Star Wars Games | Games, Gamers, & Gaming, January 1, 2016

Thankfully, Star Wars is one of the richest and most long-standing intellectual properties in pop culture, and its relationship with video games goes almost all the way back to the original 1977 movie.
battlepod.jpg2116Since The Force Awakens opened on December 18, you’ve likely had Star Wars fans coming into your library looking for books, films, and, of course, video games. Thankfully, Star Wars is one of the richest and most long-standing intellectual properties in pop culture, and its relationship with video games goes almost all the way back to the original 1977 movie.

A more elegant weapon

Some of the best video games happen to be part of the Star Wars franchise. While rooted in arcade flight sims and side-scrolling platformers, they have come to be found in nearly every gaming genre there is—there’s even a Star Wars racing game, based on the famous pod race from The Phantom Menace. Keep in mind that many of the best (and most highly recommended) Star Wars games are for older gaming consoles, but don’t let that stop you from stocking your shelves and programming space with them. Many patrons still game on classic consoles, and many of these games are also available on PC.

For first-person shooter fans, there’s nothing better than the “Dark Forces” trilogy, which follows the journey of Imperial defect Kyle Katarn. Enjoying the more developed story line, better graphics, and customizable selection of Force powers, many fans simply skip ahead to the second game, Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight. It also has a robust and addictive multiplayer option. Republic Commando is a squad-based shooter; the gamer controls one character directly and issues orders for three teammates. Set during the prequels, this may be more recognizable to younger fans. It also has the distinction of being one of the darker, grittier Star Wars entries.

Flight simulations represent what may be the cream of the Star Wars crop. The classic game X-Wing had a rich story, an open game play environment that tasked players with managing all the work of piloting their ships and exciting space dogfights. Held in even higher regard is TIE Fighter, which cast the player as an Imperial TIE pilot and showed the conflict from the Empire’s point of view. For a more fast-paced experience, Rogue Squadron 3D offers smaller environments and more immediate combat.

There haven’t been many Star Wars role-playing games (RPG), but the ones that do exist are terrific. Knight of the Old Republic and its sequel are set far in the movie universe’s history, when the Jedi and Sith were far more numerous and at open war. The online RPG The Old Republic is free to play, with some limitations, so it’s great to have on your in-house PCs. Though it’s a multiplayer game, participants can draft AI-controlled companions to join them, essentially turning it into a single-player game.

The “Battlefront” series casts players as infantry and pilots in the Rebel and ­Imperial armies, large teams engaged in massive battles with various objectives. Sometimes players even get the chance to play as a hero character, controlling such icons as Yoda, Boba Fett, or Darth Vader himself. The series with the most recent entry, Battlefront was released for current-gen systems in November 2015. It’s great for fans looking to “play Star Wars” with their friends. Bonus: there’s a tie-in novel titled Twilight Company that is a recognized part of the new Star Wars canon.

There are so many more Star Wars games out there! Check out digital retailers for large selections, and remember that May the 4th (as in, “May the 4th be with you!”) is Star Wars Day—many retailers have sales then to honor the unofficial holiday.

A more civilized age

Of course, there are many great Star Wars tabletop games as well. Fantasy Flight has published a complex and engaging card game that lets players build their own dream squads of Star Wars characters and either pursue aggressive agendas as the Empire or foul their sinister plans as the Rebellion.

For a large-scale gaming experience that will appeal to hard-core war-­gaming enthusiasts, check out Armada. This meticulously detailed and precise game has players controlling warring fleets in a statistics-heavy strategic experience. A less demanding game dedicated to fast-paced dogfighting called X-Wing (Fantasy Flight) is ideal for those wanting the excitement of starship combat without the stress of actually controlling an interstellar navy.

For those more interested in ground-based combat, there’s also Imperial Assault. Three players work together as a squad of Rebel commandos, while another player controls Imperial forces and they compete to meet their mission objectives first. In the tabletop Star Wars RPG Edge of the Empire, you and your patrons can create your own adventure in a galaxy far, far away. There are numerous source books, and the system the game uses is light on rules, allowing for variety and accessibility.

If you’ve got $3,000 lying around, you could always get the amazing new Star Wars arcade game Battle Pod. A booth with a massive screen puts players in the middle of iconic battles from the films—it’s a sensory experience bordering on overload.

It’s time to introduce this amazing world of stories and characters to a new generation, and what better way than with games and gaming? Until next time, keep telling yourself: just one more level!

M. Brandon Robbins is Media Coordinator, Goldsboro High School, NC, and a member of the 2011 class of the American Library Association’s Emerging Leaders

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