By now you’ve probably read that The Walt Disney Company has dissolved LucasFilm’s video game arm, LucasArts. It’s truly a sad event, given that a lot of long time gamers like myself had their gaming roots that ran deep with LucasArts in one way or another. Whether the games have been developed internally or been farmed out to a third-party developer, LucasArts has had a history of titles that stood for great storytelling and memorable characters that affected countless individuals. Because of this I decided to throw in a top 10 list of my favorite LucasArts games from past until present, in the hopes that people share their own experiences with LucasArts in the comments following this article.
While compiling this list, I imposed some personal limits when selecting the games I wanted to recognize. One limit I did not impose is the amount of games from one particular franchise that I can include in the list. Truth be told: A huge majority of titles that came from LucasArts were created in the Star Wars universe. Because of this, a lot of titles of mixed quality were released. With that said, I have strived to come up with a list of games that reflected not only my personal tastes but also included games that I played through for more than a few hours and games that captured my imagination and pushed me to see the game through until the end.
With that said, I want to set up some expectations now by saying that while I played other LucasArts games like Grim Fandango or Full Throttle, I never really saw those games through until the end or played them for an extended period of time. The following list is purely personal, and is not by any means representative of the whole site.
10. Star Wars: Episode I Racer
I’m going to get shot for this, but I actually genuinely liked Star Wars: Episode I Racer. While I don’t necessarily think that the scene in the movie was made specifically so they could make a game, the end result of this scene wound up being two racing games: the home version, which I’m including here, and Sega’s arcade release. It may not be as chaotic or as crazy as the movie, but the games sure did give you an incredible sense of speed that’s only rivaled by franchises like Wipeout and Burnout.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? Racing on Tattooine. I wish I had more to say, but that’s an iconic scene!
How can I play it? A quick search of it on Amazon reveals that there’s a ton of them in the wild, with copies going as low as $5. There’s one that costs $1, but that sounds a bit sketchy…
9. The Secret of Monkey Island
PC gamers in the 80s got addicted to adventure games with the help of games like Zork, King’s Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and many others like it. But I got hooked on adventure games when The Secret of Monkey Island came out in 1990. Considered by some as a game that set the stage for the future of designers Ron Gilbert and Tim Schafer, the humor and the setting of The Secret of Monkey Island captivated me like none other. What seems as a blatant parody and lampooning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, The Secret of Monkey Island manages to weave its comedic antics by making fun of pop culture, stereotypes, breaking the 4th wall, and questioning what’s beyond the grave.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? Being asked to insert Disk #22, then a number of absurdly numbered disks, when attempting to go into a tree stump that seemed to lead to a “tunnel that opens to a system of catacombs” only to find out that I’ll “have to skip that part of the game.” A bit of trivia: The game was released on 8 5.25″ floppy disks. Unfortunately, given that a number of us don’t use floppy disks anymore, this joke has been cut from every subsequent release of this game.
How can I play it? The Secret of Monkey Island has been rereleased as a special edition on current platforms including iOS. The Special Edition, as it’s called, allows you to switch from the new, remastered artwork to the old VGA version of the game seamlessly. Just don’t expect it to have the infamous stump joke that I mentioned prior.
8. Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Admittedly this was one of the games I missed when it was released. I had the opportunity to play this game many years later when the game was rereleased on Steam during the LucasArts adventure game revival of 2008. Considered by many as one of the best adventure games ever made, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis stands out as a worthy addition to the Indiana Jones mythos.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? While I personally think that this scene had too much slapstick for an Indiana Jones adventure, the introduction sequence of the game really set the tone and expectations of what the game will turn out. It’s also one of the most memorable.
How can I play it? You can play Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis on Steam, just like I did a few years ago, on both Mac and PC.
7. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader
When Nintendo unveiled the GameCube and showed Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader running on their hardware, I immediately made up my mind and thought to myself that I needed Nintendo’s new console on day 1.
Promising to put you into some of the most pivotal scenes in the Star Wars movies, this iteration of Star Wars Rogue Squadron improved on its already impressive gameplay by polishing it to a mirror sheen and delivering stunning visuals that almost captured the quality of the movies frame by frame. As a result, the folks at Factor-5 created a signature experience that I fondly look back and reminisce playing.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? Reenacting the space battle at the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and actually experiencing that particular viewpoint of the film in the game. While I knew what was going to happen thanks to my multiple viewings of the original trilogy, the tension you felt when you realized that Han Solo failed to turn off the shield generators that protected the new Death Star, while fending off waves of TIE fighters and attacks from Star Destroyers, was incredible.
How can I play it? Lots of collectors on Amazon.com sell the game for a premium at roughly $60, but you can get the game for as cheap as $7.00 if you don’t need to have the original case. Of course, you’ll also need a GameCube or a Wii. If you don’t have one already, GameCubes run for about $179 on Amazon and the Wii, which can play GameCube games provided you have a GameCube controller (goes for about $8 on Amazon) on hand, currently costs $199.
6. Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire
Much of my memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault II: The Hidden Empire revolved around moments when I’d watch a ton of FMV (full motion video) movies of live actors in the Star Wars universe, punctuated with a ton of action sequences that provided a lot of variety from the typically more focused Star Wars titles released prior. And that’s a good thing, because the game had some really cool moments that made it stand out from most other CD-ROM based games released at the time.
How can I play it? Since it was released on the original PlayStation, you can get a copy of it and play it on your PlayStation 3. It was also released on the PC, so that’s also another option. Amazon’s got a bunch of copies for this game for both platforms, each with varying price ranges.
5. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
While BioWare had enjoyed much success on the PC with the Baldur’s Gate series of roleplaying games, it was Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic that would propel them into the mainstream. Combining elements they had learned from developing their previous titles, KOTOR, as many of its fans calls it, gave us a Star Wars story that we always wanted to have. The game’s storyline, its characters, the voice work, the incredible score, and just the fantastic freedom you experienced when exploring this era of the Jedi captured a lot of the magic of the original trilogy, while allowing BioWare to carve a new universe that convincingly exists within the Star Wars canon.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? The twist near the end. If you’ve played the game, you know what I’m talking about.
How can I play it? Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is available via Steam on both PC and Mac. Amazon.com also has the original Xbox version, which is compatible with the Xbox 360, for $14.94. Unfortunately, this game is not available as a Games on Demand download on Xbox Live, despite countless petitions and requests.
While there have been many Sim games released over the last few years (including the crazy debacle that was the SimCity launch), I can’t help but think back to this simple LucasArts game. Instead of building roads, connecting power lines to power plants, and providing residential, commercial, and industrial plots of land, Afterlife puts you in charge of making sure both Heaven and Hell run as smoothly as it can be.
The first time I heard of this concept I thought, “This is probably the furthest removed I am in terms of familiarity to a video game concept in my whole gaming career.” Your typical residential, commercial, and industrial plots are replaced by the seven virtues in Heaven and the seven sins in Hell. Earth, or a version of it, sits in the middle of these two planes of existence and you have to basically manage both these planes together. To help you manage these planes, you have Jasper Wormsworth – a demon – and Aria Goodhalo – an angel – as your advisers.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? Seeing the various places that are built on top of each plot of land and how they fit in the overall grand scheme of things in Heaven and Hell. People are rewarded and punished excessively, and each of these are depicted to a surprising degree even though it’s merely represented by a building.
How can I play it? Amazon.com should have copies available, but they can run up to ridiculous prices. The cheapest one I found on there was for $5.95. While it’s considered to be abandonware by most people, it’s not freely available on most of these sites.
3. The Curse of Monkey Island
While Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck’s Revenge had one of my favorite endings in series history, I felt that The Curse of Monkey Island is a realization of the direction that the series was heading towards since the original Monkey Island.
Continuing the tradition of previous games in the series, The Curse of Monkey Island opens up to a scene that’s ripped straight from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. In it, Guybrush Threepwood is trapped between a verbal battle between Gov. Elaine Marley, who is defending her fort, and the evil Ghost Pirate LeChuck, who is attacking the fort while on his ship. Guybrush is trapped in the middle, yet again, and is captured by LeChuck.
Apart from the awesome intro, the game has some memorable scenes that are enhanced by the awesome writing and voice acting that’s found throughout. In a weird coincidence, Haggis McMutton, one of the pirates of the Barbary Coast, is actually voiced by Alan Young, who also voiced Scrooge McDuck on Duck Tales, who’s returning to voice the character in the revival of said TV series. How’s that for a LucasArts/Disney tie-in?
What’s the best memory I had of this game? Finally finding out where that goddamned tree stump in The Secret of Monkey Island led to.
How can I play it? Just like most games on this list, Amazon has it for as low as $18.50. You can use ScummVM to run this game.
2. Day of the Tentacle
I have to be honest that I was never a fan of the original Maniac Mansion. Maybe it was the time I got to it, maybe it was the damn safe that doubled as copy protection, but the whole “saving the girlfriend from the evil scientists” thing didn’t resonate much for me. So imagine my surprise when LucasArts released a Maniac Mansion sequel that was pretty much an adventure game merged with a Saturday morning cartoon… if Saturday morning cartoons featured an antagonist that pretty much amounts to a purple tentacle growing arms that tries to take over the world.
I can, will, and have played Day of The Tentacle from beginning to end plenty of times. While I have very fond memories of all the other LucasArts games I’ve played, much of what makes Day of the Tentacle so special to me is how the puzzles make so much more sense than any of the previous games’ solutions that solely relied on puns or word play. Given that I lived in a completely different country when I played most of these games, much of the word play was lost on me and finding solutions to problems amounted to me clicking back and forth between keywords and inventory items and interactive hot spots in the room, hoping that they’d work.
But that wasn’t enough to make me truly love this game. The way that it incorporated some creative gameplay with time travel, along with changing things in the past that affected changes in the present and the future, was something different that you didn’t have to deal with in most adventure games.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? The part where Bernard asks Green Tentacle about Purple Tentacle’s inclination to try bowling after growing out his arms, only to realize that he needed fingers to be able to play. Easily one of the most memorable parts of the game.
How can I play it? If you’re going to get this game, I’d at least recommend getting the talkie CD-ROM version since it’s easily the best. I got my copy on Amazon.com for $28+. After getting it, use ScummVM to run the executable.
1. Star Wars: TIE Fighter
To a lot of long time PC gamers, this probably didn’t come as a surprise. While Factor 5′s Rogue Squadron series fulfillfed the wishes of countless Star Wars fans by participating in many of the series’ seminal moments, it was Totally Games’ Star Wars: TIE Fighter that immersed me deep into the Star Wars universe and, ultimately, brought me over to the dark side.
It was also the Star Wars game where I realized that TIE Fighters were named because they looked like bowties. This fact blew my mind and I’ve never been able to disassociate each since. This didn’t matter however, as I found myself piloting some prototype TIE Fighters like a derivative of Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter, the TIE Advanced, as well as the stealth enabled TIE Defender. The best part? A lot of the battles portrayed in the game had nothing to do with the main Star Wars storyline. At all.
The game was also my first exposure to interactive music. LucasArts’ proprietary iMuse engine was incredible in that the music would completely change to reflect the current state you’re in. The abundance of voice acting in the actual dogfighting and in the cutscenes that tell the story of the game helped sell the idea that while you’re this rookie TIE Fighter pilot, you’re more badass than most.
I have fond memories of the political intrigue that happened with the game, and I’ll be the first to admit to you that anything political is generally not interesting to me. But seeing as how the Empire in and of itself had individuals who wanted to overthrow the current regime – without wishing to side with the Rebel Alliance – was a very interesting tale to tell and it’s why this game ranks as my most favorite LucasArts game of all time.
What’s the best memory I had of the game? Being able to fight in a galactic civil war within the Empire and being summoned personally by Darth Vader himself is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
How can I play it? Like Day of the Tentacle, Star Wars: TIE Fighter also has a talkie CD-ROM version that has voice acting for everything and I’d recommend looking for that. Amazon has this for $15.75, open box, and I think it’s is the best deal on the site.
What would you have on your top 10 LucasArts games list?