Star Wars alternate timelines may not be canon, but some official elseworlds stories offer up some of the best moments from the galaxy far, far away - from good guy Vader to brand new Empire.
Most recently, a treasure trove of concept artwork for the early development of the vaporware Star Wars: Battlefront 4 was released on the Internet. Given that a third game in the original run had never released, this was alone a surprise, but what really stood out was the content: Battlefront IV could have been set in a series of alternate timelines, where the sides and histories of the major players of the Star Wars saga had changed. Had it been released, Battlefront 4 could have presented a reality where a redeemed Anakin Skywalker faced his corrupted daughter Leia, now the chief assassin of the Emperor Kenobi, or a Count Dooku who never fell to darkness, allied with a non-cyborg General Grievous, to save the galaxy from a corrupted Jedi Council. The possibilities were virtually endless and mind-bending.
This is not the first time such speculation has gripped the minds of other creators who worked in the Star Wars galaxy, however. Many comics, games and novels have been built around alternate timelines and "what-if?" scenarios, exploring what might have happened if things had been slightly different and how one little change might have altered the fate of the galaxy, for good or for ill.
Anakin Beats Obi-Wan On Mustafar & Becomes The Emperor
Surprisingly - given how strictly the video games based on the core Star Wars films generally were in regards to following the plots of the original films - Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - The Video Game had an alternate ending (on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, at least).
Throughout the game, Revenge of the Sith allowed the player to alternate between playing Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they worked through the events of the film. The twist came on the final level, which was set in the lava flows of Mustafar. In the original film, it was here that Anakin's fate was sealed, as he was mortally wounded, mutilated and left for dead on a lava riverbank by his teacher. However, it was possible for the player, as Anakin, to win the climactic duel with Obi-Wan, dealing his former master a mortal blow and kicking him into the river of lava. The game concluded with an able-bodied Darth Vader returning to face The Emperor and being presented with a true Sith lightsaber. Acting quickly, Darth Vader struck down his master and declared himself the new Emperor to the clone troopers who witnessed the display.
Luke Fails To Destroy The Death Star; Leia Becomes A Puppet Of The Empire
Star Wars: Infinities - A New Hope extended the story of the very first Star Wars movie in an unexpected direction. It diverged from the movie as known when Luke Skywalker's proton torpedoes experienced a technical malfunction during the attack on the Death Star: he failed to destroy it and most of the Rebel leadership - including Princess Leia - were captured by the Empire.
The spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi guided Luke to Dagobah, where he began training with Yoda, as in The Empire Strikes Back. This time, however, Luke spent five years training to Yoda's complete satisfaction. At the same time, The Emperor, having sensed the Force potential in Leia, ordered Darth Vader to begin training her in the ways of The Sith. The two twins were forced into a confrontation, but Luke is able to redeem his sister and Vader, realizing that The Emperor had hidden the truth of his children's existence from him, sacrificed himself to save their lives. Meanwhile, Yoda smashes the Justice Star (the rebranded Death Star) into Coruscant, destroying the Empire). The story ends much like Return of the Jedi did, with both siblings seeing the spirit of Anakin Skywalker joining with the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda.
Vader's Apprentice Kills Him & Destroys The Rebellion
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was set two years before The Battle of Yavin, where players assumed the role of Galen Marek, a.k.a. Starkiller. The secret apprentice of Darth Vader, Starkiller was charged by his master with tracking down and killing General Rahm Kota - one of the few Jedi who survived the Order 66 purge. As the game progressed, Kota attempted to win Marek over to light side, even as Vader continued to test his apprentice's capacity for destruction.
In the then canon (now Legends) ending of the game, Starkiller - having discovered a love he hadn't known was possible with Imperial pilot Juno Eclipse and a way of living he had never imagined thanks to General Kota - refused to strike down Darth Vader, after fighting his master while trying to rescue the leadership of what would become the Rebel Alliance. Starkiller ultimately sacrificed himself to allow the rebel leaders to escape, becoming a martyr to the cause (and giving them his family sigil as their logo).
However, an alternate "Dark Side" ending saw Starkiller slaying Darth Vader and attempting to do the same to the Emperor, only to find himself outclassed and crushed by a spaceship that the Emperor pulls down on top of him. Tragically, Starkiller survives this, albeit trapped in a mostly robotic body and transformed into the Emperor's new assassin - helpless to resist his commands but just sentient enough to be aware of what has happened to him.
Indiana Jones Finds The Millennium Falcon & A Dead Han Solo
Notable as the first crossover between Star Wars and Indiana Jones to be officially sanctioned by Lucasfilm (ignoring R2-D2 and C-3PO as hieroglyphs in Raiders of the Lost Ark), Into The Great Unknown is also perhaps the single-most depressing story written for either franchise. The story opens onboard the Millennium Falcon, as Han Solo and Chewbacca run into an Imperial patrol. Forced to jump into hyperspace without calculating a course, the two find themselves in an uncharted system, crash-landing on a primitive, mostly aquatic world. As the two search for civilization, they are attacked by humans wielding arrows, spears and axes. Han is mortally wounded, passing on after Chewbacca returns him to the Captain's chair on-board The Millennium Falcon.
126 years later, the remains of The Millennium Falcon are uncovered by a familiar figure in a brown leather bomber jacket and fedora. Accompanied by a guide and a sidekick named Shorty, the whip-wielding man is revealed to have come to investigate the local legends of the hairy man who lives in the forest, guarding some strange temple that just magically appeared there over a century earlier. The trio are observed from a safe distance by Chewbacca, who has apparently become the source of the legends of Bigfoot since being marooned on Earth. The story ends with Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones Jr. electing to leave the temple and its inhabitant alone, finding the whole building oddly familiar while being wholly unlike anything he had ever seen before.
Vader Is Captured By The Rebels Before The Original Star Wars
While the proper ending of the original The Force Unleashed game just about fit within the timeline between Episode III and Episode IV, the various endings of its sequel left no wiggle room. First up, the "Light-Side" ending of the game saw the Rebel Alliance securing a dramatic victory over the Empire years before The Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the Death Star.
The main character of Force Unleashed II was a clone of the original Starkiller. Tormented by memories of Juno Eclipse and the first Starkiller's love for her, the clone was dispatched by Darth Vader in a bid to capture or kill General Kota. Players who stayed true to the light side and did not give in to their anger after a final confrontation with Vader would be well-rewarded. Not only would The Rebel Alliance successfully capture Darth Vader, dealing a major blow to the Emperor's plans, but the Starkiller clone and Juno Eclipse would find a second chance at love and end the game flying off into space together. Unfortunately, no further ramifications were shown.
Luke Dies On Hoth, Leia Becomes A Jedi
Unlike the first Star Wars: Infinities comic book mini-series, Star Wars: Infinities - The Empire Strikes Back changes the story of the film it was based on almost immediately. The story is exactly the same until Luke escapes from the Wampa's lair and Han's tauntaun dies before he can find his friend; Luke dies from exposure to the extreme cold of the wilderness of Hoth, with Han finding him just before he expires and taking Luke's mumbling about "going to Dagobah" and "training as a Jedi with Yoda" as Luke giving him instructions on what to do with his life.
Han and Leia take a brief detour to Bespin, just barely beating out Boba Fett (in this reality Han had no reason to travel through an asteroid belt on the way to Cloud City). Lando Calrissian assists them with trapping Fett - an action which ultimately leads to Cloud City's destruction after Vader finally catches up with the bounty hunter he hired. Han and Leia then head to Dagobah and find Yoda, where they discover that it is Leia, not Han, who must train as a Jedi in order to stop Darth Vader. This sets up the climactic confrontation in which Leia must face Darth Vader just as she finishes assembling her own lightsaber and becomes a true Jedi Knight.
Starkiller Mk. 3 Kills Your Favorite Star Wars Heroes
The dark side of The Force Unleashed II is where things get really interesting, however. Should Starkiller decide to strike down Darth Vader, he's killed by another clone, one who fully overcame the memories and positive emotions that Starkiller felt. As the player's character dies, Darth Vader applauds his one true dark apprentice and commands him to go forth and hunt down and destroy the rest of the leadership of the Rebel Alliance, using the ship that should have carried Juno Eclipse and Starkiller off to their happily ever after.
This leads to some pretty mind-melting DLC extensions, with Starkiller killing a host of fan favorites. The DLC took Starkiller through the original trilogy wiping out key heroes - Obi-Wan Kenobi in Mos Eisley, Luke Skywalker on Hoth, and Leia on Endor. The culmination is Return of the Jedi, which ends with Leia slain and the Rebel Alliance's defeat all but certain. Things aren't perfect for the dark side either; Emperor Palpatine also strikes down Darth Vader and sends a squad of Stormtroopers to kill the dark apprentice.
The Rebel Who Stole The Death Star Plans Becomes A Jedi... And The New Emperor
Star Wars: Jedi Knight - Dark Forces II continued the story of Kyle Katarn - the mercenary who, in the Legends continuity stole the Death Star plans on behalf of the Rebel Alliance. The plot focused on Katarn, as he raced a group of Dark Jedi to the entrance of the legendary Valley of The Jedi - an ancient battleground said to contain the trapped souls of over one-hundred Jedi and Sith from the final battle of The New Sith Wars. Guided by the Force ghost of Qu Rahn - a Jedi Master and friend of Kyle's father - Kyle began to learn the ways of the Force and worked his way toward the ultimate choice between the paths of light and darkness.
The true ending was that Kyle stayed on the light side of the Force, freeing the trapped souls within the Valley of The Jedi. There was, however, an alternate ending for those players who committed dark actions such as killing civilians throughout the game. This ending saw Kyle taking the power of the Valley for himself and becoming the new Emperor. The closing cutscene of this version showed Emperor Katarn on his throne, watching an old holographic video of his father... before he dropped the projector on the ground and stomped it to bits.
Darth Vader Turns Good & Dons White Armor
Star Wars: Infinities - Return of The Jedi diverges from the original Return of The Jedi shortly after Leia arrives at Jabba's Palace disguised as the bounty hunter Boushh. When Threepio is left unable to translate for her as a result of Jabba pushing him much harder this time around, Leia resorts to violence and, thanks to a botched shot by Lando, accidentally triggers her thermal detonator. Our heroes are forced to flee Jabba's Palace in pursuit of Boba Fett, who escaped with the still-frozen body of Han Solo. This causes Luke Skywalker to miss his appointment with a dying Yoda and subsequent capture by the Emperor while leaving Dagobah.
The biggest changes come in the finale, which sees Leia attempting to rescue Luke and Luke stunning Darth Vader with the revelation that he and Leia are his children - a fact that Vader was totally ignorant of in this reality. Though Vader and Luke duel until the Jedi refuses to fight his father anymore as in the original Return of The Jedi, this time the fight ends with Vader kneeling before his son and begging his forgiveness. Before the Emperor can act, an explosion rocks the throne room, forcing everyone on-board to flee for their lives. The comic concludes with Anakin Skywalker - now clad in white armor reflecting his return to the light side - joining forces with his son and daughter to forge a brighter future for the galaxy.