Kingdom Hearts III will release in January of next year, giving newcomers the opportunity to play the previous games. If you are one of these newcomers and have already begun the process, then you’ve probably already realized that some Kingdom Hearts games shine brighter than others. Though some of this may come from visual limitations on the platform the games released on, it’s obvious that graphics only play a part in a game’s quality. The following list aims to rank each installment from worst to best based on aspects of gameplay, story, visuals, etc.
Note: This list will not include final-mix versions of previous games or non-playable new content released in any remasters. The content will mainly focus on original versions of games released on consoles, with some exceptions due to the higher recognition of certain remakes compared to their originals. This list will also not include Kingdom Hearts Unchained X and Kingdom Hearts Union X due to the constant story updates of these games. With that out of the way, let’s begin with every Kingdom Hearts game ranked (part 1).
8. Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded
Re: Coded represents the black sheep of the Kingdom Hearts family. Originally a puzzle game released on mobile phones, Square Enix decided to create a remake on the Nintendo DS that heavily expanded on the gameplay and story. Re: Coded takes place between Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, in which Jiminy Cricket’s journal becomes corrupted with bugs. In order to combat this, King Mickey decides to digitize the journal and have a digital Sora aid in the purging of the journal’s bugs.
From the description alone, you can already see some of the reasoning behind the game’s low ranking. The story feels like the equivalent of a filler episode in a TV show. Most of it has little relation to the overarching story of the series, with the parts that do coming towards the end. The gameplay also leaves something to be desired. Though it does allow for customization options, these features could become rather intimidating and complex at times. Outside of the customization, the gameplay is essentially a rehash of previous games, with nothing new brought to combat. Finally, the level design is lacklustre. While the premise of using worlds from the first game gets explained through plot, they still feel unimaginative and half-baked compared to them. Overall, Re: Coded seems to be the game both fans and Square Enix would like to forget.
7. Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
This remake of the original GameBoy Advance game took a unique spin on the standard Kingdom Hearts formula. It incorporated a card-based combat system and also allowed players to play as Riku for the first time. Regardless, the game still has its flaws. Immediately taking place after the first game, Sora and company enter a place called Castle Oblivion, where members of Organization XIII force them to traverse the castle while re-experiencing events from the previous adventure along the way.
Like Re: Coded, Re: Chain of Memories retreads worlds from the original game with similar (if not the exact) plotlines. Because of this, it’s hard to stay invested in a majority of the game. The worlds also suffer from mediocre level design. This results in a more platforming-like style, which ultimately limits the creativity seen compared to its predecessors. That’s not to say that Re: Chain of Memories is awful. The main story line, while slightly confusing, is still interesting and constantly keeps players on their toes. It also does a fair job of introducing fan-favorite characters like Axel and Naminé for the first time. In the end, while Re: Chain of Memories innovates in both lore and gameplay, its lack of new worlds and sub-par design of the existing ones spell its downfall.
6. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Dream Drop Distance is one of the more recent titles in the series. Taking place after Re: Coded, the game follows Sora and Riku as they embark on their mark of mastery exams. Along the way, they must also bring back worlds that fell into the realm of sleep. While the story tries to tie everything from the franchise so far together, it ends up confusing even veterans at times. The introduction of time travel, like in most plot lines, only manages to further muck up important story elements.
Though innovative in many ways, such as in flowmotion and Dream Eaters, mechanics within the game seem to fall short. While flowmotion allows players to approach combat and exploration in a unique way, the ability to jump off any walls and leap from any buildings leads to over-powered gameplay. Also, Dream Eaters as companions sounds interesting in theory, but the execution leads to tedious grinding in order to strengthen them. However, the game does have its positives. The use of almost completely new worlds creates more interest in exploration, and the incorporation of the Birth by Sleep combat system leads to entertaining battles. Yes, Dream Drop Distance may fail in certain attempts to create new gameplay elements, but it still succeeds in giving players something fun and exciting to enjoy.
5. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (read as 358 Days/2) has some gameplay issues, but it makes up for that in a deep, tragic story. The game follows Roxas, a main character from Kingdom Hearts II, and his days as a member of Organization XIII. As you progress through the plot, you learn more about Roxas and his friends Axel and Xion. You feel the bond between the three of them and begin to care about each of them. You learn of their fears and dreams, which makes the tragic ending of the trio even more heart-wrenching and tear-jerking.
Combat-wise, certain things could have been improved. The method of customization, while better than previous ones, could be streamlined for quicker building of abilities and attacks. Also, the multiplayer mode severely lacks content. It basically allows players to play missions from the single-player campaign as different members of the Organization. While fun at first, the appeal wears off rather quickly, leaving for no replay value. In short, 358/2 Days has a few kinks that could be worked out. In the end, however, the story and character development rise to one of the best (if not the best) within the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
That’s part 1 of the list! Be sure to check back later this week for part 2 and leave your comments on this part down below. Also, be sure to follow us on all of our social media pages for all things gaming!