Star Wars Day is celebrated because of the full universe of memorable characters that have been introduced over the years. Many of those characters stemmed from the original movie trilogy. Some of them came from the extended universe of books and comics. Others were introduced through television spin-offs. And, yes, some of those characters came from the world of video games. For this Star Wars Day, Shacknews is reflecting on the best Star Wars characters to come from the unique world of video games.
(Before diving into this list, let's outline a few parameters. These characters must have originated in video games. That means you're not going to find any movie, television, or comic characters on this list. Well, not entirely. We'll explain when we get there.)
Cal Kestis & BD-1 (Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order)
We're going to start this with a recent entry. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has turned out to be an important game, from a certain point of view. In a landscape where multiplayer shooters, MMORPGs, and "games as a service" have proven to be the priority, Fallen Order has proven that there is still room for AAA single-player adventures.
A big part of that comes from the game's two lead characters. Cal Kestis is a Padawan who was never able to complete his Jedi training because of Order 66. He was someone who was fully adjusting to a normal life until Vader's Inquisitors dragged him into a fight he never wanted to be a part of. Fallen Order's story was one of Cal realizing the fight ahead was one far bigger than him, but one he's no longer in a position to back away from. He's both a brave warrior and one who feels vulnerable, just because he's fully aware that he's in over his head. A lot of that feeds into the game's final encounter, which I won't spoil here.
I'm including BD-1 in this as a tandem entry, because Cal and BD are such a great and inseparable team. BD-1 helps throughout the journey, but he's on this list because he's part of that great Star Wars tradition of great droid companions, up there with Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 and Rey and BB-8. For an idea of what a great sidekick he is, let's go back to our Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order interview with Narrative Lead Jeff Contreras.
He's an explorer's companion droid! So his custom-built purpose is to go with somebody much like Cal, though Cal's not his original owner. He goes out to these remote, out-of-the-way places and are just isolated for months and years at a time. So BD-1 is going to be your best friend, he's always looking at Cal, checking his emotional state, much like a dog who's very tuned in to his master. He's got medicine, he can hack stuff, and fix stuff, he's sort of a little swiss army knife of usefulness.
Cal and BD are such a great team that there are still high hopes that their dynamic plays out even further in a Fallen Order sequel.
Revan (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic & Star Wars: The Old Republic)
Revan's inclusion is kind of a two-for-one. For anybody who has ever played the classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, he needs no introduction. Revan was first introduced to players as an amnesiac. He was a blank slate, which allowed players to shape whether he would follow the Light Side or the Dark Side of the Force. Revan is someone who grew along with the player, his choices were the player's choices. There was a very personal investment in this character's growth, which is why he resonated so much with Star Wars fans.
But Revan did eventually find out who he used to be, having once served as a powerful Sith Lord. The player's adventures with Revan would eventually end, but the former Sith Lord's story was not over, as explained by Star Wars: The Old Republic producer Bruce MacLean in a 2014 interview.
The story of Revan still hasn't been concluded and it's obviously, to this era, the most important story of The Old Republic. The foundational games of this era were Knights of the Old Republic and in those games, you were Revan. Revan was in our flashpoint in our game earlier on and some players defeated him and he vanished, where he's presumed dead. But his storyline is incomplete. What is the ultimate fate of Revan? So we set out from the beginning of this expansion to answer that question.
That led to Star Wars: The Old Republic's biggest expansion of the time, Shadows of Revan, which was touted as Revan's final chapter. We won't spoil how Revan's tale ends, but for those who played Knights of the Old Republic, this was their character. He was a hero or villain because they chose to make him hero or villain. Because of that, there's still a great deal of devotion to Revan to this day. To many players, he was Knights of the Old Republic.
HK-47 (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
To a certain other section of players, HK-47 was Knights of the Old Republic. In Star Wars lore, fans often thought of C-3P0 or R2-D2 when they thought of droids. They were heroes in their own right, albeit ones who served in a comedy relief role. If droids weren't sidekicks like these two, they were often killer machines, like bounty hunter droid IG-88.
HK-47 was a mix of all of those qualities. He was primarily an assassin droid, one who relished in bloodshed. While that would suggest he sits more in the IG-88 camp, HK-47's dry delivery and thirst for blood made him one of Star Wars' most darkly comedic characters, one of BioWare's most brilliant creations, and one of the most memorable NPCs in all of video games. Basically, any interaction with him would lead to a dry quip, a comment about "meatbags," his desire to kill said meatbags, the frailty of humanity, or some combination of all of those things. He was a hoot and unlike anything Star Wars had put out there at the time. Even in 2021, there's still no droid that quite has that "delightfully deranged" charm of HK-47.
Starkiller (Star Wars: The Force Unleashed)
Before Disney purchased Star Wars and revamped the extended universe, Darth Vader entrusted the extermination of the remaining Jedi to one man. That was Starkiller. Star Wars fans were fresh off Revenge of the Sith and, two years after that movie premiered, the LucasArts team put out Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It was one of the first times that any medium looked into the aftermath of Order 66 and, for the video game player, it was their first chance to meet Starkiller.
Starkiller was a relentless warrior, raised under the tough hand of Vader himself. However, one of the game's main plot elements is that as Starkiller's power with the Force grew, he becomes increasingly aware of his actions and the side that he's fighting for. Starkiller's character is in sharp contrst with Vader. Whereas Vader ultimately lost his humanity, Starkiller increasingly grasped his while his powers with the Force continued to grow.
Starkiller's story was a self-contained one and Disney's purchase of the Star Wars franchise has essentially ended any future plans for the character. But his lone turn in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed makes him one of the franchise's most memorable video game characters, basically a prototype for what would eventually become Darth Vader's Inquisitors.
Iden Versio (Star Wars Battlefront II)
While the third Star Wars trilogy explored the aftermath of the original movies, few pieces of modern Star Wars media would venture into the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Endor. Iden Versio, the main character in Star Wars Battlefront II's single-player campaign, is one of the Imperial officers who witnesses the destruction of the second Death Star. It's often assumed that once the Emperor died and the Death Star was destroyed, peace instantly returned to the galaxy. That's not how it worked out. It's not how things ever really work out.
To Iden, Palpatine's death wasn't the end of the war, it was a call for vengeance. The remnants of the Empire were no longer out to maintain their stranglehold on the galaxy, they were out for revenge against the upstart Rebellion and to vanquish them, once and for all. Idea would be the one leading the charge and while that's ultimately not where her story ends, she's memorable for being one of the last faces of the classic Empire and the face of the Empire's next incarnation.
Kyle Katarn (Star Wars: Dark Forces and the Star Wars: Jedi Knight/Jedi Academy series)
Many of the characters on this list make one-and-done appearances, but few made multiple appearances like Kyle Kattarn. Kyle will strike a particular chord with the PC gamer, as his story unfolded across several PC Star Wars games. Star Wars: Dark Forces was the series' foray into Doom-style corridor shooting, a family-friendlier option for the genre. The game was a hit for combining this style of FPS with the sights and sounds of the Star Wars universe, but it's also remembered for Kyle.
Kyle is a former Imperial officer, but at the start of Dark Forces is a mercenary-for-hire working for the Rebel Alliance, one hired to recover the plans to the Death Star. He's hired for several missions afterwards, mainly revolving around the Dark Trooper project. This line of missions ended with a harrowing run through the Arc Hammer starship, where Kyle would shut down the Dark Trooper project for good. Kyle survived and drew the attention of one Darth Vader, who sensed the Force running through him.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II would act as both the sequel to Dark Forces and the beginning of an entirely new Jedi Knight series. Over the course of this journey, Kyle would discover his power with the Force and begin his path towards becoming a Jedi Knight. However, his painful backstory and his anger towards the Imperials leaves him vulnerable to the Dark Side. He eventually succumbs and, though he is turned back to the Light Side by his apprentice (Mara Jade, future wife of Luke Skywalker), Kyle's struggle with the Dark Side remains a major fixture for the remainder of the series.
Kyle Katarn is revered by many classic Star Wars fans, whether they think of him as a mercenary with a heart of gold or as the Jedi Knight clashing with his inner torment. He's one of the most well-defined characters in Star Wars lore, his story extending to Star Wars novels years after the release of Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, the final entry in the Jedi Knight series.
Kyle is another major Star Wars character who is no longer canon following Disney's acquisition of the license. He will remain beloved by PC gamers, avid novel readers, and jack-of-all-trades nerds alike.
Dash Rendar (Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire)
We're ending this feature on a bit of a cheat. Dash Rendar wasn't specifically designed for the video games. Back when Star Wars was a single trilogy, before the prequels ever saw the big screen, Lucasfilm began work on a project called Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, a canonical jump into the period between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Author Steve Perry penned a novel in the spring of 1996, which would then be followed by comics from the team at Dark Horse. By the end of the year, Shadows of the Empire launched on the new Nintendo 64 console and would tell the story fully from the perspective of a new character named Dash Rendar.
Shadows of the Empire was unforgettable for many reasons. The story was bold, one that envisioned a third party trying to usurp Darth Vader's position as the Emperor's top lieutenant by assassinating Luke Skywalker before Vader could try and turn him to the Dark Side. It featured characters from the movies, as well as a handful of new faces, the most memorable of which was Dash.
Dash is remembered as an old bounty hunter friend of Han Solo's, cut from the same scoundrel cloth. With Han frozen in carbonite, Dash would briefly step in to fill his shoes, as well as try and recover Han before he could be taken to Jabba the Hutt. Dash's exploits included chasing down Boba Fett in an effort to get Han back, a clash with bounty hunter droid (and breakout fan favorite) IG-88, and a thrilling speederbike chase that saw him take down multiple Black Sun assassins before they could kill Luke. The game's story ended with an exciting three-way space skirmish, in which Dash was assumed dead by the end. Dash later revealing he had survived and essentially cheated death went a long way towards cementing his legacy.
We took a look at Shadows of the Empire back in a 2015 retrospective. It's positively primitive by 2021 standards, but at a time when Star Wars games were mainly side-scrolling platformers that retold events of the films, Shadows of the Empire was groundbreaking. It explored new canonical ground, it utilized cutting-edge (for the time) rendering techniques to bring many recognizable Star Wars locales to life, added new original music, and ultimately sold over one million copies.
Dash was never featured in another Star Wars game after this. Given how his story ended, it wouldn't make sense to. The character had peaked in a way that would impress even the great Han Solo. Sadly, Disney's purchase of the Star Wars license means Shadows of the Empire is no longer canon. For those who played the game in 1996, though, it has its place in Star Wars history with Dash Rendar as its face.
Those are our picks for the best Star Wars video game characters. Is there anybody we missed or you feel deserves recognition? Join the conversation and let us know in the comments. And may the Force be with you all.