Like it or not, the LEGO games have become a staple of the games industry, and a part of many childhoods. I’ve had the pleasure of playing almost every one of the games for the past 15 years. Being a fan of ‘the brick’ has given me a unique appreciation for these games and, consequently, my excitement for the future is palpable.
To celebrate the upcoming release of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, I present the 10 greatest LEGO games. Though the decision was difficult, I based my choices on their influence on future games, their narrative and gameplay, and well executed new or experimental features.
10. LEGO Loco
LEGO Loco was the second LEGO game to be made, released in 1998 for Windows PCs. The game was a simple railway management simulator, putting players in charge of their own LEGO world. I have fond memories of this title and seeing the pixelated trains transport cargo and Minifigures, only to inevitably crash. As one of my first games, it has managed to remain prominent in my mind even today. It also served as a great introduction to the series of LEGO titles to be released over the next two decades.
The fantastic graphics (at the time) were perhaps the main selling point of the game with an array of bright colours adorning the town and rails. Some of the buildings in the game were even available to buy as real world sets at the time, and as such were colourful, providing a stark contrast to other business management titles of the time. However, this game had little effect on future LEGO titles, and its gameplay was exceedingly simple for an appropriately younger audience. Despite this, its charming graphics and familiar brick aesthetic make it a memorable and worthwhile addition to this list.
9. LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin
Ninjago is a franchise many may be unfamiliar with, but it has played a significant part in my life over the last 10 years. It tells the ongoing story of six ninja protecting their home realm of Ninjago and warding off natural and supernatural threats. Originally released in 2015 on the 3DS, this title was released in conjunction with the fourth and fifth seasons of the show, and is set inbetween them. (It has since been declared that the game is, in fact, non-canon.) Shadow of Ronin tells the story of the mercenary Ronin stealing the memories and powers of the five ninja (a sixth member would be added later), who embark on a quest across the island of Ninjago to reclaim them and defeat Ronin.
The gameplay was nothing new for the series on home consoles, but was nonetheless impressive compared to previous handheld LEGO entries. This title also served as a rare opportunity for TT Games to stretch their narrative muscles in creating an all-new story for an existing franchise. Plenty of attention was also paid within this story to fan favourite characters and elements of the original show. Ultimately this title was nothing special compared to the rest of the collection of LEGO games but was nonetheless a high quality handheld experience that fans of the Ninjago franchise would love.
8. LEGO Dimensions
It pains me to add this title so low on the list. LEGO Dimensions was perhaps the ultimate crossover in gaming history. This game saw a grand total of 41 franchises crossing over in an adventure spanning just over two years. Not only was this an excellent excuse to finally get a Chell (Portal) Minifigure but the game was perhaps the most ambitious project TT Games has ever attempted. As a ‘toys-to-life’ title, players were required to move physical figures across a scanning portal to solve puzzles and combat enemies.
However, this physical system unsurprisingly came with a price. As desirable to LEGO fans as the obscure Minifigures and models were, the high price for each individual character to be added to the game was too much for most players. Consequently, the starter pack quickly plummeted in price until the game was eventually shut down.
LEGO Dimensions was an incredibly exciting one for myself and many other LEGO fans, serving as a way to get classic and modern popular franchises represented in physical brick form. What’s more, the details in and out of game for the characters and models was immense. The development team’s passion for each and every one of these franchises was clear and, if nothing else, this title truly showed just how much TT Games cares about their work. Had LEGO Dimensions performed slightly better, there’s no doubt it would be near the top of this list.
7. LEGO Batman: The Videogame
Released in 2008 for consoles and PC, LEGO Batman: The Videogame was the fourth LEGO game to be released based on an already existing franchise, and the first superhero title of many to come. This game has earned its place as a classic among the LEGO titles thanks to its well executed on-foot and vehicular sections, cast of DC characters and great episodic story. The game also featured the option to replay the entire game as the villains; a theme that would be explored further 10 years later.
LEGO Batman: The Videogame’s popularity set the bar for future LEGO superhero titles with 11 million copies sold to this day, and it can certainly be argued that this had an effect on future LEGO games with a plethora of franchise titles released to this day. This game certainly deserves its place on the list but can be placed no higher due to its lack of gameplay innovation compared to other titles.
6. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game (Or The Ninjago Movie Game) is the first on this list that attempted to innovate a part of the formula that has largely remained the same throughout the LEGO games. Released in 2017 for consoles and PC, The Ninjago Movie Game was released in conjunction with the movie of the same name. However, it wasn’t exactly a snappy title.
The game showed a similar level of love to the original show as Shadow of Ronin did. Its environments were lush and combined bricks with more natural elements; even the battle arenas provided a fun time. However, the main reason for this scoring so high on the list is in its combat. Previous titles in the series had attempted to innovate the combat to make it more than mashing buttons, but this was the first in the series that introduced combos, unique moves, and weapon-based attacks.
This innovation of the combat is something I would love to see continue in LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga as it would help grow the combat alongside the audience. Just imagine uppercutting a droid with a lightsaber, only to jump up and slice them in mid-air. Truly an exciting prospect for LEGO fans.
5. LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Arriving hot off the heels of the blockbuster movie, LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens provided a unique opportunity for TT Games to set in motion some monumental changes to the classic LEGO games formula. As previously mentioned, future games in the series included or attempted ambitious changes that had so far stayed within their own respective titles. Thankfully that was soon to change.
New features and changes included the option for multiple models from a single pile of bricks, meaning multiple ways to complete a level. Blaster battles split up the button mashing combat with laser bolt fuelled shootouts. While the latter has yet to appear again, the former has now become a regular part of the series, adding yet another level of replayability to the collectible-filled levels.
Hopefully this offers a glimpse into what we can expect in The Skywalker Saga. Other than the changes, the game featured some stellar levels, original side content and a host of redesigned and new characters from across the saga.
4. LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
The choice between this and the first ever LEGO game from TT Games was the most difficult of the list. Both hold a special place in my heart and both helped ignite the flame that would become this long running series. As only the second LEGO title for the blockbuster franchise, this game released for consoles and PC in 2006, just one year after the first. This sequel focused on the original trilogy of the Star Wars movies, adding a dash of LEGO humor to the mix.
I have fond memories of both of these original games, and have found myself recalling them in any newer LEGO titles I play. I remember specifically the battle of Hoth, piloting a Snowspeeder across the snowy wastes to trip up the incoming Imperial forces. That and the manic bar fights in the Mos Eisley cantina shall always hold a special place in my heart. It is these two titles that have pioneered modern day LEGO gaming, and coined the comical, creative style that makes these games.
3. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
Following the success of The Avengers movie in 2012, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes released in 2013 on consoles and PC. This title chose to focus on iterations of characters from the comics, but borrowed designs from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. By doing so, it was able to craft a story spanning mutliple locations and superhero teams rather than just the Avengers, whilst still retaining a level of familiarity.
This title also featured an expansive New York open world, featuring the Helicarrier, Stark Tower, the Baxter building, and even the X-Mansion, and a fleet of vehicles to explore it in. Add to this an array of superhero abilities including flight, stretching, and transformation and you have a great superhero sandbox to do with as you please.
2. LEGO Worlds
LEGO Worlds was another one of TT Games’ more ambitious projects. This was an attempt to create a true LEGO sandbox game like never before. It released in Early Access on Steam in 2015 before a full release two years later. Players could individually place and destroy every single brick, in a world made completely of them. This unique experience received praise from outlets and players alike when it launched, and received two full DLC packs and a plethora of free updates before and after launch.
I remember playing this game on its first day of Early Access. The sheer uniqueness of the title stood out to me, and was clearly an evolution of LEGO’s own model designing tools. I loved watching the game grow and flourish until its release. However, all major content updates for the foreseeable future have been cancelled, including a planned survival mode. One year since its last update, no further additions to the game have been made. Unfortunately, the tale of LEGO Worlds seems to be over, nonetheless this is an excellent title, especially for those who are avid fans of ‘the brick’.
1. LEGO City Undercover
As the final, and greatest game on this list, there was simply only one option for me. LEGO City Undercover originally released as a Wii U exclusive in 2013 with a re-release for consoles and PC in 2017. The title is one of the greatest original stories TT Games has ever conceived, with brand new characters and a whole new world to explore and expand.
The story centred around Chase McCain. A disgraced cop of the tropical/mountainous/rural/urban LEGO city. After accidentally revealing anonymous witness Natalia Kowalski in the trial of criminal Rex Fury, the paramedic was forced into witness protection. Chase returns to the city years later to try his hand at the police game once more. He’s quickly flung into an adventure spanning the entire city and multiple careers. I’d love to say more but this game’s story truly needs to be seen to be believed, if only for how outrageous it can be. Beyond that, its gameplay is surprisingly unique for the LEGO games series, involving parkour and investigation elements.
Every game on this list deserves its place on it. Each of them holds within them an incredibly entertaining, and enjoyable experience for all ages. By making this list, I remind myself of the reasons that I love these titles; their humour, and intense care for the final product provide a delightful experience year after year.
I am so incredibly excited to see more of LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and see where this newest title will take the series. Thankfully, the long wait is almost over, with the title now confirmed to release in Spring of 2021.
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