With 'Star Wars: Squadrons' flying into PS4, Xbox One and PC this weekend, early reviews are hailing it as a return to the glory days of 'Star Wars' gaming of the late '90s, when space-sims like 'X-Wing Alliance' and 'Rogue Squadron' reigned supreme.

'Star Wars' truly has had a storied history with gaming. In 1982, 'The Empire Strikes Back'  on the Atari 2600 was one of the very first movie tie-in games ever created. While there have been some serious clunkers through the years - 'Kinect Star Wars' being one of many examples - it's also had some genre-defining games along the way.

Here's our ranking of the ten best 'Star Wars' games over the past four decades.

 

10. 'The Force Unleashed'

While it didn't have the finesse of, say, 'Jedi Academy', or the complexity of 'Knights of the Old Republic', there was nevertheless a real visceral feeling about 'The Force Unleashed' that made it compelling to play. Not only that, Starkiller was a fascinating character, and Sam Witwer's performance really helped to give it a level of gravitas in what was essentially a rip of hack-and-slash action. While 'Jedi: Fallen Order' was a decent attempt at bringing lightsaber swordplay into a new generation, 'The Force Unleashed' just had a more grit to it.

 

9. 'Episode I: Racer'

Taking inspiration from the likes of 'WipeOut' and 'F-Zero X', 'Episode I: Racer' took the best part of 'The Phantom Menace' after that lightsaber duel with Darth Maul and made it into one of the best games of the prequel trilogy. While not exactly rich with features, it was nevertheless a relentlessly fun time to bash other plays off the track.

 

8. 'Bounty Hunter'

While Jango Fett as a character never quite had the same impact as Boba Fett, 'Bounty Hunter' had a lot more personality than the character itself. Mixing outrageous shoot-'em-up action - dual-wielding blasters was never so much fun - with platform mechanics, the game was a minor hit on the GameCube and PS2, and one that's often overlooked because it doesn't feature a lightsaber or a starship as part of its mechanic.

 

7. 'Super Empire Strikes Back'

No, it wasn't just you. This game was ridiculously hard. When every single enemy drops health, you know you're in for trouble. Yet, if you were somehow able to make it past the early stages and roll with the annoying difficulty levels, there was a lot to it. The Battle of Hoth stage, in particular, was an early forerunner for the likes of 'Rogue Squadron', the backgrounds were beautifully drawn, and switching between Luke and Han and both of them being markedly different - not just a sprite change - was intriguing. When you compare it something like 'Shadows of the Empire', 'Super Empire Strikes Back' felt far more rewarding.

 

6. 'Empire At War'

Real-time strategy games like 'Command & Conquer: Red Alert' and 'Age of Empires' may have sadly been consigned to the dustbin of gaming history, but there was a brief, shining moment when they were everywhere and the one thing that kept everyone guessing was when LucasArts was going to give everyone the real-time strategy 'Star Wars' game that was so desperately wanted. 'Empire At War' was by no means perfect, but it was far more involved and enjoyable than the likes of 'Supremacy' (or 'Rebellion' as it was known in the US) and 'Galaxies'. Not only that, the idea of commanding a huge fleet of Star Destroyers and hearing your officers roaring "Flank speed!" as they pincered a Mon Calamari Cruiser was always a treat.

 

5. 'Jedi Academy'

'Jedi Knight' may have been the first third-person action game to put a lightsaber in your hand, but it wasn't until 'Jedi Academy' came along that the graphics caught up with it. On top of that, making your player customisable just gave it a much stronger sense of narrative, and while some of the dialogue was unbearably clunky, the level design throughout the game was impressive. Not only that, the multiplayer experience and lightsaber duelling hasn't been bested yet in the entire intellectual property.

 

4. 'Battlefront II'

While the updated 'Battlefront' and 'Battlefront II' have certainly tried to wow players, the original 'Battlefront II' hasn't been topped for mindless good fun. Indeed, the fact that 'Battlefront II' still has a vibrant online multiplayer community - even though the game was released fifteen years ago - is testament to just how enjoyable it was. What's more, the single-player campaign didn't feel like it was a mere tutorial for the multiplayer. Playing as a trooper in the 501st, the single-player campaign neatly ran alongside the major events of 'Revenge of the Sith' and 'Attack of the Clones', culminating in a stunning finale inside the Jedi Temple - where you, as a Stormtrooper, are forced to take part in Operation Knightfall.

 

3. 'X-Wing Alliance'

Space-simulators are only just now beginning to make their way back into popularity, with thanks to the likes of 'Elite: Dangerous', 'No Man's Sky', 'Star Citizen', and now 'Star Wars: Squadrons'. However, their history dates back to the first major PC games, and two names stand out - one is 'Wing Commander', and the other is 'X-Wing'. The final instalment of the 'X-Wing' franchise was 'X-Wing Alliance' and successfully blended together both the infectious multiplayer components of 'X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter' and the deep single-player campaign of 'TIE Fighter'. Not only that, it was the only one of the three games that put you in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. That alone was worth the price of admission. That 'Star Wars: Squadrons' has more or less transplanted the shield / engine / weapons system from 'X-Wing Alliance' tells you that they had it right the first time.

 

2. 'Republic Commando'

If ever there was a game that deserves, no, needs a remastered version, it's 'Republic Commando'. The seamless controls that allowed you to deploy your squadmates was second to none. The way in which it made droids look like a terrifying threat. The baritone choirs that played as you rushed through the stages. The underlying feeling of dread that you were alone, bar your squadmates, and that it was on you to survive or die. All of it was so markedly different from anything that had the 'Star Wars' label on it. 'Republic Commando' was one of the first games to truly embrace the harder edges of the 'Star Wars' universe, but beyond that, the gameplay was fast, furious and endlessly fun.

 

1. 'Knights of the Old Republic'

As prodigious as 'Star Wars' has been when it comes to gaming, there's only been a handful of games that really made you feel like you were inside that universe. 'X-Wing Alliance' had it, because it shoved you right into the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Interceptor. 'Republic Commando' did it too, putting you down in the trenches and scrabbling to stay alive. Only one game, though, captured the sense of scale and the sprawling galaxy beyond - and that was 'Knights of the Old Republic'. The game drew heavily on the operatic flourishes inherent in 'Star Wars', and put you right in the middle of a rich story - a tragedy, really - and made you set it right. The sequel, though it made some improvements and let you influence the story further, didn't have the same spark and the same polish as this. It's yet to be equalled.

 

Honourable Mentions

'Jedi Knight' / 'Mysteries of the Sith'

'Rogue Squadron'

'Shadows of the Empire' (Especially the swoop bike stage)

'Revenge of the Sith'

'Supremacy' / 'Rebellion'