The Fire Emblem games are a storied part of Nintendo’s history. Debuting only in Japan in 1990, it gave the first Nintendo consoles an enjoyable fantasy RPG-strategy experience. With 2003’s Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, the series made its debut in North America (Europe and Australia got a 2004 release). Since then, the franchise has been a mainstay on every Nintendo system.
The franchise has become one of Nintendo’s most successful. Whether it’s the recently released Fire Emblem: Three Houses or the inclusion of series characters in Super Smash Bros., there’s a lot to love to be had when it comes to Fire Emblem titles.
To honor that heritage, we’re going to go over all the Fire Emblem games ranked from worst to best. We’ll use a combination of fan and critical reception, as well as personal opinion, to form the list. You may agree, you might disagree; either way, be sure to keep the conversation going in the comments.
Editor’s note: Select titles won’t be included on the list. This is due to their lack of availability outside of Japan. We’re only going over games that have, in one way or another, released in the west.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & The Blade of Light may be the worst of all Fire Emblem games, but it also stars Marth, so it has that going for it
It’s the first of the Fire Emblem games, which means it’s going to be a bit rusty. Displaying all the tactical information we take for granted today is a bit hard to do on the Famicon, it turns out.
As we’d later learn from the game’s remake on Nintendo DS, the 8-bit system is the big deterrence here. There’s just not enough processing power to allow the game to reach its full potential.
We do get to follow the adventures of Marth from day one, though, and that’s good news for sure. Still, even if you’re a die-hard Fire Emblem fan, it’s best to stay away from this one.
Fire Emblem: Warriors
Enjoyment of Fire Emblem: Warriors is totally dependent on if you’re a fan of Dynasty Warriors gameplay. It’s not the traditional turn-based strategy game you expect.
Characters from a select few Fire Emblem releases make up the game’s roster. Fan favorites such as Ike aren’t available to play.
With these two factors in mind, it’s easy to put Fire Emblem: Warriors towards the bottom of our list.
Fire Emblem Heroes
While there’s no denying that Fire Emblem Heroes is a free-to-play mobile gacha game, there’s still something to enjoy for Fire Emblem fans.
This is the highest-grossing mobile game from Nintendo for a reason. Heroes balance the trappings and dangers of a gacha game by still offering something for the non-whale players out there. You don’t have to spend lots of money to have a good time.
What’s most impressive concerning Fire Emblem Heroes is that it feels like a legitimate Fire Emblem game. Unlike Super Mario Run, which feels like a mobile game with a Super Mario skin,
Heroes have the foundation you’d expect from a “traditional” release in the franchise. It’s still held back by its genre, but make no mistake: this is a fantastic mobile game and one of the better Fire Emblem games.
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
A remake of 1992’s Japan-only Fire Emblem Gaiden, Shadows of Valentia is the second old-school Fire Emblem remake. However, despite being updated for modern audiences, some of the original’s “quirks” are still present.
Gaiden is seen as the “black sheep” of the Fire Emblem games and for good reason. The beloved weapon triangle “rock, paper, scissors” formula is gone, throwing combat balance of out whack. Furthermore, there are free-roam dungeons available for exploration. In reality, these sound better on paper than they do in practice.
Shadows of Valentia is the example of Nintendo trying something new rather than releasing an underbaked sequel. Things don’t always work, but you have to applaud them for trying.
And hey, it’s still a good game. In fact, for some, this is one of the best.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
The first old-school Fire Emblem remake, Shadow Dragon is an update to the original Fire Emblem release. It’s also arguably the simplest out of all Fire Emblem games, but that’s to be expected.
Fire Emblem and the Nintendo DS are a match made in heaven, allowing for a lot of quality of life and accessibility features with the dual screens. Updated graphics and superior hardware help flesh out the issues of the original Famicon release.
Still, it seems as though all updates for this remaster went into visuals and gameplay. The story and characters pale in comparison to their modern contemporaries. This results in a shorter-than-expected experience that never feels fully fleshed out.
Shadow Dragon is worth playing to experience the original release, but don’t expect to want any return trips.
Fire Emblem Fates
The most ambitious of the Fire Emblem games, Fates is technically three separate releases: Birthright, Conquest, and Revelation. Each version offered something different, with the goal being to play them all for the full experience.
By comparison, Birthright is a far easier and more accessible game compared to the more difficult Conquest title. Given that the main difference between the two games was advertised as story differences, this led to some disappointing experiences.
Of course, with the Revelation DLC, the whole story becomes available, somewhat trivializing your choice in buying the prior games. As a result, Fates feels like more style than substance, a rarity for the franchise.
The game is still a great experience, but definitely a disappointment as a follow-up to Awakening.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Radiant Dawn is Path of Radiance, but bigger. Sadly, that’s not always a good thing.
For many, the one thing that holds Radiant dawn back is the brutal difficulty. If you manage to overcome that hurdle, you’re greatly rewarded. Furthermore, your experience with Radiant Dawn is greatly improved if you played through Path of Radiance.
Radiant Dawn is one of the more controversial Fire Emblem games; you either love it or hate it. The story isn’t as memorable as other titles, and the game’s weaker maps are noticeably disappointing. However, there’s a certain charm found here that helps you look past its flaws.
If you put the work and effort in, you’ll find a lot to love with Radiant Dawn.
Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade Is the First of All Fire Emblem Games to Release in the West
The western debut of Fire Emblem helped introduce the franchise to a whole new audience. After being introduced to the series’ characters through Super Smash Bros., we were able to experience a Fire Emblem game firsthand. The result is a title that properly balances accessibility with depth.
Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade respects the player’s time and ability. It knows when to hold your hand while also understanding when you’re ready to take the training wheels off. Its story and narrative are undoubtedly enhanced by the quality of its characters and dialogue.
Blazing Blade isn’t a game for the faint of heart. Permadeath was a bit of a shock at first to newcomers, but it also helps keep the game from becoming too trivial.
Overall, it may lack the depth or refinement compared to other games in the genre, but The Blazing Blade is still a great game.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
After the success of Blazing Blade, the Fire Emblem games would always see a western release. The first follow-up was also released for the Game Boy Advance: The Sacred Stones.
A lot of what made people fall in love with Blazing Blade is still here: the dangers of permadeath, well-written characters, an engaging story, and fully fleshed-out locations. So why is it ranked above Blazing Blade? Because Sacred Stones does just about everything better.
As good as the story is in Blazing Blade, it fell into some conventional narrative traps. Sacred Stones’ story is deeper, more sophisticated, and engrossing. It’s not afraid to take risks for the betterment of the game.
If the original GBA Fire Emblem got you interested in the franchise, Sacred Stones made you fall in love.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
The first fully 3D Fire Emblem game is a work of art.
Not visually (sorry, not sorry), but in terms of gameplay. If this list of Fire Emblem games ranked was solely based on the gameplay experience, the list would arguably be over here.
Path of Radiance is a top-notch RPG experience, arguably perfecting the tactical experience in terms of combat, characters, and presentation. It may not innovate the genre in many ways, but it absolutely refines and perfects it.
As amazing as the GBA Fire Emblem games are, Path of Radiance proves that the handheld hardware is just holding things back. This was the way to experience the franchise moving forward.
Literally; aside from the sequel Radiant Dawn, we didn’t get an all-new Fire Emblem game for quite some time.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Speaking of that all-new Fire Emblem game mentioned earlier, here it is!
Awakening brought the franchise back to the forefront of Nintendo’s library. It doesn’t just match the presentation and style of Path of Radiance/Radiant Dawn; it exceeds it spectacularly.
Originally thought of as the franchise’s final release, Awakening incorporates elements from other Fire Emblem games to make a “definitive experience.”
Major gameplay innovations in Awakening include the “casual mode,” which removes permadeath from the game, as well as the “pair up” system. The former was lauded as a way to give the game more widespread appeal. The latter adds another layer of depth to both protect important characters that are weaker on the battlefield while empowering your best units.
These gameplay enhancements, combined with the continued superb presentation that began from the GameCube releases, result in one of the best tactical RPGs ever made.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a deep and addicting tour-de-force that tops our list of Fire Emblem games ranked
The most recent entry in the series is also the best. Fire Emblem: Three Houses contains all the best features from the franchise.
While the tactical strategy and combat continue to be deep and entertaining, it’s the characters that truly shine here. I found myself not only building relationships with them for bonuses on the battlefield but also because I’m vested in their stories. Considering the size of the game’s roster, the ability of Intelligent Systems to pull this off is incredibly impressive.
Three Houses tells a deep and engaging story, one that encourages multiple playthroughs. While it seems tedious, each session is as enjoyable as the last.
For our money, this is the best of all Fire Emblem games ranked. We can’t wait to see where the franchise goes next.
Did we get this list right? Wrong? Somewhere in-between? Fire Emblem games have a passionate fanbase and a wide variety of opinions.
For some, the GameCube games are the best in the series, and it’s not even close. Others feel like Shadows of Valentia is the best of the Fire Emblem games.
What do you think? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!