The Force is awakening this week, but in the real world, Disney and Lucasfilm is busy with a different kind of awakening: a slew of new Star Wars-related video games.
A group of diverse developers, including Battlefield-creator DICE and mobile studio Kabam, released games based on the popular sci-fi franchise this past year. It’s almost overwhelming trying to keep track of them all, so we assembled this handy guide to show you what they are and how they relate to each major era in the Star Wars timeline.
Dive into the new canon
What you should play: Star Wars: Uprising (iOS, Android, and Windows phones)
The trailers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens do a good job of making you wonder what the hell happened after Return of the Jedi. A number of old novels, comic books, and video games that made up the Expanded Universe of stories previously explored that chapter of the series. But the post-Jedi timeline suddenly became a mystery again when Lucasfilm jettisoned all that material to make room for the new canon.
Since The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the last movie, today’s storytellers have plenty of eras to work with. The first game to take advantage of that is Kabam’s Star Wars: Uprising.
Uprising is a role-playing game set shortly after the Battle of Endor. You quickly learn that the Rebel Alliance’s victory wasn’t as final as the movie made you believe. The galaxy is huge, and the people in the remaining Imperial-controlled territories either didn’t hear the news of the Emperor’s death or treat it as Rebel propaganda. The Anoat sector in the Outer Rim falls in the latter category. Imperial Governor Adelhard establishes a blockade, and as far as he’s concerned, it was the Empire who defeated the Rebels at Endor (read more about the story here).
Instead of playing a specific character, you get to customize your own hero, picking their species, outfits, and weapons. You start off doing menial jobs for crime lords, but eventually you’ll uncover the larger conspiracy surrounding Adelhard and his lies. Uprising can feel a little slow because you have to replay some of the same missions over and over to earn resources and level up your character. But it’s worth playing to see what the galaxy was like after the Rebels took down the second Death Star.
Disney Infinity 3.0’s The Force Awakens play set adventure comes out the same time as the film on December 18. The add-on to the popular toys-to-life game is an adaptation of the events from the movie. You get to play as new characters Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren. While the game will spoil a few plot points, it won’t show the real ending.
Disney hasn’t said much about it beyond that. It’s keeping the content of the play set a secret until release.
The multiplayer shooter Star Wars: Battlefront recently got a free update that added two maps based on Jakku, the new desert planet seen in the movie’s trailers. Jakku was the site of a massive battle between the Empire and the Rebels, and by the time The Force Awakens begins, it’s a graveyard of broken Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, and other ships. However, Battlefront doesn’t provide too much context for how the fight began.
Spend time with the original trilogy
What you should play: Star Wars: Battlefront
DICE’s Battlefront is the best-looking Star Wars game to date. It nails all the little details from the original trilogy, like the roar of a TIE Fighter and the slow but menacing march of an AT-AT as it attacks the Rebel base on Hoth. As a stormtrooper and a Rebel soldier, you’ll also wage war across Endor, Tatooine, and Sullust (which wasn’t seen in the films). Some of the multiplayer modes let you pilot vehicles, like in Fighter Squadron’s 10-on-10 dogfights. Others let you become Star Wars’s famous heroes and villains, including Emperor Palpatine, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia.
Also available: Disney Infinity’s Rise Against the Empire play set
The Rise Against the Empire play set is probably the better option if you have young kids, but don’t expect an accurate retelling of the story. As our reviewer noted, developer Studio Gobo made some questionable changes with the sequence of events from Episodes IV through VI. Some of them border on blasphemy. For example, Luke never loses his hand! You can cut stormtroopers into (toy) pieces with your lightsaber, but apparently it’s too much if Vader chops off Luke’s hand. Weird.
But if you can tolerate those alterations, the play set offers plenty of things to do, and you can fly cute miniature versions of the Millennium Falcon and X-wing fighters. Rise Against the Empire comes with both Luke and Leia as playable characters, but if you want the rest — Chewbacca, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett — you’ll have to pay for them separately. They each have their own fighting style and special abilities.
For fans of ‘Star Wars Rebels’
What you should play: Star Wars Rebels: Recon Missions (iOS, Android, and Windows phones)
Recon Missions is a free game that loosely follows the stories from the Star Wars Rebels cartoon series (it’s set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope). You play as Ezra Bridger, a Jedi padawan with a lightsaber that’s also a blaster pistol. But to unlock the rest of the members of the Ghost crew, you have to buy them separately via in-app purchases.
While Recon Missions is simple and clearly geared toward children, it’s also more meaty than the usual licensed games that turn up in the app stores. When you go on missions on the planet of Lothal, you can rescue people and bring them back to your base. And you can improve their living conditions by building shelters, adding decorations, and completing the different challenges they give you.
Also available: Star Wars Rebels toys for Disney Infinity 3.0
Disney Infinity 3.0 doesn’t have any story levels based on the TV show, but it does have Ezra, Sabine, Zeb, and Kanan as playable characters. You can use them in the game’s free-for-all Toy Box mode and in user-created levels. But you can also unlock them in the other Star Wars play sets by finding special coins.
The characters are more fun to play in Disney Infinity than they are in Recon Missions (especially when it comes to combat), but Disney Infinity is also the more expensive option since each figure costs around $14 a piece.