In my mind, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic has loads of memorable planets, but I don't know whether it's because they were brilliant, or because this was simply the first time BioWare had done this: take me from one planet and land me on another. Mass Effect wasn't a thing then, remember. It was still a whole Jade Empire development away.
But 18 years later I can still remember Manaan. And by Manaan, I don't mean my nan, but the water planet in KOTOR you dived under the surface of, in search of secrets, only to be chased by huge alien sharks. And there was Kashyyyk, with three 'y's, the forest homeworld of Chewie's race, the wookies. And there was Korriban, the sacred Sith homeworld. A place like the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. A place of tombs and darkness, secrets and treasure.
But there's one planet in the Knights of the Old Republic saga which looms over all others (and I'm stretching out my net a bit here to include the second game too). And that planet is Malachor V.
This is a place that birthed legends, a place responsible for Darth Revan and Darth Malak, Darth Nihilus and Darth Traya. That's a lot of Darths! A place which serves as your beginning and end in Knights of the Old Republic 2. It even has a faint link to the new Star Wars films through Kylo Ren's lightsaber, and if you follow that line, involves characters like Darth Sidious and Darth Maul, and it doesn't get much more mainstream than them! And do you know what's doubly cool about it? BioWare dreamt up Malachor V to begin with.
(Note: There may be different Malachors, though how many planets called Malachor you can have in one Malachor system, I do not know. Sort it out, Lucas lore people.)
So why is Malachor V special? Because a massive war took place there. It was a fairly humdrum hospitable planet before then, though maybe there was a secret Sith academy there, and maybe it was a place of Dark Side power. It's hard to know for sure because, well, it was a secret.
Anyway, it really takes off when Revan, who's a Jedi commander at the time, leading a war against the Mandalorians, pins those Mandalorians back to the planet Malachor V. Then he does something a goodie shouldn't: sets off a superweapon - a Mass Shadow Generator - and wipes everything on the planet out.
It's an act that causes many chain reactions. The explosion forever changes the planet, twisting it up and scarring it, turning it into a malevolent rocky ruin. Revan and his co-commander Malak are hailed as heroes, but Malachor V changed them, and not long after they fall to the Dark Side of the Force. So too will Revan's old teacher Kreia, who ventures to Malachor V to find out what happened. And it's there that she discovers an anomaly: a man who survived the Mass Shadow Generator blast but in doing so became a man no longer. He became Darth Nihilus, a wound in the Force.
I love it! No other planet in Knights of the Old Republic looms as large. Without Malachor V, you don't have Revan, and he is probably the most famous video game Star Wars character there is. It's just a shame Malachor V is a bit boring when you eventually get there in KOTOR 2. It's supposed to be the culmination of your whole adventure, the planet you've heard so much about now finally under your feet. And yes, I realise making a rocky scar of a planet seem interesting is probably a harder task than making a tropical jungle planet seem interesting, but there's plenty of potential in 'twisted and scarred' as a theme! Yet it just ends up being a bit bland and dull. I expect this has a lot to do with Obsidian running out of time finishing the game.
Still: what a planet, what a story. Malachor V, you rock.