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5 best and 5 worst Star Wars games

Star Wars evokes strong feelings in its fans, and even stronger feelings — nostalgia, joy, outrage, disgust — in those who play the games based in that galaxy far, far away. There is a Star Wars game for every platform and player, a dozen games for every decade since the original trilogy hit theaters. Developers banked on the good name of Skywalker to sell copies, but sometimes, this investment didn't pay off. Among the myriad of Star Wars games, there are certainly some classic gems that are well-loved to this day, but also a pile of shovelware that would make any decent gamer shiver with revulsion. They're bad, really bad.

George Lucas and the writers that came after crafted a massive universe filled with exciting possibilities: spaceflight and space fights and space wizards. There's a lot of fun to be had as a Jedi and plenty of room for memorable stories to be told. That's what the best of this list did, the games that made a respected name for themselves by giving fans an experience that holds up through the decades. The worst of this list certainly contained experiences … with bad graphics, confusing controls, and ill-conceived concepts. But first, let's celebrate the games that weren't a total waste of money.

BEST: The king of them all: Knights of the Old Republic

When BioWare was just a baby game developer, they made what became known as the best Star Wars game ever: Knights of the Old Republic. The game is now over ten years old, but newer titles are no match for KOTOR's mastery of story. BioWare games are known for their focus on dialogue, and KOTOR is no exception. This RPG gives players an unprecedented amount of choice in a world where decisions pave the path to the Light or the Dark. Set in the old, old Republic — meaning that the plot is entirely independent of the Skywalker saga — KOTOR crafts its own legacies in the two main characters Carth Onasi and Bastila Shan, as well as the player character him- or herself, who harbors a secret that people still remember to this day.

But again, these characters are what you make of them: the player controls their destiny and what makes this game so compelling is that there is no easy or obvious choice. The Sith seem just as tempting as the Jedi. What the KOTOR games do right is in not only being engaging to play, but also in immersing the player in the universe they love. With plenty of lovingly added details to explore in a 30-hour campaign and side quests galore, KOTOR is the dream come true of Star Wars fans.

BEST: Short, but super sweet: Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II

Diehard fans of the films can always find games set within all the big screen action, and one of the best of the best games to do so is Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II. Like lasers? Want a first person view of the Battle of Yavin? Rogue Squadron II is part flight simulator, all excitement. Players have cited that the GameCube controls, a marked improvement from the N64, handle like a dream. The graphics that developer Factor 5 packed into the game were cutting edge at the time of its 2001 release, during what has been called the LucasArts golden age of gaming, and aren't too shabby even today.

Players can fighter pilot their way through the pivotal battles from the movies as they lead the Rogue Squadron as either Wedge Antilles or Luke Skywalker. While all involving space battles and shooting stuff with lasers, the levels are varied and challenging, with bonus missions thrown in to keep players on their toes. Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron II looks, feels, and sounds like Star Wars and is a short but sweet title that leaves players ready for more. The third title in the Rogue Squadron series was just as well-received, leaving fans to wonder when a fourth title would be released.

While it's unlikely more Rogue Squadron games will be made, the second of the series remains one of the best Star Wars titles around.

BEST: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is original but familiar

With original characters and plot, the Jedi Knight games are peppered with dazzling details from the Star Wars lore and a few familiar faces along the way. In Jedi Outcast, while players can interact with Luke Skywalker, they'll be more enthralled with the story of love, vengeance, and redemption the protagonist Kyle Katarn fights his way through, making this game one of the best of the series.

As the player guides Katarn on his quest for vengeance, they really get a sense of the enormity of the world they're playing in. The level designs are smartly crafted to reflect the grandeur of the films and the lightsaber combat is everything the movies wish they had been: quick, controlled, and genuinely enjoyable to watch (or play). There's no fight or cutscene that feels unnecessary; the narrative is tight and pulls no punches, although it certainly likes to throw players a plot twist or two.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is like a fine wine: it ages well and will make players feel a little giddy to be swinging around a lightsaber.

BEST: Republic Commando is a good and gritty take on the series

Hot take: the prequels weren't that bad. As viewed through the first-person tactical shooter Republic Commando, anyway. A game that makes the prequels bearable deserves its spot on this list, but the game does more than just that. Star Wars: Republic Commando gives players a closer look at the grittier side of galactic combat. Forget swinging around lightsabers and using the magical, omnipotent Force: you play just a guy with a gun trying not to get obliterated.

Players serve as the leader of the Delta Squad, four elite Clone troopers, during the events of the Clone Wars. The controls give you real authority and ultimately responsibility for the team that lovingly refers to the player as "Boss." And the Delta Squad are no dummies; they will take up positions of their own accord unless otherwise given orders. They, too, are fighting for their lives. Republic Commando is credited as being one of the more mature games in the expansive collection of Star Wars games, dark and gritty among titles that might otherwise feel like all fun and Force chokes.

Republic Commando is a blast to play, however serious the player might take their position as Boss.

BEST: Star Wars TIE Fighter makes the Dark Side desirable

Piloting an X-Wing and freedom-fighting in space might sound like fun, but as far as player experience goes, taking to the Dark Side and zipping around in a TIE fighter is the superior one. This seemed to be the consensus once Star Wars: TIE Fighter was released as a sequel to Star Wars: X-Wing in 1994.

1994 wasn't the best year when it comes to computer graphics, but even without the rose-colored tint of nostalgia goggles, TIE Fighter holds up. The game improved upon what was already a fun, fast-paced experience in space dogfighting that made X-Wing a fan favorite. Players take the controls as a rookie pilot serving the Empire with their utmost, preserving peace and order. Naturally then, players' targets are chaotic pirates and ruffians: the Rebel Alliance. With more details than ever before and a HUD for maximum accuracy, serving the Galactic Empire is easier on the eyes.

TIE Fighter's re-release 20 years later in 2014 cemented its name as one of the best of the best Star Wars games. When gameplay and combat can overcome the culture shock of becoming a space Nazi, you know you have a good game on your hands.

WORST: Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi is the fighting game that fails

Games go bad for a number of reasons: bad concept, poor graphics, difficult controls, weird plot. Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi was a bomb for all these reasons and many, many more. The first, and unfortunately not the last, Star Wars fighting game, Masters of Teras Kasi was released in the shadow of better, playable fighting games that were popular in the '90s. LucasArts just couldn't build the new Mortal Kombat, but man did they ever try. Or not. It is honestly hard to tell.

Masters of Teras Kasi has the flimsy plot of the Empire seeking revenge against Luke and the gang for making the Death Star into a fireworks display. Led by martial arts expert and entirely unnecessary new character Arden Lynn, the game has players button-mashing as they fight against the Dark Side. Simple in concept, maybe, but not so much in execution. The fighting just doesn't work. Certain characters are considerably overpowered once players fight their own way through ill-conceived controls and a headache-inducing graphical set-up that has the characters fighting both each other and gravity, apparently. Instead of lightning-fast moves, Darth Vader looks like he's shadowboxing Chewbacca underwater. The motions are stiff and taking damage seems randomized, leaving this game with very little to make up for it's problems.

Maybe watching Chewbacca defeat Darth Vader on his own is reward enough in itself.

WORST: Disconnected and disinterested: Kinect Star Wars

Remember when the Kinect was going to revolutionize gaming? Yeah, neither do we. Motion controls and lightsabers should be the perfect pair, but an otherwise easy equation for a novel, new game turned into one of the worst Star Wars titles to date. Kinect Star Wars was a simple premise made needlessly complicated: kids want to swing around lightsabers, and the motion controls of the Kinect allowed them to do just that, except to such a limited scale that the fun was sucked out of the game entirely.

Kinect Star Wars is infamous in that you can only fight one enemy at a time, and the game arbitrarily chooses the opponent for the player, even if they're being beaten senseless by another. That and that there's no translation between the way the player swings and the direction that the lightsaber is directed. The optimal strategy here is flailing, apparently. Sometimes leaning one way or the other will allow the player to dodge attacks, but utilizing true Jedi skills and trying a Force push or two? Laughably overcomplicated and near useless.

The saving grace of this game, or its ultimate downfall, is the Galactic Dance Off mode. The dancing mini-game is evidently where all efforts toward maximizing motion control went. Clearly what players really wanted out of Kinect Star Wars was the ability to dance as Han Solo to punny versions of pop songs. Clearly.

WORST: Star Wars Obi-wan is blurry, blocky, and can't do a British accent

Don't wipe your glasses: the game actually looks like that. There's more than just horrible, terrible, no good graphics marring the good name of Star Wars in the exceedingly mediocre Star Wars: Obi-Wan. The game tells the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi when he was just a young Padawan with a questionable haircut and absolutely no idea how to do a British accent. One of the first and most apparent issues of the game is that not only did LucasArts fail to get Ewan McGregor to voice his character, but they couldn't find a convincing facsimile. So the game is not only hard to look at, but difficult to listen to.

Superficial details? Maybe. But when compounded with the boring gameplay and the uninspired level design, Obi-Wan earned it's universally poor reviews. The controls had just enough potential to frustrate players when the full power of a Jedi failed to be properly utilized. The lightsaber duels might've been cool, but the game provided no chance to get creative with the Force. The issue with gameplay may have been due to the sudden cancellation of the title for PC, instead releasing on Xbox only. However, considering the plodding plot and blocky rendering of characters, there was a lot more going wrong with Obi-Wan than a sudden port could account for.

WORST: Star Wars: Yoda Stories is great if you like grocery lists

Hate what the prequels did with Yoda? You'll hate this game too. The top-down RPG is just as cute as any other 16-bit game, but with none of the charm. Instead of a wise, wry master of the Jedi ways, Yoda is just a little green guy with a long list of fetch quests he's ready to unceremoniously thrust upon the player. There's no plot, and little indication as to why this game is even about Yoda other than the fact that he's the one with all the demands. Yoda Stories is cobbled together out of randomized missions that range from rescuing Leia to seeking out Sith amulets. Both of which sound exciting, but most of the gameplay involves walking around largely empty maps and hoping not to run into enemies.

Combat is near impossible. Enemies wink out of existence and make for difficult targets for boring attacks as Luke slashes his lightsaber (although it doesn't look like much of a lightsaber). But hey, in the end, the turtle-thing in the greenhouse is defeated, which is what ultimately matters. We think. The trouble with Yoda Stories is that the game was packaged as a time-killing desktop title like Solitaire, but the name of Star Wars comes with high expectations.

WORST: Ripped off and reductive, Star Wars Jedi Arena is

Star Wars games span over several decades, countless consoles, and a widely varying spectrum of graphical quality considering the technology at the time. So the fact that Jedi Arena came out in 1983 on the Atari 2600 is no excuse for it being one of the very worst names in Star Wars entertainment. Somehow Jedi Arena reduces the epic space saga filled with memorable moments and exciting escapes down to blocking lasers. Because everyone's favorite part of the series was obviously that one time Luke practiced his lightsaber skills by gently tilting the blade from right to left to block a training droid.

That's the kind of high octane excitement players can expect from this technicolor title. There's no real dueling inside the arena where two Jedi compete for the title of Master: they're both just blocking lasers with no apparent enthusiasm. Surely there's a more demanding task to test if a Jedi Knight is ready for the title of "Jedi Master" or not. A game that appears to be a rip of another game, there's not much originality to speak of from Star Wars: Jedi Arena. Or much action or adventure or space battles or anything else the name Star Wars promises.