Sora and Kairi hold hands in a world where the ground reflects the open sky in "Kingdom Hearts 3"
(Square Enix)

Every ‘Kingdom Hearts’ Game, Ranked

Kingdom Hearts, you beautiful, convoluted masterpiece. You fever dream marriage of Final Fantasy and Disney. Your combat is flawless. Your graphics are stunning. Your story makes no sense but never fails to make me feel something.

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Here are all the Kingdom Hearts games, ranked by those feelings they instill.

11. Kingdom Hearts Union X

Keyblade warriors fight a heartless boss in "Kingdom Hearts Union X"
(Square Enix)

This story makes me feel nothing but revulsion. Kingdom Hearts Union X sucks. “But have you even played it?” No. I have not. And why not? The mobile game is a pure cash grab. It’s essentially the same filler mission reskinned and repeated ad infinitum. A story beat is fed to its ever-dwindling player base every 1000 hours or so just to give the fans a shred of hope, and then the game asks for more money. You basically must spend money in order to progress in Union X and that is more heartless than the Heartless themselves.

10. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

"Kingdom Hearts" characters dance on a music score road in "Melody of Memory"
(Square Enix)

You know those mid-season anime filler episodes where the main character writes a letter to his mom or whatever detailing the events of the story you’ve already seen? Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is basically that, but there’s a dinky rhythm game element involved. It’s a musical rehash of Kingdom Hearts story beats narrated by Kairi. The game’s only saving grace? The score. “Hikari,” “Sanctuary”—Melody of Memory plays all the hits, of which there are many.

9. Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded

Sora fights a Heartless boss in "Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded"
(Square Enix)

Re:Coded is a filler arc of a game. It was initially released only for mobile, if that tells you anything. The plot is both incomprehensible and inconsequential, and does nothing to move the greater narrative of the series forward. King Mickey basically makes a digital clone of Sora called Data-Sora and uses him to investigate the digitized notes of Jiminy Cricket’s journal. You’re basically just playing as a search engine, investigating bits of lore so irrelevant to the main series that you’ll wonder why they made this game in the first place. The answer? To make a quick buck.

8. Kingdom Hearts UX Dark Road

Keyblade wielders fight a grim reaper heartless in "Kingdom Hearts UX Dark Road"
(Square Enix)

Kingdom Hearts UX Dark Road is another mobile game. But it does have something that the other mobile games lack: originality. Kingdom Hearts UX Dark Road is a prequel to the entire series and tells the story of a young Master Xehanort growing up alongside a young Eraqus and going off on a quest to pursue lost key blade masters. Pretty cool. Ever wonder what made the old guy turn to the power of Darkness? The events of Dark Road sum it all up Anakin Skywalker style.

7. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Sora and Riku fall through the sky in opposite directions in "Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance"
(Square Enix)

I don’t know what this game is about. I stopped playing it because trying to follow the story felt like driving down a country road on a cloudy night with no headlights on—so obscure it was an actual a health hazard. Riku and Sora are messing around with these things called Dream Eaters and then the kids from The World Ends With You get involved? I literally have no idea. I’ve even read the synopsis. Still lost. Despite its utter nonsense plot, Dream Drop Distance gives plenty of fun beat-em-up gameplay. Just hit the thing hitting you and don’t ask questions.

6. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Two teen boys and a girl sit on a clocktower watching the sunset in "Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days"
(Square Enix)

The only video game in history with an unsolved fraction in the title, 358/2 tells a tender if not slightly convoluted Organization XIII origin story. You know how Axel is always yelling at Roxas about their friendship in the beginning of KH2 and Roxas is like “bro wtf idk you”? 358/2 explains what Axel is on about. Turns out they DID know each other, and made up two characters in a Golden Trio of comrades. What happened to the third member? Kairi with black hair? One of the most surprisingly tragic things in the entire series. Points awarded for storytelling boldness.

5. Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories

Sora fights against Axel in "Kingdom Hearts Re Chain of Memories"
(Square Enix)

As far as in-between-quels go, Chain of Memories is one of the best. After the events of Kingdom Hearts 1, Sora and friends end up at the mysterious Castle Oblivion, where they begin to slowly lose their memories. Sora has to fight through the members of Organization XIII for answers. Speaking of combat, the battle system is… divisive. You attack enemies by essentially playing cards in a deck, with higher numbered cards meaning more powerful attacks. This allows you to “break” an opponent’s attacks by playing a card higher than theirs, but your attacks can be broken by the same system as well. It’s a needless complication upon an already near-flawless combat system. The game gets big points for its Riku-centric New Game Plus story, and lays the groundwork for his anti-hero redemption arc.

4. Kingdom Hearts 3

Sora and Kairi hold hands in a world where the ground reflects the open sky in "Kingdom Hearts 3"
(Square Enix)

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a microcosm of Kingdom Hearts as a franchise. Beautiful. Goofy. Fun. Weird. Emotional. Confusing. Let’s start with the first quality. The PS4 graphics make this already gorgeous series shine even brighter, making the game look and feel like the Disney and Pixar films it emulates. The battle system is fun if not a little bit overstuffed. I could have done without getting a prompt to attack enemies with a Disneyworld ride made of light every 15 seconds. As for the story? Honestly, it feels like it doesn’t really matter until the very end of the game when Sora and the combined forces of Light take on Xehanort and the forces of Darkness. Until then, it’s just lighthearted Disney-themed shenanigans that feel more like fluff than actual substance.

3. Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

Three key blade wielders ready their weapons in "Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep"
(Square Enix)

Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep may be the best Kingdom Hearts story ever told. Birth By Sleep returns to the franchise’s darker roots to tell a prequel tale about three key blade masters, the power of whom Sora, Riku, and Kairi would eventually inherit. The trio essentially witnesses the death knells of the Keyblade Masters as an organization. Xehanort’s scheming essentially sunders the trio, leading each down a dark and lonely path of self-discovery. Without main protagonist plot-armor to protect them, the trio faces a series of hellish trials that eventually pit them against one another. Birth By Sleep plays like a dark dream unfolding.

2. Kingdom Hearts 2

Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy salute in a castle in "Kingdom Hearts 2"
(Square Enix)

Many say that Kingdom Hearts 2 is the best in the series. It’s a valid argument. The combat is more complex. The worlds are wider. The story is more intricate. And the final boss battle? Forget about it. Kingdom Hearts 2 is a massive game, but it is also a testament to the fact that bigger is not always better. For all its bells and whistles, it is essentially all of the same story beats of the original Kingdom Hearts (including the unnecessarily long prologue, which is inflated to four hours in the sequel). The sheer size of the game causes it to lose much of the intimacy present in the first game in the franchise. The battle-seasoned Sora is not quite as vulnerable as the scared boy from the first game. Sora’s plethora of new skills, forms, and companions make his journey feel easier than Kingdom Hearts, and therefore it carries less narrative weight. Kingdom Hearts 2 is a phenomenal game but doesn’t deliver nearly as strong of an emotional impact.

1. Kingdom Hearts

(Square Enix)

Kingdom Hearts shouldn’t have worked. Final Fantasy and Disney combined? It should have been torn apart by the sheer tonal antithesis of the two franchises. Instead, Kingdom Hearts unfolds like a dark, rhapsodic dream.

The strength of Kingdom Hearts lies in the terror of the narrative. A fourteen-year-old boy’s island home is swallowed up in darkness, flinging him out into a wide and alien universe where he has to struggle to find companionship, courage, and purpose. For all its Disney sheen, Kingdom Hearts is a lonely, terrifying affair. Learn to wield an ancient weapon of light or have your heart stolen by soul-sucking forces of darkness? All while trying to find your friends in a vast and seemingly indifferent universe? Rough.

As for gameplay, the combat is brutal. While Kingdom Hearts 2 can be beaten just by mashing the X button with eyes closed, Kingdom Hearts requires lightning-quick reflexes and tactical planning to survive even early-game boss encounters. It is both a narratively and mechanically unforgiving game that forces the player to mature quickly, much like the protagonist they control, and the game is all the more legendary for it.

(featured image: Square Enix)


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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.