In the arms of an angel
Whether you were a fan of LucasArts's fantastic point-and-click adventures or its remarkable licensed games, there's a good chance you have fond, nostalgic memories of the projects spawned by the company. Proving early in its life that there was more to the brand than Star Wars games, the developer outright invented some of the genres we hold dear today. And though the company has shut down its game creation wing, its legacy will live on in the developers it inspired to make their own games, to create their own worlds, and to tell their own stories.
Today, we honor LucasArts' development legacy, not by dwelling on its death, but by celebrating its life. Here are the games that we'll remember LucasArts for; the adventure games, the shooters, and, of course, the Star Wars games.
7. Star Wars: Republic Commando
While most people think of lightsabers and Jedi when they see the Star Wars logo, Republic Commando opted to march to the beat of its own Gasan string drum. Following Delta Squad--a special batch of clone troopers--the game introduced us to a side of the Star Wars universe we hadn't seen, and we loved every minute of it. Assigning squad commands was simple, and helped us feel as though we were truly in charge of an elite squad of soldiers, and while it lacked a no-brainer like cooperative play, there was still plenty to enjoy.
From the stellar characters (including a l33t-speaking clone trooper) to the atypical environments, Republic Commando did a fantastic job of proving that there was still plenty of space left to explore in the Star Wars universe. We're still upset that the game's sequel, Star Wars: Imperial Commando, ended up being cancelled before it was able to break out of orbit--the Dark Side truly won this battle.
6. Zombies Ate My Neighbors
You know youre in for something special when a demonic, guttural laugh confirms your choice on the character select screen. This playful top-down shooter pays tribute to the era of B-movie horror, riffing on every imaginable trope to the point of hilarity. You name it, ZAMNs got it: killers dolls, chainsaw maniacs, fish-men, giant earth-boring worms, and more fill the spacious suburban levels with plenty to shoot at. And shoot them you will--though Zeke and Julie start out with naught but their trusty water pistol, their undead-vaporizing arsenal will expand to include the likes of bazookas, Pandoras box, silverware, and popsicles. Yep--turns out popsicles can kill mutant Jelly Blobs in a single hit.
The atmosphere throughout the games many vistas can be genuinely creepy at times, thanks to a spectacular soundtrack that perfectly matches the stylish 16-bit visuals. Trying to save your neighbors from an army of ghouls can be nerve-wracking, and their deathcry of NO! will haunt your dreams forever. With dozens of unique stages and enemies, a plethora of secrets, and rock-solid co-op gameplay, this is one horror game you can come back to time and time again.
5. Day of the Tentacle
It's not often that you get any real face time with important historical figures like George Washington in a video game. That goes double when you're also desperately chasing down a giant purple tentacle that's about to take over the world. The premise of Day of the Tentacle may be slightly out there, but under the guidance of industry veterans Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman (both of whom are still creating awesome adventure games), the beloved title found its place in adventure gaming history.
As you hop through time and swap between the game's three zany characters, you're always moving from one silly situation to another. Day of the Tentacle is remembered fondly for its hilarious story, excellent voice-acting, and, of course, the purple tentacle. There's something about this sentient appendage that makes you want to just hug him. Or drown him in toxic sludge. Or both.
4. Star Wars: TIE Fighter - Defender of the Empire
Rarely does a game makes us nostalgic for a peripheral, but one look at a screenshot for Star Wars: TIE Fighter and we're yearning for a flight stick, eager to jump back in and blast away Rebel scum. No game up to that point had truly made us feel like we were in charge of a Star Wars ship quite like TIE Fighter did; and no game since has come close.
That's because it wasn't an on-rails game like Rebel Assault--it was a true flight simulator, putting the emphasis on rewarding complexity instead of arcade action. Adjusting systems while engaging in thrilling dogfights and bombing enemies was the height of Star Wars immersion, and helped us feel as though we were actually in control instead of just being along for the ride.
3. Sam & Max Hit the Road
After the success of humorous adventure games Maniac Mansion and The Secret of Monkey Island, LucasArts developer Steve Purcell pitched a game based on his indie comic book creations, Sam & Max. Sam, the anthropomorphic dog, teamed with hyperkinetic rabbity thing Max to solve crime in a freelance capacity. But mostly they just stumbled through cases, leaving destruction in their wake. Those skills made them the perfect stars for a point-and-click adventure, particularly one that takes them across the entire United States.
The two would-be detectives travel to odd tourist traps all over this great nation, including Snuckeys and the worlds largest ball of twine. The engrossingly strange plot deals with a secret war between sasquatches and country western singers, and the off-kilter comedy works throughout, thanks partially to the then-groundbreaking use of voice-acting in the game. Telltale successfully continued the series in the mid-2000s, but the original roadtrip remains the most memorable adventure the strange duo has taken.
2. Grim Fandango
Manny Calavera's afterlife adventure gives you a little bit of everything. Intrigue, with all the dangerous romance, dazzling cityscapes, and despicable villains typical of classic film noir. Bewilderment, at the minutiae of being a Grim Reaper and a plot that spans years. Humor, in the form of Manny's quick-witted observations and the antics of your trusty pal Glottis. It's The Maltese Falcon reenacted with Day of the Dead calaca skeletons, and it's one of the most unique, unforgettable journeys you can experience via mouse and keyboard.
The Land of the Dead has a palpable atmosphere to it, full of Aztec-inspired art deco, jazz tunes, and memorable characters (like an irritable clown and a union of worker bees) as seen through a haze of cigarette smoke and snappy dialogue. The puzzles are unpredictable without being nonsensical, and each backdrop will make you give pause to admire its beauty. Grim Fandango begs to be played, because Tim Schafer and his team at LucasArts crafted a video game quite unlike any other.
1. The Secret of Monkey Island
Suave. Dashing. Debonair. These are the things that the protagonist Guybrush Threepwood is not. But it doesn't matter--he still wins the heart of the girl in the end and the evil ghost pirate LeChuck gets what he deserves. The Secret of Monkey Island represents what we loved most about adventure games in the '90s. The game features a diverse cast of characters, witty dialogue, fun atmosphere, and a great protagonist/villain. Everything we wanted in a traditional point-and-click adventure game is all here in one grog-filled package.
Though the series lived on in numerous sequels (some good, some so-so) and a remake, the IP now resides with Disney. We can only hope that we'll see more adventures that star the intrepid Guybrush Threepwood. It's fitting, considering that series creator Ron Gilberts inspiration for the game was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. At the very least, we expect to see some serious merchandising.
BONUS: Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Update: It has been pointed out that Jedi Outcast was developed by Raven, not LucasArts. This is true, but we've opted to included it as a bonus entry anyway, because we just love it too much to cut.
Even after 11 years of industry progress, Jedi Outcast is still the best lightsaber simulator out there. This is all our Jedi fantasies fulfilled, with the freedom to go first-person with a blaster rifle or partake in epic duels with third-person lightsaber-slashing and Force powers aplenty. It also delivered one of the most intriguing pre-KOTOR Star Wars plots, and protagonist Kyle Katarn felt like a blend of the Luke Skywalker and Han Solo archetypes. Not to be outdone, main villain Desann is quite actually a humanoid T-Rex with a lightsaber.
But as if an incredible single-player experience wasn't enough, Outcast has some insanely fun multiplayer, with all the blistering speed and excitement of the Quake III: Team Arena engine it's built on. There's a wealth of weapon options for those who prefer a good blaster at their side, alongside exotic armaments like Wookie Bowcasters and Thermal Detonators. But you haven't truly lived as a Star Wars fan until you've Force-pushed your friend into a bottomless pit, or hurled your lightsaber through their chest from across the room before summoning it back to your hand boomerang-style.
The end of an era
There are, of course, plenty of others that didn't make the list--and we didn't even delve into the multitude of AAA games LucasArts published, but didn't develop. It might be gone, but its mark on the industry will remain forever. Do yo have a favorite that didn't make the list? Let us know in the comments, below!