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5 'Star Wars' Video Games You Need To Play Before Seeing 'The Force Awakens'

The best kind of homework.

The first licensed "Star Wars" video game hit shelves in 1982, only five years after the world was introduced to a galaxy far, far away. Ever since then, there have been more than 100 games released on platforms ranging from the Atari 2600 to the Xbox One, giving fans around the world the chance to experience the power of a lightsaber or the speed of a TIE fighter in a dogfight. 

"Star Wars" video games have played a crucial role in the series' continued relevance, especially in moments when the films have failed to impress on the big screen *cough* prequels *cough.* The newest entry in the historic franchise "Star Wars: Battlefront" was just released this past November, partly to coincide with the highly anticipated seventh film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which hits theaters Friday.

The interplay between the "Star Wars" movies and video games has proven not only to be incredibly lucrative, but has also provided fans with a deeper understanding of the universe they see on screen. It's common for "Star Wars" video games to position the player in the perspective of enemy or fill in gaps between the epic's many different eras.

Although some games have been better than others -- we're still traumatized from 2001's "Star Wars: Obi-Wan" -- it's undeniable the impact they have had on the impassioned fan community. Take a look at the five "Star Wars" video games that have paved the way for the newest installment in the franchise before you see "Force Awakens" this weekend. 

  • 5. "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed"
    The first thing we see in the opening shot of the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer is a Star Destroyer, downed on the d
    LucasArts
    The first thing we see in the opening shot of the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" trailer is a Star Destroyer, downed on the desert planet Jakku. Someone or something of incredible power could only take down a ship of that size.

    Enter Starkiller, Darth Vader's secret apprentice and the complex protagonist of 2008's "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed." In one of the game's most dramatic sequences, Starkiller (OK, that name is terrible) reaches out with the force to demolish a Star Destroyer with his bare hands. Despite some hyperactive physics and finicky controls, no "Star Wars" has better captured what it actually feels like to be a Jedi -- using force powers to fling Stormtroopers through windows, electrocuting enemies on a whim and eliminating AT-STs with the skill of a master Jedi.

    If "Force Awakens" intends to show the awakening of the force (sorry) within the franchise's new cast of heroes, "Force Unleashed" deserves another look because it not only demonstrates how powerful the force can be, but also how it can corrupt the best of us.
  • 4. "Star Wars: Battlefront 2"
    "Star Wars: Battlefront 2" only improved upon the strengths of its 2004 predecessor, adding breathtaking space batt
    LucasArts
    "Star Wars: Battlefront 2" only improved upon the strengths of its 2004 predecessor, adding breathtaking space battles, allowing gamers to play as Jedis on the battlefield and including a stronger narrative-based campaign. 

    Spanning two definitive "Star Wars" eras -- the Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War -- "Battlefront 2" is the ideal game to pick up before your screening because it's essentially a crash course in all things "Star Wars." You play as characters from past and present, reliving classic clashes in the "Star Wars" universe like the Battle of Hoth or leading an attack on the Death Star.

    The gameplay is simple enough to satisfy both longtime "Star Wars" aficionados and those who've never held a controller before. Also, flying a space ship into the hanger of an enemy aircraft to take control of command posts will never not feel like a total badass move.
  • 3. "Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast"
    Kyle f**king Katarn. Need we say more? Although the mercenary Jedi is no longer considered a part of the "Star Wars" canon, h
    LucasArts
    Kyle f**king Katarn. Need we say more? Although the mercenary Jedi is no longer considered a part of the "Star Wars" canon, he is no doubt one of the most memorable characters in the video-game universe. 

    In The New York Times review of "Force Awakens," Manohla Dargis commends the film for having "a scale and a sensibility that are rooted in the human." From early reviews, it's clear that the series is refocusing on character-based storytelling under the helm of new director J.J. Abrams. Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca -- these are the reasons why "Star Wars" remains a cultural touchstone almost 40 years after its initial release. 

    "Star Wars: Jedi Outcast" and the rest of the "Jedi Knight" series gave gamers a chance to inhabit an original character with a depth that rivaled his counterparts on screen. Katarn's charming sarcasm and a relatable earnestness made him a perfect blend of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, earning him a place in the "Star Wars" hall of fame. Hopefully, one day Katarn will crossover onto the big screen, but till then, revisit this classic and enjoy some of the best lightsaber gameplay to ever exist on the platform.
  • 2. "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic"
    Widely regarded as&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MhjjwW3DDDU">the&nbsp;best "Star Wars" game of all time</a>,
    Lucasfilm
    Widely regarded as the best "Star Wars" game of all time, BioWare’s "Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic" is an immersive role-playing adventure set 4,000 years before the events of the first film in the franchise. “KOTOR” is the definitive “Star Wars” video game experience, sprawling in size and its narrative scope. Although its gameplay isn’t as compelling as other entries on this list, the extensive world-building and strength of storytelling makes “KOTOR” worth revisiting time and time again.  

    Perhaps the most memorable part in the game is the jaw-dropping plot twist -- a staple of “Star Wars” stories across all mediums. Spoilers ahead. After hours and hours of adventuring across the galaxy, it is revealed that the player is actually the big baddie Darth Revan, who everyone has been trying to vanquish all game long. The moment ranks as one of the best twists in the series' video-game history, rivaling “I am your father.”  

    James Ohlen, the creative director of “KOTOR” told NowGamer that, “when we were working on the reveal for Revan we looked back at movies and books in the past that had a big reveal part way through.” Although spoilers for “Force Awakens” have been kept under lock and key, excluding the New York Daily News blunder, it’s safe to say that the the film will include some similarly jaw-dropping moments, or at least we can hope.  

    It's also worth noting that the intensely detailed character creation system allows you to play as a female character, a rarity in both "Star Wars" and the larger video game landscape. Rey, a resilient scavenger brought to life by Daisy Ridley, is one of the main protagonists in "Force Awakens" and a crucial part of Abrams' effort to diversify the series. Before you see Rey come into her own on screen, take a little trip down memory lane with this truly extraordinary RPG.
  • 1. "The X-Wing Series"
    Last, but not least, are the classic &ldquo;X-Wing&rdquo; computer-game series. The one thing that&rsquo;s clear about &ldquo
    LucasArts
    Last, but not least, are the classic “X-Wing” computer-game series. The one thing that’s clear about “Force Awakens” is that the film marks a return to form for the franchise, capturing what made the original so special and translating it for audiences of today. One of the most breathtaking moments from the “Force Awakens” trailer shows an X-Wing skimming over a body of water. In order to understand the current of nostalgia that runs through Abrams’ movie, it’s important to honor the origins of the games that so deeply informed the path “Star Wars” would take in future films and video games.  

    The “X-Wing” series marked the first solo “Star Wars” project for LucasArts, the video-game arm of LucasFilm, and featured the best flight/space simulation to date, ushering “Star Wars” video games away from the arcade-based models of years past and into a new era of gaming. Piloting an X-Wing -- perhaps the most famous ship in the “Star Wars” universe -- for the first time is a feeling fans will never forget. Aside from the updated graphics and outstanding space battles, however, was an understated exploration into what makes someone good and another evil.  

    As Carolyn Petit notes in the 20th anniversary retrospective of the second and arguably the strongest game in the series, “TIE Fighter,” what makes the entry stand out is “the way that the game made [her] think about the empire, and about portrayals of villainy in general, in a new way…TIE Fighter let you see the empire from a new perspective. The game didn't make you feel like a bad person doing bad things, but like a pilot who might reasonably have believed that what he was doing was in the galaxy's best interests. 

    Luckily, “TIE Fighter” was released on GOG.com in 2015, allowing players to discover or re-discover this gem of a game.

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