Ranking the N64 Star Wars games

I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan. Yet I didn’t see any of the movies until I was already in 6th grade! One of my best friends’ families were horrified to learn I had never seen a single film and proceeded to quickly show me all three (this is back in the mid-90s where there only were three films!). Needless to say, I was hooked from that first viewing and still love all things Star Wars today! My first watch was good timing too, because the original trilogy re-released in theaters throughout my 7th grade year. Star Wars mania made a glorious return! It also coincided with the nostalgic N64 era, so we got four new Star Wars games for the system. Even though they all have substantial flaws, I still enjoy all of these titles! Let’s rank the N64 Star Wars games.

N64 Star Wars game collage

In a similar vein to how I did my top 10 best N64 games, I’m trying to rank the N64 Star Wars games primarily by how well they hold up today. Nostalgia will always play a part, especially with Star Wars (just looking at the box art for these games brings a wave of it), but I try to be as objective as I can! Okay, *cue Star Wars theme*

4. Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo

Phantom Menace is by no means my favorite Star Wars film, but I still find it quite a bit of fun with its awesome action sequences, lore, and Qui-Gon Jinn (the BEST Jedi!). But I don’t get that feeling from Battle for Naboo-it just doesn’t feel like it has enough “Star Wars magic”. There’s nothing inherently bad about this game. It’s very well made, from a technical perspective. Draw distance, lighting, and textures are vastly improved from Rogue Squadron. The sound is great. There’s 7 different vehicles to pilot that do bring some more variety, with some being land and water-based. But playing the game I just find it kind of…boring? The plot is disconnected from the Episode I movie until the very end, and the characters, story, and vehicles all lack the charisma of those from the original trilogy. I always find myself checking out after a few missions and moving on to another game. It’s an impressive game in certain ways, just not a Star Wars favorite for me personally!

Star Wars Battle for Naboo N64 box and cart

3. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire

Basically, invert everything I just said about Battle for Naboo and you’ve got Shadows of the Empire! The gameplay and mechanics of Shadows of the Empire are (at times almost horrifyingly) clunky by today’s standards. Controlling Dash Rendar on foot is an exercise in frustration (remember accidentally falling off cliffs?). But there’s just so much original trilogy Star Wars glory packed into this game! The Battle of Hoth, flying through asteroid fields, fighting IG-88 and Boba Fett, and an epic space battle to cap it off? Classic. The hand drawn cutscenes also hold up very well and have a lot of charm. Most folks don’t look upon Shadows of the Empire that kindly in retrospect, and I can certainly understand that. But I still think it’s a fun (if flawed) N64 Star Wars game!

Star Wars Shadows of the Empire N64 box, cart, Limited Run classic edition
I couldn’t resist the Limited Run re-release that looks like a Star Wars toy from around the game’s release. The nostalgia!

2. Star Wars Episode I: Racer

“Now THIS is podracing!” (we’re legally obliged to include that quote anytime this game is discussed). I got this game for my birthday the summer Episode I released, and really enjoyed it. What I feel was missing from Battle for Naboo is present in this game-it’s fun, fast, over-the-top Star Wars gameplay that FEELS connected to the universe. Sure, some of the mechanics can be a bit frustrating (and the later races get downright brutal) but it’s awesome to relive the podrace from Phantom Menace and get to know all the other riders from the film. Plus using the “boost” function on your podracer and flying through tough turns and obstacles at almost nauseating speeds is glorious! John Williams’ excellent score is used sparingly but it’s very effective, especially in the final lap of the course. The game even received an HD upgrade that I’ve yet to pick up!

Star Wars Episode I Racer N64 box, cart, and Limited Run classic edition
Aaaand again with the Star Wars toy nostalgia.

1. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

You probably knew this was coming from the beginning. This was one of the first games I bought without ever having rented it (after seeing the awesome reviews in Nintendo Power). I had absolute blast playing every mission-it really felt like you were living Star Wars, both in the movies and “Expanded Universe” between them. It controlled well, had great graphics (especially if you were using the expansion pak like I was!), exquisite Star Wars music, and was generally just fun to play! I picked up the player’s guide for the game and spent an absurd amount of time getting every last gold medal (ah, to be young). It’s true that the sequel, Star Wars: Rogue Leader on GameCube improved and refined almost every aspect of this experience. But the original Rogue Squadron still holds up well today, and is rather cheap to find, even CIB! It’s simply the best of the N64 Star Wars games.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron Box Art
You really can’t beat this box art.

How would you rank the N64 Star Wars games? Or do you think they don’t hold up well at all? Is the Star Wars nostalgia (and Force, obviously) strong with you from this era? Let me know in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Ranking the N64 Star Wars games”

  1. I have the most nostalgia for Shadows of the Empire even though Rogue Squadron is so much better.
    Nothing will beat reading about the “Hoth” second level (right? Second level?) in Electronic Gaming Monthly and eagerly opening up SotE that Christmas it was released.
    Along with the Star Wars Special Edition movies, Shadows of the Empire helped me prove to myself I was a huge geek and a Star Wars nerd in my heart of hearts.

    Was Shadows of the Empire egregiously overpriced? Was Shadows only good for a couple levels in the grand scheme of things? Were the cheap deaths and clipping terrible? Was the “Hoth level” one of the best gaming experiences of the generation up to that point? The answer is “yes” to all of these.

    1. This is the best summary of Shadows of the Empire I have ever seen 🙂 Absolutely 100% truth on all counts! The Battle of Hoth level (it was the first one!) really hooked us all and is still pretty dang fun to play today. Before we all rage quit in the second level, which is on-foot 🙂

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