For some reason, it seems like the biggest names in entertainment have games that are prone to getting games that are less than perfect. Often times, the best games come from original takes on the universe and lore, something that expands rather than imitates. Just look at almost any Star Wars, Marvel, Harry Potter, or other game based on a licensed property. With limited exception, the better games are often those that expand the universe with original content. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is just about to be unveiled, and it feels like an appropriate time to look back on the storied saga of Star Wars games.
I’m not about to dive into the whole history of Star Wars games. We’d be here all weekend if that were the case. Instead I want to touch on some particular stand outs both for good and bad. There haven’t been any games based directly on the original trilogy since 1994, the last one being Super Return of the Jedi on SNES, Game Gear, and Game Boy. Prequel trilogy games were popular in the early 00s, but again, that idea quickly died off. Video game developers realized that direct licensed properties weren’t what players were looking for. Fortunately for Star Wars fans, there’s a massive series of games that are more interesting takes on the the saga and the universe.
Star Wars Racer picked up on the podracing from Episode I. Starfighter allowed players to become a pilot in the Star Wars universe. Knights of the Old Republic was one of the games that put BioWare on the map with a huge MMORPG and a super compelling new story in the Star Wars universe. Battlefront put players into the soldiers’ boots on the ground in massive battles. On the battlefront as it were. The Force Unleashed series told the story of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice.
There have also been numerous crossovers, including with pinball games and LEGO (perhaps the only massively successful games directly licensed and based on the films). Aside from mobile titles and the pinball and LEGO games (and with the rare exception of Star Wars: Battlefront), Star Wars games have tapered off quite a bit in the last decade. There have been plenty of false starts, news about another Star Wars game, rumors, cancellations (RIP Star Wars 1313), but despite a resurgence of interest in Star Wars with the latest trilogy, the selection of great Star Wars adventures in video games has been pretty dry. That’s not uncommon. The same thing is happening with Harry Potter right now (though we’ll be getting that one corrected here pretty soon. E3 is coming up…).
The Good Old Days of Star Wars Games
Those who remember the days of games like Knights of the Old Republic and The Force Unleashed have been hoping for a return to form with Star Wars games for a long time. We’ve had our hopes risen and dashed too many times. Even the games that have actually released have been surrounded by controversy. Finally, finally Respawn might break the bad streak. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order.
Not only does it look like this game is actually going to release (a miracle, if I’ve ever seen one), but even ahead of the reveal, they’ve gone out of their way to assure people that it won’t be what everyone is worried it will. It’s going to have a single-player story, no multiplayer, and no microtransactions. So far so good! This could very well be the Star Wars game we’ve been waiting more than 10 years for. Now we just need to have it revealed in full, which we’re only hours away from at this point. Not only could Respawn’s game potentially be a redemption arc for bad Star Wars games, it could very well be a return for Star Wars video games after living on an island in exile for too many years.
What comes next? We can only hope that Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order isn’t a one-off. What I’d love to see is Disney take the exclusive rights from EA and allow the series to be explored by various development studios with a variety of talents. EA studios like Respawn and BioWare (if they can get their shit together) would still be welcome to make Star Wars games. But imagine if someplace like CD Projekt Red, Naughty Dog, or even one of the developers behind Call of Duty got to take a crack at the license. What kind of amazing Star Wars adventures could we see? We don’t need limitations on the Star Wars license. We need more freedoms.
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