With the announcement from Square Enix that Kingdom Hearts 4 is coming sometime in the future, you might be considering catching up on the Final Fantasy-Disney mashup franchise. While it is certainly possible to catch up, especially since Kingdom Hearts 4 doesn’t even have a release window yet, it’s important to know that there are far more games than the number four might lead you to believe. Here is every game in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, the best way to get caught up on each story, and how essential each one is to play.
The original game was released in 2002 and since then there have been 10 games in the series. However that number doesn’t reflect the multiple re-releases, remasters, and collections that series has received. That number also doesn’t account for the multiple massive updates that one of the mobile games has received, resulting in that game being renamed multiple times. Kingdom Hearts 4 was recently announced with a trailer showing a realistic looking Sora hanging out in a modern looking location. It also hints at Donald and Goofy needing help searching for Sora, possibly in the underworld.
Kingdom Hearts – Must play
The first game up is the original Kingdom Hearts, an action-RPG featuring main character Sora and his two pals, Donald and Goofy. As one of the three mainline games released so far, it feels a bit obvious to state that this is a game you should absolutely play through. The story sets up the foundation for the entire series, introducing Sora’s friends Kairi and Riku and establishing the Heartless as the enemies. After Sora obtains the Keyblade, he sets out with Donald and Goofy to close the Keyholes, which have appeared in different worlds allowing the darkness in. You play through different worlds inspired by Disney properties, like Hercules and Little Mermaid, and interact with different Final Fantasy characters, too. The version that is the easiest to track down–and the best to play–is the 1.5 Final Mix HD version, which is available as part of the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix package on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, and Nintendo Switch via the cloud or the Kingdom Hearts All-in-One Package on PS4.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories – Must play
The next game in the series, in both chronological order and release order, is Chain of Memories. The version that is easily available is the Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, which is a remake of the original Game Boy Advance title in the same 3D art -style as the other games. Unlike many of those, Chain of Memories is not an action-RPG in the traditional sense, but a deck building hybrid. You still move around a 3D space in real time, but your moves are determined by the deck you have built in between battles.
Not everyone is a fan of the gameplay in Chain of Memories, but it serves as a bridge between the original game and Kingdom Hearts 2, setting up a few story beats that get wrapped up later. It’s worth playing through the game, but if deck building isn’t your jam, you should probably set it to the easy difficulty.
Kingdom Hearts 2 – Must play
Kingdom Hearts 2 is a must-play in the series, not just because it is a mainline entry. It’s because it is generally considered one of the best, if not the best, games in the franchise. The story takes place after the events of Chain of Memories and introduces important concepts for the series moving forward, like the Nobodies, which are the cast-off shells of the Heartless. This game returns to the action-RPG gameplay style of the original game. Kingdom Hearts 2 can be played on modern consoles and PC via the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix package. This includes the updated Final Mix version, which includes some additional cutscenes.
Kingdom Hearts: Coded/Re:Coded – Not necessary
Kingdom Hearts: Coded originally released as a Japan-only episodic mobile game that featured Mickey and Sora. Its story focused on events prior to Kingdom Hearts 2 and shares some connections with Birth by Sleep. It takes the normal Kingdom Hearts gameplay and adds a puzzle twist to it. Kingdom Hearts: Coded was later remade for Nintendo DS and called Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded, which was released outside of Japan.
The game provides some backstory for Sora and his connection to other characters, but the story itself isn’t necessary for the overall plot. Re:Coded isn’t available on platforms other than the Nintendo DS, but the remastered cutscenes are included in the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix collection. The story of Coded really isn’t hugely important to the overall story of the series, but you can watch the cutscenes in the collection if you don’t want to miss out.
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days – Not necessary
Originally released on the Nintendo DS, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days follows Roxas, who is Sora’s Nobody and is created after Sora becomes Heartless in the first Kingdom Hearts. You play as Roxas as he goes on various missions for Organization XIII, the bad guys of the Kingdom Hearts universe. The game covers the time period from Roxas’ creation all the way up to the start of Kingdom Hearts 2.
If you don’t have a Nintendo DS available, the only other way to “play” 358/2 Days is via the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix collection. The only caveat here is that the version included in the collection is just the remastered cutscenes and not the game itself, but this game is primarily backstory and world building for Roxas and Organization XIII, so you can either watch the remastered cutscenes or just skip this altogether.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep – Must play
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is a prequel that takes place prior to the original Kingdom Hearts game, providing the origins for some of the series most important characters. The main story pieces in Birth by Sleep are the origins of Sora, the main hero of the series, as well as his connection with Roxas, and Xehanort, its main villain. The game was originally released on the PSP; however, an updated version of the game is included in the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix collection.
The game follows Keyblade apprentices Terra, Aqua, and Ventus as they battle Unversed across different Disney worlds. Birth by Sleep is one of the more important side games in Kingdom Hearts, laying a ton of foundational work for the rest of the series. As mentioned earlier, the whole game is included in the HD 1.5+2.5 ReMix collection and the All-in-One collection. This does not include Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, which is a short extension of the Birth by Sleep story, sharing extra details about Aqua. This short game, which is included in the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection, does tie into Kingdom Hearts 3, but isn’t necessary for your understanding of the plot.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance – Not necessary
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance follows Sora and Riku as they aim to complete their Mark of Mastery exam and become full-on Keyblade masters. There are seven sleeping kingdoms where they must defeat the Dream Eaters. The Dream Eaters are split into two categories: Nightmares, which eat only good dreams, and Spirits, which only eat bad dreams. Originally released on Nintendo 3DS and later as part of the 2.8 Final Chapter prologue collection, Dream Drop Distance can be skipped in its entirety. While the game reveals some information about the large battle between Organization XIII and the Guardians of Light, much of this is contained in the other games, so Dream Drop Distance and the entire Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection can be skipped over.
Kingdom Hearts X (Unchained/Union/Dark Road) – Not necessary
Kingdom Hearts X was a free-to-play browser game covering some of the events that took place directly after the end of the Keyblade Wars. After it was shut down, it was transitioned to a mobile game titled Kingdom Hearts Unchained, and later renamed to Kingdom Hearts Union X. It would subsequently receive even more story updates, changing the name again to Kingdom Hearts Union X Dark Roads. That mobile version is still available to download but is receiving no further updates. The game follows a young Xehanort when he was still a Keyblade wielder.
While the online parts have shut down, you can still access the story via cutscenes and some offline gameplay. This game provides a ton of backstory for both the world of Kingdom Hearts and its main villain, but nothing here is essential to understanding the main story. Since Kingdom Hearts X is free to download, there’s no harm in checking it out, but know that it is not necessary.
Kingdom Hearts 3 (and Re:Mind) – Must play
Kingdom Hearts 3, like the other two numbered entries, is essential to play. This story sees the Guardians of Light and Organization XIII begin the second Keyblade war. However, Sora, one of the Guardians of Light, has lost some of his power, so Sora, Donald, and Goofy must travel to different Disney kingdoms to restore his strength and his power of waking. Kingdom Hearts 3 serves as a conclusion of sorts to the current main story in Kingdom Hearts.
One important note here is that there is also a DLC for Kingdom Hearts 3 called Re:Mind. That DLC, while functioning like a boss rush mode, has a significant impact on the ending of Kingdom Hearts 3, so it’s important to play as well.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory – Not necessary
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is the most recent entry in the Kingdom Hearts franchise and the most different by far. It’s a rhythm game, where you need to hit notes while the characters run through different past worlds. The primary story of Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is summarizing the past events as Kairi searches her memory for a clue about Sora’s whereabouts post-Kingdom Hearts 3.
There are a few small tidbits of new information in Melody of Memory, including a couple of concepts that appear important to the setup of Kingdom Hearts 4, but overall its skippable. While we can’t know for certain until Kingdom Hearts 4 releases, it seems likely that the game will provide the small bits of information as context. If you feel really compelled, read a summary of the new story bits or watch the cutscenes on YouTube.
Source: Game Spot Mashup