TIME apps

The 5 Best iPhone Games of the Month

Bouncy Bits
Bouncy Bits Bouncy Bits

From 'Ducktails' to 'Hellrider'

Every week, TIME rounds up our favorite iPhone games of the past few days. Here are the best of the best for March, from a 1990s throwback to a spooky dungeon adventure.


DuckTales: Remastered

DuckTales, originally released in the late 1980s and 1990s, was one of the best adventure games ever. Now, it’s been remastered for iOS — which means no more crummy, hard to see graphics. Take Scrooge McDuck on a string of journeys through dangerous terrains, traps and maps until you find your treasure. It’s an expensive game, but it’s a small price to pay for reliving one of the best games ever developed – or discovering it for the first time.

DuckTales: Remastered is available for $9.99 in the App Store

Bouncy Bits

If you were to take Frogger and give it to the creators of Adventure Time, you’d get Bouncy Bits. It’s a simple runner game with a slight twist. The goal is to navigate your character and bounce through each level while dodging obstacles. You can upgrade to new maps and players and rack up points. There are some in-app purchases you can make, like new player modes and characters, to enhance gameplay.

Bouncy Bits is free in the App Store


This hugely anticipated game was well worth the wait. It’s essentially just like the much-loved button mashing games of yesteryear, except with greatly improved graphics. You can unlock a variety of characters, including some of your favorites from the old series, and spend your time ripping opponents throats out or stabbing them in the face or turning them into ice sculptures.

MORTAL KOMBAT X is free in the App Store


Imagine Mad Max, but instead of fighting other humans, you’re battling an army of skeletons. Clobber your way through various maps and destroy your enemies. Despite the fact that Hellrider follows the basic arcade game principle of running through levels and smashing enemies to bits, the game is remarkably designed and never gets boring.

Hellrider is free in the App Store

Tiny Dangerous Dungeons

Until the day Nintendo decides to get launch a full suite of titles for iOS, games like Tiny Dangerous Dungeons will have to do. Take your character (who is wearing a suspiciously Mario-like outfit) through spooky arenas and over obstacles until you reach the end of each level. There’s not much enemy-fighting in this one, which is why it’s so endearingly like games of yesteryear, down to the blocky graphics and monochrome display. It’ll look really cool on your iPhone screen.

Tiny Dangerous Dungeons is free in the App Store

TIME Hewlett Packard

Here’s Why Carly Fiorina Is Such a Controversial Figure

Key Speakers At The Bloomberg Washington Economy Summit
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Carly Fiorina is the former CEO of Hewlitt-Packard and ran unsuccessfully for a Republican Senate seat from California in 2010.

Her record at Hewlett-Packard is mixed, to say the least

As a now-official presidential candidate, there’s no way Carly Fiorina can ignore her tenure at Hewlett-Packard, which she ran as CEO for six tumultuous years before the board ousted her in 2005. By that time, the company’s stock had lost about half its value and tens of thousands of people had lost their jobs.

Fiorina took H-P’s helm in 1999 at the height of the tech boom. She left after the boom went bust. It seems likely that H-P, a giant in office equipment, would have faced huge challenges no matter who was running the company. But most observers—including the company’s board—have concluded that she made a bad situation worse than it might otherwise have been.

Fiorina came to H-P after quickly rising through the executive ranks at AT&T and later its spinoff, Lucent Technologies. Her record at that point was, by all accounts, stellar. When she started as CEO, she was the first woman to head a Fortune 20 company. Her ascension was presented as a major historical turning point.

Right away, she began planning to restructure the company, and took heat for laying off thousands of workers. The decision to spin-off a division that made technical testing equipment into what became Agilent Technologies predated her arrival. She managed that spinoff in a successful IPO.

She quickly turned her attention to remaking Hewlett-Packard. The plan was to directly take on IBM as an end-to-end, computing-and-services business. One of her first moves was to announce the acquisition of the tech services division of Pricewaterhousecoopers for $14 billion. When Wall Street balked, she withdrew the offer. After the dotcom crash, IBM picked up the division for $4 billion.

She next set her sights on Compaq Computer in 2002 for $19 billion. That decision continues to haunt both Fiorina and H-P.

Taking on Compaq was controversial from the get-go. A bruising-but-unsuccessful proxy battle ensued. Walter Hewlett, a board member and son of company co-founder Walter Hewlett, vehemently opposed the deal. Outside observers and some big shareholders that it would dilute the company’s core, profitable printer business. It did much more than that, with H-P’s results sinking every quarter. Eventually, it led to 17,000 more people being laid off as Dell Computer, much more highly focused on the PC market, came to dominate.

Upon her exit, H-P gave Fiorina what was widely considered a “golden parachute” worth about $40 million.

When she was finally ousted, the board insisted that it wasn’t because of corporate results, but because of her “management style.” Fiorina, who was often described as imperious and distant, took a lot of criticism for giving herself big bonuses even while laying people off, and for hitting the speaking circuit even while the company was in a tailspin.

That presents perhaps Fiorina’s greatest challenge, since it’s her record as a manager that she is now citing as a reason to elect her president. An even greater challenge? The fact that so many lists of history’s “worst CEOs” include her name.

TIME the big picture

How a Chinese Company Became a Global PC Powerhouse

Inside Lenovo Group Ltd.'s Headquarters And Flagship Store
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Lenovo Group Ltd. logo is seen on a laptop computer displayed at the company's flagship store on Qianmen Street in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

Lenovo is the world's top PC maker 10 years after buying IBM's PC unit

One of the great business stories of the last 10 years is how Lenovo, a Chinese company, was able to take IBM’s PC unit and integrate it into its own, becoming a global technology powerhouse in the process. The story is one of the greatest case studies on how to merge massive international enterprises into a winning firm.

As part of my consulting gig for IBM back in 1984, I was asked to be part of the company’s first laptop research program. The IBM PC had been on the market for three years by then, and many of IBM’s customers were clamoring for a more portable version of that PC. During a two-year period I often traveled between Austin, where the laptop was being designed, and Boca Raton, IBM’s PC headquarters, to work with the teams as they tested various models. Eventually, they came up with what was IBM’s first clamshell-style PC that found success on the marketplace.

Over the next five years, IBM’s laptop designs took advantage of newer screens, processors and battery chemistry. Their laptop morphed into what has become the very popular ThinkPad brand. For most of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, IBM had a strong PC business; the ThinkPad was the anchor of their portable line. But by 2004, IBM’s business had changed, and it was looking to get out of the PC hardware business. So on May 1, 2005, IBM sold its PC business to Lenovo — and over the last 10 years, Lenovo has become the #1 PC player in the world.

Since I was close to IBM and had been on their mobile advisory board at the time, myself and about eight other analysts were invited to go to Beijing to meet with Lenovo’s management team, speak with its executives and hear its vision for what had been IBM’s PC products. At first, I was highly pessimistic about the success of this venture. Here was a Chinese company that was going to take over IBM’s famous PC business and try and make itself into a strong global brand. At the very least, I figured the culture clash would be a major issue. Plus, almost all of the IBM employees being sent to Lenovo in the deal were Big Blue lifers, and I suspected the top talent would choose to stick with the company they knew.

It turns out that Lenovo was able to coax most of IBM’s top PC execs to join the new venture. They helped assure IBM’s corporate customers as well as any consumers who bought their products that everything would be business as usual, and that Lenovo would honor all past warranties and service their needs well into the future. An initial hiccup came when some in the U.S. government were reluctant to give a Chinese company access to government data or contracts, but within a year the deal began to smooth out.

Lenovo’s success has to be credited to the hard work of the Chinese and American teams. The merging of these two business cultures alone is quite a feat.

One thing I didn’t expect is that the Chinese leadership took a hands-off approach to the U.S.-run PC company, fully trusting their leadership to keep the business moving forward. That was one of the assurances us analysts got during our trip to Beijing, but I wasn’t sure that would hold true. But Lenovo’s Chinese management put a great deal of trust in Steve Ward, the architect of the deal from IBM’s side.

I recently spoke with Peter Hortensius, who is Lenovo’s Chief Technology Officer and a Senior Vice President who joined Lenovo as part of the executive team that came from IBM. He told me that Lenovo’s dedicated focus on delivering innovative products and being willing to branch out in new areas is key to its growth. Last year, Lenovo bought Motorola and IBM’s server business, adding new breadth to its product offerings. Although relatively new to the smartphone wars, over the last five years they have become the #3 smartphone vendor in China and #4 globally. They are also the #1 PC vendor in the world, with an extremely strong position in China in both business and consumer PC’s. According to Hortensius, “Lenovo is committed to creating great hardware based products, plus a rich ecosystem that will be a driving force for their future.” He pointed out that software plays a major role too, and that Lenovo plans to continue to innovate in hardware and software to help differentiate itself from the competition.

I’ve had a front-row seat for Lenovo’s evolution, letting me see up close how it used the integration of the IBM PC business to become one of the major tech companies in the world. They consistently get high customer ratings, and now with Motorola and the new server business, it seems poised to grow exponentially. When I asked Hortensius what the company would look like in another 10 years, he said Lenovo, under the leadership of Chairman and CEO Yang Yuanqing, the company will grow in all of the categories they compete in now, and did not rule out the idea that over time the company could broaden its product portfolio still further. From my experience, Lenovo is an extremely focused company that is highly disciplined, with a powerful leadership team that seems to all be on the same page. Ten years ago, none of us could foresee how Lenovo acquiring the IBM PC business would turn out. Now we know.


TIME Earnings

This Chart Shows How Comcast’s Business Is Changing Forever

Internet subscribers outnumber TV viewers for the first time

Cable is no longer the top product at America’s largest cable company.

For the first time ever, Comcast has more high-speed Internet TV customers than paid-TV subscribers, a company executive said on a Monday earnings call.

The change in Comcast’s business mirrors larger shifts in the way consumers keep up with their favorite shows. Americans — particularly young ones — are increasingly ditching cable TV subscriptions, opting instead for online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Video. Several cable networks, including HBO and CBS, have responded by launching online-only platforms of their own. Other cord-cutter friendly options, like Dish Network’s SlingTV, are also changing the TV landscape.

The shift from traditional TV to online streaming partially explains why federal regulators signaled they would block Comcast’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Together, the two companies would have controlled almost 60% of the country’s broadband Internet, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission — a concern for regulators, politicians and customers alike, as less competition tends to lower services’ quality and affordability. Comcast ultimately decided to abandon its plans to merge with TWC, leaving the latter company a valuable merger target for other telecom companies.

Read next: See Which Cities Might Get Faster, Cheaper Internet Soon


We’re Finally Getting a Middle Finger Emoji

Middle Finger Emoji
Microsoft Middle Finger Emoji

It's coming to Windows

The long-awaited middle finger emoji will be included in Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system, according to Emojipedia.

The emoji is officially called “Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended.” The one-finger salute emoji has been available for tech companies to pack in their products for almost a year — emoji are an industry standard set by a non-profit group; individual tech companies like Apple and Google are free to adopt and interpret the group’s selections largely as they see fit. No major tech companies have yet adopted Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended.

Windows 10, Microsoft’s upcoming cross-platform operating system, is due out sometime this summer. It replaces Windows 8.1 — Microsoft skipped a number for undetermined reasons.

Read next: Microsoft’s Next Version of Windows Will Be a Free Upgrade

TIME Aviation

Why Some Airline Pilots Don’t Want Cameras in the Cockpit

Cockpit Video Camera Plane Safety
Bloomberg via Getty Images A Deutsche Lufthansa AG pilot, left, and co-pilot sit in the cockpit of a Boeing 747-8 passenger aircraft on Oct. 2, 2014.

Authorities debating whether the benefits outweigh the risks

The debate over video cameras in airplane cockpits is heating up, as a string of high-profile aviation disasters prompt concerns over whether accident investigators have sufficient information.

The United Nations’ aviation arm is expected to make a big push later this year to install video cameras in airliner cockpits, the Wall Street Journal reports. The discussions over the additional technology will likely take years; the regulation will ultimately fall into the hands of individual countries.

Pilot unions and other groups have long opposed cockpit video cameras, arguing that images or footage may be misused by accident investigators, prosecutors or news media. Additionally, some argue that the information provided by the cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder — neither of which collect visual information — is sufficient. Others worry that the cameras may be doubled for routine monitoring of pilots, or that the costs of installing such technology are too high.

But cockpit camera opponents are facing an uphill battle. Christopher Hart, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, argued last week before a Senate panel that in the crashes of SilkAir Flight 185 and EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1997 and 1999, respectively, information from cockpit cameras would have been able to confirm the suspected pilot suicides. Instead, both investigations turned up inconclusive despite strong evidence of a deliberate crash.

Read next: Why No One Agrees Whether Cockpit Doors Are Safer Locked or Open


TIME Companies

Microsoft Co-Founder Says This Is the Company’s Biggest Challenge

Premiere Of Paramount Pictures' "Interstellar" - Arrivals
Frazer Harrison—Getty Images Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation Paul Allen attend the premiere of Paramount Pictures' "Interstellar" at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on October 26, 2014 in Hollywood, California.

Paul Allen reflects on the company's 40 years of history

In a new interview, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen expressed amazement at how large the company has grown since he and Bill Gates founded it on a scrap of computer code 40 years ago. But he also warned of a long, hard slog to reclaim the mobile market.

“It’s possible,” Allen told the New York Times, noting that Microsoft would have to lure customers and developers away from highly popular smartphones and tablets that run Apple and Google’s operating systems. “It’s very challenging to carve back market share,” Allen said.

He also said he offered the same sympathetic advice for anyone who takes the helm of such a sprawling company. “You have such a challenging job because you have more competitors than any major CEO in the world has,” Allen said. Satya Nadella took over as chief executive of Microsoft in early 2014; Nadella has since followed a self-described “cloud first, mobile first” mentality at the company.

Read the full interview in the New York Times.

TIME Microsoft

Here’s Why Microsoft Is Suddenly Killing It Now

Key Speakers At The Microsoft Build Developer 2015 Conference
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

CEO Satya Nadella has changed the software giant's modus operandi. And investors are loving what they see

Remember Borg Microsoft, the bullying juggernaut that ruled the software industry with an iron fist? The Microsoft of 2015 has strayed so far from that original incarnation it might as well be called bizarro Microsoft.

Gone are the days when Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer mocked Linux or called it a cancer. Or when Ballmer laughed at the iPhone. Or when Ballmer dismissed Android was too hard to use. (A billion Android phones shipped last year.) The new Microsoft has shed its arrogance. These days, it works hard to play well with others.

And the new, more open approach is working. Microsoft’s stock is up 53% in the past two years after a very long season of stagnation. While the stock stumbled earlier this year, it’s up 14% since the company reported earnings on April 23, largely because of growth in its cloud business, such as its Azure computing platform.

Investors, flush from a strong year in tech stocks in 2014, are looking ahead to the end of 2015 and 2016. In some cases, they’re not liking what they see, but Microsoft is persuading more and more shareholders it’s ready to deliver on the cloud-first, mobile-first world that its CEO Satya Nadella has been touting. Unlike Netflix, Spotify or other companies that are thriving on cloud-based services for consumers, Microsoft has focused its cloud efforts in the enterprise market. Nadella said last week Microsoft’s enterprise cloud revenue, including hardware and software, would reach $20 billion a year within three years from about $6 billion now, an audacious goal but one that brought few snickers of disbelief.

MORE Meet the Inventor Behind Tech’s Weirdest New Product

Of course, much of this will come as its clients migrate from legacy products (like Microsoft Office) to cloud-based offerings (like Office 365), so there’s some cannibalization involved. And the shift is a project that Microsoft has been working on for years, thanks to moves made by Ballmer. Ballmer, it seems, was better at building an enterprise business than effectively bashing rivals in consumer tech.

Under Nadella, Microsoft is emerging as one of a handful of big names poised to thrive in the cloud economy alongside Amazon, IBM, and Google. But last week, as the company held its Build developer conference to announce details of Windows 10, Nadella made a pitch for Windows to become a platform where developers from other platforms–iOs, Android, Linux–would not only be welcome, but actively courted.

Windows 10 is designed to build “universal apps,” meaning a single app working on phones, tablets, PCs, consoles like Xbox and even one day a augmented-reality platform like HoloLens. App purchases can easily be billed directly through carriers, simplifying payments to developers. Microsoft also introduced Visual Studio, a free, cross-platform code editor that can write apps for Windows, OS X and Linux.

But the bigger surprise–and, depending on how developers respond, the potential game changer for Windows–is that Microsoft announced Islandwood and Astoria, two middleware projects that allow developers to easily port their existing apps into the Windows platform. Islandwood will let iOS apps work on Windows with a minimum of changes, while Astoria will do the same for Android apps.

In recent years, Microsoft has talked more and more about opening up its software ecosystem to developers working in other platforms, but much of the rhetoric has sounded like lip service. Visual Studio, Islandwood and Astoria moves show that Microsoft is dead serious about doing just that, retooling its offerings to actively reach out to the iOS and Android communities.

MORE Why Microsoft Thinks Your Phone Could Be Your Only Computer

The idea is to make it simple for iOS and Android developers to port their existing apps into Windows. In the mobile world, more apps can mean more users, which in turn gives developers more incentive to work with a particular platform. But the plan comes with risks, such as the possibility that some iOS/Android apps translate into inferior or buggy versions on Windows Mobile. Or that developers may be too busy or indifferent to try.

Microsoft is also doing what it can to upgrade users of Windows 8. Windows 10 will be free for the first year, which could interrupt the way Windows sales are recorded as revenue but has a much bigger draw: consumers and businesses will be more likely to upgrade quickly, giving Windows 10 developers a larger audience early on.

All of this is aimed at making Microsoft a single, unifying platform for developers. In that way, it’s not unlike the original goal Microsoft set out for itself. What’s fundamentally different is how Microsoft aims to reach that goal: not through brute-force coercion, but through creating an open and inviting platform that plays well with others.

In some ways, the open, cross-platform world of software today evolved in direct opposition to Microsoft’s arrogant dominance in the 80s and 90s. Now it must adapt. Nadella’s plan isn’t likely to make Windows dominant in the mobile world right away, but in time it could give it a more equal footing in mobile OS alongside iOS and Android. And that could keep Microsoft’s revenue growing for years.

Read next: Microsoft’s Crazy New Tech Totally Explains Why It Bought Minecraft

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Apple watch

7 Most Surprising Things About Owning an Apple Watch

Apple Inc.'s Apple Watch Unboxed As Device Goes On Sale
Bloomberg/Getty Images

Apple's latest gadget comes with more than a few surprises

I’ve had an Apple Watch for a little over a week now. The most common question people ask you when you’ve got Apple’s wearable computer on your wrist is, “Has it changed your life?” Which is an odd question to ask about a gadget that starts at $349 and is, in large part, an accessory to your phone.

But the question points to the peculiar state Apple and its customers find themselves in at the moment. Anticipation and chatter about the Watch is high, but few people have actually seen one in the wild. The Watch’s rollout is unique compared to previous Apple products in that customers can, for the most part, only order it online and that initial supply appears to be extremely limited.

So has the Apple Watch changed my life? No. But it is an incredibly well-designed, compelling product. (I’m wearing a 38-millimeter stainless-steel model, which retails for $949 with a matching link bracelet.) A full review is coming—once the blush of newness has worn off—but in the meantime, here are the most surprising things about using an Apple Watch:

The battery life is very good.

One of the most prevalent initial concerns about the Watch was how long its battery would last. Presenting the device, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he personally recharged his every night, suggesting about a day’s worth of charge. And yet, many were skeptical.

Happily, this quasi-promise turns out to have been on the conservative side. I’ve been wearing the Watch during fairly long days (7AM-10PM) and have yet to have it flip into reserve power mode, which limits some functions while preserving time-telling. Most days, even ones that include a half an hour to an hour of exercise, the Watch has had about 20% battery left when I pop it into its charging cradle in the evenings.

MORE The Odd Thing Apple Banned from the Apple Watch

This is all the more impressive since I’ve been poking and prodding it more than I might once I’ve worn it for a few months. There is a caveat, several days of charge would allow sleep-monitoring, something many dedicated fitness trackers now do by default.

Its gorgeous.

This may seem obvious, but I find the design to be one of the Watch’s chief virtues. All of Apple’s products are deeply thought-through and finely milled. But the Watch isn’t just a gadget, it’s fashion. It’s just a nice looking object. And much of the time, that’s all it is since the screen automatically turns off to preserve power.

Siri works really well.

The Watch doesn’t have a built-in keyboard. Which makes sense since typing on it would be difficult, if not impossible. If you want to search for a location in Maps, send a text message, or set an alarm or timer, you can dictate using a version of Siri, Apple’s digital personal assistant. This works incredibly well. I routinely find myself lifting my wrist and saying “Hey Siri,” which launches the Siri app. From there, using Siri is very much the same as on an iPhone or iPad (though, the Watch implementation doesn’t talk back).

People don’t notice it (much).

Aside from a few Apple diehards who honed onto my wrist like heat-guided missiles, few people seem to notice I’m wearing a smartwatch. This is comforting since, I’ll admit, I was a little worried about making a statement. This may owe to a preference for long-sleeve shirts or to having the smaller version. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to not have to have a conversation about the Watch unless I choose to, say, by obnoxiously and grandiosely offering to tell a coworker the time even though she never asked.

There are lots of apps.

And some of them are pretty good. Apple is initially limiting how much access app developers have to the Watch’s underlying hardware, like the heart rate monitor for instance. That limits some of their functions, but also likely helps preserve battery life and minimize software conflicts. That also means, in practice, a lot of third-party apps are limited. My favorite so far: Nike+ for running, taxi-hailing service Uber, Hue to control my apartment’s smart lighting, Instagram, and one more I’ll get into below.

MORE The New Apple Ad Will Break Your Heart into a Million Tiny Pieces

The bands matter.

Apple loaned me a link bracelet and a white sport band. Switching the bands is extremely easy—and addictive. I’ve been swapping them out depending on whether I plan to exercise or not, but I could see having a range of bands depending on what I’m wearing, et cetera. Much like accessories for the iPod, iPhone, and iPad before it, I anticipate the secondary market for Watch bands becoming considerable in scope.

And an obvious bonus: TIME looks great on it.

Not a surprise, really. And I’m clearly biased, but if you have an Apple Watch, make sure to check out our app. More details here.

Read next: Why Tattoos Might Be a Huge Problem for the Apple Watch

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Video Games

The 10 Best Star Wars Games

That you can play right now... May the 4th be with you

Happy Star Wars day! Want a trove of games—released a long time ago, but in a galaxy just down the way—to help you while away the nearly 5,500 hours that stand between today and the ballyhooed debut of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18?

Here you go then, a compendium of gaming’s brightest vamps on George Lucas’s Campbellian space opera, now living in what Disney calls its “Star Wars Legends” line (formerly the “Expanded Universe”). That, if you hadn’t heard, is Disney’s controversial wave-of-the-hand relegation of everything not the films, TV shows or recent books to “maybe it did/didn’t happen” status. So much for Luke Skywalker rubbing elbows with Kyle Katarn, or you usurping a 4,000-year-old Sith Lord to become one yourself.

But never mind that, because games are innately anti-canonical—subversion’s in their DNA. And while some on this list were more genre acolytes than pioneers when they first appeared a decade or more ago, a few managed to be exemplars of the medium for their time.

My only guideline in culling these 10 from the record books, was that they had to be playable on currently available platforms. So think of these as less a “best Star Wars games ever” lineup (though they’re nearly that) than the best you can sample without having to track down the original hardware or software.

  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

    Arguably the apotheosis of all the Star Wars games, Bioware’s Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic transported players thousands of years into the galaxy’s past, folding iconic lore like Jedis, Sith Lords, lightsabers and droids into a baroque reinterpretation of Lucas’s science fantasy verse. You’ll find some who’ll swear Bioware’s take on Star Wars bests even the original trilogy (including The Empire Strikes Back), and given the caliber of games Bioware was releasing at the time (both Baldur’s Gate installments), it’s easy to see why.

    How to play: Android, iOS, GOG.com, Mac, Steam

  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords

    Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords was a bug-riddled and unfinished mess when it first arrived in late 2004. Time and sufficient patching have thankfully rectified most of its shortcomings, allowing players to experience one of the most insightful and reflective Star Wars stories on the books. Credit design lead Chris Avellone (Planescape: Torment, Pillars of Eternity), whose exhilarating vamp on the Star Wars universe simultaneously deconstructed it.

    How to play: GOG.com, Steam,

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic

    What if the esteemed studio that gave us Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic crafted a modern MMO that revisited the era’s storied 4,000-year-old playground? EA’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, released in 2011 and still going strong, capitulates to MMO tropes (like fetch-and-deliver quests ad infinitum), but dressed in better-than-average, more personalized storylines.

    How to play: swtor.com

  • Star Wars: TIE Fighter

    Sure, 1993’s Star Wars: X-Wing was terrific, but it took 1994’s TIE Fighter to catapult developer Totally Games’ series to legendary status. For the first time in gaming history, players could campaign for the other side, exploring the Empire’s strangely compelling machinations–peace by the sword–through ingenious white-knuckled sorties, piloting vulnerable Imperial star fighters without combat backstops like deflector shields. TIE Fighter remains one of the best flight simulations ever made, a tour de force of mission design, plausibly brutal Newtonian deep space dogfighting and subversive storytelling.

    How to play: GOG.com

  • Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga

    My favorite moment in the friendly, rollicking, collection-angled Lego Star Wars games happens early on, in Lego Star Wars itself when you’re poking around Mos Eisley, playing co-op with a friend. At one point you come across a pile of unassembled Lego bits and bobs. You don’t have to do anything. You can just walk on by. But tap a button to whip the mess together, and you’ll find yourself staring down an Imperial AT-ST. At which point my companion yelled: “We just built our own boss monster!”

    How to play: Android, iOS, Mac, Steam

  • Super Star Wars

    I’m skirting my platform stricture here, but if you’re still rocking a Wii, you can pull this platforming run-and-gun down via Nintendo’s Virtual Console for 800 points ($8). Take note of the game’s first-person, pseudo-3D levels, where you can zip around flattened Tatooine landscapes in Luke’s land speeder, lobbing energy balls at enemies. Nintendo called this “Mode 7″ back in the day, and while it looks dated today, seeing it in games like F-Zero and Super Star Wars in the early 1990s was a revelation.

    How to play: Virtual Console (Wii)

  • Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

    Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II stands as the first Star Wars game that let you experience, however crudely, the combat life of a Jedi Knight. Other games had let you swing the franchise’s iconic lightsaber or pull off Force tricks from sidewise perspectives, but Dark Forces II put that lightsaber (and those force powers) in your hands, then leveled the camera where your eyes would be, propelling you through puzzle-filled levels flush with enemies you could optionally choke or throw or envelop with tendrils of bluish lightning.

    How to play: GOG.com, Steam

  • Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast

    Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast may harbor lower lows (uneven level design) than its predecessor, but it’s also packing higher highs (lightsaber play, force powers). And it remains an essential play if the whole “be a Jedi Knight” thing ranks high on your list of Star Wars-ian fantasies.

    How to play: GOG.com, Mac, Steam

  • Star Wars: Empire at War

    No one’s yet produced a Star Wars strategy game to rival the genre’s best, but Star Wars: Empire at War comes the closest. Developer Petroglyph, harboring designers who’d worked on pioneering the real-time strategy games Dune II and Command & Conquer, folded competent terrestrial and space-based real-time strategy battles into a galaxy-spanning meta campaign that gave players control of heroic figures like Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader and the Emperor himself.

    How to play: GOG.com, Mac, Steam

  • Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds

    Yes, developer Ensemble slapped a coat of Star Wars paint on Age of Empires II, but worse things have happened in gaming. The result was a respectable, reasonably deep real-time strategy game that offered just enough Star Wars flavor—albeit steeped in prequel lore, fair warning—to make it passably more than Age of Empires 2.5.

    How to play: GOG.com

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com