For better or worse, one of the consequences of Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise is the plethora of new characters fans get introduced to each year. In both animated and live-action streaming series, the occasional blockbuster movie, and the ever-expanding universe of books, comics, video games, and Disneyland attractions that supplement prominent storylines, Earthlings get increasingly more visibility into the workings of a galaxy far, far away.

Disney excels in character development, and this skill shows in most of the new Star Wars entries, regardless of medium. From a blue-skinned villain who appeared on the small screen for the first time to a beloved youngling with distinctive green ears, 2023 saw a medley of memorable Star Wars characters grace the popular culture milieu. Here’s a round-up of the most notable.

Ashoka 

In many ways, 2023 should be considered the year of Ashoka, the beloved former Jedi apprentice of Anakin Skywalker and the solitary, Force-wielding wanderer who survived Order 66 to grow into a highly capable, sought-after mentor in the post-Empire period. A highly anticipated streaming series focused entirely on the Togruta female, Ashoka aired on Disney+ in 2023 with Rosario Dawson reprising her role as the live-action version of the rogue Jedi. 

After the Battle of Endor, Ashoka senses an insidious presence stirring in the dark recesses of the broken Empire. Partnering with several familiar faces from The Rebels series, Ashoka traces her hunch to an (spoiler alert) entirely different galaxy than the one the Skywalker saga takes place in. With this revelation, Ashoka becomes one of the first major Star Wars characters to go truly interstellar: that is, leave her native galaxy for the unknown reaches of deep space. That feat, coupled with Ashoka’s complex relationships with Anakin Skywalker and Sabine Wren, make her one of the more impressive, but relatable characters in Star Wars lore.

R-3X

For Disneyland aficionados, Star Tours represents an era before Galaxy’s Edge and holograms of Kylo Ren blasted immersive Star Wars attractions into the stratosphere. A technologically simple (by today’s standards) motion ride, Star Tours allowed park guests to take a ride with R-3X, a droid pilot, around some of the most recognizable spots in the galaxy. 

Not to be confused with Rex, the clone trooper from the animated Clone Wars series, R-3X pilots the StarSpeeder 3000 and imbues his tours with personality. For much of Star Tours’ history, each ‘flight’ riders boarded was technically R-3X ’s first, which resulted in an avalanche of mishaps, close calls, and TIE fighter encounters. With the impending unveiling of Galaxy’s Edge, the original Star Tours ride experienced a major revamping, and R-3X was finally relieved of his duties as pilot. R-3X himself continues to show up at Disney parks, though — this time as a DJ in Oga’s Cantina. To take home a little bit of Star Tours, guests (and online shoppers) can purchase the 2023 release of a remote control version of R-3X, complete with a Bluetooth speaker.

Bo-Katan Kryze

Played by Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame, Bo-Katan Kryze has made a lasting live-action impression in this year’s season of The Mandalorian. Showing up in previous episodes, Bo-Katan takes a much larger role this year as she leads Din Djarin through the ruins of Mandalore. In line with its name, The Mandalorian has (finally) showed Star Wars fans the gorgeous planet and culture of the honorable warriors that have played a big part in galactic politics. 

As part of the closest thing Mandalore has to a royal family, Bo-Katan has been on the fringes of Star Wars Rebels. This year, though, The Mandalorian became less about Din’s battle with his past and identity and more about Bo-Katan’s reckoning with the legacy of her people and the responsibility she feels towards restoring their power. Regardless of how her story will eventually end, it’s worth it just to see Bo-Katan’s interactions with an increasingly opinionated Grogu.

Shin Hati

Shin Hati is easily one of the most mysterious characters we’ve had in Star Wars lore for a while. With a fuzzy past and a quiet, wide-eyed demeanor, Shin is introduced in the Ashoka streaming series as the apprentice of Baylan Skoll, a former Jedi turned accomplice of Morgan Elsbeth. Shin becomes particularly noteworthy when she fights Sabine Wren in a do-or-die lightsaber battle that rivals the fast-paced action of Rey and Kylo Ren.

It’s likely that Shin will appear in other Star Wars properties, with Season 2 of Ashoka leading the pack. Indeed, viewers saw Ashoka attempt to turn Shin towards the Light (and presumably, her training methods). Whether Shin finds it within herself to join Ashoka and Sabine remains to be seen, but Shin herself is a warrior of intense interest going into 2024.

Vernestra Rwoh

One of the primary characters in The High Republic book series, Vernestra Rwoh is a green-skinned Mirialan who has trained as a Jedi since her youngling years. Achieving Jedi Knighthood as an adolescent, Vernestra is incredibly precocious and skilled in her wielding of the Force (and her purple-bladed lightsaber). That very weapon holds another unique trait outside of its color; it actually transforms into a lightwhip, which makes Vernestra the galaxy’s answer to a sort-of Indiana Jones vigilante.

In The High Republic, Vernestra again aligns with scientist Avon Starros to break through the ominous Nihil Stormwall. With their scrappy armor and gas masks, the Nihil are one of the most intriguing Star Wars cultural groups since the Mandalorians. They also emit a steampunk pirate vibe as they pose a critical threat to the Jedi Order in the years before the Skywalkers were even a speck in the Force. It’s up to Vernestra and team to stop them.

Grand Admiral Thrawn

Created by science-fiction author Timothy Zahn in the early Nineties, Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most complex villains in Star Wars lore. A brilliant strategist who takes an analytical and opportunistic approach to his enemies, Thrawn has seen various adaptations — up until the Ashoka series, all in print materials — throughout the subsequent years. 

One of the more notable characteristics about Thrawn is his non-human biology. In the racist and xenophobic Galactic Empire, humans tend to rise to the most prestigious military positions. Thrawn is an exception to this system, largely because of his sinister calm and willingness to commit atrocities that even other Grand Admirals shrink away from. With his blue skin and red eyes, Thrawn looks like the closest thing to a Devil we have seen in the Star Wars universe. The live-action version of Thrawn played by Lars Mikkelsen does little to dispel this notion.

Omega

It seems one of the newer trends in Star Wars storytelling is the inclusion of spunky, smarter-than-their-own-good kids who wind up involved in the titular ‘wars’ of the galaxy. Beginning with a young Anakin Skywalker in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, the small and large screen has, to date, seen significant storylines for a young Princess Leia, Luke, and Grogu. First appearing in The Bad Batch, Omega is certainly one of these child prodigies with responsibilities and knowledge beyond her years.

In Season 2, Omega becomes a full-fledged member of The Bad Batch team, a position particularly noteworthy as she is a young, female clone of Jango Fett. Created on Kamino, Omega has much in common with young Boba Fett, a clone with unaltered DNA who is treated less like a genetic copy and more like a beloved son. As the plot progresses, The Bad Batch will likely reveal more about Omega’s character and highlight the ways she inherits — or rejects — her creator’s legacy.

Grogu

It’s difficult to have a “Best of Star Wars Characters” list nowadays without including the Baby Yoda-cuteness that is Grogu. True to form, Grogu continues to take on a more active role in The Mandalorian’s plotline, particularly since his decision to forgo more Jedi training and embrace the Mandalorian lifestyle. His use of the Force and mini beskar armor even help him in saving Din’s life on Mandalore this season.

With his face on everything from Squishmallows to alarm clocks, Grogu has infused the popular culture to an extent that even people with no knowledge of the galaxy far, far away likely do know who he is. Plus, the father-son dynamic between him and Din probably remain one of the sweetest love stories the galaxy has ever seen. Grogu may be a couple hundred years old, but he (and us) still has a lot more growing to do.

Nubs

An entirely new character introduced in Star Wars: Young Jedi Adventures, Nubs is a blue, fuzzy youngling who aspires to be a Jedi Knight. Along with his fellow training cohort, Nubs overcomes a series of challenges and mishaps —- in typical Disney Junior fashion, ones with much lower stakes than what is typically the case for Star Wars stories — to get one step closer towards becoming a Padawan.

Like others of his species, Nubs demonstrates a better-than-average ability for piloting. As a Sullustan, Nubs has large baby-doll eyes, blue fur, and a cheeky wide-mouthed grin. Young Jedi Adventures provides an accessible storyline for drawing in a younger Star Wars audience, and Nubs is a key part of its goofy and heartfelt appeal.

Anakin Skywalker

Hayden Christensen has made a bit of a comeback, at least in his role as the face beneath Darth Vader’s breathing mask. From last year’s crazed battle in Obi-Wan Kenobi to this summer’s heartfelt training moments between himself and Ashoka, Anakin Skywalker looms large in the minds of those who knew him on a personal level.

A critical scene in the Ashoka streaming series is when Ashoka relives a moment from the Clone War in which she, as an adolescent Padawan, trustingly followed her mentor into a war zone. Seeing Anakin — the charming, wise-cracking version of him — positively influence the lives of his family and friends beyond the grave is a wonderful redemptive arc that correlates directly with that memorable Return of the Jedi helmet-removal scene. For more Force ghost Anakin, check out Adam Christopher’s novel Shadow of the Sith in which Anakin quite literally ‘shows up’ for his aspiring Jedi son, Luke.

Ten years ago, few Star Wars fans could have imagined how the cast of galactic players would expand outside of the many novels now classified as Legends. In 2023, though, the staunchest and most casual viewers alike have a bevy of time periods, planets, and people to choose from. Here’s to the next year of stories and saber fights in everybody’s favorite galaxy!

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