Ranking Kingdom Hearts Games for the 20th Anniversary

The Square Enix title will be celebrating its 20th anniversary event on April 10, 2022 with plans for celebrations set in Tokyo with a live stream for us all to witness the joy.

The fanbase is ready for more Kingdom Hearts, now that the Dark Seeker saga comes to an end and the series moves on into new territories, we are craving a new title.

To join in on the celebrations, lets step back and delve into the mainstream Kingdom Hearts games which have been released thus far.

Disclaimer: There will be no mention of Kingdom Hearts X or Dark Road.

9) Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

A music melody game, really? This entry of the series is one which seems slightly insulting to even purchase.

As a Kingdom Hearts fan and gamer since I was three-years-old, the moment the announcement came out, the instance reaction was to not even think about this title.

The gameplay itself does bring some good old nostalgia, as we all love the soundtrack of the series, but this series shouldn’t be a coat of Dance Dance Revolution.

This game does provide some intriguing story cutscenes with Kairi and questions about the alternate reality which will lead the next saga of Kingdom Hearts. But does that really sell a whole video game? No.

8) Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

The other questionable entry of the series was Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, released on the Nintendo DS in 2010.

This title filled in a question of the plot which was what was in Mickey’s letter at the end of Kingdom Hearts II? But did this need to be a whole game? Not really.

The combat system and unlocking mechanics was pleasantly fun and surprisingly replay-able, however the lack of detail in the story and constant ‘filler’ moments seriously let the game down.

Sadly, its ranking near the bottom is well deserved and is one you don’t need to play in order to understand the full series.

7) Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

The mysterious true sequel to Kingdom Hearts which most of us had no idea existed. Chain of Memories was the title to tie together the first two titles with one of the most complex, yet intriguing stories of the whole series.

First released on GameBoyAdvance and then re-released on the PS2, Chain of Memories first introduced us to the Organisation XIII with iconic characters such as Axel, Marluxia and Larxene.

While this game had such an interesting concept in the secretive Castle Oblivion, the gameplay is what lets it down tremendously. While some enjoy the card decking system, its one which takes a while to get used to and still is slightly confusing, especially when attempting to replay the game several years later in the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix edition.

6) Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days

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First and foremost there is one area to remember about this game. Ruler of the sky: one of the most evil boss battles in the series.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2days was one of the most story driven games of the series, taking the series in a different direction which doesn’t focus mainly on Sora for the first time. Refreshing to say the least, yet Roxas never seems to be fully developed for me, its the constant tantrums and lack of understanding that seem to frustrate when playing these games. Focussing more on the “villans” of video games needs to be reflecting more and this game explores that in a dynamic way.

However, Roxas, Xion and Axel together do pull at the heartstrings throughout with these characters and their care for each other, with the final Xion battle being one of the most emotional moments in the series which makes you just go cold.

Gameplay and graphics place this game lower in the list with its release on the Nintendo DS holding it back. Furthermore, when replaying this game the repetitiveness of the missions felt the game going on and on. But as mentioned, the story saves this game and makes it a worthy element of the series.

5) Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

Ah, the sequel that wasn’t really Kingdom Hearts III, yet seemed like it was Kingdom Hearts III and then turned out not to be, but is a hint of it. Yes, that is the best way to describe the reaction for this games release.

The game which first gave us the broken but clever flowmotion combat system was a refreshing change from the previous two DS titles, with the plot finally moving forward.

Entering the dream worlds was an interesting concept and the worlds of Notre Dame and Fantasia was surprising yet brilliant editions to the series.

For a 3DS game there’s only so much you can do with the software and while the drop system caused many infuriating moments in boss battles, this title was a pretty solid edition to get the wheels turning on the plot which seemed to drag at this point.

4) Kingdom Hearts

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

The start of it all, Kingdom Hearts first released on the PS2 in 2002 and look how far we have come now.

‘Destiny Islands’, ‘Traverse Town’, ‘The End of The World’; this game was full of content and unexpected surprises. The engaging story of traversing through Disney worlds for the first time while trying to find Riku and Kairi kept us all anticipating what was going to happen next, what was a Keyblade and what is Ansem.

While it might not have as much of a detailed combat system as its sequel, the game standards still hold respectively and is enjoyable to replay in the HD remixes.

The personal highlight will always be ‘Hollow Bastion’ and exploring this gigantic, unique castle which truly demonstrates how Kingdom Hearts isn’t just a Disney game for kids, but is so much more.

3) Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep

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Birth by Sleep tied many pieces of the story together, with the prologue of Kingdom Hearts meaning we finally got to understand how a lot of the story first began.

The uniqueness of this game makes it a standout, from the heart-wrenching story, the introduction of the command deck and the fact we get three characters perspective of the plot.

Story development is at the heart of this game, with the Keyblade Graveyard is one of the most unforgettable locations, with scenes and action purely filled with tragedy and anger.

Aqua is simply one of the most loved characters from the fanbase and her heroic actions can arguable be placed above Sora’s at times.

From this, Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, allowed us to explore more of Aqua’s story after the events of Birth by Sleep allowing us to delve into her story while giving a glimpse at gameplay mechanics for the highly anticipated Kingdom Hearts III.

2) Kingdom Hearts III 

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

The sequel which we had all been waiting for, every month, every year, for 6 years (13 really). This highly anticipated game was the ultimate answer solver, the one that’s supposed to bind all of the games and story together. But did it?

Perhaps more than we think. We got to finally witness what Xehanort’s true intentions were, which members he bought into the ‘real’ Organisation XIII as well as some heartwarming and much needed reunions from our Wayfinder trio as well as the Sea Salt trio.

Seriously what took so long for this and why wasn’t Mickey held fully accountable for leaving Aqua?? Anyway…

The unreal 4 engine game was a breath of fresh air, with visually stunning gameplay and a story which captivates you from start to finish. The Kingdom of Corona from Tangled stands out among these worlds as well as Toy Box to showcase Disney and Pixar’s partnership in the iconic Toy Story.

Many much needed additions were bought to this game, from more ally party members, to an enhanced combat system with updated visuals.

However, what there we some missed opportunities which could’ve been implemented. For example, a Sephiroth boss battle, where was it and why was it not introduced? This lack of Final Fantasy characters is concerning considering it was one of Kingdom Hearts’ USP’s on first release. While understandable that Disney want to branch off from Final Fantasy, characters such as Leon, Cloud and Yuffie add another level of depth and nostalgia which brings the series together.

Twilight Town was also done dirty in this game, very disappointing.

The Remind DLC does fix this issue and add some MUCH needed story development, it’s still a let down. Another issue was an idea created by YouTubers where the story followed each trio with multiple character selection throughout. This would’ve been a game-changer.

Nevertheless, the third main instalment exceeded in graphics and story telling, which is why it ranked second on this list.

1) Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney/IGN

There’s not even a hint of doubt on where to place this masterpiece of a game. The sequel to Kingdom Hearts is the most dynamic, action packed and story driven game to come out of the series. A phenomenal overall package.

The replay-ability on this sequel is one of its stand out features. Delving into the world of Roxas and then our beloved Sora as he explores the Disney worlds on the quest to find his missing Destiny Trio once more.

While the standalone edition without final mix is perhaps lacklustre in post-game, the final mix edition perfects this game with the cavern of remembrance, Roxas fight in TWTNW, the secret Terra fight and the challenging Mushroom XIII missions.

This game had so much to show, its the nostalgia mixed with true storytelling in a video game with a combat system which still works in 2022.

One of the highlights was attempting to defeat Sephiroth for four years between 6 and 10 was an actual experience.

By Jack Proverbs

Image credit: Square Enix/Disney

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