Check out the next entry in our series, where we take a look at the best Star Wars video games ever!
Welcome to the next episode in our series where we take a look at the best Star Wars video games ever. This time we take a look at Star Wars Episode 1: Racer. We’ll reveal why this Podracing simulator is just as fun more than two decades later.
2021 and I’m talking about a Dreamcast game.
Hey how’s it going guys! This is Tom from UDS and welcome to the next installment in our rundown of the best Star Wars games ever. We’re aiming to feature the cream of the crop, and we’ve already covered the likes of Republic Commando, The Force Unleashed and Knights of the Old Republic. If this sounds like you’re sort of thing, then be sure to hit the subscribe button and check out the playlist for all things Star Wars. But for now, we’ve got to talk about Episode 1: Racer.
I’ll defend the Star Wars prequels until the day I die; often thought of as the leperous arm of the franchise, they’re only now finding a newfound appreciation with fans in the past few years. This reputation has always been unfair, with all three films offering moments that eclipse the iconic Original Trilogy, while developing a rich universe and deep lore that until this point had only been touched upon in reference and expanded media.
One of the coolest moments in these films can be found in The Phantom Menace. Commonly derided as the worst of the bunch, even its harshest critic will concede that Podracing is awesome. Roman chariot racing but with rocket boosters and aliens, it gave us 15 of the most exciting minutes found in the entire saga.
That’s why it was a no brainer for LucasArts to release Star Wars Episode 1: Racer alongside the movie in May 1999. Putting you in control of your own Podracer, it’s essentially Wipeout set in ‘a galaxy far, far away…’, where you compete in very fast, very dangerous races across not just the planet of Tatooine, but several hitherto unexplored worlds.
While it may be just about old enough to drink in the US, what has definitely persisted from the original game is that it’s just as fun as it was all those years ago. Each course offers a unique setting; from the mesas of Tatooine to the aquatic backdrop of Aquilaris, it’s great to explore the breadth of the Star Wars Galaxy at breakneck speed.
You also get to a wide roster of characters to choose from. Ok, unless you’re a hardcore fan, you’ll probably only recognise Anakin, maybe Sebulba at a push, but each racer can be found in the movie too, however fleetingly. And each have their own racer stats, meaning they’re more than just a cosmetic skin. Besides, where else can you play as Ben Quadraneros?
Aside from maps, characters and lore, Episode I: Racer still handles really well for a game of its age. Considering you’re travelling at hundreds of miles per hour and you’re about 5 feet off the ground, you’d be forgiven for thinking your racer would handle like a bar of soap. Instead you always feel in control of your character, meaning tracks always feel fair and manageable. Different courses even offer differ terrain to master. Should you really slide around more on ice considering you’re literally floating above the ground? Probably not, but it’s Star Wars, try not to overthink it.
But this accessible handling also happens to be my biggest gripe with Racer. It’s really easy, and that’s not me bragging. I’m normally the one relying on Billy the Bullet to save me from last place in Mario Kart. Even from the first race, you’ll probably be in pole position and stay there until the end. The difficulty does ramp up towards the latter races, but you’ll have to skim your way through less than formidable competition before you reach that stage. But again this is by no means a game ruiner.
With tight controls, a surprisingly deep upgrade system and original voice actors reprising their roles, it’s clear a lot of time, effort and love went into what might have otherwise been a throwaway title. It’s no surprise that it’s garnered a cult following that’s persisted to this day, culminating in a 2020 re-release for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
To wrap up, Star Wars Episode I: Racer is still very much worth playing in 2021. It’s aged well both cosmetically and technically, and can be enjoyed by players of all ages. My advice? Don’t be an idiot like me and spend a fortune on an original copy. Instead, pick up the re-release on PS4, or even better, the Nintendo Switch. It’s not something to sit back and play for hours on end. The quick ‘pick up and play’ nature of the game makes it perfect for the more portable console.
But what did you think of Star Wars Episode 1: Racer? Let me know in the comments below, and also let me know which game to pick next. I’ve got Super Star Wars on SNES, Shadows of the Empire on N64, and Super Bombad Racing on PS2, but I have far too much pride to show that on camera.
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