Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been out for some time now, and according to the reviews, you’re crazy if you haven’t seen it yet. Telling the story of the Alliance team who acquired the plans for the Death Star as we saw in A New Hope (remember holographic Leia?) worked way better than many expected it to. Personally, I believe that because they loosely based it on the main saga, that gave them creative freedom to tell the story that was perceived to be the best. And with Disney around, that means “Origin” stories.
Why is this important? Well, the truth of the matter is, that Star Wars has many more stories than just in movies and television. As a matter of fact, there have been many novels, comics, and even video games that attempted to fill in the gaps in the history of that massive universe. Some of them haven’t up to par, but there are others that are truly excellent.
In the comics department, both the work of Dark Horse and Marvel have led to some of the most truly inspiring stories to date, and whether they are considered canon or not, are worth your time. After all, Rogue One isn’t the only critically acclaimed Star Wars story, and if you haven’t read any of the others, now is your chance.
Without further ado, here are 15 Star Wars stories better than Rogue One. Again, I will state that most if not all of these are no longer canon, thanks to that Disney continuity shift.
Many novels for Star Wars have been written over the years that tell all kinds of stories across the galaxy, but none were quite like The New Jedi Order. In it, there were all kinds of struggles and challenges, including a war against the terrifying Yuuzhan Vong- a vicious alien species. Eventually, Dark Horse added a bit more depth to this existing story and created Invasion. This comic book chronicles the first planet that the Vong invaded and follows the royal family on said planet, how they dealt with the Vong, and what that meant for the war going forward. Eventually it follows a new Jedi who was under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker and his problems with some of his family members as well. Those that have read The New Jedi Order know how the world continues from the events of Invasion, but this comic breaks down how the people themselves responded to such a frightening threat and even gives the readers a good amount of shock factor. Many characters from The New Jedi Order are present for this story, and fans of Del Rey’s work would be crazy to miss this.
14. Star Wars Tales
Remember that thing I said about Rogue One being excellent because its setting allowed the storytellers to get very creative? That is precisely why Star Wars Tales ended up being great as well. Another property from Dark Horse, Star Wars Tales is not one particular story- rather a collection of tales and short stories. These stories are not canon (even at the time they were published), and as such, were a very interesting read. These tell some magnificent stories featuring the characters that we know and love, such as Han Solo and Chewbacca fighting an ungodly army of the undead. There is another where Darth Vader hunts a mysterious Jedi woman, and almost any Darth Vader story is bound to be excellent. There were some new faces for the ride as well, such as the story of Skippy the Jedi Droid, which tells of a measly droid that made a powerful sacrifice during the struggle against the Galactic Empire. If any of these interest you, Star Wars Tales is full of more stories like this that may not build upon the existing canon, but add a lot of depth to the Star Wars universe.
Revenge of the Sith, love it or hate it, is the story of how Anakin Skywalker became one of the greatest villains in cinematic history. Then we are presented with a long gap until the events of A New Hope take place. There are countless stories as to what happened in between those two films (something that Rogue One does as well), but many of the best stories in this era focus on Darth Vader. Purge is a great example of this, as it shows Darth Vader’s first years as a cyborg Sith. After Vader is reborn, he fully embraces his title as a Dark Lord of the Sith, and has a new mission on his hands. Feeling betrayed by his old master, Obi Wan Kenobi, Vader goes on a spree to find and kill the Jedi in hiding. Along the way, Vader takes down more of his enemies with extreme prejudice and finesse. Furthermore, it makes a lot of sense in the main canon. For example, Vader wanted to kill Obi Wan all this time, and he hunted a lot of Jedi after Order 66, so it makes sense that he would try to find his old master to carry out the deed himself.
12. Crimson Empire
What happens when a massive organization loses its top dog? What do his constituents do after that? Those are the questions answered by Crimson Empire. After the Emperor’s defeat at the hands of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, the Empire is essentially directionless and up for grabs. Two of the Emperor’s royal guard take center stage in this story. One of them orders the extinction of all of the royal guard so that he can assume the throne of the Emperor. However, one of them escapes and seeks refuge in the Rebellion. It’s a classic brother vs. brother type story, and one that never loses its poignancy. As we see one guard become a terrible dictator, we see the other struggle with his new allegiance and how to better his previous mistakes. Crimson Empire also gives us insight as to what it took to become one of the Emperor’s royal guard. The story gives a lot of depth to some of the original trilogy’s minor characters, leading up to an emotional and powerful final confrontation between the last two royal guards remaining. I’d recommend this story for those that want some continuation after Return of the Jedi.
11. Legacy: Broken
Oftentimes, we see that those that have well-known heritages ultimately feel like they have to live up to the expectations set before them. This is precisely the tone for Legacy: Broken. This story follows the life of Cade Skywalker, a descendant of Luke Skywalker (perhaps you’ve heard of him). He begins his training as a Jedi, but before long, decides to drop the training and become a pirate. What makes this choice so gripping is that the Sith have become powerful like in the Old Republic, and without a Jedi to defend the galaxy, doom seems almost imminent. To factor into this, Cade was never completely a good guy, and it seemed that he could fall into the Dark Side at any moment. To make matters even worse, he even had several run-ins with the villainous Darth Krayt- a Sith Lord who was also a Jedi at one time. Following the legacy of Luke Skywalker is a risky move, but introducing a protagonist that operates in that little gray area was one of the best decisions in the story. After all, you would think that a descendant of Luke would be a perfect Boy Scout. right?
10. Shadows Of The Empire
If you think that the Revenge of the Sith to A New Hope gap was particularly grueling, you may be surprised to hear that there was a similar perception to the gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. As such, there were many stories, video games, and just about anything else you can think of that attempted to fill in that gap. Shadows of the Empire is arguably one of the best of these results. A bounty is placed on Luke Skywalker’s head which leads him to ally with a strange new ally, and Princess Leia scours the galaxy in search of Boba Fett. That’s a pretty basic break down, but I assure you that the story is great. All of our questions get answered, such as how Luke became so powerful in the force by the beginning of the film, how Leia became a pseudo-bounty hunter, and even why Boba Fett was so good at hunting people down. The story also includes Vader, as he contends with the person who put the bounty on Luke in the first place. Did I also mention that many other bounty hunters were at war over the frozen Han Solo?
9. Star Wars: Infinities
There are many events throughout the original trilogy where characters are given a choice. However, no longer do you have to leave them to the imagination. Star Wars Infinities explores many of the alternate realities that would take place had certain things happened. What if Luke was devoured by the Wampa on Hoth? What if the Rebel Alliance couldn’t destroy the Death Star? This story is full of questions like that, and still manages to give readers hope even in the worst of circumstances. The idea of Princess Leia becoming a Jedi is also explored (mostly in the absence of Luke), and we get all of our questions answered without having to bear the lasting consequences of it being in the actual movies. Fans and theorists of the original trilogy will likely gush over Star Wars Infinities, and even casual fans will find something to love here. The comic also explores a Butterfly Effect- how one small deviation in the original story eventually results in some of the most dramatic changes you may ever come across.
8. The Golden Age Of The Sith
A title like that has to send some chills down your spine. We’re all familiar with the Sith, but in the main movies, we were only exposed to two or three at a time. However, there was a time when they were about as numerous as the Jedi. The Golden Age of the Sith takes on the Sith’s home planet as they reel over the death of their leader Dark Lord Marka. In his absence, a horrible fight for power begins, as many Sith want the throne. Two Sith in particular vie for this seat of power and the results of Sith against each other quickly become brutal. However, in their internal struggles, they fail to anticipate the rise of the Galactic Republic, which essentially begins the entire war of good and evil in the Star Wars universe. Essentially an origin story to all of the conflict we have seen going forward, The Golden Age of the Sith explores a time long forgotten and paints us a vivid picture as to what powers were at work to create the Star Wars. If not for looking into the Sith home planet, this story is at least worth a read for the origins.
7. Knights Of The Old Republic
Another story pre-dating the movies and television shows, which asks what do you think the Star Wars universe would look like 4,000 years before Luke Skywalker tried to save the galaxy? This is a question that the game Knights of the Old Republic answers. The game gave players a look at the Star Wars universe like never before. From the get go, you can choose to either become a valiant Jedi or a terrifying Sith Lord. Each choice garners a different story, but each one factors into the larger mythos of the universe, setting the stage for years of conflict to come. The war between the Jedi and Sith was as legendary as it was interesting to watch, and it was fun to actually be a part of as well. These two games were so beloved that many people used them as a canvas to tell many more Star Wars stories that added more depth to the universe. I would also like to point out that those two games introduced us to some of the most powerful Sith and Jedi hunters that the galaxy had ever known. Darth Nihilus is exceptionally terrifying.
6. Darth Plagueis
Regardless of how you feel about the prequel trilogy, there’s no denying that it raised a lot of questions in terms of the lore. None were probably more intriguing than the Emperor’s story of Darth Plagueis the Wise. After he tells Anakin about this Sith Lord, fans wanted to immediately know more. Thankfully, we eventually got the book Darth Plagueis and it’s really good. We are given the origin story of Darth Plagueis and how he became so powerful that he could become the master over life and death. Eventually he takes on the apprentice Darth Sidious, who has much different goals in life. Where Plagueis wanted immortality, Sidious wanted limitless power. The book shows how effective of a team they were. Perhaps the most interesting part of the novel is how Plagueis actually orchestrates many of the events that would lead to The Phantom Menace, as well as the training of Anakin Skywalker. He had the King of Naboo killed so that Amidala would take his place, and he was the one who ordered the clone army to be created. They even discovered that Anakin was born of the Force itself. Those of you that remember Sidious’s story know how Plagueis ends, so I won’t spoil it. However, I highly recommend you read this book before you watch the prequel trilogy.
5. Star Wars: Vector
Crossovers are all the rage these days, and if you’re somebody who really enjoys them, Star Wars: Vector is the comic book for you. In it, Dark Horse combined all of their running stories at the time for a crossover event that spans about 4,000 years. The comic follows an ancient object called the Muur Talisman, which was created by an old Sith Lord. We are shown how the protagonists of each respective series come across it during their lifetime. From the older Zayne Carrick to Luke Skywalker and his descendant Cade, we see many people come into contact with this thing. It may be a bit of a MacGuffin, but the story is so good that it doesn’t matter. Better yet, Dark Horse even managed to craft the story in such a way that it had lasting ripples on their worlds, especially in Legacy, where Cade Skywalker was pitted against the newer Sith. The Avengers have a lot going for them, but a crossover spanning thousands of years is something that they’d probably never be able to do.
4. Darth Vader
Dark Horse isn’t the only comic publisher to try their hands at Star Wars. The behemoth known as Marvel has played a part on multiple occasions. Arguably their best Star Wars comic to date has to be Darth Vader. Obviously, it tells the story of Darth Vader, but not his origins or even what he did between Revenge of the Sith and a A New Hope. Instead, we follow Darth Vader throughout the events of the original trilogy, but only him. What exactly does he do while Luke and company are meeting with the Rebels? Where is he during the Invasion of Hoth? The story also gives us an in-depth look at the Sith Lord himself as well as his true intentions in taking over the galaxy. He is one of the most intelligent Sith to date, rivaling the Emperor himself, and is constantly shown performing his own missions without his master’s authority. It’s obvious why the movies couldn’t explore Vader as much, but this comic series gives us everything we need to know and more. At the end of the day, not only does it make Vader that much more terrifying in our minds, but it removes the bad taste of the prequels from our mouths.
3. The Dark Lord Trilogy
The idea of the prequels was truly amazing. Seeing how Anakin Skywalker became corrupted by the Dark Side seems like the stuff dreams are made of. Needless to say, when Revenge of the Sith came out, fans were a bit disappointed. Those that felt ripped off by this story, though, should take a look at the Dark Lord Trilogy. The trilogy includes the novelized version of the aforementioned film. The books together explore Anakin’s brain a bit more and further give us an image of why exactly he changed to the Dark Side. The trilogy also sets up Anakin and Obi Wan’s relationship much more, further making Anakin’s turn much more heartbreaking. Together they even investigate Sidious while he served as the Supreme Chancellor. Then, the story further continues after Vader’s transformation and explores his first days as a Sith. This trilogy is so well-loved that many feel that it not only improves the events of Revenge of the Sith, but the other five movies in the saga as well. While the title might be a bit cliche, the content inside is some of the best in the entire Star Wars universe.
2. The Thrawn Trilogy
After Return of the Jedi, there was an inexpressible desire to hear about what happened next. What did our favorite characters do after they destroyed the Galactic Empire? Well, The Thrawn Trilogy explores this and is considered by many to be the best Star Wars story in the expanded universe. In this story arc, we see how the New Republic is born and how it has a weak hold on the galaxy. Then from the ashes of the Empire, we see the rise of Grand Admiral Thrawn, who utilizes the equipment left over from the Emperor to try and take on the New Republic. He also makes use of a powerful Jedi clone that puts Luke’s new abilities to the test. During these events, we all get to see the birth of Han and Leia’s kids and how that factors into the new age that is born. It captures and builds on the tone set by the original trilogy very well, and is the most natural continuation to the popular films. If you really like this story, there is also a comic version that many love even more than the books.
1. The Dark Empire
Dark Horse has been making excellent Star Wars stories for years, but their first outing really put them on the map. The Dark Empire is like Star Wars Infinities because it shows a “what if?” type of scenario. However, the one that they explore is the most gripping one yet… What if Luke Skywalker joined the Dark Side? Taking place after the events of The Thrawn Trilogy, this story is already in the wake of something great. The Emperor manages to come back to life through people that hold his consciousness, and Luke seeks to help him afterward. The Dark Empire also brings back fan-favorite Boba Fett from the Sarlaac Pit. This story almost destroys everything that the original trilogy established, but that’s what makes it so amazing. Luke and the Emperor go on a hunt for Princess Leia and many of the characters we love end up going toe to toe with Luke, and we even get to see mechanisms that put the Death Star to shame. It does come up a bit short of perfection at times, but The Dark Empire simply reaches for the stars and comes a mere inch away. In the context of some of the other Star Wars stories on this list, that’s certainly saying something.
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