From the foundation of LucasArts in 1982 until its virtual dissolution in 2013, George Lucas’s video game production company released some of the most celebrated games of its era, pioneering classic point-and-click computer games and creating some of the most popular Star Wars video games ever released.
Though LucasArts, as people know it today, looks very different from the company’s peak period in the ‘90s and 2000s, the company’s history still warrants looking back at all the joy and entertainment the company gifted gamers over the years.
Find here some of the greatest games ever produced by LucasArts, ranked from best to worst.
Grim Fandango is nothing short of a masterpiece. Critics have called it the best video game ever released by LucasArts, one of the greatest games of ‘90s, and one of the greatest achievements in video game history. Set in the purgatory-like Land of the Dead, the game follows Manny Calavera, a travel agent within the Department of Death who transports recently deceased souls to the afterlife. When one of his female clients goes missing, Manny sets out to find her, uncovering a massive conspiracy within the D.O.D. that threatens his chances of ever leaving the Land of the Dead behind.
Taking inspiration from Mexican folklore and film noir, Grim Fandango is Coco as imagined by Raymond Chandler, an art deco landscape filled with tough-talking P.I.-type characters, corrupt bureaucrats, government-employed demons, and femme fatales whose motivations remain a mystery until the game’s conclusion.
Retrospective reviews continue to cite it as one of the greatest games ever made, with many calling it a video game that transcends its medium, bordering more closely to a finer art form (the Museum of Modern Art has even expressed interest in adding Grim Fandango as a permanent exhibit within its Department of Architecture and Design collection).
The Monkey Island series
It’s hard to narrow down which is the definitively best entry in the beloved Monkey Island series, each installment possessing its individual strengths and very few weaknesses. However, the highlights of the series remain the original Secret of Monkey Island, its 1991 sequel, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, and later sequels like The Curse of Monkey Island and Escape from Monkey Island.
In each Monkey Island game, players control Guybrush Threepwood, an aspiring young pirate looking for adventure, romance, and treasure on the high seas, coming into contact with his arch-nemesis, the fearsome undead pirate, LeChuck.
Known for its fierce wit, impressive audiovisuals, and addictive gameplay features, the Monkey Island games were for LucasArts what The Elder Scrolls series were for Bethesda. A humorous portrayal of swashbuckling adventure films, playing it feels like you’re stepping into the fanciful world of Pirates of the Caribbean at Disney, a world populated by free-spirited buccaneers, ghosts, zombies, voodoo practitioners, and health-conscious cannibals. Each game in the series has earned positive reviews, with The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge considered two of the greatest video games ever made.
Sam & Max Hit The Road
It doesn’t get any more fun than Sam & Max, one of the chief highlights of LucasArt during the company’s adventure game era of the 1990s. Based on Steve Purcell’s 1980s comic book series of the same name, Sam & Max Hit the Road follows the anthropomorphic dog, Sam, and his partner, Max, an aggressive, precocious white rabbit. Known as “Freelance Police” officers for hire, Sam and Max find themselves employed by a carnival owner to find his two missing star attractions, an unfrozen sasquatch named Bruno and Trixie the Giraffe-Necked Girl.
A surreal detective case through several well-known tourist-favored attractions, Sam & Max takes players from bungee jumping facilities at Mount Rushmore to The World’s Largest Ball of Twine in Kansas. In no uncertain terms, it’s one of the greatest games LucasArts ever produced, celebrated for its fantastic comedic elements, intriguing storyline, and memorable characters.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
To this day, gamers have a difficult time finding a better Star Wars game than 2003’s Knights of the Old Republic, one of the finest games ever produced by BioWare and published by LucasArts. Set four thousand years before the events of the Star Wars original trilogy, players create their very own Jedi, choosing from an assortment of classes before setting out on a journey to defeat Darth Malak, a Sith lord terrorizing the galaxy with a massive armada of enemy ships.
In their various adventures, players travel across numerous well-known planets from the Star Wars films (Tatooine, Kashyyyk, and so on) and encounter dozens of colorful characters, earning Light Side and Dark Side Points to determine whether they will be a force for good or evil by the end of the game’s storyline.
It speaks volumes about Knights of the Old Republic’s quality that critics still consider it the greatest Star Wars game ever released. Praised for its gameplay, characters, story, immersive environments, and level of customization, it’s been named one of the greatest Xbox and computer games ever made.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter
LucasArts released a number of Stars Wars-related video games, ranging from first-person shooters to more straightforward adaptations of the first six Star Wars films. One of the most remarkable Star Wars games LucasArts ever released, though, came in the form of their brilliant, entertaining space simulator, Star Wars: TIE Fighter.
The 1994 sequel to LucasArt’s earlier X-Wing game, TIE Fighter allows players the chance to enter the cockpit of an Imperial TIE Fighter, engaging in hair-raising dogfights against Rebel forces, ruthless pirates, and renegade Imperial traitors in dozens of unique space battles.
Expanding the already unique gameplay style of X-Wing, TIE Fighter served as a massive improvement from the original 1993 space combat game. Updated versions of the game have been re-released time and time again, each one winning high marks from critics, and continued praised for its challenging A.I. and impressive graphics (for its time).
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis
Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis marked another pillar that LucasArts used to establish themselves in the early 1990s gaming stardom. Set within the universe of the Indiana Jones series, players take up the iconic whip and fedora of the world-famous, globe-trotting archaeologist as he searches for the lost city of Atlantis, racing against enemies and working with a psychic medium in this one-of-a-kind adventure game.
Incorporating LucasArts’ signature SCUMM engine, Fate of the Atlantis was a point-and-click adventure game less comedic than other LucasArts titles of its era. However, that certainly doesn’t mean the game was weak, delivering an infectiously fun product that perfectly captured the heart and spirit of the original Indiana Jones films.
Critically acclaimed upon its release, Fate of the Atlantis was almost immediately hailed as one of the best games of 1992, winning several gaming publications’ top prize for “Game of the Year.” It also became a massive commercial success, and now ranks as one of the best games of all time, referred to by IGN as a “classic,” and named by the website as the greatest Indiana Jones game to date.
Star Wars: Republic Commando
Star Wars: Republic Commando continues to rank as one of the greatest Star Wars video games ever released, detailing the exploits and covert operations of Delta Squad, an elite black ops team of clone troopers known as Republic Commandos, tasked with performing some of the most dangerous, action-filled missions of the Clone Wars.
A cross between Halo and Star Wars, the game presents a more shooter-heavy presentation of the Clone War, taking players from the wind-swept plains of Geonosis to the marshy swamplands of Kashyyyk, blowing up everything from heavily armored battle droids to hostile Trandoshan mercenaries.
Well received when it hit consoles in 2005, the game’s reputation has only improved, with Republic Commando now considered one of the best LucasArts games of the 2000s. It’s since gained a massive cult following of fans, with many praising its story, characters, combat, and tactical squad control system, which allows players to make strategic decisions when it comes to squad placement when engaging with enemy combatants.
Day of the Tentacle
The 1993 sequel to LucasArts’s Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle surpasses the quality of the original game. Like Maniac Mansion, it infuses elements of B-horror flicks with low-budget sci-fi movies for humorous effect, blending in elements of wacky cartoonish fun taken straight out of a vintage Looney Tunes cartoon.
In the game, players step into the role of the stereotypical nerd Bernard Bernoulli, joining Bernard as he and his friends try to stop the nefarious, ultra-intelligent Purple Tentacle from taking over the world. To do so, Bernard and his companions must travel back in time to key moments in American history, solving various puzzles and encountering numerous historical personages like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
A massive success for LucasArts back in 1993, many critics positively commented on Day of the Tentacle‘s subversive humor and ‘50s-esque cartoon presentation. Nowadays, it appears on endless publications’ lists for the greatest video game release ever, leading to remastered versions appearing on Windows, PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One in more recent years.
Released in 1995, Full Throttle offered a humorous portrayal of the post-apocalyptic future — a world populated by roving biker gangs and greedy, self-serving businessmen. In the game, players control Ben, the leader of a biker gang framed for the murder of a famous, kind-hearted motorcycle manufacturer.
Like most LucasArts games of its era, Full Throttle utilized its patented SCUMM game engine and the popular point-click interface seen in most ‘90s computer games. Unlike most other LucasArts games too, Full Throttle also became one of the few LucasArts games to use licensed music — featuring songs by the rock band the Gone Jackals — as well as relying on the vocal talents of several prominent voice actors (such as Mark Hamill, who voices the game’s antagonist, Adrian Ripburger).
One of the first games LucasArts ever produced, Maniac Mansion put the company on the map. Based on several cheesy B-horror movies, the game follows a group of teenage protagonists (all of whom resemble stock character archetypes — the nerd, the jock, etc.) as they venture into a mad scientist’s mansion.
Having fallen under the sway of a sentient meteor, the scientist has kidnapped one of the teenagers’ friends and now holds her hostage, requiring players to solve puzzles and combat the scientist’s sinister forces to rescue their friend and make it out of the mansion alive.
Maniac Mansion marked a critical next step for LucasArts in the company’s early years. Released in 1987, it perfected the point-and-click computer game that LucasArts returned to in later games like the Monkey Island series. It also became the first game to use the company’s innovative SCUMM game engine, laying the foundation for the more comedic style of adventure games LucasArts became known for producing in the 1990s.
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure
Released three years before Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure became the first ever LucasArts game based upon George Lucas’s blockbuster adventure series, Indiana Jones.
Coinciding with the 1989 release of The Last Crusade, LucasArts’ The Last Crusade adheres to many of the overarching plot threads of the original film, with players wielding the trademark whip of series protagonist Indiana Jones. Embarking on a wild quest to claim the Holy Grail, Jones and his father race against sinister forces to reach the Grail, sending them from the catacombs of Venice to the deserts of the Middle East.
Perhaps the strongest video game release based on a pre-existing movie, The Last Crusade required players to use their wits and wiles to advance, progressing through the game’s main narrative with the ease and dexterity of Indy himself.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Like most vintage arcade games, the appeal of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron lies in its simplicity, with players able to pick up the game and start playing whenever they choose. Straight forward in terms of its gameplay style, this Star Wars-themed flight simulator continues to stand the test of time as a tried-and-true LucasArts staple.
Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, players join Original Trilogy protagonist Luke Skywalker and his hard-fighting Rogue Squadron as they take to the stars, battling the evil forces of the Empire across the galaxy.
One of the first Star Wars games to perfect the power of flight as an in-game option, Rogue Squadron proved a successful experiment on LucasArts’ party, delivering the high-speed thrills and chills of an intergalactic dogfight taken straight from the Star Wars movies.
Star Wars: Battlefront II
As with most of LucasArts’ games (especially those related to the Star Wars universe), the Battlefront series has accrued a significant cult following of fans in the years since its release. Despite being limited to a mere two titles in its franchise, each entry in the Battlefront saga is worth playing in its own right, its crowning achievement coming in the form of 2005’s Battlefront II.
A vast improvement on the original Battlefront in every way imaginable, Battlefront II took the underlying aspects of Battlefront and raised it to whole new heights. Introducing a greater range of weapons, vehicles, and planets, it also weaved in the ability to play as classic Star Wars heroes and villains, the opportunity to wage battles in space, and a chance to explore a succinct storyline set within the Star Wars continuity.
While it might lack the open-world component of so many LucasArts games, Battlefront II bears very few weaknesses, many fans considering it a strong third-person shooter that continues to hold up to this day.
Another notable achievement from LucasArts’ early days, Loom resembles a far different kind of adventure game than most entries in LucasArts’ catalog. For starters, it prioritizes environment and story more so than LucasArts’ trademark comedy, building a game that feels as sizable and epic in scope as The Lord of the Rings.
Grounded in a realistic and intricate fantasy universe, Loom relies on a more unorthodox gameplay system, the likes of which proved rare among video games of its era. Rather than the basic point-and-click interface associated with titles like Monkey Island, Loom requires players to play a series of notes on their keyboard. Though said gameplay seemed straightforward, the combination of notes players could hit made for some interesting results, with certain songs – if played backward – forming new spells and incantations for the main character to recite.
Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Every child raised on Star Wars aspired to grow into either Jedi Knighthood or Sith deception at some point in their lives. Fortunately, Star Wars Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy allowed these dedicated fans to live out their greatest fantasies of swinging a lightsaber or wielding the Force, all from the comfort of their living rooms.
Incorporating the same gameplay style of LucasArts’ earlier Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy brought with it a wide range of new advancements in regards to its mechanics, including more fluid lightsaber strikes and greater customization options. The fourth and final installment in the Jedi Knight series, Jedi Academy is LucasArts at its finest, the company bringing a high level of sophistication to their presentation of the Star Wars universe.
Richard Chachowski is a freelance writer based in New Jersey. He loves reading, his dog Tootsie, and pretty much every movie to ever exist (especially Star Wars).