back in the day, I even remember it was the first PC game I played that needed a massive 1GB of free disc space.
You can’t make a list of best Star Wars PC games without mentioning Knights of the Old Republic. Believe me, I’ve tried! KOTOR is truly both a fantastic RPG and a great Star Wars game. Knights of the Old Republic takes the classic pen, paper and D20 template and transfers it cohesively to a video game. BioWare’s MO is turning D&D into compelling video games and they would continue this when creating their own Space Opera RPG, Mass Effect. Star Wars runs deep in Mass Effect, with that early work in KOTOR forming the larger part of ME’s DNA. Telling a bold and ambitious story set thousands of years before A New Hope, KOTOR introduced elements of the Expanded Universe which are still held dear by a lot of Star Wars fans to this day. On any given Sunday you can fire up KOTOR and play the whole game through again, choosing different paths and discovering new story threads.
In my last Star Wars video, I espoused TIE Fighter for its story and scope, but X-Wing Alliance is truly the definitive Star Wars space shooter. A PC-exclusive, X-Wing Alliance was the last entry into the X-Wing / TIE Fighter series and the last great Star Wars space combat game. Ace Azzameen is a freighter pilot for his family business, but moonlights as a rebel ace. Choosing between his family’s wellbeing and the bigger picture of galactic peace forms a solid backbone to the story, and the ability to fly big crewed vessels like the Falcon takes the gameplay in exciting new directions. Featuring a full voiceover, excellent graphics and realistic space physics, X-Wing Alliance took the X-Wing series to its logical conclusion. Fan-made graphics updates make the game look even better on modern PCs, and despite LucasArts unplugging the online multiplayer over ten years ago, the online modes are still fully supported by Gameranger so PC gamers can still experience the thrill of blasting their enemies into oblivion.
There would be no “Five of the Best Star Wars PC Games” if for so long, these Star Wars games weren’t so consistently good. This is a dangerous time for us, when we will be tempted by the Dark Side of preordering. But it’s up to us as fans to demand more from our Star Wars games, before parting with our money. The future holds great things for Star Wars games, but it’s difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.