Darth Vader is (somewhat arguably) the primary antagonist in the original Star Wars trilogy from the ‘80s, establishing him as one of the most well-known characters to come out of the franchise. Later, his transition to the dark side was explored in the prequel movies, and even further, his legacy has continued to be explored and referenced in other Star Wars canon.

Originally Anakin Skywalker from Tatooine, in training to become a full-fledged Jedi, Darth Vader is lured to the dark side by Palpatine over fear of what the future holds for his secret wife, Padme Amidala. He goes on to serve the Emperor as a chief enforcer, not knowing that his and Padme’s children had ultimately survived. The Sith Lord eventually redeems himself in the nick of time – sacrificing his life to save his son’s – before meeting an untimely end.

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Darth Vader may have met his fate in Return of the Jedi, but that hasn’t stopped various other Star Wars movies, books, and video games from exploring the feared character. But while the Sith Lord makes appearances in most Star Wars video games, there is only a handful in which players can step into Darth Vader’s shoes. Darth Vader appears as a playable character in the following games, allowing players to fully feel the power of the dark side.

Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi (1997)

This title was developed and published by LucasArts in 1997, marking the first fighting game for the company. The game is set during the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. With the Death Star destroyed thanks to Luke Skywalker, the Emperor is after revenge against the rebels, leading him to bring in assassin Arden Lyn in an effort to take out the rebels’ top leaders. As such, the fighting game pits the rebels against the empire’s fiercest fighters in one-on-one combat. The game features a variety of playable characters, including Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. 

Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds (2001)

Developed by both Ensemble Studios and LucasArts, the real-time strategy game allows players to step into the shoes of Darth Vader in its single-player campaign, namely in the Imperial campaign when Vader launches an attack on the Rebels’ Massassi Ruins base in order to kidnap General Jan Dodonna. Players take over other subsequent Rebel bases throughout the campaign. In order to beat the campaign story, players must ensure Vader stays alive. 

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LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game (2005)

The great thing about the LEGO Star Wars games is that they’re known for having a variety of playable characters, including Darth Vader. Developed by Traveller’s Tales and Griptonite Games, the action-adventure video game is an adaption of the prequel trilogy, though it features a bonus level inspired by 1977’s A New Hope. If players unlock the level, they gain access to Darth Vader, Princess Leia, a rebel trooper, and a stormtrooper. Darth’s special ability is his Force Choke, unsurprisingly.

Star Wars: Battlefront II (2005)

Published by LucasArts and developed by Pandemic Studios, this first and third-person shooter video game features both a single and multiplayer campaign. However, Darth Vader is only playable in multiplayer, despite being heavily featured in the single-player storyline. The game is split into two eras – The Clone Wars and the Galactic Civil War – and players must choose between six classes while playing. Darth Vader was also featured in the original 2004 Star Wars: Battlefront but only as a non-playable character.

LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy (2006)

Darth Vader is once again a playable character in the second LEGO Star Wars game. Published by LucasArts TT Games Publishing and developed by Traveller’s Tales, the game follows the events of the original Star Wars films. There are 68 playable characters in the game, including Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Chewbacca.

Star Wars: Empire at War (2006) & Forces of Corruption (2006)

This real-time strategy game, developed by Petroglyph Games and published by Lucas Arts, takes place between Episode III and Episode IV, narrowing in on the heightening tensions between the Empire and Rebel Alliance. Forces of Corruption was an expansion released the following year which introduced a new faction and additional content, amongst various things. Darth Vader is a playable hero for the Empire in both the original game and its expansion, with his abilities including force powers and a special TIE fighter unit.

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Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008)

This action-adventure game, set in between Episodes III and IV, was developed and published by LucasArts in 2008. Despite being an important part of the game, Darth Vader is only playable in its first level, during the invasion of Kashyyk. Afterwards, the game shifts and the main playable character is his apprentice. While Vader once again has an important role in the game’s 2010 sequel Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II, he is a non-playable.

SoulCalibur IV (2008)

Developed by Project Soul, SoulCalibur IV represents the sixth game in the long-running franchise. This game stood out from its predecessors, however, in that it incorporated three characters from the Star Wars universe as playable fighters, those being Darth Vader, Yoda and the Apprentice, all of whom can use force abilities during combat.

LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2011)

The third installment in the LEGO Star Wars games, developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by LucasArts, follows the events of The Clone Wars animated films and the T.V. show of the same name. The movie and spin-off show both take place between Episode II and Episode III. Like its predecessors, it allows players to assume the role of a plethora of Star Wars characters, including Darth Vader.

Star Wars: Battlefront (2015)

Developed by EA DICE and published by Electronic Arts, Star Wars: Battlefront is a reboot of the original games released in 2004 and 2005. Players can unlock a variety of playable characters, including Darth Vader, Han Solo, Emperor Palpatine, and Boba Fett. Darth Vader specifically had three abilities – his Force Choke, saber throw, and heavy strike. 

Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017)

Developed by EA DICE alongside Criterion Games and Motive Studios and published by Electronic Arts, this action shooter title is the fourth installment in the Star Wars: Battlefront franchise, and more specifically, a direct sequel to its 2015 predecessor. Players can unlock a variety of heroes and villains, including Darth Vader.

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Even though Darth Vader may not be playable in every Star Wars game in which he makes an appearance, there are luckily a handful of successful titles in which players can step into the Sith Lord’s shoes.

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