The Kingdom Hearts series began as a loveable JRPG that mashed up original characters and stories, memorable Disney characters, and a touch of Final Fantasy. Oh, and a legendary giant key as a weapon. Over the course of the series, its story would grow to be very complex and, some may say, convoluted. No matter how far down the rabbit hole you go, most of the games offer some fantastic JRPG action gameplay.
While the series’s last entry to many was a letdown, there is likely more on the way. Kingdom Hearts 3 ends with a few things left up in the air. It also ends without closing all the plot holes. We can only hope that Square Enix touches more on what made the series great in whatever comes next. And hopefully this next go around we don’t get a ton of games that aren’t super important to the overall plot with less than stellar gameplay.
With any series, there are games that are a shining, positive part of its legacy. Kingdom Hearts has several of those, but there have also been a few clunkers. From uninspired games rehashing past events to cash-grab mobile entries, it’s fair to say quite a few things didn’t work well.
Here’s our list of Kingdom Hearts games ranked from worst to best.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained X / Dark Road
This is truly the only bad game in the series. The game was first released as a browser game and eventually found its way to phones. It is a prequel to the series as a whole. It lets players create a customer avatar and traverse through a variety of worlds inspired by Disney.
Gameplay within it is repetitive and there are a lot of “optional” microtransactions that are beneficial to the game. While they are not required, they do help a lot. Quests are also boring and offer little variation and the story points are doled out in an excruciatingly slow fashion.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded
Initially released as a mobile game in Japan, Coded is weird even by Kingdom Hearts standards. It takes place after Kingdom Hearts 2 and has players controlling a digital Sora who enters a corrupted version of Jiminy Cricket’s journal. The game is just as weird and unnecessary as it sounds.
It eventually found its way to the Nintendo DS with Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded and was a full-on remake. The gameplay, like the original, relied on puzzle solving with some action elements thrown in for good measure. In the HD remasters of the games, Re:Coded’s inclusion is purely cinematic. The game would have required another remake since the DS version relied so heavily on touch controls.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
358/2 Days tries to do some interesting things with the franchise. Like Birth By Sleep, the game departs from Sora and friends and takes the player on a journey using a lesser-seen character with Roxas. It explores his life as part of Organization XIII and the friendships he makes.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days mostly revisits past areas and stories from the first two games, but the new perspective puts a fun twist on things. It is featured in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix as a 3-hour long cinematic movie since developers weren’t able to remake the game.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
While not quite a game as much it was a precursor to Kingdom Hearts 3, A Fragmentary Passage was meant to show off what Kingdom Hearts 3 could do. It is a prologue to the third entry and is a part of the game Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
In it, you play Aqua and it follows her journey through the Realm of Darkness. It’s a relatively short journey, clocking in at only 2 or 3 hours. Despite that, it is still better than some of the other games on this list.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
Melody of Memory is the most recent entry in the series and the most unique approach. If it isn’t obvious by the title, the game primarily is a rhythm action game. It follows Kairi as she reexamines the events of the first three games in an effort to locate Sora’s whereabouts within her heart.
The game lets players explore 47 different worlds and songs plus 33 “dark holes” where boss battles occur. Like several other entries in the series, the game retreads a lot of familiar ground. If you’re a fan of the music in the game, though, it can be an enjoyable trek through the history of the series.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
Re:Chain of Memories is actually a remake of a Game Boy Advance game called Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The game serves as a direct sequel to the first game and a bridge between it and the second. It does a lot of setting up for the second game, but despite that, it’s not super necessary to play.
It does offer a unique spin on gameplay with a deck-building system implemented for combat. The remake also brings the gameplay from 2D to a much more enjoyable 3D style in line with most of the other entries.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
Dream Drop Distance follows Sora and Riku as they try to complete their Mark of Mastery Exam. The game features time travel and runs parallel with the first game. For many, the plot was thought to be boring and at times lacking, but the inclusion of unexplored worlds from The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Prankster’s Paradise from Pinnochio offered further glimpses into more Disney worlds.
Where Dream Drop Distance really shines is in its gameplay. It features a Drop system where players are able to swap between Sora and Riku. Instead of party members, players are able to recruit Spirits, a good version of the new Dream Eater enemy-type introduced in the game. While it is somewhat disappointing to be missing out on the traditional party members, this addition adds a slight creature-catching element that can be fun.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Despite generally favorable reviews, Kingdom Hearts 3 is pretty divisive with fans. Despite the story getting even more complicated and a number of characters having some, perhaps, unneeded developments, the game is a blast to play. It also looks gorgeous.
Between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3 was a fourteen-year window where a series of less-than-stellar side games was released. And even if this third entry into the mainline series didn’t live up to everyone’s standards, it’s still one hell of a game.
Combat is silly and fun, everything looks and moves fantastically, and a lot of the narratives and resolutions are moving. Besides a number of confusing plot elements, its biggest offense is nixing the Final Fantasy characters.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
The spin-off games in the Kingdom Hearts series aren’t all as great as Birth By Sleep is. In fact, many of them are pretty bad. They often tread familiar ground and stories. But Birth By Sleep is different. It changes up the battle system with the addition of a first-person system called Focus for magic and the Command System for more abilities and techniques to use.
Birth By Sleep is a prequel story that succeeds because it follows characters we aren’t familiar with and tells the engrossing stories of Aqua, Ven, and Terra. It follows them to various Disney worlds, some familiar with a twist like getting to meet and help a young Hercules and some new like getting to explore Stitch’s world. There is also a lot more Mickey in this game, and that’s never a bad thing.
This is where it all began. It’s hard not to be hooked by the opening sequence. Sora freefalling through the sky paired with the slow build-up of Utada Hikaru’s song “Simple and Clean” is the perfect way to begin this crazy series.
The sequence ends with Sora arriving on a large stained glass platform decorated with characters from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s hard not to be simultaneously confused and interested. Thankfully the first entry in the series is fairly easy to follow, and its gameplay and story are pretty straightforward in its first outing.
Kingdom Hearts 2
It’s rare that a sequel surpasses the original, but it can happen. That’s just what Kingdom Hearts 2 does. While its opening few hours can feel a little uncertain with the introduction of new characters, it is immediately evident that whatever is happening is important and going to lead to bigger things.
The second entry is also where Kingdom Hearts’ gameplay really starts to hit its stride. The gameplay begins to feel more fluid and the addition of things like Reaction Commands which allow Sora and his party to use the environment is introduced and remains a staple of the series. It also introduces some epic and difficult boss battles – including a brutal one with Sephiroth from Final Fantasy 7.
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