Some of the best "Star Wars" stories aren't movies

Some of the best

There are two kinds of "Star Wars" fans: those who watch the movies and those who watch the movies and TV series, read the books, play the video games, and endlessly speculate about what might come next. "The Rise of Skywalker" will bring the films' main narrative arc to a close, but that's hardly the only tale in the galaxy. These other stories — known as the Expanded Universe until George Lucas sold his sci-fi saga to Disney, when the EU was renamed "Star Wars Legends" and made non-canon — are less well known but often beloved by their small-but-dedicated fanbases.

This includes the recently released "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order" game, which takes place shortly after "The Revenge of the Sith." In the aftermath of Order 66, which wiped out almost the entire Jedi Order at the behest of Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, a surviving padawan (read: apprentice) ekes out an unassuming existence as a scrapper on the decidedly unglamorous planet Bracca. That under-the-radar life comes to an end when he's forced to resume the Jedi mantle, which in practical terms means the best lightsaber combat this side of the silver screen.

Artwork for Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic video game depicting two characters with light sabersCredit: LucasArts

"Fallen Order" is hardly the first great "Star Wars" game. It was preceded by, among many others, 2003's "Knights of the Old Republic," which is among the franchise's finest offerings and one of the best video games ever made. That has as much to do with the plot — which takes place some 4,000 years before the main story and concerns the enigmatic Darth Revan, whose true identity is an amazing twist — as it does with the gameplay. No other game allows players to wield the Force in as varied or exciting a way, with abilities like Force Choke making you feel like Darth Vader and a Light Side/Dark Side system that changes your character's physical appearance depending on his or her alignment.  

Among the many, many "Star Wars" books — a reliable estimate places the number above 400 published works — few are more revered than the "Thrawn" trilogy. These three novels written by Timothy Zahn take place shortly after "Return of the Jedi" and interweave existing characters with such newcomers as Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn himself, who emerged from the triptych as one of the most well-received characters to never appear in the EU. Unlike the prequel trilogy's CGI, nothing in "Heir to the Empire," "Dark Force Rising," or "The Last Command" feels dated — read them now if you're so inclined.

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Making these projects work is a difficult feat, as they have to feel true to the spirit of "Star Wars" while also forging their own identity. Predictably, many have failed: the universally derided Christmas special has never been rebroadcast or made available for home viewing, and last year's spinoff movie "Solo: A Star Wars Story" became the franchise's first theatrically released film to bomb at the box office. (Cool Darth Maul cameo, though.)

Those misfires only make the successes more remarkable. "The Clone Wars," an animated series set between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," is so adored by diehard fans that it's being brought back next year by Disney+; "The Mandalorian," another small-screen venture for the streaming service, has earned its place in viewers' hearts by introducing Baby Yoda to the world.

There's more, of course — much more. Devouring even some of it would take a long, long time and transport you to a galaxy far, far away, which is to say that the best of it will make you feel the way only "Star Wars" can.

Cover image credit: Respawn Entertainment


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