As a franchise, Star Wars probably has more marketing potential than any other movie series out there. Its cavalcade of imaginative characters, exotic world aesthetics and futuristic fighting are just some of the reasons why the series has produced some great games over the years. But not all of those titles have been so stellar. There was a time when the publishers over at LucasArts seemed to be moulding and melding the property at will just so they could jam it into every conceivably game genre, and then slap a Star Wars logo on it knowing that fans would scramble to buy it regardless of content.
It’s unfortunate that what was once such a sacred and toiled-over franchise has been diluted in a tide of cheaply made products and tie-ins, but some more than others seem to stand out as the very worst cash-grabs and misuses of the franchise’s rich universe that we’ve ever witnessed. The following 12 Star Wars games are exactly that.
12. Star Wars: Jedi Arena (1983)
Bearing in mind that this game came out for the Atari 2600 we can give it a pass on the graphics front (the visual look is laughable even by early ’90s standards), but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this is basically a re-wrapped version of Pong. All the gameplay consists of is two players deflecting laser blasts back and forth.
Maybe if you really use your imagination it could be depicted as some epic battle between Luke and Vader, but really, if we wanted to use our imaginations, we’d go read a book or play Dungeons & Dragons.
11. Star Wars: Rebel Assault (1993)
Rebel Assault was one of the few Star Wars games to appear on the long-forgotten Sega CD and 3DO consoles. While it promised to take the Star Wars experience to a whole new level, it was essentially just a rail shooter with blocky, pixelated images flying around at stuttering frame rates. Although the game did feature some pretty groundbreaking full motion video sequences for the time, the sequences suffered on consoles and only looked as intended if you were playing on a top of the line PC. The game was also hampered by extremely sensitive controls that were infuriating enough to cause even the most serene Jedi to let the hate flow through them. Luckily, a couple years later, the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games would come out and offer Star Wars fans a picture perfect space combat experience.
10. Star Wars: Yoda Stories (1997)
Star Wars: Yoda Stories is more than likely a game you’ve never even heard of—and just as well—it’s one of the worst reviewed titles in the history of the franchise.
You play as an oversized, bobble head-looking Luke Skywalker and go on a bunch of mundane, randomly generated quests that are supposed to be part of your Jedi training. The problem is all the quests are essentially the same. Searching for an object, trading, and fighting with Jawas in one section will play out exactly the same way when dealing with Imperials in a later section. Not to mention that game is called Yoda Stories and Yoda barely even makes an appearance.
The only upside was seeing the worlds of Star Wars in game-form at all, but the windowed point-and-click interface is dull to say the least, and the graphics and sound are atrocious even by 1997 standards. Surely, even die hard fans found this game difficult to digest.
9. Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (1997)
To this day, the thought of a straightforward one-on-one fighting game featuring Star Wars characters is a truly tantalizing idea. Lightsaber duels are an inseparable part of Star Wars and arguably its coolest facet, so why not make a game that’s entirely devoted to showcasing them in all their glory? It’s just too bad that the franchise’s first real crack at a clear-cut fighter game had to turn out so dismal.
With games like Tekken 2 that came out around the same time and revolutionized the realm of 3D fighting, Star Wars: Masters of Tera Kasi was a disappointment because it suffered from a complete lack of fine tuning when it came to gameplay elements like movement and strike mechanics—two crucial aspects in all fighting games. Ultimately, this game proved to be nothing more than a feeble attempt to cash in on a trend. Which is truly sad considering that Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast came out just one year later and featured some amazing one-on-one Jedi combat, even though the multiplayer was predominantly a team-based or free-for-all experience.
8. Star Wars: Rebellion (1998)
Known as Star Wars: Supremacy in the UK, Rebellion was a strategy game that many players hoped would let them take a commanding role in the epic struggle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. And, at first glance, the resource management and real-time combat seemed like it was going to fulfil that hope. But sadly, upon closer inspection, the game actually turned out to be plagued with almost every type of problem, from control issues to brutal camera positioning to horribly unbalanced units. No, this certainly wasn’t the strategy game Star Wars fans were hoping for. But at least they wouldn’t have to wait long for “a new hope” to arrive, since the hotly anticipated Force Commander would soon satisfy all their RTS cravings. Oh, wait, that’s the next game on the list.
7. Star Wars: Force Commander (2000)
Force Commander is another real-time strategy failure that follows the story of a young Imperial officer who defects to the Alliance after discovering that the Empire murdered his father. The game sports a buggy interface, sluggish controls and seemingly stupid AI. And, due to the fact that the game spent such a long time in development, by the time it was released it already had severely outdated graphics.
In addition, all of the units featured in the game are completely unbalanced. Storm troopers, the most basic unit in the game, are insanely effective, while other menacing-looking units like the massive AT-ATs can be easily stopped with nothing more than the tow-cable from a tiny snowspeeder.
But the biggest tragedy of this game is the music. Rather than including the flawless John Williams score from the movies, Force Commander instead employs some sort of original techno remix that starts to be unbearable after a few hours of play.
Although Star Wars fans would eventually get a much better RTS with the release of Empire at War in 2006, it was still hard to wash away the bad taste left by the dismal failure that was Force Commander.
6. Star Wars Episode I: The Gungan Frontier (1999)
Most people will probably agree now that the Gungans are an alien race the Star Wars universe can probably do without. Unfortunately, development would have already been well underway on this game before fans would have the chance to voice their sentiments.
Gungan Frontier attempts to draw you into the plight of Naboo by, uhhh. . . getting you to make sure there’s enough food for all the Gungan wildlife to eat. Man, LucasArts really was just green-lighting every conceivable project back then.
5. Star Wars: Demolition (2000)
Star Wars: Demolition was a shameless attempt to cash in on the popularity of successful vehicular combat games like Twisted Metal. The story of the game involves the Empire showing up on Tatooine and banning all podracing. This forces ruler Jabba the Hutt to introduce a new demolition derby type of contest to fill the void and entertain the masses.
With landspeeders and cloud cars put in the same arena as AT-STs and armored assault tanks, you wouldn’t think this genre necessarily translates all that well to the Star Wars universe, but when you realize the developers behind the game were Luxoflux—the same people who made the Twisted Metal knockoff Vigilante 8, you can begin to see how the pieces fell into place. Star Wars: Demolition is pretty much a broken version of Vigilante 8 with Star Wars skins pasted on top. The graphics are poor, characters and vehicles don’t seem to move as they should, and persistent glitches result in you constantly getting stuck in the environment. In the end, all Demolition did was prove that you can’t always make something better by giving it the Star Wars treatment.
4. Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing (2001)
Never before has a game been released that was so blatantly offensive to Star Wars fans. While cart racing games can most certainly be great fun, all that Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing did was try to copy Mario Kart in every way and then shove some big-headed Star Wars characters into tiny vehicles. Which might not sound like a bad idea when you think about how awesome Mario Kart is, but once you start playing you’ll immediately wish you were back in the Mushroom Kingdom tossing shells and dropping banana peels. It’s utterly lacking originality in any form.
Not helping the game at all was the fact that it’s only based on characters and vehicles from Star Wars Episode I: A Phantom Menace—everyone’s least favorite movie in the series.
3. Star Wars: Obi-Wan (2002)
Due to its extremely turbulent development, Star Wars: Obi-Wan ended up as an Xbox exclusive when it was finally released in 2002. Although the idea of getting to play as a young Obi-Wan and run around using all kinds of neat force abilities sounds cool, the gameplay itself was so terribly clumsy it made playing through it just seem like a chore.
Since the game spent so long in development, there were rumors that it was going to include some great features like a bunch of different game modes including multiplayer co-op, but, sadly, none of that stuff panned out and it the end Star Wars: Obi-Wan was just a craptastic game with seemingly no production value.
2. Star Wars: Flight of the Falcon (2003)
Making use of Star Fox-style blaster controls and applying them to piloting the Millennium Falcon should have been a formula for a fun arcade-like shooter on the Game Boy Advance. But concepts don’t always translate well to gameplay, and Flight of the Falcon turned out to be anything but fun. The Game Boy Advance seemed to lack the processing power required to match the developers’ vision. As such, the game’s graphics looked poor, the frame rate chugged, and the controls were a never-ending frustration. In addition, levels were repetitious, dragging on for what seemed like an eternity of shooting the same group of fighters over and over again, and the difficulty of some levels was impossibly high. All of this could have been excused in the presence of a great story and decent gameplay, but both of those aspects are very much absent as well.
1. Kinect Star Wars (2012)
Given that Xbox’s Kinect was largely a failure in and of itself, Kinect Star Wars is really just one giant fail fest. Far from the boundless Jedi experience it was made out to be through the extensive advertising campaign, this game was barely even playable from a functionality standpoint. Your motions were only correctly picked up by the Kinect sensor half the time and, when you could manage to get it to do what you want, the gameplay was generic, repetitive and just plain boring.
And let’s not forget the dancing. Oh, the horrendous dancing. This feature likely wormed its way into the game because Dance Central was the only Kinect-centric game that people could tolerate playing. If Star Wars fans are haunted by anything other than CG ghost of Jar Jar Binks, it would have to be the extremely cringeworthy dance sequences from Kinect Star Wars. The developers even went so far as to secure the rights to Jason Derulo’s hit dance song “Ridin’ Solo,” just so they could change the name to “I’m Han Solo,” and replace the lyrics with contrived Star Wars references like “I’m so happy that the carbonite is gone, I’m movin’ on.” Trust us, the gaming community desperately wishes they could move on from this travesty.