There’s a lot of Star Wars stuff going on. Sure, it’s receded from the feature film space at its highest level to streaming series, but what hasn’t recently? In spite of, or perhaps because I’ve been, missing out on series like ANDOR (2022-present), AHSOKA (2023), and STAR WARS: THE BAD BATCH (2021-present), I’ve been reflecting on my own almost diasporic Star Wars fandom and its roots with the original trilogy. By extension, my mind turned to the exciting three-part video game adaptation of the original trilogy, collectively known as the Super Star Wars series. When I came to the Super Star Wars games years after their releases, I was thrilled to experience a straight-ahead interactive telling of each of the franchise’s best movies in a world defined by side stories and fill-ins. That positive energy was often tempered by the games themselves, some of the hardest released for the Super Nintendo. Developed by Sculptured Software and LucasArts in the three consecutive years from 1992 to 1994, the Super Star Wars games are worth playing if you’re a fan of their source material…but for how long is dependent on your patience and skill.
#3 — SUPER STAR WARS (1992)
Your patience and skill can be significantly less than was originally required if playing SUPER STAR WARS in its PS4-released version, which comes with save states and other frustration-easing features. Although I didn’t play it in this form, I indeed played the first game in the trilogy with save states, and that’s the only way I completed it. I think the series got (only) slightly easier as it went on, and I won’t lie and say that doesn’t have a tremendous impact on this very straightforward ranking. But there are of course other elements that enriched the base of SUPER STAR WARS, an incredibly challenging platformer with solid pixel art and a chance to save the galaxy in 16-bit.
#2 — SUPER STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1993)
Part of the Super Star Wars series’ appeal is how it varies the sidescrolling platforming, both with Mode 7 vehicle sequences and a few different playable characters. SUPER STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK improves both elements while easing up just a bit on the difficulty throttle. It still carries some of the problems of its predecessor, which go beyond punishing design to also include not-so-perfect pixel and hitbox placement. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK does benefit from a greater range of exotic environments, as its source material did. And although the number of playable characters remained the same, the fact that Luke was further distinguished by his ability to block with his lightsaber enriches the gameplay. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is indeed of a kind with SUPER STAR WARS, but its slight improvements add up for a better experience.
#1 — SUPER STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1994)
Although my ranking of the actual films is the inverse of what is represented here for Super Star Wars, I enjoy all three movies immensely and the situations and locations of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983) make for great video game fodder. SUPER STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI also carries another series of slight improvements to the formula set by the first game. Adding Princess Leia and Wicket to the playable characters of the previous games, Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, RETURN OF THE JEDI adds quality to the quantity by further distinguishing the look and feel of each avatar. Luke no longer uses a blaster, which one could see as a downgrade, but it further distinguishes his lightsaber abilities; also, Leia is given different outfits and weapons as the story progresses. And yes, I found that the conclusion to the Super Star Wars series is the “easiest,” even as it provides an incredible amount of challenge. It may be a little silly to rank three games that are so fundamentally similar (no, it definitely is), but this brief dive into the Super Star Wars series has revived, at least in part, my fascination with the endless tendrils of the franchise. And RETURN OF THE JEDI is the best of those SNES platformer tendrils, refining and making more accessible the formula of just a couple years prior.