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.
Return to the Clone Wars
What you should play: Disney Infinity’s Twilight of the Republic play set
The Twilight of the Republic play set (included in the Disney Infinity 3.0 starter pack with two toys) follows Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, and Yoda as they try to uncover the nefarious plans of the Separatists. It takes you on a tour through Coruscant, Tatooine, Naboo, and Geonosis. The voice actors from Star Wars: The Clone Wars reprise their roles here, so it also feels like a mini-reunion for fans who miss the TV show.
As with Rise Against the Empire, Twilight doesn’t necessarily follow the canon (in this version of the universe, Obi-Wan didn’t slice Darth Maul in half), but it has some cool moments. The lightsaber battles are still pretty great, too.
Mix and match your favorite heroes and villains
What you should play: Disney Infinity 3.0
Sometimes you don’t need a storyline and just want to pit your favorite heroes and villains against each other. The latest Disney Infinity beats out all the other Star Wars games in that regard. With figurines and playable characters from each generation of the films (plus both TV shows), you can create your own “what-if?” scenarios by making custom Star Wars-themed levels or just plugging in a second controller for head-to-head battles. Darth Vader Force choking Clone Wars-era Anakin Skywalker? Go for it. Yoda travels to the future to fight Kylo Ren? Make it happen!
And if you’re feeling silly, you can play through the Star Wars play sets again using characters that clearly don’t belong there, like having Vader go on side quests in Hoth.
Also available: Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes (iOS and Android) and Star Wars: Battlefront’s Heroes vs. Villains mode
Electronic Arts’s Galaxy of Heroes is a turn-based role-playing game — except it doesn’t really have a story. Instead, battles take place inside of a holotable (like the game Chewbacca and R2-D2 played with on the Millennium Falcon), which explains why you can collect over 60 different Star Wars characters. Little guys like Jawas and Ewoks can team up with battle droids, Imperial guards, and Sith Lords. If you just want a quick Star Wars fix, Galaxy of Heroes might be what you’re looking for.
But if you want to have direct control over your Force powers, Battlefront’s Heroes vs. Villains mode is the way to go. As the name implies, it’s a battle between the game’s most powerful characters. Three players on each side become the heroes (Luke, Leia, and Han) or the villains (Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett, and Darth Vader), while the rest assume the role of Rebel soldiers and stormtroopers. Matches take place on smaller maps, so it doesn’t take long to run into someone’s lightsaber or a wall of fire from Boba Fett’s flamethrower.
Heroes vs. Villains is also convenient because players take turns being one of the special characters. In Battlefront’s other modes, you have to be lucky to find specific power-ups that randomly appear on the map to become someone like Luke or Vader.