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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
Come on, Wes, we all know Yoda Stories is the secret best.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When you beat games quick, you tend to beat a lot of games. This year's Summer Games Done Quick speedrunners tore through dozens of PC games, and even if you had the stream on all week like we did, you probably missed some amazing runs. Below we've compiled a selection of our favorites: mostly classic PC RPGs and shooters, capped off by an inspiring one-handed run by Halfcoordinated.
Full of hot dance parties, impossible jumps, and advanced AI manipulation, the Deus Ex run may be the most entertaining run of SGDQ. Heinki is incredibly entertaining to watch, cracking jokes as often as he pulls off ridiculous technical tricks.
With intelligent mana pathing this runner is able to keep his magic meter up while darting through the map in a series of lightning fast, acrobatic blinks. The run is so fast that they ve come to a point where unskippable dialogue sequences nearly make up the majority of it.
Cloudbuilt was designed with speed and advanced platforming tricks in mind, which makes it a perfect challenge for speedrunners. It s hard to keep track of exactly what s going on in this run, but it looks impossible, which is all the comprehension necessary to know it s impressive.
If you like Star Wars and old school Doom-era shooters, then this run is one to watch. The commentary is quick and clear, detailing the technical tricks at play while Stormtroopers whiz by. Luke should take notes.
This one s worth a watch to see how runners turn the notoriously buggy Gamebyro engine inside out. It s especially interesting to see such a relatively new game an experience that promises dozens, possibly hundreds of hours of play get turned out in just over an hour. Who knew traffic cones held such power?
Yes, that is an insanely fast time to finish System Shock. That's the beauty of this run: watching runner Fearful Ferret pull off a skip that cuts out most of the game. Short and sweet.
Puri_Puri breaks Daggerfall wide open, with teleportation glitches and a whole lot of floating outside the world boundaries to shortcut around. A fun example of an old game being bent to a speedrunner s will.
The one absolutely must-watch speedrun of SGDQ isn t a classic PC game or full of groundbreaking exploits. It s simply an inspiring performance by speedrunner Halfcoordinated, who plays all of his games with one hand due to a disability that limits the use of his right hand. Throughout the entire run he s entertaining and good at explaining what he s doing in Momodora, and at the end he says a few heartfelt words that draw a standing ovation from the audience. Absolutely the highlight of the week.
In the last months of 2015, Star Wars was everywhere. Everywhere. TV ads. Billboards. Sneakers. Mac n cheese. Cars. PCs. It s hard to remember a time when Star Wars wasn t all around us. Even before the Force Awakens marketing blitz, Star Wars has been omnipresent for a decade now, with a steady stream of cartoons and toys and games and books and comics, some good, many bad. This is what we ve come to expect from the Lucasfilm and Disney empires. We don t expect Star Wars spin-offs to be bold and daring, and it wasn t until I spent the holiday break playing Dark Forces that I remembered Star Wars games were once genuinely groundbreaking.
After watching Force Awakens, my Star Wars fever drove me to replay Dark Forces and Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II for the first time since my childhood. This was actually my first time playing all the way through either; I only had demos as a kid. Despite being released just two and a half years apart, in 1995 and 1997, the games feel like they belong to distinct eras of FPS design. Each is forward thinking in some ways I found fascinating with 20 years of perspective, and comically dated in others.
But not really comically. Like, Jar-Jar-and-his-stupid-tongue-funny. It s 2016. We know better.
21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game, and its ambition dates it in a way that the arcadier Doom will never age. The 2D sprite enemies, their simplistic AI and repeated audio clips, the labyrinthine levels and obtuse puzzles are the essence of first-person PC games from 1995. Made today, Dark Forces would probably feel like a sanitized Call of Duty clone with lasers.
And yet. And yet. The same way Star Wars took the basic structure of the Hero s Journey and turned it into a movie unlike anything we d seen before, Dark Forces cloned Doom and created something amazing from its DNA: a game that placed you into a three dimensional world that was new and yet recognizably Star Wars.
LucasArts s Jedi Engine added jumping and looking up and down on the vertical axis, so you could explore Dark Forces world like it was a real place. The stormtroopers and Imperial officers may have been crudely animated 2D sprites, but they looked just like they did in the movies. The blasters sounded the same. The music captured the essence of John Williams in simple MIDI.
Instead of revisiting locations from the films or playing out some hackneyed video game version of the battle of Hoth, LucasArts took places we d glimpsed, like the interior of a Star Destroyer, and spun out their own creations with the scope and detail to bring them to life. The world is gray more often than not, but Dark Forces keeps switching out tilesets as you reach new levels. One Imperial base looks different than another. Ship interiors take inspiration from the Death Star. Natural canyons, blocky and angular as they are, admirably lend scale to Dark Forces representation of the galaxy far, far away.
Even the hundreds of stormtroopers spread across the campaign makes it feel like you re struggling against the Empire, a Rebel underdog deep inside an overwhelming military machine. The mostly static cutscenes and briefings between missions feel rudimentary next to the 3D world—possibly Dark Forces at its most dated—but Mon Mothma lends the story an air of legitimacy, too.
21 years on, Dark Forces feels almost prehistoric for a 3D game.
I found Dark Forces additions to the Doom template simultaneously the coolest and the most frustrating bits of its design. I appreciated some of the puzzles I had to solve to make my way through Imperial strongholds, and not always knowing where to go in its layered and complex levels. Other relics of the time—like how difficult it was to discern a random decorative texture from an interactive control panel—really do add depth to the world, making it feel more real and less like a linear guided tour through some Cool Shit, as so many shooters today are.
But I spent more of my Dark Forces playthrough appreciating what it pulled off in 1995 than I did really having fun. The shooting doesn t have Doom s oomph, and I ground my teeth in frustration while trying to navigate the sewers early on, and while trying to make one particular series of jumps between rising and falling platforms later on. If you ve played Dark Forces, you know the one. And the computer core in mission 11? Fuck that hexagonal nightmare.
I'd recommend playing with a guide on-hand for the most obtuse bits, but Dark Forces is still worth a run through to get to Jedi Knight, where the series really finds its way. And it's easy to play on modern hardware thanks to DarkXL, a rebuilt version of the game that supports high resolutions and Windows.
What a difference two years makes. When LucasArts started using scale models for Star Wars in 1977, they first had to figure out how to make them look like real spaceships. A couple years later, for Empire Strikes Back, they had that down—the next step was making them look good, leading to the invention of Go Motion. Jedi Knight followed a similar path, going fully 3D, telling a far more complex story with full motion video, and slowly unlocking Force powers throughout the campaign. Dark Forces great success was putting you inside a Star Wars world with the best technology available at the time, and Jedi Knight amplified that tenfold.
Its FMV story is unfortunately every bit as bad as the words full motion video usually imply. Hero Kyle Katarn has the gruff voice down, but can t do much more than frown and deliver terrible dialogue from awkward bluescreen-turned-CG-graphics sets. Everyone else is even worse, especially Dark Jedi Jerec, who is wearing the banana hammock equivalent of a pair of sunglasses and has chin tattoos that I mistook for a bad fu manchu for 90 percent of the game.
There s no passion to be found here, but the story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers over the course of 20+ levels. Where later Bioware RPGs would much more deliberately tie your Force skills and alignment into the narrative, Jedi Knight mostly just gives you points to assign between missions, and bam, you re a Jedi. Believable? Not really—but the FMV cutscenes already threw immersion out the window. Accept Kyle s inexplicable mastery of the Force, and Jedi Knight will hand you a really satisfying skill progression from blaster-wielding slowpoke to Jedi superhero.
Gaining Force powers in Jedi Knight gave me one of my favorite experiences playing games: the feeling that I m using abilities to play the game in a way it wasn t meant to be played. To outsmart the designers by navigating the environment and defeating enemies in ways I wasn t meant to. The best-designed games give me this sensation even when it s not true: they make me feel clever and powerful, even when I m following the path I was meant to.
When you first start gaining powers in Jedi Knight, they re a convenience. You can use Force speed to get around more quickly, or Force jump to leap over a gap that would ve taken longer to cross by foot. Gradually, the game starts introducing areas you need Force powers to navigate. By the end, you re jumping a dozen meters into the air, yanking blasters out of your enemies hands, and sprinting across levels to avoid unnecessary combat.
Jedi Knight ties its high-level light and dark Force abilities to some key story decisions, which would be a great idea if the story wasn t such a galactic suckfest. Star Wars games have done it better since. But Jedi Knight deserves credit for doing it first, and for doing Force powers so, so well. Dark Forces let you view Star Wars from an angle very different than the films, and in making Jedi Knight, LucasArts did the same with the Force. This was the Force we imagined watching the films, letting a heroic master run faster, jump farther, sense enemies that can t be seen, heal his body when he s injured. I don t know if Jedi Knight s powers were directly influenced by the novels filling out the Expanded Universe in the 90s—almost two dozen were written between 1991 and 1997, with different authors granting Jedi new skills—but it nailed the toolset, making the powers fun to use and believable within the Star Wars fiction.
The story loosely justifies Jedi Knight s strength: the experience of gaining badass Force powers.
Acquiring those Force powers is unfortunately tied to the most archaic part of Jedi Knight s design (aside from the FMV, I mean). Completing each level earns you a measly one point to put into the Force skill tree. Most of the points come from discovering secret areas in each level. And there are a lot of them. These secret areas are usually packed with health and ammo, hidden in dark corners or behind stairs or on top of structures. Finding them is a fun excuse to explore...until you miss one of the six or eight or ten hidden areas in a level and miss out on the entire Force point bonus. Fun, that is not. The secret areas feel like a holdover of Dark Forces older design, and as poor match for the Jedi power system.
It's no coincidence my favorite level in the game has only a single secret room right at the outset. Jedi Knight is even more varied in its level design and settings than Dark Forces, but one really stands out: The Falling Ship, which has Kyle rushing through a ship before it hits the ground and explodes. The ship and gravity are both twisted, making for some surprisingly fun platforming on a tense time limit. I failed on my first time through but enjoyed going at it again, racing the clock to make it to the hangar bay and escape in a smaller ship. This is the kind of setpiece you'll see in a blockbuster AAA game today, but Jedi Knight managed to pull it off in 1997.
When I played Jedi Knight s expansion, Mysteries of the Sith, I skipped most of the secret rooms, and was nearly crippled by my meager Force powers in the last few levels. They really felt like a necessity, and only save scumming and dodging tougher enemies carried me through to the end. Freakin vornskrs, man. Most of Mysteries of the Sith feels like an uninspired retreat of what Jedi Knight has already done, which is a disappointing first (and only, really) outing for EU heroine Mara Jade in a Star Wars game.
But the last few levels, hard as they are, are its salvation: they take you deep into an old Sith temple to bring Kyle Katarn back from the Dark side, and it feels every bit like the hallowed, dangerous ground it should be. Well, mostly. The leaping dog creatures and yeti monsters may be based on Timothy Zahn s novels, but they come across as goofy video game enemies. And the zombie wizards? Maybe a step too far.
Nothing in Jedi Knight or Mysteries of the Sith is as challenging as getting the games to run in the first place. To play them yourself, I recommend slavishly following the directions on JK2DF, which was the only way I could get the games to run on Windows 10. The GOG and Steam versions each have their own problems, and patches and mods are often not fully compatible with one version or the other. You can also grab a Mysteries of the Sith texture pack to make the game look comparable to Jedi Knight retextured.
Hoo boy, are the original models and textures ugly. But they're still better than the FMV.
I haven t tackled Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast yet, but it s next on the list, and I have high expectations. LucasArts wisely handed the series to FPS maestros Raven Software, and by 2002 3D games could do far more advanced cutscenes than the awkward first steps of Mysteries of the Sith. I expect Jedi Outcast to be the game that turns Kyle Katarn into a genuinely interesting character.
And I hear the lightsabers are pretty cool.