STAR WARS™ - Knights of the Old Republic™

May the fourth be with you! Here's a highly ironic picture of Richard Dean Anderson from Stargate SG-1, etc. You know the deal by now: this is arbitrarily Star Wars Day because of a pun on the date, and not because this day actually has anything to do with Star Wars (the 1977 movie was released on 25 May). Time to fill our houses up with discounted vinyl junk in the shape of Yoda. 

Still, don't let my light cynicism stop you from hoovering up some classic (and not-so-classic) Star Wars games for less this weekend. Pretty much all the major digital storefronts are running sales themed around a galaxy far, far away. Steam has its complete collection of Star Wars games available as a bundle for about $76/£55, and big discounts on individual games too. You'll find deals at Humble Bundle and Fanatical, too.

GOG is running a similar sale, and its selection of Star Wars classics is pretty impressive these days, particularly after the addition of Episode I: Racer. Just looking at all of that old Star Wars promo art makes me want to reinstall every Jedi Knight game and play them all weekend. Fingers crossed GOG rescues Battle for Naboo next. 

Origin, meanwhile, has new Star Wars Battlefront 2 for $24/£22, which isn't a bad price for an impulse purchase of a 63%-rated FPS, although I haven't returned to the game since the recent progression overhaul and I wasn't the biggest fan of the campaign, where in one level Luke Skywalker hits some bugs with his lightsaber for ages. It's worth noting that Star Wars: The Old Republic is also running a double XP event through to 11 May. 

If you want some guidance on the best Star Wars games on PC, check out our handy list. You should then look at our worst Star Wars games list, where I complain about the shortcomings of Shadows of the Empire, a game I actually love and have completed ten times. 

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PC Gamer

Being evil in an RPG is no easy feat. Not only do you need the stomach for it, but developers aren't always the best at making evil choices feel as nuanced and satisfying as their morally righteous counterparts. It's rare for a game to present you with a decision so evil that it actually upsets you, but there is also an undeniable joy in being a monstrous jackass—even if your reason for detonating a dormant nuke in the middle of a small town is just for the lols.

That's why we forced some of our writers into the confession booth to finally fess up about their favorite evil decisions in PC gaming. It's some pretty dark stuff—from smothering babies to forcing someone to murder their lifelong best friend—but if you've got a kink for the chaotic, here are our picks for some of the most sinful choices we've made in games. 

Tyranny - Hush little baby 

To be fair, Tyranny is an RPG that has no real shortage of evil choices to be made—you do murder millions of people in the introduction alone, after all. But later in the story, Tyranny trades mass murder for one decision that is hauntingly terrible. See, to undo your overlord's Edicts that, like magical natural disasters, are tearing apart the land, your character must help fulfill certain contractual clauses. When you first venture to the Blade Sea, that clause is killing the last of its traitorous ruling family. At first this seems like a pretty easy task after you besiege the castle, corner the Regent Herodin and make ready to end his life. But after he is dead, the edict remains mysteriously intact. It's then revealed that there is another heir—a child born out of love between Herodin's son and the kidnapped daughter of your commander, Graven Ashe.

It's a hopelessly complicated situation made even more complicated by the fact that the mother, Amelia, will die to protect her child. But if the child lives, the Edict of Storms will continue. True to developer Obsidian's great storytelling lineage, there's a few different ways to handle the decision. But if you're the ruthlessly pragmatic type, you can simply kill Amelia and then smother her child in its crib. Or if you're a real monster, you can force one of your unwilling companions to do it for you, probably subjecting them to a lifetime of guilt and self-loathing. Whichever way you go about it (or however you might justify it) smothering babies isn't exactly heroic.— Steven Messner

Fallout 3 - The Big Bang

The big, obvious one from Fallout 3 is such a grand moment that it's almost impossible to resist. I blew up Megaton for two reasons: one, I wanted a nice apartment in Tenpenny Tower, where I could have a little break from the depressing nuclear post-apocalypse and chill with my robot butler. Secondly, the layout of Megaton is really annoying, and needlessly tricky to navigate compared to other locations in Fallout 3. It had to go, really. I activated the nuke and watched that baby go off. I regret nothing—it's still one of the most shocking and exciting moments from any game in the last ten years. — Samuel Roberts

Dishonored - Lust for vengeance 

Despite being an assassin, Dishonored rightly punishes wanton murder and instead encourages players to seek their vengeance through more creative means. Each kill pushes the city of Dunwall closer to complete chaos, so finding an alternative is necessary if you hope to ultimately rid the city of evil and corruption. Instead of murdering the pope, for instance, you can brand him with a mark of shame and force him to live out the rest of his life as a beggar. It's poetic justice at its finest—except in the case of Lady Boyle.

This capitalist is the financier behind many of Dishonored's villains and is rightly deserving of justice. But Dishonored's non-lethal way of dealing with her is pretty abhorrent. During the Lady Boyle's Last Party mission, Corvo can choose to simple murder Boyle (and her lookalike sisters) or instead deliver her into the hands of a creepy-ass stalker named Lord Brisby who, in addition to confessing his love for her, promises to make her disappear forever. While his suggestion is vague, it's just insidious enough to make me believe that handing Lady Boyle over is little more than human trafficking. That, by knocking her unconscious and letting Lord Brisby have her, I'd be condemning her to a life of sexual slavery at the hands of this creep. I mean, I get it, she's a terrible person and absolutely deserves punishment—but I think we can all agree that this is a bit much.— Steven Messner

Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow - No questions asked  

Okay, obviously this isn’t an RPG, but I’ve pulled rank in order to include it because it’s such a juicy moral dilemma. What, dear reader, would you do if your boss ordered you to shoot someone—and only gave you a second to decide. Luckily for Steven, that’s not a situation I’m ever likely to be in. But for Sam Fisher, double-tapping a colleague is all in a day’s work. So it goes when midway through Pandora Tomorrow you step into one of those elevators with a mesh door. Suddenly you get a call from your handler, Lambert. “Fisher, we need Dahlia Tal dead. Kill her.” The elevator starts moving. “Don’t think, just do it.”

To this point as far as you’re aware Tal is an undercover agent in the Israeli secret police who’s been helping Fisher infiltrate a terrorist base, and has been portrayed as the kind of entirely sympathetic ‘goody’ NPC you expect from the series. The game barely gives you a second to make the call—I shot her, as did the guy in this video—and afterwards I remember feeling something close to actual actual shock.

If I’m being honest, there was also some exhilaration that the game had thrust such a horrendous decision on the player with zero foreshadowing. Brilliantly, at least in terms of design, if you kill Tal you don’t get any explanation as to why it was necessary. Whether or not I’d made the right decision was just about all I could think about for the rest of the game.

A quick trip to Wikia now reveals that Tal was in fact planning the ol’ switcheroo on Fisher, and had a team of snipers waiting to ambush him outside the facility. If you decide to let her live, Lambert gives you a bollocking and explains the deal with the double cross. It always disappointed me that although subsequent Splinter Cell games also came with tough decisions, none felt as startling as that murderous phone call. It’s also a pity that Pandora Tomorrow doesn’t appear to be on GoG or Steam currently. Time for a stern talk with Ubisoft.— Tim Clark

Knights of the Old Republic - Do as I command 

Playing the Dark Side in Knights of the Old Republic was way more fun, but this bit was twisted. Towards the end of the game, as you take on the mantle of the Sith and confront your party about their allegiances, things get pretty heated. The purehearted Mission Vao wants to redeem you, while her loyal wookiee friend Zaalbar is stuck in an impossible situation. He has a life debt to you, but loves Mission dearly. What's the most evil possible thing you can do, in this situation? Use Force Persuasion to convince Zaalbar to stab, strangle, or shoot Mission to death, while she shouts "It's me, Big Z! Noooo!" I don't think that's how the life debt is supposed to work.— Wes Fenlon

Planescape: Torment - I have no body and I must scream 

Planescape is full of potential bastardry, from selling your companions into slavery to, well, everything involving Deionarra. But in the Nine Hells of Baator there's an especially memorable moment. The Pillar of Skulls is where sage souls whose lies resulted in someone else's death are punished by being turned into chattering heads trapped in a column of flesh for eternity. The heads trade their knowledge for sacrifices, and know things you can't learn anywhere else. 

This is where you discover that one of your companions, a wisecracking floating skull named Morte, is an escapee of the pillar who has been trying to atone for his sin by serving you. Knowing this, you can put him back into the Pillar of Skulls in return for which it will answer one question. I don't know if shoving the first friend you make in the game back into a mass of bone and putrid flesh for eternity in trade for some information counts as Lawful Evil, Chaotic Evil, or Neutral Evil but whichever it is you are a dick for doing it.— Jody Macgregor

Fallout 2 - All is fair in love and war 

Fallout 2 was the first game I can recall where you could be truly evil—like, really, really evil. If you, like me, ended up sleeping with Miria (or her brother Daven), you'd be forced by her father into a shotgun marriage, straddling you with a completely useless companion. If you're truly evil, you can make the best of a bad situation and profit in the process. If you head over to The Hole or New Reno, you can pimp off your spouse for some extra caps or, if you encounter trappers, have Miria earn you some gecko skins by doing the dirty. That's probably not what her father intended to happen when he forced you to marry her.

Even worse, if you tire of any of your companions (and you don’t just let them get killed in a fight), you can sell them into slavery and be rid of them forever. ‘Losing’ Miriam to Metzger in The Den was my eventual choice, and when I happened to return to Modoc and mentioned what happened to her father, Grisham, the old geezer had a heart attack. RIP, dad, and thanks for the shotgun wedding.

— Jarred Walton

STAR WARS™ - Knights of the Old Republic™

When considering the best Star Wars games for this list, it's clear that the saga has had its ups and downs on PC. During the '90s and early '00s, LucasArts had a lot of hits, particularly with games that were targeted at using a mouse and keyboard or a joystick—these were the days when Star Wars games would launch just on PC, instead of every single console, too. And honestly, based on recent experience, it was a better time for fans of games based on Lucas's iconic films. It's hard to envision EA making a new X-Wing with just PC players in mind, for example. 

While a previous version of this list was in a numbered order, here we've revised that so we can fit in more of our favourites. Among this bunch you'll find brilliant dogfighting games, first-person shooters, Jedi duelling and even an RTS. If you're looking for some not-so-good Lucasarts tie-ins, which are still loveable in their own right, check out our list of the worst Star Wars games

Republic Commando 

This light tactical FPS is one of the most enjoyable games to come out of the Clone Wars/Revenge of the Sith era, which is mostly remembered for disposable PS2 nonsense like Racer Revenge and Bounty Hunter. While Republic Commando looks a bit rough these days, it's refreshing to see that era of Star Wars executed with the right adult (but not too serious) tone. If the prequels were more like this, you might even have enjoyed them. 

After an extremely effective opening sequence where you watch the creation of your clone captain in first person, you're put in control of a squad of clone specialists. You can order them around with simple presses of the F button, prodding them towards highlighted parts of the environment to blow things up, converge on a single enemy, or take control of an area. With decent dialogue and voice acting, too, it's still easy to recommend now. 

The neatest touch, which I've heard everyone bring up when discussing this game, is the comical windscreen wipe effect on your helmet that kicks in whenever its gets dirty or damaged. 

Samuel Roberts

Empire At War

It wasn't the most radical, in-depth or interesting RTS around back in 2006, but it's nonetheless as close as an official Star Wars game has got to capturing the magic of the saga's space and ground battles (better than Force Commander did, anyway). Petroglyph's Empire At War even has multiplayer again these days, after the developer switched it back on in September. 

If one sci-fi multimedia series isn't enough for you, check out Andy's recent feature where he pitted the ships of Star Wars against those of Star Trek in a brilliantly detailed mod, then try it out yourself. 

Samuel Roberts

Rogue Squadron 

When Rogue Squadron landed on GOG, I played through over half of it in one night. It’s still a brilliant shooter, featuring every Rebel spaceship with their own differences in sound design and feel (except the poor old B-Wing). 

In the late '90s I was obsessed with Star Wars games—I think I still have a PC Gamer demo disc containing only Star Wars game demos that I played again and again for about two years—and Rogue Squadron is weirdly one of those titles considered an N64 game before a PC game, even though it came to PC first in North America. I only ever played it on PC, and for someone watching the Star Wars Special Edition VHSs every day in 1999, Rogue Squadron blew me away. That’s partly because of the level of fan service employed in setting some levels in familiar locations (or some you heard in passing, like Kessel) or having the Millennium Falcon turn up halfway through a mission, but also because it’s so simple an arcade shooter that it's aged pretty well.

Rogue Squadron, I suspect, was created to emulate Nintendo's brilliant Star Fox 64, with planets represented as little hubs and most completable in the space of about ten minutes. It's a really easy game to get to grips with in terms of the way each Rebel craft moves, and it was nice counter-programming to the X-Wing series if you weren't always in the mood for a sim experience. The only thing that drove me insane about Rogue Squadron is that its two best levels—and surely a reason to buy the game for most people—were the Death Star trench run and the Battle of Hoth, both of which were hidden bonuses that had to be arduously unlocked by collecting gold medals. They should've been the first missions in the game! 

Though Rogue Squadron didn’t have the Battle of Endor (which is okay because X-Wing Alliance did that brilliantly and makes more sense in a sim style), this was a very complete-feeling game for players who particularly love the space and ground battles of Star Wars. It’s got some fun Expanded Universe bits, the Millennium Falcon as an unlockable and even patched in the Naboo Starfighter from Episode I, back when The Phantom Menace was more promising-cool-thing than pop culture atrocity.

I regret that that LucasArts didn’t bring its sequel, the stunning GameCube shooter Rogue Leader, to PC (is it too late for this to happen? Capcom is porting its console back catalogue to PC—no reason LucasArts shouldn’t do it), and it’s sad that Factor 5 is no longer around to create more games in the series. It seems like a waste to let the series die when it’s such a good representation of a major part of Star Wars.

Also recommended—but not good enough to be on this list because there are no X-Wings in it—is the similarly angled Battle For Naboo, which for my money would’ve been a way better addition to GOG than the weaker Star Wars Starfighter. That was the third best Prequel Trilogy game after Racer and Republic Commando. Hopefully it happens someday. Rogue Squadron fans would lap it up, I’m sure, but for now this remains the best you can get on PC.

—Samuel Roberts

Knights of the Old Republic

Knights of the Old Republic's success comes down to a single smart creative decision. By setting their story thousands of years before the events of the films, BioWare neatly removed themselves from the complex and contradictory state of the expanded universe in the early noughties. Given the freedom to do more or less what they wanted, they were able to build a Star Wars RPG that made that galaxy far, far away feel fresh again.

This was an era when Star Wars fiction was frequently tripped up by its addiction to iconic characters and set-pieces. The original Knights of the Old Republic demonstrates that repetition can actually be a good thing if it's sufficiently well executed. The plot is, after all, built from familiar parts—easy-going smugglers and their lifebound wookiee companions, deadly battlestations, young Jedi learning about the Force.

Knights of the Old Republic works because it drills deeper into these ideas than anyone had for a long time, capturing what made those original moments special in the first place. I'm pretty sure that Revan moment was the most surprised I'd been by a Star Wars story since the first time I saw The Empire Strikes back, even though the two reveals are structurally equivalent to each other.

This, incidentally, is the key to understanding the difference between KOTOR and its sequel—the former is an intelligent reconstruction of familiar Star Wars notions, while the latter is an intelligent deconstruction of them. That's perhaps a tangent too far. The point is: this series represents a high point for developers investing serious thought into their Star Wars stories. You should play it for that reason.

—Chris Thursten

Star Wars Galaxies

Star Wars Galaxies should have been one of the most important MMOs ever made. It had the ambition and the credentials for it—one of Ultima Online's lead designers creating a fully-3D persistent world where everything was driven by players. A ground-to-space simulation of the Star Wars universe with player houses, player cities, player ships, player factions. It's the dream that currently powers Star Citizen, and it almost saw the light of day a decade ago. I'm still a little heartbroken that it didn't. SWG sits near the top of the list of my personal games of all time, and I'm still angry about the way it all panned out.

This was an extraordinary game for roleplayers. The chance to just live in a totally open, totally customisable simulation of the Star Wars universe was an irresistible one, and when it worked, it worked wonderfully. I feel like Roy Batty at the end of Blade Runner saying this, but man—I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I've played through Star Wars stories that you'll never get a chance to because they only existed because of the power SWG gave its players. I've taken down a rival bounty hunter in a duel in the streets of Bestine. I've flipped an Imperial gunboat upside-down so that the fleeing spy manning the top-mounted railgun can get a clear shot at the A-Wing on our tail.

Star Wars Galaxies was killed by two things: balance problems and its license. The former is something that should have been handled with far more care, and the latter is something that shouldn't have been a problem at all. When the game was conceived, Star Wars was a place—somewhere you could set an MMO. By the time the game matured, Star Wars had become a set of symbols, and the game was ripped apart by the need to cram as many of them into it as possible. Iconic 'theme park' worlds. Collectible movie trinkets. A little button at the start that lets you be a Jedi by clicking a picture of Luke Skywalker. All of this was utterly contrary to the spirit of the game SOE originally set out to make, but it can't take away from how many wonderful experiences I managed to have before it all fell apart.

I think I'm still angry about it, guys. Wait, no. I'm definitely still angry about it.

—Chris Thursten

Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast

Jedi Knight 2's lightsaber mechanics are important not only to the history of Star Wars games, but to multiplayer gaming on the PC in general. This was the game that established a passionate, competitive community dedicated to the concept of the one-on-one melee duel. Jedi Academy expanded and improved many of these ideas, but Jedi Outcast was there first. Without it, gaming would be much poorer—Blade Symphony wouldn’t exist, for one thing.

This was the first game to make duels feel like duels—acrobatic contests between two skilled combatants using deadly weapons. Most Star Wars games still get this wrong, treating sabers like regular swords. Jedi Knight 2 made the weapon in your hand feel hot, lethal, precarious. Each contest with Dasaan's dark Jedi was imbued with a sense of danger.

A note of praise, too, for the campaign. Early-noughties Raven shooters were a staple of my adolescence, reliably exciting action-adventures with colourful characters and great set-pieces. Jedi Knight 2 is among their best work, particularly the sense of mounting power it encourages. You start off without a lightsaber, crawling through vents and blasting Stormtroopers a la other Dark Forces games. By the end you're a force of nature, culling whole squads at a time as a blur of Force power and hot blue light. Well worth revisiting.

—Chris Thursten

Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Knights of the Old Republic 2 is the quintessential Obsidian Entertainment RPG. The successor to a Bioware game, developed at a frenzied pace in only a year and a half, littered with cut content to hit its release date, and at times (like, a lot of times) utterly crippled with bugs. Even playing KotOR 2 years after its initial release, with a forum-brewed concoction of bug fixes and content-restoration patches, it's quite possibly the buggiest game I've ever completed. And yet it's brilliant, in spite of all those issues.

Here's Knights of the Old Republic 2's dirty little secret: it's not very good at being Star Wars. At least, not the classical film Star Wars of unambiguous heroes and villains, where the light side of the Force is always right. Lead designer Chris Avellone took Star Wars to the darkest place it's ever been. The Jedi are imperfect. The Sith are nuanced—manipulative, intimidating, but obviously scarred and broken in human ways that led to their downfall. Your mentor Kreia spends much of the game criticizing the Jedi, and she always speaks about the Force in shades of gray. Knights of the Old Republic 2 is the rare Star Wars game—really the rare video game, in general—that will show bad things happening to characters even when you try to help them.

Kreia is the key to KotOR 2's greatness, a character who is clearly haunted, bitter, manipulative, and yet right in so many ways. Avellone and the rest of Obsidian reexamined Lucas's galaxy through the lens of Kreia's ideology, and it's probably the most thoughtful take on Star Wars we'll ever get.

Even when bugs stopped me from progressing, when save files refused to load, when the ageing battle system left me frustrated, I had to push on to read just one more line of dialogue. It's simply the best Star Wars story ever written, buried in a game that only works right about half the time.

—Wes Fenlon

Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

Jedi Academy grants you far more freedom than its predecessors. There's a bit of BioWare to the way you pick between different identities for your character at the start, the way you move through the campaign by choosing missions from a list of options, the way your alignment to the light or dark sides hangs off a mixture of large and small decisions.

Starting you with a lightsaber from the get-go, this game is all about mastering a combat system with a remarkably high skill ceiling. There are multiple types of saber, including Darth Maul-style double-sabers, dual sabers, and increased depth for single-saber fighting. It's a little messier than Jedi Outcast as a consequence, but far more stylish. I played this game to competition dozens of times between 2003 and 2005 because it felt so good to carve new paths through each level. I treated it as an opportunity to direct my own Star Wars movie, each run of moves just as important for their aesthetic value as their combat effectiveness.

Despite the aging engine it still holds up remarkably well—landing a heavy blow after a wall-run feels amazing even now. I can't believe it's twelve years old, and it's even stranger that the series ended here. No Star Wars game has done lightsabers this well since. It's crazy, when you think about it—fourteen years since the last time a developer rendered the series' most famous weapon in an interesting way. People who were born the month Jedi Academy came out are now almost too old to train as Jedi! If Jedi were real. I understand that they are not.

—Chris Thursten

Star Wars Battlefront 2

Old Battlefront 2 is a bit of a mess. But what a joyous, silly, damn fun mess of a game it was. Where most Star Wars games cast you as a Jedi or a heroic pilot, Battlefront and Battlefront 2 finally had the good sense to make you just another trooper on the ground, a lowly Stormtrooper or rebel soldier with a good old fashioned blaster at your side. There's something sublime about that: Battlefront is the rare chance to feel like you’re playing inside the Star Wars universe, rather than carving out a new destiny.

It plays like a goofier Battlefield, with floaty jump physics and battles that were more chaos than calculated strategy. AI enemies are nothing but stupid cannon fodder, and yet they’re so satisfying to mow down in droves. It’s hard not to love a Star Wars game that unabashedly gives you every toy you could ever want to play with. Sure, jump in an AT-ST! Sure, play as a wookie with a bowcaster! Sure, ride a tauntaun across the surface of Hoth. Oh, you want to be a wampa? Yeah, hell, why not.

Battlefront 2 added hero characters to the original game, and sure, they’re crazy unbalanced. But who doesn’t want to Force-sprint across a map as Obi-wan Kenobi and slice up a bunch of droid troopers? How could you say no to landing a fighter inside an Imperial Star Destroyer, fighting your way through its corridors, and destroying it from the inside? Battlefront 2 is the most unabashedly video gamey Star Wars game of them all. Revel in its silliness.

—Wes Fenlon

TIE Fighter

In every possible way, TIE Fighter was a space jockey's dream. It took the formula established by X-Wing and polished it to a perfect shine with glorious graphics and audio, an exciting variety of ships, and a multi-layered narrative wrapped in an overload of Star Wars bombast. You even got to fly with Darth Vader himself!

But its real genius—the element that transformed it from a great starfighter sim to an unforgettable Star Wars experience—was the way it convincingly turned one of sci-fi's most famously evil empires into a force for good. By portraying the Galactic Empire as a bulwark of peace, order, and good government standing fast against a band of violent, lawless terrorists—and playing it completely straight—it pulled me in: I was blowing Rebel ships into radioactive space dust, and I was the hero. Sure, there was some shadiness going on around the edges, but the greater good was always served.

The instructions came in the form of a pseudo-novella entitled The Stele Chronicles that humanized not only the lead character, young Maarek Stele, but also many others, like his friend Pargo, who signs up to be a stormtrooper, and the fatherly admiral who guides him through the early stages of his career as a pilot. The strategy guide took it even further, painting a picture of Imperial life as one of camaraderie, heroism, practical jokes, and, sometimes, emotionally-wrenching losses. I wasn't fighting for the Empire simply because the game forced me down that path—I was doing it because I wanted to. It was the right thing to do. And I loved it.

—Andy Chalk

X-Wing

While it wisely didn't try to ape the events of the movies beat by beat, the first LucasArts Star Wars game was still filled with enough familiar sights, sounds, and details to make you feel thoroughly connected to the fiction. It was exciting to do the stuff the characters yelled about in the movies, like diverting power to the shields and weapons, not to mention activating the hyperdrive at the end of every mission. You got to dock (in cutscenes) with familiar ships like the Mon Calamari Star Cruiser, and were able to fly A-Wings and Y-Wings, which never got much screen time in the films (though, honestly, I really only ever wanted to fly an X-Wing).

While you couldn't look around with the mouse, there were tons of different cockpit views to toggle, including one where you could look back at your trusty R2 unit. Hang on back there! Between missions you "walked" around (doors would slide open when you moused over them) and got mission briefings from the same weird old guy that prepped the pilots who took on the Death Star. It all went a long way toward making me feel like a real rebel pilot engaged in a campaign against the Empire.

At the time, the iMuse (interactive music) system had only been used in adventure games, but it was put to stellar (ha) use in X-Wing. Events such as the arrival of enemies and allies were coupled with dynamic musical cues, giving the soundtrack a real cinematic feel. X-Wing's sequel, TIE Fighter, may ultimately have been the superior game, with a better campaign and more interesting story (and that blessed ‘match target speed’ key) but at the time, X-Wing gave me exactly what I was looking for: a blend of exciting arcade shooting and enough fiddly flight simulator options to cover a keyboard.

— Chris Livingston

Episode 1: Racer

Episode 1: Racer was the first racing game I ever played that felt fast. I mean truly fast. As in, if you lose focus for too long, your mindset quickly deteriorates into “Oh my god oh my god oh my god, don’t crash, turn faster, oh god what’s happening” before you hit one too many walls, lose an engine, and drift slowly to an explosive stop. The glorious thing about that level of speed is it emulates exactly how I imagine podracing would feel. To me, podracing is on the very short list of good things that came from the Star Wars prequels—along with Darth Maul, Jango Fett, and this moment—so for the game version to get it so right was pure ecstasy.

Racer didn’t just stop at the speed—it gave you complete control over your pod. You could overheat your engines to boost, push your nose forward to gain speed midair, tilt your pod sideways to make it through small gaps—or attempt to and crash into the wall anyway as I often did—and sacrifice speed to repair an engine mid race. Basically anything you saw Anakin do in the movie, you could do to your pod during a race, but without having to eventually become a Sith lord. Racer gave you all of the detail of the film without the burden of its storyline, instead placing you in the shoes of a generic racer working your way up the ranks of the podracing circuit.

Spare parts, upgrades, and even pit droids were all available to buy for any of the 23 possible pods you could unlock. Racer had an immense and, frankly, surprising amount of customizability and detail for a licensed game, especially one based entirely on a 15 minute scene from the movie. But LucasArts managed to incorporate every single thing from that scene to make podracing feel like podracing. It feels fast, dangerous, and fun as hell. The music matches the intensity of the races, and each new track is like exploring a different piece of the Star Wars universe.

Even since Episode 1: Racer’s release in 1999, few racing games have matched the amount of depth and speed it offered. Sure, other games let you unlock new cars to customize, but going around a track doesn’t offer the same adventure as dodging rocks on Tatooine, and cars can’t go nearly as fast. Whenever I think fondly back on Racer, I remember the speed first and foremost. I remember how awesome it was to finally unlock that racer who had beaten me a dozen times, and how dangerous it felt to be racing at all. And I remember how glad I am that they made the prequel trilogy, if for no other reason than this game came out of it.

— Tom Marks

Dark Forces

Before I ever played Dark Forces, I remember reading the gorgeously illustrated, captivating Dark Forces: Soldier For the Empire, in which Imperial-turned-hero Kyle Katarn infiltrates the Death Star to steal the battle station's schematics. This was a revelation to ten-year-old me: that a new story could tie into the events of the Star Wars films, with a character who felt vital to this universe.

When I found out Katarn was the star of Dark Forces, well, I naturally had to play it. That story is the real legacy of Dark Forces: it spawned the Jedi Knight series and its own cast of characters that weaved in and out of the films and the rest of the (now noncanonical) Expanded Universe. Dark Forces helped prove that there were compelling stories to tell outside the films in Lucas' galaxy far, far away. And it let you shoot a ton of Stormtroopers in 3D, which was way novel in 1995.

— Wes Fenlon

It sounds weird, but being able to jump, crouch, look up and down, and walk around in multi-level maps was pretty exciting at the time, and it helped Dark Forces feel less like the Doom clone it easily could have been. The main appeal for me, though, was that instead of shooting a bunch of demons and monsters I'd never met before, I got to shoot Star Wars men I'd been familiar with for years.

Stormtroopers, Imperial officers, probe droids, Gamorrean guards... we got to have blaster battles with all of them, a dream come true for fans of first-person shooters and Star Wars. We even got to fight Boba Fett, who was waaaaay OP, by the way. He'd dodge around in the air like a hummingbird on cocaine, soaking up damage and flinging an inexhaustible supply of missiles in your face. We weren't ready for that. We were expecting the dumb, lame Boba Fett from the films, the moron who deliberately landed right next to a dude holding a glowing laser sword and attempted to shoot him from six inches away. The Boba Fett who was defeated by a pat on the back. That guy.

— Chris Livingston

I love the hell out of this game and its sprawling, often confusing levels and lovely-feeling guns. My dad got stuck in the sewer level with all the dianogas for ten years. In some ways, he never really left it.

Samuel Roberts

The secret best: Star Wars Screen Entertainment

Okay, sure, Dark Forces, TIE Fighter, blah blah. We know they're great. But the greatest Star Wars game is obviously Star Wars Screen Entertainment, a 1994 "CD-ROM including different A New Hope-thematic options to use as screen savers."

The thrilling screensaver options included an infinite opening text scroll (with customizable text!!), a (likely poorly animated) Death Star trench run, and a bunch of Jawas being annoying. There were also glacially paced space battles. What's not to love?

If you want to own the greatest Star Wars interactive media product of all time, you can find a used copy on Amazon for the bargain price of $1.95. It will almost certainly not work on any computer made after the year 2000.

Wes Fenlon

Come on, Wes, we all know Yoda Stories is the secret best.

Samuel Roberts

STAR WARS™ - Knights of the Old Republic™

Update: Kotaku's Jason Schreier has now entered the fray with a KOTOR counter-rumor, stating that his understanding is that BioWare Austin "played around" with a new KOTOR prototype, but "it hasn't been greenlit and is not currently in development." He believes that the bulk of the Austin studio is actually working on the company's new IP, which Robertson also touched on in a Patreon post, that's expected to be revealed at E3. 

Robertson now thinks that he "misheard some of the Austin stuff," and thus "may have misspoke about it," he told the site. "There’s also the element that I had no notes in front of me and just sort of rambled on from memory. I did not expect these few select statements to blow up (oops). I’m used to having the opportunity to just release follow-up notices on the Patreon with any updates and corrections. My bad there." 

"Let me clarify that I don’t think KOTOR’s a current project. From the same people I learned about Dylan from, I did hear that they prototyped a KOTOR revival at Austin a while back. I believe it may have evolved into something else since then or fizzled out since then. I’m still confident Austin is doing something Star Wars related though and I’m confident in that." 

That's quite a turnaround from stating unambiguously that "BioWare Austin is working on Knights of the Old Republic... something," and I should probably emphasize—again—that all of this is entirely unsubstantiated and subject to change, and may even be completely wrong. Such is the nature of rumors.

Original story:

Here's a rumor, courtesy of industry insider guy Liam Robertson, that BioWare Austin, which was originally created to develop the Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO, is now in the early stages of work on a new Knights of the Old Republic game. Robertson revealed the info, based on his anonymous sources, as part of his Patreon-exclusive podcast last week, the good bits of which were then shared with the rest of us by The Star Wars Game Outpost

“I’ve learned now that [BioWare Austin is] pretty much now exclusively working on Star Wars games and they’re going to be doing that for the indefinite future,” he said. “What they’re currently working on right now—and I have this on good authority—is a sort of remake/revival of Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know when this is set to come out, but it has been in development for a little while now.” 

The game apparently began as a remake of KOTOR but has now evolved into its own thing, although what exactly that "thing" will ultimately be isn't nailed down yet. Roberston described the project as "sort of like wiping the slate clean," in order to embrace the new Star Wars canon. 

“I don’t really know how that game will end up,” he said. “I’ve heard that it isn’t exactly a remake anymore, but it started as a remake/revival. Now it’s kind of going from that blueprint in sort of its own original thing. I guess we’ll see what that turns out to be, but they are prototyping it right now.” 

It's a thin rumor, definitely, but even so it seems like a pretty good bet. EA now has exclusive rights to Star Wars videogames, a license it no doubt wants to utilize as much as possible—and what better way to flex that muscle than with a new KOTOR? Let us also remember that Drew Karpyshyn, the senior writer on the original KOTOR, left BioWare in 2012 but returned in 2015. What's he up to these days?   

Karpyshyn said in a separate tweet that despite being back at BioWare for well over a  year, he did not work on Mass Effect: Andromeda. Interesting, no?

PC Gamer

The following article contains plot details for Star Wars: Rogue One.

This is a strange time to be a Star Wars fan, particularly if you were a devotee of the books, games and comics that sustained the series in the mid-1990s. When Disney axed the Expanded Universe back in 2014, it felt like the final spasm in a prolonged death that had begun with The Phantom Menace fifteen years prior. The EU was allowed to inform small aspects of this new Star Wars, but throughout the noughties its influence sharply waned. The prequels represented the triumph of LucasFilm's merchandising arm over its story group. How could a Disney-led reboot be any different?

Yet here we are. Rogue One is a tonal u-turn for Star Wars, a return to the look and feel of the old Expanded Universe if not its specific plot beats. We're back to a Star Wars that feels like a lived-in universe rather than a greenscreened backdrop. Indeed, the movie's planet-hopping opening act has far more in common with the old novels and games than it does with the other films, which tend to lock in on one or two key locations for their duration.

There's loads to be said about the influence of the Expanded Universe on Rogue One, and this extends to games too. If you lament the fact that they no longer make Star Wars games like Dark Forces and Knights of the Old Republic, then it's strangely comforting to see them paid tribute in the biggest Star Wars event of the year. It's no coincidence, either: former PC Gamer editor Gary Whitta has a story credit on the movie, and he was chief of our US edition the year that Dark Forces came out. This is a movie by people who are aware of Star Wars' long relationship with PC gaming, and it shows.

Jyn and Jan, Cassian and Kyle

In Dark Forces, the Death Star plans are stolen by Rebel spies Jan Ors and Kyle Katarn. They have a substantially easier time of it than their Rogue One counterparts do, in part because they live in a Doom-inspired maze-world where everybody runs at 20 miles per hour and Stormtroopers can't really look up.They're very different characters, for the most part, though 'Jyn Erso' and 'Jan Ors' use enough of the same letters to raise an eyebrow. Kyle and Cassian's fates are very different, but if we ignore Katarn's later Jedi adventures then their presentation isn't actually that different: they're both fringe operatives who work with a single partner, travelling the galaxy undertaking independent missions in a compact starship.

Late in Rogue One, when Jyn and Cassian have shed their Imperial disguises and are climbing the data archive, its worth paying attention to their costumes. Jyn's gear echoes Jan anyway, and sans jacket Cassian's khaki undershirt has a strong Kyle Katarn vibe. He's just missing the ginger beard.

Darktroopers and Deathtroopers

This is a little bit more of a stretch, but Orson Krennic's elite Deathtroopers have a shade of Dark Forces' Darktroopers about them—the latter are droids, but the garbled mechanical speech of Rogue One's black-clad troopers gives them a mechanical vibe even if there are people underneath those uniforms.Darktrooper-inspired Imperial security droids also appeared in a recent episode of Star Wars: Rebels.

The Hammerhead-class corvette

Your first act in Knights of the Old Republic was to escape from the Endar Spire, a Republic starship with an unusual profile. The design proved popular, appearing in the wider Knights of the Old Republic backmatter as well as in Star Wars: The Old Republic. 4,000 years later, an updated version joined the Alliance in Star Wars: Rebels.

The Hammerhead gets a huge hero moment in Rogue One, swinging the space battle above Scarif for the Rebellion in one of the most daring acts of self sacrifice since Arvel Crynyd crashed his A-Wing into Vader's Super Star Destroyer and wiped out a starship the size of a megacity. I guess now you know why it's called a 'Hammerhead' in a universe that doesn't have sharks. 

Think about that for a second: a ship designed by BioWare not only appeared in a Star Wars movie, it made a star turn. We might not get Knights of the Old Republic 3, but we did get that.

General Merrick

In Rogue One, General Antoc Merrick is the X-Wing pilot who leads Blue Squadron in the battle over Scarif. In 1993's Star Wars: Rebel Assault, Merrick Sims is a veteran Rebel pilot who teaches you the ropes in this (ropey) rail shooter. Later in the game, Merrick and the player participate in the Battle of Yavin... as Blue Squadron.

That can't be a coincidence, can it? It's an incredibly niche reference, but I guess if you were ever going to pay tribute to this most '90s of Star Wars CD-ROM games then now would be the time to do it. It's just surprising that they didn't pay homage to X-Wing, which came out the same year and is a million times better. If he'd been called 'General Farlander', I'd have wet myself. And rightly been kicked out of the cinema.

PC Gamer

Star Wars. Now that I've got your attention, you can get 14 Star Wars games on Steam right now for as little as $29.99. That's a 77 percent discount: normally the Star Wars Collection, which compiles a list of retro and not-so-retro videogame adaptations of the series, costs a whopping $100.

I haven't played all of the many Star Wars games out there, but there are some really good titles in that bunch. Dark Forces is a solid '90s FPS, as is its sequel, and Knights of the Old Republic endures as one of BioWare's best RPGs. 

If you're looking for older stuff, the Star Wars Classics Collection is available for $16, down from its usual $40 going price. That one includes Tie Fighter and X-Wing, both of which are worth a play, even now.

If you still need convincing, we put together a list of the best Star Wars games on PC – most of which are available in these bundles. 

PC Gamer

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, affectionately known to fans as KOTOR, was originally released in 2003. It was a fantastic sci-fi RPG, and enough of a hit to spawn a sequel and form the underpinnings of EA's hugely-hyped, monumentally-expensive MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic. And more than a dozen years later, it's the basis of a community-made reboot called Apeiron.

The Apeiron website describes it as a remake and remastering of the original game with added content, new worlds, missions, HUD, inventory, items, and companions, created by a group of dedicated programmers, artists, voice actors, world builders, and writers that have all come together to breathe life back into a wonderful game. It will be free at release, although as a mod, a proper copy of KOTOR will be required to play it.

As for whether or not the project will able to dodge the cease-and-desist hammer, the developers seem to be relying on precedent established by previous, similar projects, and a general hope that Disney/EA will just leave them alone. Engine refresh of games has been around since the '80s and some have become very successful. Games like Black Mesa did it with Half Life and Renegade X rebuilt Command and Conquer in the Unreal Engine 3, the team wrote. This is a full conversion refresh, that being said you will have to own a copy of the original game in order to play Apeiron since we are using the original audio and music. At its core Apeiron is the most intense KOTOR modification ever.

The debut gameplay video, posted by YouTuber MrMattyPlays, looks really good. It's choppy in spots and obviously not complete, but the visual upgrade is striking. I don't agree with his assessment of KOTOR as bland, but as the screen below very clearly demonstrates, we've come a long way over the past 13 years. Also interesting is that Apeiron will support first-person play, which the original did not. Ideally, that will make for a more immersive experience, but I expect it will also require some rather dramatic changes to KOTOR's lightsaber combat, which was built for a third-person view.

Apeiron is a long way from seeing the light of day, but so far so good.

Okay, maybe it is a little bland. (Image source: Mobygames)
Okay, maybe it is a little bland. (Image source: Mobygames)
PC Gamer

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 279. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.

Star Wars weaves itself in and out of the history of PC games, occasionally yielding genre-advancing greatness and sometimes coughing up the most mercantile dross you might ever regretfully buy. 

The story of the games mirrors that of the film series as a whole. Sometimes, the link is obvious—as when the arrival of the prequel trilogy plunged the franchise into a dark new era. At other times, it s more subtle. Star Wars games, particularly those on PC, did much to advance the notion that this galaxy far, far away was a real place, governed by real rules and principles—a setting that could be simulated, not just presented as pastiche. The best games actively enhance the source material rather than merely doing justice to it. As Disney—Star Wars new owner—moves away from traditional games towards browser and mobile, it s an idea that might be lost. But if Star Wars has taught us anything, it s that good wins out in the end—even if it becomes more machine than human along the way.


Star Wars

RELEASED 1988 | DEVELOPER Atari / Vektor Grafix

Despite being a rudimentary rail shooter, it s remarkable just how much the original vector-drawn Star Wars arcade game anticipated about later games. Later takes on the Death Star trench run had you blowing the tops off turrets in the exact same way you do here. Notable also for the clumsily digitised voice of Sir Alec Guinness.


Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

RELEASED 1988 | DEVELOPER Atari

This follow-up to the Star Wars arcade cabinet uses a diagonal-scrolling isometric view to represent everything from a speederbike chase to the Millennium Falcon s run at the second Death Star. The technique is stretched to its logical extreme when you find yourself dodging an endless stream of Ewok log traps as a questionably manoeuvrable AT-ST. It s actually aged worse than its predecessor: while the original s vector graphics make it feel like a crude forebear to the later, greater space combat sims, this just comes off as an attempt to jam as many Star Wars set-pieces as possible into Frogger.


Star Wars: Rebel Assault

RELEASED 1993 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

In the dark times before somebody thought to make actual games about Star Wars, this is what you got: the rail-shooter framework strapped to the clumsiest excesses of 90s FMV. I found it tremendously evocative at the time, and the pre-rendered visuals were stunning—but it s aged worse than the fan-fic I wrote about it.


Star Wars: X-Wing

RELEASED 1993 | DEVELOPER Totally Games

To really understand the troubled duality of Star Wars gaming, consider that X-Wing and Rebel Assault came out in the same year. The former: crap FMV tied to a fidgety arcade game. The latter: an earnest attempt to simulate the actual devices and conflicts of the Star Wars universe. X-Wing was groundbreaking because it was a movie tie-in that not only respected the source material, but built upon it. Thousands of fans understand the workings of an X-Wing starfighter thanks largely to this game s unusual attention to detail. This wasn t just about being plonked down in a rudimentary rendition of a familiar scene: it was about actually getting to fl y one these beloved starfighters for yourself. Despite the crude visuals, it holds up today—the pixel rendition of an X-Wing cockpit is even lovely, if you squint. Newcomers should go straight to the sequels.


Star Wars: TIE Fighter

RELEASED 1994 | DEVELOPER Totally Games

Beyond picking up where X-Wing left off, this spacebased combat sim stands out for being among the first Star Wars games to confidently tell its own story and offer a different spin on the source material—presenting the Empire s rank-and-file in a more positive light. Part of the golden age of the Expanded Universe.


Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire

RELEASED 1995 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

I have an enduring affection for the overweight and middle-aged FMV X-Wing pilot who shows up half way through Rebel Assault II because I assume he s someone s dad. Beyond that, though, this is a dodgy fan-film strapped to a shooter where you pan left and right to make a photo of a rebel soldier shoot pop-up stormtroopers.


Star Wars: Dark Forces

RELEASED 1995 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

Dark Forces and Rebel Assault II are another set of strange contemporaries. While indebted to Doom s rat in a maze with a gun formula, Dark Forces paid fresh attention to both telling a story and giving the player greater freedom of movement—including jumping, crouching, and free-look. Its attempts to tie-in to the story of the original trilogy are a little hamfisted, but the Kyle Katarn saga that begins here picked up a lot of fans over the course of its run. It remains playable today, particularly if you ve got fond memories of the era of being totally lost in sprawling FPS levels. It is relentlessly grey and monotonous, mind—they weren t joking when they called it Dark Forces.


Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter

RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER Totally Games

Arguably the best of the series, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter boasts texture mapping, a huge array of multiplayer options and, via the Balance of Power expansion, substantial singleplayer campaigns. The AI is superior to X-Wing Alliance, too, so it s worth returning to on that basis alone. A landmark Star Wars game.


Star Wars: Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

An epochal Star Wars shooter, Dark Forces II pioneered the combination of firstperson blasting and third-person, acrobatic lightsaber combat. While ultimately eclipsed by its successors, the techniques and powers introduced here are incredibly important to Star Wars games as a whole. Your fond memories of Dark Forces II may not include the incredibly cheesy FMV, however. Presumably they switched to in-engine cutscenes for Mysteries of the Sith because there wasn t any scenery left to chew. Better: the effort expended to realise a proper Light Side/Dark Side system based on player actions.


Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

The proud history of finding ways to shoehorn new characters into every imaginable Star Wars sequence enters a new chapter in Shadows of the Empire, which opens with mercenary Dash Rendar fighting in the Battle of Hoth before variously rescuing Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It s a passable third-person action game that hasn t aged particularly well, but at the time it was a pretty big deal—Shadows of the Empire is the Star Wars movie that never got made, a multi-pronged attempt to build interest in the series in the mid- 90s. Between the novel, comics and game it answered questions left hanging from the original trilogy, like where did Luke get that green saber and why does Dash Rendar have less personality than a frozen Han Solo.


Star Wars: Yoda Stories

RELEASED 1997 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

Part of LucastArts Desktop Adventures series, this was a set of puzzle rooms where you helped a bobble-headed Luke Skywalker rescue his friends from a variety of predicaments. Features a rare cameo by Indiana Jones, one of only two times LucasArts have made a joke about his resemblance to Han Solo.

On page two we head into a worrisome time for Star Wars games: the turn of the century, and the arrival of the prequel trilogy.

Star Wars: Supremacy

RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Coolhand Interactive

A 4X strategy game, Supremacy (called Rebellion in the US) enabled you to steer either the Republic or the Empire through an alternative history of the Galactic Civil War. It s a great idea on paper, but there are far better 4X games from the period—and far more interesting interpretations of the setting than click on the text boxes .


Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts

If the earliest Star Wars games split themselves between themepark ride and attempted simulation , Rogue Squadron represents the two starting to come together. Its flight model is slow, heavy and arcade-derived, but the impressive (for the time) level of detail and dead-on sound mean that it hews closer to the proper space combat sims than the vast majority of console-first Star Wars games did. The campaign, similarly, straddles a line between feeling like a legitimate expansion of the universe and a series of too-familiar set-pieces. Its opening, particularly, is a little odd: an all-out attack by the Empire on a few square miles of Tatooine for no particular reason. That said, the story s scope—spanning the Original Trilogy and beyond—is impressive, as is the large roster of ships.


Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith

RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

A substantial, old-school expansion for Jedi Knight, Mysteries of the Sith sees the end of FMV—and with it, the end of an embarrassing era. The campaign amounts to more and more complex Jedi Knight, with larger set-pieces and a lightsaber available from the beginning. The opening, which sees you repel an Imperial invasion, was pretty exciting at the time.


Star Wars Millennium Falcon CD-ROM Playset

RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Hasbro Interactive

A last gasp for the very worst of the 90s, this came with a plastic Falcon cockpit that you stuck on top of your keyboard—ideally in front of the monitor—so that you could interact with a bunch of awful quicktime events overlaid on scenes from the original movies. It makes very little sense and functionally exists to sell plastic. Terrible. Also: for kids.


Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance

RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Totally Games

The Phantom Menace was released only three months after X-Wing Alliance. Not only is this one of the best Star Wars games ever made, but it s one of the last games to be untainted by the prequel trilogy s infantilising influence on the series as a whole. Here s a sprawling new Star Wars story set during the events of the original trilogy, packed with detail in terms of the flight model and number of simulated ships, and in the small things that make it so replayable: cameo appearances by Slave I and the Millennium Falcon, the way missions spread from one sector to another via hyperspace jumps, the personal stories offset against the larger conflict. Its only weaknesses are those 3D cockpits, which have aged worse than the older 2D ones, and that awkward purple UI.


Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Big Ape Productions

This is a movie tie-in console action game from the late 90s, which tells you everything you need to know about the creative rigour it displays. It s notable for two reasons: you can massacre a load of innocent Gungans, including children, and face no repercussions. Also, there s a homeless person on Coruscant whose likeness is based on David Duchovny.


Star Wars Episode I: Racer

RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

This game is basically the only reason you might be glad that The Phantom Menace exists. It s a fast, stunning (for the time) and creative sci-fi arcade racer based on one of the longest toy adverts to run in cinemas before Michael Bay got his hands on Transformers. Scant reward for the death of your childhood, mind you.


Star Wars: Force Commander

RELEASED 2000 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ronin Entertainment

Ambitious but rough around the edges, this was the first concerted effort to create a Star Wars RTS. The camera is the biggest issue—useless when zoomed in, and awkward even when pulled back. Still, it offers a rare opportunity to try out famed Imperial strategies like march in a straight line and lose the war .


Star Wars: Starfighter

RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

A Phantom Menace tie-in dogfighting game that broadly follows the patterns established by Rogue Squadron, Starfighter offers far less in terms of playable ships but provides a greater sense of speed and agility. Terrible voice acting, although it did give us the immortal line now let s see how you deal with my favourite training canyon. Good job, whoever wrote that.


Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo

RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts

Another vehicle action game in the vein of Rogue Squadron and Starfighter, Battle for Naboo focuses on terrestrial combat, particularly in tanks. This is a less typical Star Wars fantasy than space combat, and as such it feels a little more detached from the source material—it really could be any other console-first shooter from this era, with a prequel trilogy coat of paint. The paint s chipping, too: this is a rough-looking game.


Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios

Galactic Battlegrounds eclipsed Force Commander not with visuals, but with RTS credibility. It s by Ensemble, the studio behind Age of Empires, and it s great largely because those games were great. Their systems aren t a perfect fit for Star Wars—even in the drabbest corners of the expanded universe, gathering berries was rarely a priority. The campaign spans the four movies released up to that point and includes a few unusual factions in addition to the ones you d expect—wookiees and gungans being the strangest. Given its heritage, it s a viable competitive multiplayer strategy game as well as a singleplayer experience and picked up a small but dedicated following after release. If you re trying it today, check out the Expanding Frontiers overhaul mod.

On the next page, we move towards 2003, an amazing year for Star Wars games.

Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds Clone Campaigns

RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios

Clone Campaigns expands Galactic Battlegrounds with two new factions derived from Episode II—the Separatists and the Galactic Republic. As such, the new campaigns actually fold into the middle of the base game, an unusual step for an RTS expansion. The factions, soldiers and vehicles of the Clone Wars never achieved the same iconic status as those of the original trilogy—perhaps there was never any hope of that—and it s telling just how far their star has fallen. If you were old enough to play this at the time, you probably don t care too much about getting to play with Galactic Republic AT-TE walkers today. They re no AT-ATs, that s for sure.


Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

RELEASED 2002 | DEVELOPER Raven Software

Star Wars gaming entered its golden age in late 2002, starting with this—the best Kyle Katarn adventure, a great shooter, and an epochal multiplayer melee combat game all in one. It has a dedicated fanbase to this day, and rightly so. The campaign is worthy of a replay, and even now you can find players to compete against online from time to time.


Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy

RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Raven Software

More than a decade on, this is still the greatest videogame realisation of the lightsaber. The weapon is simulated to a deep level of complexity, with a vast array of saber styles and accompanying force powers. This drove a vibrant multiplayer scene and powered a great campaign that has shades of BioWare in its branching story and Light Side-Dark Side system. No subsequent Star Wars action game has bettered it, and it s still very much playable today. Even after you ve exhausted every mission, the simple joy of combat sustains repeated playthroughs.


Star Wars Galaxies

RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment

Beautiful, ambitious and broken, Star Wars Galaxies was a deep, player-driven MMO driven by the core talent from Ultima Online. It promised what Star Wars fans had always wanted—a chance to live in that galaxy far, far away, and to be given the freedom to determine what kind of life that was. It ll be keenly missed.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

RELEASED 2003 | DEVELOPER Bioware

The emergence of BioWare into the modern era was also a huge advance for the quality of Star Wars storytelling. By taking the then-unprecedented step of detaching the story entirely from the era covered by the movies, BioWare gave itself the freedom to rebuild Star Wars from the ground up. And rebuilt it was, with far more character and integrity than had been achieved in a Star Wars game before. It remixes familiar elements in intelligent ways and presents traditional Star Wars themes with rare clarity and focus. Crap minigames, however.


Star Wars: Battlefront

RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios

Sitting somewhere between the Battlefield series and the console-centric vehicle action games that followed Rogue Squadron, Battlefront is fondly remembered for simulating conflict on a scale that hadn t been achieved before in Star Wars gaming. It had some interesting new ideas, too, particularly in the inclusion of neutral NPCs on each map. Great in multiplayer.


Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed

RELEASED 2004 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment

Space combat was notably absent from Star Wars Galaxies when it launched, but its eventual inclusion was revelatory: not only a substantial expansion to the underlying RPG, but a legitimate action game in its own right. For the first time, you could own and heavily customise your own starfighter, with each ship deeply tied into Galaxies underlying crafting system. Larger ships like freighters had fully explorable, multi-person interiors that could be decorated like any other building in the game, making them unique to the player who owned them. A reminder: this was 2004. Elite: Dangerous was a decade away, Star Citizen even further than that: and these features made it into an MMO that was fundamentally about life on the ground. A high-point for the game.

On the last page is 2005-2011, in which we witness the entropic demise of Star Wars in videogames. There are still some gems to celebrate, mind.

Star Wars: Republic Commando

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER LucasArts

A rare example of a Clone Wars tie-in game that isn t crap, Republic Commando offered a take on the period that was a little darker and a little more human thanks to the role played by your squadmates. It s like a more inventive Call of Duty: a similar sense of military bravado, tempered by your squad s status as expendable clones bred for a war they don t have any control over.


Star Wars: Battlefront II

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios

An expansion on the original s strengths with a single standout new feature: space combat between fleets of fighters with seamless transitions from cockpit to combat in the hallways of capital ships. It s also possible to unlock and play as hero characters such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Darth Vader for a limited time during each match, adding an interesting degree of asymmetry to competitive play. Otherwise, Battlefront II s improvements build upon the foundation laid by the previous game: the AI is better and the freeform Galactic Conquest campaign mode has been revamped with a greater range of strategic options. Battlefront II picked up a dedicated modding and mapping scene on PC, where players would create new multiplayer arenas to simulate various famous battles from the expanded universe. To date, Battlefront II remains Star Wars definitive combat sandbox.


Lego Star Wars: The Video Game

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales

The first of the Lego platformers, a series that would become a genre unto itself: a template that could be applied to almost any suitably beloved childhood movie or book series. At the time, it was a surprise hit: a silly, charming and unpretentious take on a series that was becoming a little self-serious, with a vast number of characters to collect and a generous selection of new levels. Similarly, it marked a highpoint in Star Wars games for children.


Star Wars Galaxies: Episode III Rage of the Wookies

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment

A World of Warcraft-style expansion that both ignored SWG s roots as a player-driven persistent world and introduced a sickly quantity of movie tie-in gunk that the game was previously free of. Collect Anakin Skywalker s starfighter! Win medals! The beginning of the end for Galaxies.


Star Wars Galaxies: Trials of Obi-Wan

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment

In which Sir Alec Guinness s glowing ghost sends you to Mustafar just in time for the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith. Also, HK-47 from Knights of the Old Republic shows up in order to remind you that better Star Wars RPGs exist—indeed, Star Wars Galaxies used to be one of them. Standout dumb ideas include the lavasaber .


Star Wars: KOTOR II - The Sith Lords

RELEASED 2005 | DEVELOPER Obsidian Entertainment

Rather unfinished on release (but subsequently patched up by the community), Knights of the Old Republic II is a fascinating, unorthodox take on Star Wars by Obsidian. Where the original reconstructs Star Wars, this deconstructs it: challenging the Light Side-Dark Side division and with it the core tenets of the Jedi-Sith conflict. In particular, the exiled Jedi Master Kreia offers a perspective on Star Wars—penned by veteran RPG scribe Chris Avellone—that functionally rips apart Lucas s simplistic fiction. The ability to act as a mentor to your Force-sensitive companions and explore a nuanced, morally grey interpretation of the universe is the main draw here, as its interaction with its predecessor s narrative is cursory at best. A rare example of Star Wars fiction that is smarter than it is dramatic.


Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy

RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales

More charming simply for being based on better films, Lego Star Wars II is otherwise a very similar game to its predecessor. In that it s for kids, mostly, but remains enjoyable today for the chunky clattery way that stormtroopers fall apart when you bash them. Brick Vader is adorable too, but not to be confused with Brick Vader from the excellent Snatch Wars YouTube parody.


Star Wars: Empire at War

RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Petroglyph Games

If Galactic Battlegrounds represents the legacy of Age of Empires, then this represents its great 90s RTS rival—Command & Conquer. Empire At War s developer, Petroglyph, was formed out of Westwood veterans and would here produce a deep and beautifully-rendered take on Star Wars strategy. Rather than focusing on resource harvesting, Empire at War took the more setting-appropriate step of basing unit construction on the amount of galactic territory controlled by the player. Battles could take place both planetside and in orbit, with each campaign describing a different course through the period between Episode III and IV. It s far more grounded in the latter, though, featuring detailed renditions of the Empire s most iconic weapons of war. It spawned an active modding scene, too.


Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption

RELEASED 2006 | DEVELOPER Petroglyph Games

Rather than stick to the series traditional binary conflict, Forces of Corruption introduces the Zann Consortium as an organised crime syndicate capable of playing both sides against each other. A refreshing break from the traditional prequel trilogy tie-in formula.


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

RELEASED 2008 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Aspyr Media

This was Star Wars answer to the era of gritty console character action games like God of War—an attempt to win over older fans with a take on the setting that emphasised massive Force destruction and brutal lightsaber kills. A lot of emphasis was placed on the narrative, too—the story of Darth Vader s secret apprentice and his quest to scowl and kill people in every signifi cant location in the Star Wars universe. Its interaction with the movies is clumsy in the extreme, but it s not without drama and the more spectacular moments definitely stick in the mind—particularly bringing down a Star Destroyer using the Force. That said, this is also as over the top and videogamey as Star Wars combat gets—Jedi Academy had almost as much spectacle and far more nuance.


Star Wars: The Clone Wars—Republic Heroes

RELEASED 2008 | DEVELOPER Krome Studios

An action-platformer tie-in to the Clone Wars kids TV series that mixes Jedi platforming with Clone Trooper third-person shooting. The Force Unleashed for kids, basically. Lego Star Wars has aged better and has more personality, but this may still appeal if you were 12 in 2009. Or are still 12, for that matter.


Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II

RELEASED 2010 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Aspyr Media

Wherein the II stands for two lightsabers . Vader s apprentice returns as a clone of Vader s apprentice in a galaxy-shaking tale of revenge and rebellion that no longer happened thanks to LucasArts excision of the expanded universe. A little too similar to the original game to have the same kind of impact—by this point, man uses Force on spaceship was an old trick.


Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures

RELEASED 2010 | DEVELOPER Sony Online Entertainment

Shorter-lived than Star Wars Galaxies, Clone Wars Adventures was a free-to-play MMO based on the Clone Wars cartoon. It was a small-scale themepark MMO in the World of Warcraft mould, though far less successful in that regard than The Old Republic would subsequently be. Minigames were used to furnish players with other types of experience, like fl ight, racing, and even tower defence. Clone Wars Adventures was reasonably well-presented, for what it was, but SOE (now Daybreak) ultimately determined that free to play MMOs for kids didn t really work: parents wallets are only so deep, after all, and the cost of keeping the game updated ultimately outstretched its value to the developer. A shame for the game s fans, but likely a victory for their homework.


Star Wars: The Old Republic

RELEASED 2011 | DEVELOPER Bioware

The Old Republic, at launch, was a great MMO of the WoW sort and a remarkably complete singleplayer RPG experience, with eight entirely different game-length campaigns. The scope and expense of its production was remarkable, which goes some way to explaining why it suffered once dwindling subscriber numbers necessitated the switch to free-to-play. It s gone a bit themepark-crazy since—particularly the recent Shadow of Revan expansion, which ties into KOTOR I—but it s (mostly) free and much of the writing is genuinely excellent.


Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars

RELEASED 2011 | DEVELOPER Traveller's Tales

Another TV tie-in, therefore the Lego Star Wars game that you re likely to have the least connection to. Introduced vehicle levels with an on-foot component, but otherwise highly similar to its predecessors. Almost a decade after the release of Attack of the Clones, the movie finally fades from the landscape of PC Star Wars gaming. It is the dawn of a new era.


Star Wars Battlefront

RELEASED 2015 | DEVELOPER DICE

Star Wars makes its grand return to the PC a decade after the release of Battlefront II. DICE's rebooted Battlefront has more in common with the simple Battlefront of old than its military shooter Battlefield, but with a slavish attention to Original Trilogy authenticity and graphical detail. Gone are some of Battlefront's staples, however, like the Galactic Conquest and class system. Time will tell if this new Battlefront holds our attention for long, but it sure is pretty.

And that's it! Expect to see many more additions to the Star Wars PC game canon in the coming years. For now, here's everything you need to know about Battlefront and our round-up of our favourite Star Wars games ever.

PC Gamer
This article was originally published on August 25, 2014, but to celebrate BioWare's 20th anniversary we're reminiscing again about the characters we love (and don't). Warning! The following article contains MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Mass Effect, Baldur's Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age series.
We've been reminiscing about our favourite, and least favourite, BioWare companions. Interesting buddies, and sometimes enemies, have been a staple of BioWare games since Baldur's Gate, and the studio is famous for creating people you actually care about. So I decided to ask the entire PC Gamer team who among the vast pantheon of BioWare NPCs they hate, and who they love. Some of the answers may surprise you. Especially Chris Thursten's.

Andy Kelly

Loves...

Minsc (Baldur's Gate)

One of BioWare's most beloved characters, Minsc is a massive, tattooed ranger who wields a two-handed sword and travels with his faithful companion, Boo, who he says is a 'miniature giant space hamster'—but is probably just a regular hamster. Minsc typifies that anarchic sense of humour that pervaded the Baldur's Gate games, and his eccentric battle cries ( Go for the eyes, Boo! GO FOR THE EYES! ) are the stuff of RPG legend.

It wasn't until Baldur's Gate II, when BioWare realised just how much fans loved him, that his character was given more dialogue and depth. He became more sympathetic after the cruel death of his partner, Dynaheir, at the hands of evil sorcer Irenicus. Minsc is not as rich or nuanced as many of BioWare's more recent creations, but he makes up for it with sheer personality.

Hates...

Tali (Mass Effect)

People love Tali, and I don't know why. She's just so goddamn earnest, telling endless, boring stories about the her pilgrimage, droning on and on about quarian tradition and how hard life on the flotilla is. The only interesting thing about her character is that she wears a mask, and even that's just a cheap way of making her seem mysterious.

I genuinely cared about the majority of the cast in Mass Effect, but I avoided Tali at every opportunity. She has a loyal following, including former PC Gamer writer Rich McCormick, who replayed 25 hours of Mass Effect 3 just to prevent her death, but I really don't understand the love for her. One of the dullest characters in BioWare history.

Chris Thursten

Loves...

Ashley Williams (Mass Effect)

I know, I know. Ashley the space racist. Ashley who only survived Mass Effect 1 because she's not as boring as Kaidan. I've heard every argument against Ash in the last couple of years - often the same argument, over and over - but she's still one of my favourite BioWare characters. She's a rare example of a love interest for a male protagonist that doesn't really need anything from him. Ashley's background is defined by stable, positive relationships - with her sisters, her parents, her religion.

Her motivating crisis is a smear on her family name that she's had to struggle with to get where she is in the Alliance military, a struggle that she's already largely overcome by the time she meets Shepard. It's a sore spot, but also a point of pride. In a series largely defined by people that Shepard 'fixes', Ashley demands to be understood on her own terms. I respect that. As for the space racism: well, yeah, she says some unfortunate things. But it's not who the character is. If you bring her with you when you encounter the Terra Firma rally on the Citadel, she'll angrily condemn their leader for using political pragmatism to disguise the racist element of his party. People tend to forget that about her.

Hates...

Sebastian Vael (Dragon Age)

I struggled with this one, because there aren't really any BioWare characters I truly don't like. Jacob Taylor is boring, yeah, but his arc pays off in Mass Effect 3. I'm a bit tired of the 'quirky little sister' template (Imoen, Tali, Merrill) but all of those characters have their moments. So I'm picking Sebastian, the launch-day DLC character for Dragon Age II who more or less totally fails to get on with any of the other characters in the game. Despite its faults, DA II portrays its companions as a diverse but closely-knit circle of friends: a revolutionary cell that grows out of natural affections and affiliations.

Sebastian, the Chantry-dwelling, revenge-chasing former dilettante doesn't fit into that family. He's too posh to slum it with Varric or Isabela, too straight-laced to indulge in the anger that motivates Anders or Fenris. He shows a bit of fire in the game's final act, but by that point I was too invested in

literally everybody else

to side with him. He's that guy you see in the hallway at work that you have nothing in common with but you feel obligated to talk to anyway; he's your friend's boring boyfriend from university; he's the person you invite to your house party while secretly hoping that they don't show up.

Tom Senior

Loves...

Alistair (Dragon Age)

Dragon Age is a very serious game. You're juggling issues of lineage that'll decide the fate of the entire realm with the threat of impending genocide at the hands of an ancient evil. A little laughter goes a long way, and Alistair shines as the self-aware bastard contender for the throne. A great comic vocal performance and a bottomless bucket of quips instantly earned him a permanent role in my party, but his capacity of sudden seriousness gave him an interesting edge. At heart he's a nervous hero forced into a position of remarkable pressure, which makes him enormously sympathetic, especially in the final act when the kingship is decided.

The kicker is that he's probably not good King material. I ended up accidentally exiling him from the kingdom while attempting to put someone more decisive in place. The fact that I still feel bad about that shows how much I came to like the poor man. I hope he's running a thriving tavern somewhere, entertaining his regulars with some of the finest one-liners in Ferelden.

Hates...

Samara (Mass Effect)

Samara has a fascinating backstory. She's been hunting one of her three vampire daughters across the universe for hundreds of years, and now enforces the pious rules of her order with lethal force. This is great for driving plot, especially when her laws clash with the local customs of the planet you're exploring, but her personality has been entirely subsumed by the code.

Her outlook and actions are bound to a list of rules that she can never break, and she'll tell you that relentlessly during your observation deck chats during Mass Effect 2. She's a boring space paladin. You're interacting with dogma, rather than a person, which means there can be no evolution to your friendship with her. She could kill a dozen enemies in seconds with her mind, but ended up leaving her to her cross-legged meditation in the observation bay. I think we both preferred it that way.

Samuel Roberts

Loves...

Varric (Dragon Age)

Varric wins out for me because he's the closest your main character gets to an actual best buddy in a BioWare title (other than maybe Garrus in Mass Effect). He's just good to have around, and also has the interesting distinction of being one of Dragon Age II's narrators, so his perception of Hawke is oddly important to me as a player. I love that he frequently refers to his crossbow, Bianca, in third person a la Jayne's gun Vera in Firefly (but slightly less silly), and that he's technically spent years in Kirkwall's pub, The Hanged Man, by the end of Dragon Age II.

Controversially, I think Dragon Age II might have my favourite set of companions—or possibly tying with Mass Effect 2. I must point out, though, that picking one BioWare companion I love is nearly impossible. I have a list of twelve names here that I'll spare you from, but the thought of Varric being around again in Inquisition is pretty exciting to me.

Hates...

James Vega (Mass Effect)

James Vega is an easy target for least likeable BioWare companion he's not that bad, and I wouldn't say I hate him by any stretch. I think it's because I got it into my head that he was a cipher for Call of Duty players picking up Mass Effect for the first time with the third instalment, and couldn't handle sci-fi unless they had a way in via standard soldier guy.

That was a bit too harsh, and I think Freddie Prinze Jr does a fine job with the character's performance, but aside from beating him up in the shuttle bay of the Normandy, I can't recall enjoying his company that much. I just don't need someone being that grumpy on my Normandy. I would have put up a sign, politely asking that anybody trying to brood sexily on my ship has to get off at the next civilised star port. I've been saving the party sequence from the DLC Mass Effect 3: Citadel until I'm finally ready to say goodbye to Mass Effect, and I'm told Vega's attendance is mandatory. Aww.

Phil Savage

Loves...

Garrus (Mass Effect)

Characters my character has loved in BioWare games: Aerie, L'iara, Thane and Alistair. But the character

I

loved was never a romantic possibly. Well, technically he was in Mass Effect 3. What I mean to say is that he was never a romantic possibility for

my

Shepard. Like Sam with DA2's Varric, Garrus filled the role of best pal. By Mass Effect 2, he's reinvented himself in Shepard's image, and that leads to a common understanding between the two. He's got his shit together, even when he hasn't.

Many have criticised Mass Effect 3's actual ending. The truth is it was a game filled with endings, and many of them were note perfect. Garrus's ending takes place before the final battle, shooting cans with Shepard at the top of the Citadel's Presidium. It's a scene laced with humour, rivalry, sadness and, yes, friendship. The best way to remember BioWare's best companion.

Hates...

Khalid (Baldur's Gate)

Poor Khalid. You didn't really deserve to die every time I played Baldur's Gate. You were, I guess, fine. Adequate. Non-offensively present. My disdain for your life is really down to the way the first BG handled party members. Many of them were paired up—their inseparable buddy being a requirement to them joining your adventure.

If you wanted Jaheira, you had to take Khalid, and, in a game filled with interesting characters and variables, I really didn't want to waste one of my five companion slots on the cowardly complaining of an effete fighter. And so you were sent to your certain death; one of the few ways you could part these pairings without pissing their partner off. It was an inelegant solution, but a necessary one. BioWare, it seems, agreed, and in Baldur's Gate 2 they removed such dependencies. They, like me, killed Khalid off.

Ben Griffin

Loves...

Thane Krios (Mass Effect)

Everything about Thane is fascinating. He's a Drell, a reptilian species rescued from their dying planet by the Hanar. Unfortunately Drell aren't suited to their new world's humidity, and many develop a respiratory disease called Kepral's Syndrome. Thane has it, and he agrees to Shepard's suicide mission as a gesture of penance. He's an assassin, you see, and thanks to his photographic memory—an adaptation to an environment where Drell must remember the location of resources across vast distances—Thane involuntarily relives his kills in vivid detail.

This weighs heavily on his conscience, and it's not unusual to catch him praying in his private quarters. I never feel more badass than rocking up to the Citadel with Thane. I remember him once commenting on the 14 flaws in C-Sec security that a skilled assassin could exploit, and how eight of them were there ten years ago.

Hates...

Kaiden Alenko

Who? Ohhh yeah, that guy. That's the reaction Kaidan Alenko usually garners, for me the only forgettable companion in the Mass Effect games. Just look at his boring face. In a galaxy featuring psychic purple jellies, bright blue seductresses, and monotone elephant men, here's this...dude. His backstory is dull—a biotic born into a military family—and his conversations with the captain are unremarkable. I guess he's just too similar to male Shepard, his role already served.

I play Mass Effect to interact with strange new beings, not hobnob with brown-haired white guys. Literally everyone I work with is a brown-haired white guy. In the first Mass Effect he shares an interesting conflict with Ashley, her a pro-human xenophobe and him an equal rights advocate, and as Shepard you can persuade him to be either less or more sympathetic to alien races. It's an important subject to explore, but Kaiden feels superfluous to it. Ashley gets the job done.

Tim Clark

Loves...

Liara T'Soni (Mass Effect)

Lovely Liara. It's testament to the skill of BioWare's writers that she isn't reduced to just being the drippy, peace-loving, science-y one. I mean, she's all those things, but she's also more complex. Old by human standards, but a child in terms of Asari lifespan, she's naive and hopeful, but at the same time proud of her people and conflicted about her relationship with her mother.

She wants the best for the universe but fears the worst. I ended up taking Liara on most missions, partly because I liked having an all-girl Charlies Angels-style squad, but also because her enthusiasm and curiosity invariably added nuance and emotion to the plot lines that was otherwise lost with the more workaday companions. Her arc, leading up the excellent Lair Of The Shadow Broker DLC, is also some of the most interesting stuff in the series. Damnit, Liara, it was always you. You made me want to be a better Shepard.

Hates...

Thane Krios (Mass Effect)

Look, I wouldn't say I hate Thane pity, maybe it's more that I can't think about him without feeling the intense embarrassment that only comes with a truly disastrous one-night stand. After Liara was sidelined for Mass Effect 2 my Fem Shep couldn't be expected to live like a space nun, could she? So, reasoning that she was an experimental girl of the galaxy, I decided to bunk up with Thane. Largely to cheer him up because, hoo boy, badass assassins have rarely been more depressing.

Whether it's moping over his dead wife, praying for forgiveness after whacking some schmuck, or musing on what a terrible dad he is, Thane is just a big green cloud of glum. (Bonus bad times: he's also slowly dying of Kepral's Syndrome, the specifics of which I forget and have no desire to Google.) After the sex he's awkwardly grateful. Which, honestly, is a sure sign you've made a terrible romantic mistake. Ugh.

Evan Lahti

Loves...

HK-47 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

For all the well-rounded, nonarchetypal, and sensitive characters BioWare has thrown at us, I delight in the silliest, most murderous, and one-dimensional partner they've written. HK-47 is more bloodthirsty than Jack or fellow assassin Thane, and most reliable source of bad advice in BioWare games.

He's essentially a bad-ass, malicious one-liner dispenser ("Observation: We can begin by slaughtering the inhabitants of this building, master. Would that be impressive?"), but he also shows us a dark side of droids not seen in the Star Wars I grew up with--compared to the placative C-3PO, HK-47 shows zero concern for the needs of humans. The Star Wars wiki is a fine source of HK-47

quotes

, most of them containing meatbag as a perjorative.

Hates...

Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect)

Miranda is the closest to furniture that a BioWare character has ever been. What do we remember about her, other than her skintight bodysuit and the way Mass Effect 2's camera suggestively frames her hips? Her loyalty missions were among the least interesting, and her fluctuating relationship with Cerberus, which could've been a great opportunity for genuine betrayal in the series, never made me feel uneasy.

Tyler Wilde

Loves...

Mordin Solus (Mass Effect)

Mordin is great for the following reasons: One, he's a scientist, and science is neat. Two, he blinks upwards. Three, he speaks in sentence fragments, and it is a proven fact that omitting pronouns is super endearing. Four, he is the very model of a scientist salarian. Five, he gives practical sex advice and totally doesn't judge. Six, he has a cool thing around his neck.

My cynical side says Mordin was designed to be quoted by fans more than be an interesting character, but he's a very interesting character. His practical, logical morality is a bit Data-like, but unlike The Enterprise's android, he's emotional. He's just so sure of his pragmatism that he can stay upbeat despite the weight of his actions—and then he's not. It breaks my heart when he yells I made a mistake! in Mass Effect 3. Even if he was still talking about variables and potential outcomes, there's regret and hope there, too.

Hates...

Jack (Mass Effect)

Jack has lived a ridiculously shitty life. She's been experimented on, tortured, and used—and tragically, all that abuse turned her into a boring character who sucks. She's that garden variety violent psychopath who's always wiping something off her lip with the back of her hand (saliva? blood?) after saying shit. She's mad, and she should be, but her conflict with Shepard isn't interesting. It's just—she's mad. She's really mad, and that's about it.

Her grisly past means she doesn't have any interesting space culture to talk about, either—it's just a story about how Cerberus is bad and we shouldn't like them. That insane chest belt costume from Mass Effect 2 didn't help, either, and neither did the equally-stupid Biker Mice From Mars-inspired look in Mass Effect 3.

Cory Banks

Loves...

Aveline (Dragon Age)

For most of my time in Kirkwall (after a long absence, I'm only just now finishing the game), Guard Captain Aveline was merely an interesting character: stoic, hard-nosed, a fine example of how DA2's rivalry system can work. She often didn't agree with my actions, but our mutual goals united us. We're not friends, but we're companions.

Her companion quest is what turned me around. In most BioWare games, your goal with companions is to make them like you more—and most likely, fall in love with you enough that they'll join you in an awkward, unromantic sex cinematic. Aveline's quest is different: she has a crush on a subordinate guardsman, and wants your help to get his attention. The captain of the guard is awful at flirting, however, which leads to an amusing series of scenes where you entertain Aveline's future boyfriend while she works up the nerve to talk to him.

It works because it's not really about you, but about the character who is supposed to be your friend, and it's one of the most realistic character moments in a game that's supposed to be all about character. Now, not only is Aveline the best tank I can bring to a fight, but she's also an actual friend.

Hates...

Yoshimo (Baldur's Gate II)

I'll never forgive BioWare for Yoshimo. When I first met him in the game's starting dungeon, he was a welcome help to the party—good in a fight, great with a lockpick, and the only pure-class thief players get in the game. I kept him around in the team because I needed him, but also because I liked him. But then it turned out that he was Jon Irenicus' puppet, and was forced to betray me to save his life. Not that it helped, because I had to kill him. It's a very Joss Whedon move, to make me kill a character I love, and while that might sound like praise for BioWare, it doesn't make me any less angry about it.

Wes Fenlon

Loves...

Niftu Cal (Mass Effect)

Over the years, BioWare has written tons of interesting companions who journey and grow along with you. Characters with depth and humanity. In Mass Effect, those characters are often aliens with detailed and unique physiologies. But how many of them are biotic gods? Only one. Only Niftu Cal, the funniest throwaway character BioWare ever created.

Hates...

Carth Onasi (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)

It takes Knights of the Old Republic all of five minutes to pair you up with the most self-righteous soldier in the galaxy. There I was, walking through the streets of Taris, just trying to help out the local alien races by relieving them of their credits. That money was just weighing them down! And then here's Carth, lecturing me. So what if I goaded someone into a fight and killed them, just for the fun of it?

What gives you the right to guilt me, Carth?

I loved to hate Carth in Knights of the Old Republic, sneering at his

honor

and

reason

and that smug, holier-than-thou voice. He was an uncool Han Solo. Even playing as the most honest light side Jedi warrior, Carth was too bland for my tastes. I grew to hate him so much, I kept him around just so I could ignore every piece of sage advice and insult him at every opportunity. Carth's voice immediately made me angry. I'd recognize it anywhere, so as soon as he showed up disguised as Kaidan in Mass Effect, I knew that he'd be off the squad. Ashley may be a xenophobe, but she's better than the most annoying man in the universe.
PC Gamer
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