Don't be fooled by the charming look of the Disney and Square Enix characters - Kingdom Hearts is one of the most complex and confusing sagas in video games. It's a story that spans dozens of years and worlds, spread across several generations of consoles, platforms, and games. There's sequels, prequels, spin-offs, demos, and animations, and it all adds up to the epic saga that is Kingdom Hearts.
For this very reason, it can be a daunting experience, and as such, we created this guide on how to best approach the several games in the series. For starters, we believe the best way to play the saga is by following the release order, not the chronological order, as that's the way those games and story revelations were intended too be experienced. On PC, as in PS4 and Xbox One, players will be getting four "games": Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind, and Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory .
Using those two collections and two games as starting points, here's how to best enjoy the series.
KINGDOM HEARTS HD 1.5 + 2.5 REMIX
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix:This is actually a buffed up version of the first game, originally released on PS2, with new enemies, weapons, and even cinematic sequences. It is the game in which the trio Sora, Donald, and Goofy meet for the first time, and where we're introduced to several of the key characters. It's also the one that includes the most Final Fantasy characters.
Disney Movies included: Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hercules, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories: In this collection, the version of Chain of Memories you will find is actually a remake, as the original was released for Gameboy Advance. Much closer to the first Kingdom Hearts in terms of gameplay and graphics, Chain of Memories is also important if you want to better understand some of Kingdom Hearts II's events.
Disney Movies included: Aladdin, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh.
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix: Released for PS2, there are those who consider this to be the best game in the saga, even put up against Kingdom Hearts III, although we don't necessarily share that opinion. With a new protagonist, this is where the Kingdom Hearts plot really starts to get confusing, introducing notions like Nobodies and Organization XIII.
Disney Movies included: Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast, Jack's Strange World, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, Tron, Steamboat Willie.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days: This Nintendo DS game has never been much appreciated by fans, and as such, Square Enix decided to turn it into a three-hour "movie" for the collection. You can view the cinematic footage in high definition, and pick up some more plot points, although a recap on YouTube can be a better option if you want to save some time.
Disney Movies included: Aladdin, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final MIX: This prequel released for PSP is essential to understanding the overall plot in Kingdom Hearts, as it reveals important information about characters and groups in the game, including the main hero, Sora, and the main antagonist, Xehanort. Aqua, Terra, and Ventus are the protagonists of this particular adventure.
Disney Movies included: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Lilo and Stitch, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Hercules, Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded: Like 358/2 Days, the Re: Coded story sequences have been adapted into a movie for the collection. It is not entirely essential to the overall plot, and as such, a recap on YouTube might be the better option. Or, if you have the time, just grab a bucket of popcorn and enjoy the "movie".
Disney Movies included: Aladdin, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland.
KINGDOM HEARTS HD 2.8 FINAL CHAPTER PROLOGUE
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD: Originally released for Nintendo 3DS, Dream Drop Distance was later adapted to home consoles, featuring graphical improvements and changes in gameplay. The story, although not essential, allows you to accompany Sora and Riku training, as they try to master their Keyblades.
Disney Movies included: The Three Musketeers, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Tron.
Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover: Another prequel, this one released as a mobile and browser game, converted into a movie by stitching together all the cutscenes. It's not essential, but it does offer details that help clarify the origin of the Keyblade War, and it has links to Kingdom Hearts III.
Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep - A fragmentary passage: This chapter is not really a game, but rather a special episode that was never released outside the context of this collection. This was the first sample players got of the new graphics engine and gameplay changes for Kingdom Hearts III, and features Aqua as the protagonist. It's short, and serves as an epilogue to Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and a prelude to Kingdom Hearts III.
PRESENT AND FUTURE
Kingdom Hearts III: After years of waiting, players finally got the opportunity to play Kingdom Hearts III in 2019. With graphics far superior to what the series had shown before and modernised gameplay mechanics, Kingdom Hearts III is a fantastic game (rated 10/10 on Gamereactor!), and a great conclusion to the overall story arc, even if this is not the end for Kingdom Hearts. That said, don't even think about walking blind into it without playing the others or reading/watching recaps, as it's story will be practically impenetrable otherwise.
Disney Movies included: Hercules, Frozen, Pirates of the Caribbean, Toy Story, Tangled, Monsters Inc., Big Hero 6, Winnie the Pooh.
Kingdom Heats III: Re-Mind: This expansion ties some of the loose ends from Kingdom Hearts III, while opening new doors for the saga, and is already included in the PC version of Kingdom Hearts III. To play after finishing the main story.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory: This is the latest game from Kingdom Hearts, and suggests a very different approach, combining the typical gameplay with a rhythmic system. It includes over 140 songs from the saga, but also some plot moments, which will help to prepare the future of Kingdom Hearts. Highly recommended for die-hard fans.
Kingdom Hearts IV: The Kingdom Hearts saga is not over yet, even though a large part of the story has been completed with Kingdom Hearts III. We're not going to get into spoilers, but Re-Mind and Melody of Memories leave a lot of possibilities that the saga can explore, and we're looking forward to see where Sora, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy are going to take us next.