Hey guys! It’s day one of my little celebration for Kingdom Hearts’ 20th anniversary! I’m really looking forward to whatever this month brings for my favorite video game series, and I’m also excited to share this celebration with you! As I said in my announcement post, I will be releasing twenty posts about Kingdom Hearts leading up to the anniversary date (March 28th), so be on the look out for all of them!
For this first post, I’ll be listing out the order in which the Kingdom Hearts series should/can be played! I’ll also be sharing where you can get the games. There’s a lot to go over, so let’s get started!
How Should You Play Kingdom Hearts?
For those of you who are brand new to Kingdom Hearts, the series might look rather daunting. I know it did for me when I first started out, since I was pretty late to the party and there was a lot to catch up on. Different lists will tell you different ways to play, but I’m going to give you the way I played it, since I think it’s probably the best way. You’ll see what I mean as I go through the list. Take a look!
Obviously it’s good to start with the first game in the series! Kingdom Hearts was released on March 28th, 2002 in Japan, and then on September 17th worldwide. I was a baby then, so I didn’t get into the action until six or seven years later, haha! Definitely start with this one, as it sets up the plot and is the most simply of all the games to follow!
Chain of Memories
I highly recommend stopping by Chain of Memories before moving on to Kingdom Hearts 2, because not only does this game pick up right where Kingdom Hearts left off, but it also sets the tone of Kingdom Hearts 2. The battle system takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of fighting with cards, it is actually quite fun! Plus, this game, released on November 11, 2004, was the first game that allowed us to play as Riku!
Kingdom Hearts II
My favorite game in the series, and my favorite game period. Kingdom Hearts II is fun, nostalgic, and it was my first introduction into the series when I watched my dad play it back in the mid/late-2000s. Most newbies want to jump right to Kingdom Hearts II (like I almost did), but this should be played third after the original game and Chain of Memories. Kingdom Hearts II released on December 22, 2005.
I see a lot of controversy as to when this game should be played, but I highly suggest playing/watching it AFTER Kingdom Hearts II. I feel like that if you played this first, as some lists suggest, you ruin the mystery that the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II brings. Of course, it’s entirely up to you how you play the game, but I think it’s best to play this right after Kingdom Hearts II. 358/2 Days takes place during Chain of Memories and leads into Kingdom Hearts II, and because of that, it spoils how KHII begins. You could even play this one after Re:Coded, which I will discuss next. It has no connections to that game, so it doesn’t matter as long as you play it after KHII. 358/2 Days released on May 30, 2009.
Re:Coded, which released on October 7th, 2010, picks up right where Kingdom Hearts II left off. This game actually doesn’t follow the real Sora, and is about a Data Sora that Mickey and the others created. It can be a tedious game, since its basically the original game all over again, but it’s worth it to see the story. Really, you could play this one first, or 358/2 Days first. It doesn’t matter between those two!
Birth By Sleep
I would say to play Birth By Sleep after playing 358/2 Days and Re:Coded, but it actually doesn’t matter which order you play the three in, since they essentially do not have many connections to each other. Birth By Sleep, released on January 9th, 2010, is a fan favorite. The story is different from the other Kingdom Hearts, since you get to pick which character you play as (Terra, Aqua, and Ventus). You have to play through the story of each character in order to beat the game. Birth By Sleep takes place ten years before the original Kingdom Hearts game, so Sora is actually only four years old in this game. So cute!
Dream Drop Distance
This was such a fun game! Released on March 29th, 2012, it is definitely different from the others in terms of gameplay! You get to play interchangeably as Sora and Riku as they take their Mark of Mastery exam, and it can either be an annoyance to you or it could be fun. When playing as Sora, for example, the game will have a timer for how long you can play as him before it switches over to Riku. You can also switch between them whenever you want, but finishing one character first may actually spoil the story of another. I learned this the hard way my first playthrough, and it made things a little difficult to understand at times, but it’s really not that big of a deal, so don’t worry too much about it!
A Fragmentary Passage
To be honest, I’m not really sure when this game should actually be played. You could play it any time before Kingdom Hearts III honestly, but when I was playing through the series with a friend, we played this one right before we moved on to Kingdom Hearts III. It’s a pretty short game, and can be beaten in one sitting, but it’s cool to be able to play as Aqua in the Realm of Darkness! A Fragmentary Passage released on January 12th, 2017.
Union X & Back Cover
This is where things get tricky. So Union X is now an offline game, and can no longer be played, but you can still watch the cutscenes on YouTube and on the offline version of the game. It doesn’t really matter whether you watch the Back Cover movie and then play Union X, or vice versa, but it’s probably smart to watch the movie first since it sets up everything with the mysterious traitor, which is a big plot point in Union X. Back Cover is a short movie, too, and a very interesting one at that, so it’s fun to watch. Also, there is a ton of Union X cutscenes to get through, so I would actually suggest you get started on it pretty soon (you could even start watching them after Birth By Sleep if you wanted to. Just make sure to get acquainted with the Master of Masters and his apprentices BEFORE Kingdom Hearts III. Union X released on September 3rd, 2015, and Back Cover released on January 12, 2017.
Kingdom Hearts III
While there were plenty of games to keep the fandom occupied in between KHII and KHIII, the wait was a long one! Definitely save this one for fourth to last, as it contains the most recent events of the story so far. You don’t have to watch all the Union X cutscenes before this game, but you will want to get pretty far into it to get a feel for the characters. Once you’ve played all the games, it’s time for Kingdom Hearts III, which released on January 29th, 2019 (I still remember it like it was yesterday!).
ReMind is actually a DLC for Kingdom Hearts III, and it was released on January 23rd, 2020, just a year after KHIII. So here’s the deal with ReMind. It’ll be giving you deja vu, because it’s actually the ending of KHIII all over again, but this time it’s got some added stuff. You get to play as other characters, and this game was actually the first to give us playable Kairi! After you see the new and improved KHIII ending, it’ll do a one year time jump. If you know the events of the KHIII ending, then you know a certain character didn’t make it through the game, so he isn’t present after the time jump. And here’s where things get dodgy. Like Re:Coded, you have to play Data Sora some more to beat the Data Battles, which can get annoying since you have to beat them in order to continue on with the story. Once you beat them all, it will take you to the secret episode, which will have you playing as the real Sora once again. Beat the secret boss to get the secret ending. And to just be more confused that you ever were…
Melody of Memory
Melody of Memory, released on November 11, 2020, is actually the first game in Phase 2 of the Kingdom Hearts. It’s not like any of the others, since it’s gameplay is entirely music based. Think Guitar Hero, for example. I’ve seen people call this game the “love letter to Kingdom Hearts fans”, and I have to agree with them. Melody of Memory takes players through the entire series as a refresher now that we’re in Phase 2, and it’s one nostalgic ride! I believe this game was actually made for people who want to jump into the series, but are too overwhelmed by the amount of games to play. Still, I suggest playing this second to last, since after you beat all the levels it has some stuff for the story with Kairi and Riku.
I put this at the end of the list only because, well, you can’t even play it right now. Dark Road, like Union X, went offline, unfortunately. However, they will be bringing this game back online sometime within the next month or so (as long as it doesn’t get delayed again), and they will release the end of the game with it. Really, you could play this game whenever you wanted. Oh, and since this game is REALLY BORING, you could actually just watch the cutscenes on YouTube. Unlike Union X, there isn’t that much to see. Dark Road first released on June 22, 2020, and it follows a teenage Xehanort and how he became the villain of the series.
Where Can You Play Kingdom Hearts?
These days, you can play Kingdom Hearts just about anywhere! On Playstation 4, Xbox 1, and I believe on the PC as well, you can now play the entire series. However, you will not be able to play 358/2 Days and Re:Coded (or Union X and Dark Road), because they are Nintendo DS exclusives and only the movie versions are available on these platforms. I have a 3DS, so I was able to play those two with it.
Again, Union X and Dark Road are both mobile games, but at the moment, both are offline. You can still get into Union X, but you can no longer play the game. You can watch the cutscenes though! As for Dark Road, it is getting a new release date when the entire game will be playable until, I assume, it goes offline again.
And just a side note, the Back Cover movie does come with those packs I was talking about, but you can also watch it on YouTube.
Lastly, every single one of the games will be available on the Nintendo Switch on February 10th, but that will only be the cloud versions (and, once again, Union X and Dark Road will not be on the Switch, and 358/2 Days and Re:Coded will only be movies). Melody of Memories came out for the Nintendo Switch, so that will be the only non-cloud version Kingdom Hearts game on the Switch.
That’s all of that! It may look pretty daunting, but I promise it’s worth it! Kingdom Hearts is my all-time favorite video game series, and not only is the gameplay really fun (in most of them), the plot is complex with lovable Square Enix and Disney characters!
Will you be getting into Kingdom Hearts? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, God bless y’all and have a wonderful rest of the week!
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