I must have been five years old the first time I sat down and played the original Star Wars arcade game.
Sitting INSIDE an arcade game, first of all. And second of all, it was flipping Star Wars.
And since then, it’s been a long love affair where I still regularly play some kind of Star Wars video game. In fact, I may have played every single one that’s ever been released since 1983’s arcade release.
Even that one chess game that had animations when you captured a piece. I doubt I actually won a single game of chess on it, but I enjoyed the animations!
Star Wars video games have really run the gamut over that time, from strategy games to movie adaptations to, well, chess games. It’s easy to forget some of the gems that we dedicated our lives to at some point and then forgot existed.
Especially those that are at least 15 years old. (You see, that’s the criteria for defining “old school” here.)
Thusly, I give you the best old-school Star Wars video games you forgot were flipping awesome:
Knights of the Old Republic
With a 2003 release, KOTR just sneaks into the Old School category.
Taking place some 4,000 years before the movies, the Star Wars universe opens up before you in this all-time classic RPG from Bioware.
The sheer magnitude of it is stunning, and it’s pure Star Wars without having to be tethered to anyone related to a Skywalker. It’s truly its own story.
And, it’s YOUR story. Finally, blissfully, here was an RPG where you could choose your path, and depending on your choices you would lean to the light or dark sides, and your character’s appearance would reflect this evolution.
This is one of the first action RPGs I remember really getting into. It’s more of a fusion of action RPGs and turn-based, a system that still powers Bioware’s games today.
KOTOR isn’t exactly an under-the-radar game, considering there’s apparently now a movie based on it. But you may have forgotten just how great it is.
And now, you can buy it and play it on your phone while you’re pooping.
Speaking of which…
Super Star Wars
It’s nothing special. It’s a straight-up port of the movies wrapped up in a 32-bit platformer.
THAT’S IT. NOTHING SPECIAL.
And yet, that is what makes it so special.
Pick a hero, play the level, boom.
The whole Super Star Wars series was nothing but just plain fun playing through the original storyline. Hard to beat that.
This was the first CD-Rom only game to be released by Lucas Arts — and by the Force did it usher in a new era in a butt-kicking way.
Rebel Assault was more or less a straightforward shooter. And the first chapter was annoyingly impossible the first few times you played it. SO. EASY. TO. CRASH.
Those choppy graphics may not look great now, but man, at the time, it felt like you were ACTUALLY PLAYING THE MOVIE. It blew my mind.
Today, it probably, you know, sucks compared to many of the other options, but for those who played the original in its heyday, there’s nothing like reliving that Friday night where you rent a game, sit down with some pizza and soda and just play through it ’til you beat it.
Back in 1998, they had this console called an N64.
It was the natural progression of home video game consoles based on bits: 8, 16, 32 — and 64!!! WOW!
And yes, this was on Windows as well, but whatever. And also, you had to have the N64 memory expansion pack to really get your value out of it. But, also, whatever, shut up.
At a time when the first PlayStation had already changed home gaming forever (sorry not sorry 3Do, but you blew it) the N64 had a string of games, many of them Star Wars assets, that kept me coming back to cartridges.
While Dr. Mario 64 deserves its own post, Rogue Squadron was a killer title for this underrated system.
Taking place in between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, it was a fast-paced arcade-style game with a heavy focus on space combat.
You can also unlock a bunch of crap.
You probably forgot about this awesome game. I know I did.
Shadows of the Empire
Speaking of games released only on Windows and N64 upon release, we have another gem: Shadows of the Empire
With over 1 million copies sold, and being the third best-selling N64 game of all time, I feel like I probably am not alone on this one. And calling it a gem isn’t really accurate, unless it’s a super commonly available gem, like opal. Which is bad luck, apparently. Which is also the type of gemstone I used for my wife’s engagement ring … oops!
Anyways, this game was, is, and always will be awesome, but you might have forgotten just how awesome.
Part third-person shooter, part space combat, part just straight-up Star Wars, and just a hint of open sandbox play, Shadows also featured a stellar original story. Told through surprisingly great sound quality with the original soundtrack and cut scenes that felt like the right combination of comic book and video game animation, the game spawned a book and quite a bit more ancillary content and merch.
The somewhat primitive (by today’s standards) in-game mechanics kind of make me nauseous now, but this game is good enough that I’m willing to pop a Dramamine every now and then and get down to bizness.
Star Wars: Masters of Teräs Käsi
Call me old-fashioned, but fighting games just ain’t what they used to be.
Today’s fighting games are either bloated omniverses with so much customization that’s all you do, or pointless excursions that lose their appeal after three play-throughs.
And closer to the golden age of fighting games, there was the Star Wars among the Tekkens and Soul Calibers of the day.
And you got to play as a sandperson named Hoar.
Yes, a game played mostly by 12-year-old boys with a character named Hoar.
Hailing back to 1997, before legions of us were disappointed by Episode I, it was a really fun, straightforward entry in the Star Wars video game lexicon. I’m down for a fight whenever you are.
The Original Arcade Game
THE. EFFING. KING.
This is the game that changed it all for me. I was so enamored with it I’m pretty my mom would just leave me at the arcade in the local mall, without any quarters, and go shopping. If she didn’t she totally could have.
Coming out in 1983, missing the original intent to have it out in time for Return of the Jedi, it was simply called: Star Wars.
I also came to learn later there were ports to the Atari, that I totally could have played, but apparently, my mom never bought them for me. THANKS A LOT MOM! I WANT CHOCOLATE MILK!
First off, a game you sit inside of. This is a novelty that has never worn off for me.
And the vector graphics still hold some kind of sway over me. If all the Oculus games were in vector graphics, I would buy 10 each of all of them right now.
Oh, and the music.
Whenever I’m at one of those new hipster bars that have old-school video game cabinets, I make small talk for five minutes, excuse myself, and pump $25 into it. Even the upright version (it still has the space controls!!!).
This is it, just a fun, old-school arcade game that gave you the straight-up Star Wars experience in its purest essence — before the millions and trillions of budget dollars, or the better haircuts, or the standalone movies.
As the crappy commercial for the Star Wars arcade game once said:
“This game will be with you — always.”