They say the Force can do terrible things to a mind. It can wipe away your memories and destroy your very identity.
This is the list of At the Buzzer’s top 25 games of all-time, as voted on by the main ATB cast members and other friends of the show. We’ve reached the top five, which means things are about to get REAL. For more information on how this whole thing works or for the other games on the list, check out the Related Links at the bottom of this post.
5) Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox/PC)
Chris: I’ve never been much of a fan of the Star Wars/Star Trek debate, mostly because I’m really not a big fan of either.
Hell, that applies to most of science fiction. It’s a decent genre and I’ve had my share of favorites over the years (things like Firefly and A Wrinkle in Time come to mind), but as far as Star Wars go, I’m not all that interested. I’ve seen all of the original trilogy and — unfortunately — all of Episode One.
That said, I’ve played through Knights of the Old Republic, because it’s simply that good.
My colleagues have a ton to say about this game, so I’ll keep my part relatively brief. KOTOR succeeded because of its compelling story and rich characters. Rather than feeling like annoying sidekicks to your overpowered main character, almost everyone on the cast had their own narrative that grabbed your interest. And while the light side/dark side dynamic has been done countless times, your choices mattered more in this game. Maybe you wanted to go light side and seduce the hell out of Bastila (voiced by the prolific Jennifer Hale). Or maybe you were content to be as dark as possible and slaughter everything in your path. KOTOR struck a perfect balance between player choice and strong plot, something that other strong titles such as Skyrim (too much choice) and InFamous (not enough choice) have struggled with.
Knights of the Old Republic is the highest-ranked game on our list that didn’t receive a number one vote from someone, but it still had plenty of support: panelists ranked it #2 (Dave), #4 (Gary) and #6 (Shaun). That balance in voter force drove KOTOR straight into the top five of our list.
Shaun: CONFESSION TIME. Gather round, boys and girls, it’s time for me to regale you on how I never really cared about Star Wars very much.
Ahem. I never really cared about Star Wars very much. That’s right — in an admission that is practically heresy for someone contributing to a game site, I’m declaring that I found the entirety of the Star Wars saga to be perfectly mediocre. The movies were okay, the extended universe was silly, and don’t even get me started on the licensed games. Remember the Masters of Teras Kasi? No amount of heavily laced drugs can scrub that game from my memory. It’s like they trained a bunch of monkeys to program, and that game was their first test. Well, they failed.
But that’s not why you’re here. You’re here to listen about how KOTOR changed all of that for me. THIS is an example of Star Wars done right, on any medium.
Step one: Start with a solid plot. KOTOR has the best writing, plot, and pacing of any Star Wars film, television show, or novel. Period. Instead of using Star Wars as a crutch, they developed a great story and engaging characters to carry the plot’s events on their own. The best character moments in this game would be good in any medium or story. Characters like HK-47 and Bastila are intriguing and fleshed out, and help immerse the players more deeply into the world.
While the main story was strong, the side quests truly stood out to me. For the first time in a video game, side quests were compelling additions I had to seek out and experience, not chores necessary for completionism that I’d just as well pass over. When I think back to my playthroughs, it’s the sidequests that really stick out to me and are memorable. They help round out KOTOR and truly elevate it into the “tier of gaming greatness.” As I’ve dubbed it.
Step two: Provide great gameplay. I had never tried a real-time RPG before KOTOR, but the game’s mechanics had me hooked from the opening moments. As you level up your character in either the Light or Dark paths, you unlock more powerful abilities, until you’re a god damn Jedi/Sith powerhouse. Add in party members that actually matter (the droid saved me so many times I lost count) and a system that rewards you for exploration and customization, and you have one of the deepest RPG experiences ever created. I’ve played through the game twice, and know there is still loads of content I missed.
Step three: Profit.
This formula turned me from a non-believer into the franchise fan I am today. KOTOR proved that serious, complex, dramatic storytelling and Star Wars can coexist, and my hope — and I mean this — is that the new films take some notes from KOTOR and raise the bar from what is currently the ultimate Star Wars experience.
Dave: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away wasn’t far enough, as Knights of the Old Republic takes you even farther into the history of Star Wars. The Republic’s two most promising students have defected to the dark side, and are looking to take over the galaxy. The ability to wield a lightsaber isn’t the only awesome part of this game — you’re able to travel to all areas of the galaxy, finding a dark secret before the Sith Lords can. A shocking reveal towards the end of this adventure brings the game to near perfection.
That’s a pretty nice soundbite, but unfortunately doesn’t even do this game justice. As I was growing up and watching the Star Wars movies and seeing the expanded universe around them, I started to really like Jedi. I know, crazy. The more I learned about the cool stuff they could do, and how powerful the Force could be, I thought that I kinda got screwed over in the movies because all the Jedi were pretty much dead. I loved the world that Star Wars was in and wanted more. Well, in comes the #1 reason I bought an Xbox in the first place.
KOTOR seemed to have scanned my brain and figured out what I imagined a galaxy with Jedi and droids and everything else Star Wars would be. As you travel from world to world, finding the clues to an ancient source of power, you feel as though your choices really affect the people you come in contact with.
I think my favorite thing about the choice aspect of KOTOR is how it affects your player in addition to everyone else. If you decide to go down the light path, your player will literally be shrouded in a sea of blueish light on the pause screen, seemingly one step away from ascension into the Force…or whatever. But if you fully submerge yourself in the dark side, your player will be bathed in a sea of red with yellowed eyes and scars and will draw fear from all who are around you.
The big secret of the game *SPOILER* is that you are actually the evil one, who had his mind wiped and retrained by the Jedi. From there you are able to either join forces with your Jedi partner and conquer the galaxy, or you are able to swear off the dark side forever, and fight for good. *SPOILER OVER* Whichever path you choose (and I suggest both), you’re in for a treat. KoTOR delivers in every way possible.
MORE FROM AT THE BUZZER’S TOP 25 LIST
(9) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
(15) The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
(18) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
(21) The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
(22) The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
4 thoughts on “ATB’s Best Games Ever: (5) KOTOR”
It’s so funny to hear confessions about not being fans of Star Wars, because I’m right there with you. I have never cared for the Star Wars movies, but like you guys, I love KOTOR. It’s helped me appreciate the worldbuilding in Star Wars much more than the films ever did. And because it’s such a huge game, it’s like a perfect blend of linear story and space to explore. I also love details like playing Pazaak, which go a long way in making it a rewarding role-playing game.
I know I’m younger, so I don’t have the same appreciation for how ahead of its time Star Wars was when it first came out, but the original trilogy almost looks bland compared to KOTOR, for some of the reasons you mentioned. Dave’s point is also spot on about how it was nice to see the Jedis fleshed out more. And Pazaak was surprisingly fun.
I’m actually a huge Star Wars fan. I’m talking donning Jedi robes for fun when I was a teenager and spending inordinate amounts of money on lightsaber replicas. I loved Star Wars, but people always seem surprised when I tell them I’m actually pretty meh on the movies. I don’t hate them, not even the admittedly pretty terrible new ones, but like you guys said, they weren’t exactly cinematic masterpieces. It was actually KOTOR that really sparked my love (obsession?) with the Star Wars Universe. The history they explored in that game made the universe rich and believable rather than the way it was portrayed in the movies, which was just kind of cheesy and cursory. I should probably shut up about it now because I could go on about KOTOR all day, but yeah, I totally agree with you guys, KOTOR is an amazing game and invaluable to the Star Wars franchise. If the new movies go down the route that KOTOR went I will die a happy little Star Wars fan.
Gosh…I thought I was being unique with my blurb about how KOTOR was the thing that converted me to Star Wars. But Chris had the same thought, and now two commentors. I think that’s a testament to how truly amazing this game was.