Star Wars: Supremacy
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Coolhand Interactive
A 4X strategy game, Supremacy (called Rebellion in the US) enabled you to steer either the Republic or the Empire through an alternative history of the Galactic Civil War. It’s a great idea on paper, but there are far better 4X games from the period—and far more interesting interpretations of the setting than ‘click on the text boxes’.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts
If the earliest Star Wars games split themselves between ‘themepark ride’ and ‘attempted simulation’, Rogue Squadron represents the two starting to come together. Its flight model is slow, heavy and arcade-derived, but the impressive (for the time) level of detail and dead-on sound mean that it hews closer to the proper space combat sims than the vast majority of console-first Star Wars games did. The campaign, similarly, straddles a line between feeling like a legitimate expansion of the universe and a series of too-familiar set-pieces. Its opening, particularly, is a little odd: an all-out attack by the Empire on a few square miles of Tatooine for no particular reason. That said, the story’s scope—spanning the Original Trilogy and beyond—is impressive, as is the large roster of ships.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
A substantial, old-school expansion for Jedi Knight, Mysteries of the Sith sees the end of FMV—and with it, the end of an embarrassing era. The campaign amounts to more and more complex Jedi Knight, with larger set-pieces and a lightsaber available from the beginning. The opening, which sees you repel an Imperial invasion, was pretty exciting at the time.
Star Wars Millennium Falcon CD-ROM Playset
RELEASED 1998 | DEVELOPER Hasbro Interactive
A last gasp for the very worst of the ’90s, this came with a plastic Falcon cockpit that you stuck on top of your keyboard—ideally in front of the monitor—so that you could interact with a bunch of awful quicktime events overlaid on scenes from the original movies. It makes very little sense and functionally exists to sell plastic. Terrible. Also: for kids.
Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Totally Games
The Phantom Menace was released only three months after X-Wing Alliance. Not only is this one of the best Star Wars games ever made, but it’s one of the last games to be untainted by the prequel trilogy’s infantilising influence on the series as a whole. Here’s a sprawling new Star Wars story set during the events of the original trilogy, packed with detail in terms of the flight model and number of simulated ships, and in the small things that make it so replayable: cameo appearances by Slave I and the Millennium Falcon, the way missions spread from one sector to another via hyperspace jumps, the personal stories offset against the larger conflict. Its only weaknesses are those 3D cockpits, which have aged worse than the older 2D ones, and that awkward purple UI.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER Big Ape Productions
This is a movie tie-in console action game from the late ’90s, which tells you everything you need to know about the creative rigour it displays. It’s notable for two reasons: you can massacre a load of innocent Gungans, including children, and face no repercussions. Also, there’s a homeless person on Coruscant whose likeness is based on David Duchovny.
Star Wars Episode I: Racer
RELEASED 1999 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
This game is basically the only reason you might be glad that The Phantom Menace exists. It’s a fast, stunning (for the time) and creative sci-fi arcade racer based on one of the longest toy adverts to run in cinemas before Michael Bay got his hands on Transformers. Scant reward for the death of your childhood, mind you.
Star Wars: Force Commander
RELEASED 2000 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ronin Entertainment
Ambitious but rough around the edges, this was the first concerted effort to create a Star Wars RTS. The camera is the biggest issue—useless when zoomed in, and awkward even when pulled back. Still, it offers a rare opportunity to try out famed Imperial strategies like ‘march in a straight line’ and ‘lose the war’.
Star Wars: Starfighter
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts
A Phantom Menace tie-in dogfighting game that broadly follows the patterns established by Rogue Squadron, Starfighter offers far less in terms of playable ships but provides a greater sense of speed and agility. Terrible voice acting, although it did give us the immortal line “now let’s see how you deal with my favourite training canyon.” Good job, whoever wrote that.
Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER Factor 5 / LucasArts
Another vehicle action game in the vein of Rogue Squadron and Starfighter, Battle for Naboo focuses on terrestrial combat, particularly in tanks. This is a less typical Star Wars fantasy than space combat, and as such it feels a little more detached from the source material—it really could be any other console-first shooter from this era, with a prequel trilogy coat of paint. The paint’s chipping, too: this is a rough-looking game.
Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds
RELEASED 2001 | DEVELOPER LucasArts / Ensemble Studios
Galactic Battlegrounds eclipsed Force Commander not with visuals, but with RTS credibility. It’s by Ensemble, the studio behind Age of Empires, and it’s great largely because those games were great. Their systems aren’t a perfect fit for Star Wars—even in the drabbest corners of the expanded universe, gathering berries was rarely a priority. The campaign spans the four movies released up to that point and includes a few unusual factions in addition to the ones you’d expect—wookiees and gungans being the strangest. Given its heritage, it’s a viable competitive multiplayer strategy game as well as a singleplayer experience and picked up a small but dedicated following after release. If you’re trying it today, check out the Expanding Frontiers overhaul mod.
On the next page, we move towards 2003, an amazing year for Star Wars games.