A Look Back at Our Favorite LucasArts Games. What Are Yours?
LucasArts is no more. Disney shut down the studio, laying off all their employees and cancelling the projects they were working on. LucasArts may be gone, but their legacy remains. In light of recent events, we took the opportunity to reflect back on the games the company developed over the years and wrote about some of our favorite games. Were it not for these games, some of us might have not been inspired to write about games today.
Day of the Tentacle (Ian Miles Cheong)
There’s a lot to draw from LucasArts’ enigmatic ensemble of games, especially back in the early to mid 90s when adventure games were all the rage and talented developers like Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman were leading the charge with some of the best writing and game design that the genre had ever seen. Of all the games they created, my favorite was Day of the Tentacle.
It was a time traveling adventure game in which three teenagers find themselves thrown across time (the past, the present, and the future) through their use of a portable time-machine called the Chron-o-John (it looks like a toilet) in an attempt to stop the evil Purple Tentacle from taking over the world. Instead of journeying to various locales, the whole game is set within a single mansion, which just so happened to be the retreat at which the Founding Fathers penned the constitution in the past, and a run-down motel in the present, and the seat of power of the evil Purple Tentacle in the distant future. Every action in the game has a consequence, and it’s up to the three unlikely heroes to perform seemingly meaningless actions in the past to affect the present and the future, and to put a stop to the Purple Tentacle.
Well hey, I just described the game’s entire plot, which just goes to show that the game managed to captivate me to the point where I still reference it when I think of smartly written adventure games. I wouldn’t chalk it up to nostalgia, either—the game is a credit to itself.
Grim Fandango (Ben Richardson)
Grim Fandango wasn’t the last adventure game released by LucasArts, but it still feels like the end of an era. I grew up on the company’s SCUMM classics: games like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, and Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Grim Fandango was so much more ambitious than those games, more sophisticated; when I played it, as a 13-year-old in 1998, it felt like the genre had grown up right alongside me.
As an achievement in art direction, in writing, in mood, in world-building, in story and character, Grim Fandango still stands as one of the best games of all time. When I reached the end, I cried. Mostly because it was heart-wrenchingly sad. Partly because I knew it would be a long time before I played a game that could even compare (it was). But also because I think I knew, deep down, that I was moving on, and that gaming was moving on, too, to full 3D graphics and silent knife kills. What I wouldn’t give to be that 13-year-old kid again, on the way to his first poisoning.
Sam & Max Hit The Road (James Murff)
Not many people had heard of Sam & Max before 1993, but LucasArts soon corrected that with this gem of an adventure game. Based on the comic On The Road by Steve Purcell, Hit The Road launched Sam & Max as a genuine franchise, and resulted in a TV show, the first (arguably) successful episodic game series, and a reprint of all the older comics in a nice, thick omnibus. I grew up watching the Sam & Max TV show, and I always loved the combination of Sam’s sardonic wit with Max’s intense urge for violence. I didn’t come to Hit The Road until after Dark Forces 2 (and the easter egg of Max’s head), but it quickly became one of my favorite adventure games of all time. It still stands as a triumph of humor and wit to this day. It may be a bit worn around the edges, but I still love it.
In fact, I think I’m going to go play it right now!
Star Wars: Battlefront (Ron Whitaker)
As a fan of Star Wars, and huge fan of the Battlefield games, it’s only fitting that Battlefront is my favorite game from LucasArts. I mean, come on. It combined 64-player multiplayer battles with iconic Star Wars settings. Four factions, NPC heroes (including Darth Vader!), and a wide range of vehicles made it the definitive Star Wars game for me.
Add all of this to the fact that it supported LAN play, and you’ll understand why there are almost always petitions going to talk someone, anyone into making a sequel. Looks like that’s unlikely now.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (CJ Miozzi)
You’re welcome to backhand me for what is likely an unpopular choice, but The Phantom Menace game actually left a powerful impression upon me in my youth. I was a huge Star Wars fan before I came to realize just how terrible Episode 1 truly was, and the video game came along just in time to capture my imagination. To this day, I retain fond memories of deflecting blaster shots back at droids with my lightsaber and trying that damn podracer level over and over again every time I crashed into a tunnel wall. I bet I’d hate the game if I played it again today, but there’s something to be said for the naivety of youth.
Star Wars: Dark Forces (Mark Burnham)
As I’m looking up information on this game, I’m shocked at how old it is. Here are some words that define it: 1995. DOS. App Macintosh. CD-ROM.
Why is this my favorite? Nostalgia, honestly, which is defines a lot of what I’m feeling today about LucasArts. I think a lot of us saw this coming, and LucasArts best days were pretty far behind them.
Dark Forces was released right about the time I started getting really into PC gaming, and it was–for me–the ultimate realization of the Star Wars universe. In the 90s. You were IN Star Wars. It was like DOOM, but Star Wars?! It was a great game to invite a friend over to play, so they could marvel at your dad’s fat SD monitor and Compaq rig, or whatever you had. RIP LucasArts.