A long time ago on a movie set far, far away from the Nintendad Manor, George Lucas created Star Wars and the rest is history. With today being May the 4th, it’s time for the annual celebration of all things Star Wars. The franchise is amidst a modern resurgence, with a new film trilogy completed, plenty of great content on Disney Plus, and success on the gaming front with Respawn’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. The treats just keep on coming, too. With the multi-media High Republic initiative beginning in August and LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga headed to Switch sometime in 2020, there is plenty for Star Wars fans to be excited about.
The latter is of particular interest to the Star Wars-inclined Team Nintendad members. Considering that we are a gaming site, it’s not hard to see why the only thing better than a great Star Wars film is a great Star Wars game. While EA’s handling of the Star Wars IP has been far from ideal and completely nonexistent on Nintendo platforms, Star Wars games have a long and storied lineage with Nintendo. From the Super Star Wars trilogy on SNES to the Rogue Squadron games, there is plenty of great content for fans to sift through. As such, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the very best Star Wars games that have graced Nintendo systems and share the memories we have with them.
Star Wars (NES)
Star Wars on the NES was the most expensive game I’d ever asked for back in 1992. To My recollection it was £50 and that was significantly more than anything we’d bought before. I remember cradling the case in my arms on the agonizing drive home from Woolworths, taking in every inch of the cover, with its premium VHS-looking design, that thick border around the artwork, it was a thing of beauty! I never got even as far as rescuing Princess Leia then, and I doubt I could do it now, 28 years down the line.
Super Star Wars (SNES)
The Super Star Wars trilogy is a curious beast. These games, Super Star Wars, Super Empire Strikes Back, and Super Return of the Jedi, all loosely interpret the plots of the original trilogy. Fans who know the narrative beats of those original films by heart will certainly be surprised by the events of the Super games, however it will be hard to dwell on these plot details. Instead, all attention will be on the game’s tight, side-scrolling action that demands complete concentration. I remember first playing these games when they came to Virtual Console. The Super Star Wars games are tough but rewarding, and their elegant pixel art is easy on the eyes. My younger self was unable to make too much progress in them, and now that I’m an older, more skilled gamer, I certainly want to give these titles another shot. For Contra and Mega Man fans, the Super Star Wars games are well worth playing through.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer (N64)
Growing up with Nintendo consoles there were plenty of Star Wars games that I played with my family. Perhaps the best thing to come out of the first prequel move is Star Wars Episode I: Racer. Playing it on the Nintendo 64 in split screen and reliving the scene from the movie in the first track alone was very exciting as a kid. Of course, I wasn’t skilled enough to get past many more levels, but I enjoyed it well enough. Thankfully, it’s coming to the Switch soon!
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (N64)
As a kid every Thursday, I would go to my Nan & Grandad’s for dinner after school and my uncle who lived in the spare bedroom owned an N64 with a copy Star Wars: Shadows of The Empire. Once we had eaten, he would let me go and use the N64. I would always pop in Shadows of The Empire. I have fond memories of this game and taking down those AT-AT walkers will always stick in my mind. Much respect to Dash Rendar.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (GameCube)
Like Star Wars Episode I: Racer, The Clone Wars was a favorite multiplayer game from my childhood. With my family, we’d play multiplayer modes including the wave mode where I could play as various machines like the Hailfaire-class droid tank (that thing with the two big wheels), tanks and even a two-legged walker.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube)
Entering the trench to perform the Death Star run was, back in the day, the pinnacle of cool. Seeing Luke turn off his navigation system to simply “use the force” was equal parts awe inspiring and utterly silly, but in the best possible way. Obviously, I’m referencing to the iconic scenes from the hit motion picture Star Wars. As the entertainment industry evolved and video games became serious business, Lucasfilm decided to cash in and utilize the 3D technology provided by the Nintendo GameCube to create what can only be described as an outrageously euphoric experience. When Rogue Leader released, entering the trench to perform the Death Star Run was still the pinnacle of cool, and getting to be the one in the pilot’s seat made the experience that much better.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (GBA)
Revenge of the Sith on GBA is somewhat of an oddity, and undeniably a hidden gem. Developed by Ubisoft, this 2.5D beat-‘em up give the player control of either Anakin Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi and recounts the events of Episode III. This game kept me busy on many car rides when was younger, and it was easily my favorite handheld Star Wars title at the time. With gorgeous pixel art, tight mechanics, and a solid upgrade system, this title is deserving of far more praise than it gets. While the majority of GBA Star Wars games leave much to be desired, Revenge of the Sith is an absolute standout.
LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Wii)
It’s hard to argue against the sheer amount of fanservice and fun packed into this game. Acting as an enhanced compilation of LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy on GameCube, The Complete Saga takes players through the first six films in the saga. Every moment from the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy is lovingly rebuilt and given a heaping dose of iconic LEGO charm. The game is particularly effective in co-op thanks to its seamless, drop-in/drop-out multiplayer. This is one of the few games that my parents would play with me, and I have excellent memories of working through the saga with my them. What’s better than infiltrating the Death Star with a loved one? Not a whole lot. The Complete Saga is a feel good package that is sure to resonate with Star Wars fans of all ages.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Wii)
There is just something viscerally compelling about using the force to wantonly throw Stormtroopers out of windows and off of cliffs. The Force Unleashed understands that and equips the player with an empowering array of force powers and tactile motion controls. While the gameplay is undeniably the star of the show in The Force Unleashed, its story is rather engaging, too. Set before the events of A New Hope, the game puts the player in control of Starkiller, Darth Vader’s loose-canon apprentice. The narrative is full of twists, enigmatic characters, and vibrant Star Wars locations. I received this game for Christmas the year of its release, and as I kid I played and replayed it more times than I can count. It’s a dark, mechanically satisfying chapter of the expanded universe, and one of the most essential Star Wars titles on the Wii.
LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Wii U)
Toward the tail-end of the seventh console generation and certainly during the eighth, LEGO games began to feel convoluted and same-y. As such, when The Force Awakens was announced, I had ample reason to be concerned that it wouldn’t live up to The Complete Saga. To the contrary, when I got the game on release day, I was smitten. The Force Awakens is arguably the strongest LEGO game of the modern era. It retains the charm of The Complete Saga while adding in plenty of new gameplay ideas that truly work. From its Star Fox-like dogfighting sections to its third-person cover shooting, The Force Awakens is a true evolution of LEGO Star Wars and an exemplary game in its own right.
While Team Nintendad has fond memories with countless titles across the Star Wars universe, these memories extend beyond just the realm of games. We would be remiss not to use the opportunity to share a little more about why the Star Wars Saga means so much to us.
A Late Introduction to the Saga
I didn’t grow up in a big Star Wars house. My dad really liked the movies, but they weren’t his favorite series (that honor went to Planet of the Apes) and my mom was someone who had grown up with them but never dived any further. I just… never got around to watching them because of this. I had seen a few clips here and there, but I had learned much of the actual plot through cultural osmosis more than anything else. When The Force Awakens came out, my dad made plans to get a bunch of people together to go to a New Years Eve showing at around nine p.m. and then all come back to the house to drink and party. This plan was made two weeks out from the intended date and I had to inform my dad that he had never showed me Star Wars as a child. That night, he sat me down to watch the original trilogy for the first time at twenty years old. That weekend, I went from giggling at hokey effects to falling in love with these characters, along with being told repeatedly “Ignore that. It’s some **** Lucas added.”
A Special Trip to the Theater
My favorite Star Wars memory has to be going to see Revenge of the Sith at a midnight showing in college. It’s not that this was my favorite film, but going with a diverse friend group that wasn’t my normal crowd helped me to see that most everyone has a love for Star Wars. It really helped to bring me together with more people and as it was the end an era for Star Wars at the time, it felt like a huge cultural moment as well.
Star Wars transcends generations as effortlessly as it transcends mediums. Ask anyone you know, and they’ll give you a different explanation as to what the Saga means to them. Everyone has “their” Star Wars and that is often a function of when they grew up. This can cause division, and the fandom has rarely been as fractured as it is now. As such, let’s take today to celebrate why we love Star Wars, because no matter how you feel about which film, we all love this galaxy far, far away.