The Best Star Wars Games

Since today is May 4th, which is the one day when it’s cool to be a Star Wars fan (it’s cool to be a Star Wars fan all the time by the way) I thought we could look at the best Star Wars games out there.

Knights of the Old Republic

We’ll start with one of the obvious choices – Knights of the Old Republic. I’ve talked about this game in the past when I held RPG week last year. It, along with Pokemon, are the two RPGs that really started down the path of Role Playing. KOTOR still holds a very special spot in my gameplay history – it introduced me to BioWare after all – and I try to play through it again every few years. What really makes KOTOR so special is the writing – the story behind all the action is so engaging, that you forget that you don’t even start as a Jedi or with a lightsaber. It’s got one of the best twists of all time, showing maturity in crafting the story that was rare at that point in time. The sequel may have been a little bit of a step back, but it’s still a solid game too.

Star Wars Battlefront

Sticking with topical choices, we really can’t not mention Battlefront. The first was solid, showing that applying a formula that was very similar to Battlefield would work with the Star Wars licence; but the sequel was really where it came to life. Playing as the hero characters was a blast, without being unbalancing. The scope of the battles was incredible – with vehicles engaging in the action at the same time as a large amount of infantry. At a time when shooters were really starting to come in to their own on consoles, Battlefront managed to stand out. The new entry, due out this fall, has big shoes to fill, but with DICE at the helm, I think we have a good chance to see the return of a great. E3 could be huge for Battlefront.

XWing Vs TIE Fighter

Let’s step way, way back now to the first Star Wars game that I ever played – and is still my very favorite – X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter. In the 90’s, flight sims were way more prevalent on the PC. My father, who got me into gaming, had a handful of classic flight sims – Red Baron, Jane’s F-18, Jane’s AH-64D Longbow – and X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter. What always drew me to the Star Wars title was not only the franchise, but the accessibility. You didn’t have to worry about a ton of gadgets and gizmos, but still got to fly a bunch of different classic Star Wars ships.

One last one that I want to point out is one that I think people may have been more willing to overlook: LEGO Star Wars. When the LEGO games started to come out, I was in high school, so it wasn’t “cool” to like LEGOs. I initially thought it was a kids’ game. I only played it when my friend told me it was fun – who had only played it because of his younger brother. Looking back now, it’s crazy to think that – the LEGO games are fantastic examples of simplifying the design, to make it accessible to the kids while still retaining depth for the older gamers. The Star Wars games in particular show off the movies and universe in a way that just makes it super easy for new fans to become lifelong fans.

When we talk about licensed games, there’s always a worry that the games are cash-ins. That they just use the licence to drum up some sales, without really worrying about creating a great game. Somehow, for whatever reason, the Star Wars licence has managed to avoid that for the most part. It’s not perfect – there have been some misses of course – but it does seem to have a higher than average hit rate. As Star Wars reenters the public eye thanks to the new movies and games, I hope that we’ll see that trend continue for a long time to come.

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The Problem With Story DLC

As I get ready for the Borderlands launch next week, I thought I would put down some thoughts about downloadable content as it’s been on my mind lately as I continue to plug through the late-game content in Destiny – I’ve been trying to figure out where they will be heading next. On that front, BioWare announced new content for Star Wars: The Old Republic, featuring the return of Darth Revan, from Knights of the Old Republic. My issue with the new content is that Revan is going to be the villain, coming back to try to destroy the Republic and Empire. I’ll get into why I’m rather upset with it as we go here, but it got me thinking about the dangers of releasing story based DLC that takes place after the main story ends. With that in mind, let’s get started.

Knights of the Old Republic

People who have played Knights of the Old Republic might have a good idea as to why I think bringing Revan back as a villain is a bad idea. The best part of KOTOR was the strength of the story – learning that you were in fact the amnesiac Darth Revan midway through was one of those defining moments in gaming in the first part of the 2000’s. It totally changed the context of the story – Light side characters went from merely being the nameless hero trying to stop Darth Malak, to being the former dark lord on a path of redemption. It added an extra element of humanity to the already strong story. BioWare went on after to say that the Light side ending was indeed the “canon” ending, meaning Revan did end up redeeming himself. Now they bring him back as a villain, totally undermining one of the best gameplay moments in the last 11 years. I’ll admit that it’s not impossible to write it so his return to villainy is plausible and compelling, but to me it just reeks of marketing – bring back a major character that is still held in high regard to breathe life into a stagnant MMO during a huge fall season.

Mass Effect

But it also gets me thinking about the potential problems with releasing DLC after the conclusion of the main story. In this case it’s bringing back a major character years later – sometimes it’s totally changing the outcome of a story. Bethesda was guilty of it with the DLC for Fallout 3 – the game’s original ending has your player character sacrificing himself to activate the purifier, giving the Capitol Wasteland potable water again. This of course frustrated fans since it meant you couldn’t continue wandering around the world. So with the DLC the ending is changed, with the Lone Wanderer waking up weeks later with the Brotherhood of Steel. This is one case where I’m okay with the changes. It undermines the impact of the sacrifice a little bit, but opens up more potential story options, without really taking away from everything that’s already happened. I think it’s a big part of why a lot of DLC is either side-content or story content that takes place within the main story – doing that doesn’t risk destroying a potentially 30 hour storyline. Mass Effect has done that well, putting the story content within the context of the main storyline. Shooters get around it by just adding in content for the multiplayer.

Destiny

Which gets me to the game that is fresh on everyones’ mind – Destiny. Much has been made of the story – or lack thereof – online over the last month. What I think that people are missing is that this is a game that is set up perfectly for broadening that story with post-game content. Since the story “ends” without a really concrete ending, instead it’s more like the end of Star Wars: Episode IV – it’s a major victory, but there’s still a lot to deal with; that means that Bungie has a bit of a blank slate for DLC. Unlike KOTOR there’s no real character development to undo, no major story events that can be undone. That means that Bungie really can’t do any worse – instead they have the opportunity to finally flesh out a rich universe and give it some life. Based around some of the leaked content, it looks like they might be adding some depth to other characters and enemies – more stuff on the Moon might help detail the Hive a bit more; the mission being added in the Reef should hopefully flesh out the Queen and her Brother a bit more. What they actually add in remains to be seen, but I think there’s a feeling that the bar is low, but the expectations are high. I think Bungie knows that delivering a really strong first DLC might make or break the long term success of Destiny for a good number of players.

10 Franchises That Need New Entries

E3 this year was a unique blend of new IP’s and the return of some old fan favorites. So now that we’ve all had plenty of time to digest the convention, and get our plans set for this fall’s release schedule, I thought a lot about other franchises that I feel really need a new entry as soon as possible. Some actually were answered at E3 – Battlefront, Star Fox and Mario Party – all come to mind. For my purposes here, I’m defining a franchise as a series with at least two entries already – so no Beyond Good and Evil or Dishonored, as much as I think they deserve them. I also am excluding franchises that are still being supported relatively well – The Elder Scrolls, Fallout – both had games come out recently, or have one in development. So let’s dive in, shall we?

Megaman 4

10. Mega Man
This is probably the most cop-out answer I have on the list, but that’s just because I’m a huge fan of the whole universe of Mega Man. The last new Mega Man game was technically the free Street Fighter X Mega Man from 2012, but before that it was Mega Man 10 way back in 2010. It’s a franchise that has a lot of options for expansion – l think the audience is there for pretty much every one of the different sub-franchises, in particular, the X series. It was a huge deal when Capcom cancelled Mega Man Legends 3 last year. I really think that Capcom just has to look at the response that Mega Man got with his introduction in Super Smash Bros. to see that the Blue Bomber still has a really strong fanbase – yours truly included.

Knights of the Old Republic

9. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
I’m not talking about the MMO that came out a couple years back – I want a proper Knights of the Old Republic 3, developed by BioWare. The last entry was way back in 2004, ten years ago, which in this day and age might as well be ancient history. While I am certain that the market for a new KOTOR game is there in spades, I just think the timing doesn’t look good for one anytime soon. BioWare has Dragon Age: Inquisition this fall, and a new Mass Effect in development along with a new mystery IP, so any chance of a new KOTOR is slim at this point. Maybe in a couple years.

G.I. Joe NES

8. G.I. Joe
Here’s one that newer games might scratch their heads at a bit. I’m not talking about games based around the movies from the last few years, I want a new game based around the 80’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero cartoon that a lot of us grew up on. I think that the universe is tailor made for a great game, it just needs the right studio. I was thinking someone like High Moon Studios, after their success with the Transformers: War for Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron games. And before anyone thinks this is a BS entry, there were two games (G.I. Joe and G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor) way back on the NES in 1991 and 92 respectively.

Final Fantasy Tactics

7. Final Fantasy Tactics
While the main Final Fantasy series is getting some much needed love in the next couple years, the Tactics sub-series hasn’t seen a new game since 2008. While it’s a major shift in style from the standard JRPG Original series, I think with the success of the 3DS, the platform for a new Tactical RPG style FF game is definitely there. I think the audience is there – Tactics is one of those “cult” classics that is well loved, but never really got the commercial success it deserved. Plus the success of this could convince Nintendo to get on a new Advance Wars game finally too.

Rock Band Blitz

6. Rock Band
Maybe a little bit of a cop-out, but it’s been four years since we saw Rock Band 3’s release, plus it’s been over a year since the weekly DLC was stopped. The issue is that Harmonix is hard at work on multiple projects – Fantasia, Dance Central, Amplitude – and I just think we have to keep waiting a little bit longer. Maybe once the new gen consoles have a bigger instal base the demand will be there. Luckily, this is a series that never loses fun, so I can still hop on RB3 and enjoy it like day one.

Metroid Logo

5. Metroid
I really hope that Nintendo feels that they’ve put enough distance between them and Other M to start working on a new Metroid game soon. I know that the desire is there from the fans – Kotaku recently had an article answering Miyamoto’s question as to what we wanted, and Metroid was the number one answer – we just need Nintendo to listen now. I think fans would be more than happy to take a new 2D, Super Metroid style game, or a new Metroid Prime game as well. Plus with the whole industry finally taking gender seriously and trying to have more strong female heroes, Samus stands out as being the OG (Other M excluded of course). I think this is a question of when, not if.

Battletoads Cover

4. Battletoads
It’s become a bit of a joke on the web, but honestly, it’s a fantastic series that I think would totally benefit from a new game. The original is still one of the hardest games I’ve ever played, and the spin-off with Double Dragon remains one of my favorite games from that era. It’s also been dormant for a long time – with the last home console game in 1994. That said, there’s a lot of fan support for the game, and RARE is well aware of it, adding in a Battletoads suit for Kinect Sports Rivals, which of course just fuels rumors. I think an ideal plan would be to release on the Xbox Live Arcade the previous games in a bundle to help introduce younger gamers, then work on a new Xbox One game, similar to the new Strider game.

ToeJam & Earl

3. Toejam & Earl
Another classic from that mid-early 90’s era of gaming, the two Toejam and Earl games that I think of came out in 1991 and 1993 respectively. They’re both great examples of how a game can be wacky and out-there and still be a lot of fun and, most importantly, sell well. I know there was a third game released on the Original Xbox in 2002, but it just didn’t have quite the same feeling to it as the originals did. With the resurgence of “old-school” style visuals all the rage now in games, I think the timing is great to do an Arcade release of a new game.

Earthworm Jim

2. Earthworm Jim
Sticking with the classics from the SNES/Genesis era that I loved growing up, Earthworm Jim might be my favorite of the bunch. The whole vibe of the game was like Ninja Turtles on crack, taking nothing too serious – a goldfish as a boss that you just tip over?! – while still delivering awesome gameplay, it struck a chord with me as a young gamer, and as stuck with me over the years. The HD remake on the XBLA a few years back was a welcome addition, but what I really want is a true sequel to the series – again, the time is perfect; games like this, that are self-aware, while still solid games are “in” now. Plus the TV show was freaking awesome.

Timesplitters

1. Timesplitters
There’s no series from the PS2 that I want to see brought back more than the Timesplitters, and it kills me, because when Free Radical closed, they were working on Timesplitters 4 and it just got swept up in the dust. The sad thing is that it’s a series that is well-loved, but misunderstood by the suits. After Crytek bought Free Radical, I think there was hesitation to put out a game that’s so far from their norm – no one could call the TS games serious shooters at all. While there’s been some rumblings of a fan-made Timesplitters 4 in the works, I really want to see Crytek take a chance and run with this, or sell the rights to a studio that can do it right; Insomniac Games jumps to my mind as a studio that could definitely do the series justice. I just think that it’s too fun a series to let waste away as a remnant of that generation.

That’s my list – and I know right away that I missed a few, especially big ones like Half-Life or Left 4 Dead, mainly because they’re so well-documented. I wanted to hit the ones that maybe get passed over these days. Do I think we’ll see these games – I never say never, this is probably the best time to be a gamer, especially one that loves the classic games of yesterday. Who knows – maybe by this time next year we’ll have some answers.