The Kingdom Hearts series has a huge following and a loyal fan base, but its complicated story creates a high barrier to entry for new players. With new series titles on the horizon, many players want to catch up with the story so far. The franchise has a plethora of titles spanning from consoles and handheld to mobile and browser games. This leaves fans with one question, “What order should I play the games in?!”
Here is definitively the BEST order to play the Kingdom Hearts series. Note that this play order differs from both the release order and the story’s timeline and also omits the lesser-known spinoff titles.
Kingdom Hearts Series Gameplay Order:
1. Kingdom Hearts
First off we have the original game, Kingdom Hearts. In the first game of the series, you get to play as the light-hearted protagonist of the series, Sora, as you travel between worlds defeating heartless with your Keyblade in search of your friends. This game will have you hooked from the beginning with unique gameplay that blends the combat system of Final Fantasy and action RPGs with beautifully depicted Disney worlds and iconic characters from both companies. It is original, nostalgic, cheesy, action-packed, and it will make you into a lifelong fan once you’re through playing.
2. Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
The second game you should play (and the second released in the series) is a lot different than the first series title in terms of gameplay. This 3D remastered version of the original Chain of Memories takes Sora, Donald, and Goofy through the ominous Castle Oblivion while fighting against the villainous Organization XIII. Along the way, they encounter several new enemies that become important to the complex Kingdom Hearts plot. The gameplay is based on a deck of cards battle system and takes a bit of practice to master. However, the game is crucial to the Kingdom Hearts story and introduces several key concepts that come into play later on in the series.
3. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Here is where our gameplay order differs from the release order. This game was the fifth installment of the series and was released for the DS, but it is best played third in the pecking order. Also, we are back to an action RPG style combat! The story in 358/2 Days takes place in parallel to Chain of Memories. In this game, we follow Roxas, who is a Keyblade wielder and the newly-recruited thirteenth member of Organization XIII. Roxas forms a bond with two other Organization members, Axel (yes, the same one from before) and Xion and goes on daily missions for the leader of the Organization.
4. Kingdom Hearts II
Time for everyone’s favorite! Kingdom Hearts II is a critically acclaimed game and offers some of the best gameplay you will experience. This game brings back the best parts about the first Kingdom Hearts and adds a few extra elements such as Drive Forms and Reaction Commands to give the player an amazing experience. The prologue features Roxas as the playable character, but soon transitions to Sora before launching the player into an amazing story filled with all of the fan-favorite characters. Seriously, if you were not a fan of the series already, this game will convert you! I could talk about it for days, but you should just go play it instead. Oh, and have fun with that Sephiroth fight if you are bold enough to attempt it.
5. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep
The next game in your playthrough is a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts. 10 years before Sora began his journey, a trio of Keyblade wielders fought against an enemy called the Unversed while training to become Keyblade Masters. The player has access to three different storylines following the three playable characters in the series: Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. We recommend starting with Terra, then playing as Ventus, and saving Aqua for last. The combat system in this game is hack and slash, but each character comes with their own quirks. This game has an amazing story that gives the player lots of plot development for previous games while leaving them with many questions that come into play in Kingdom Hearts 3!
6. KH Re: coded
This game takes place after Kingdom Hearts II, and the player takes control of a virtual Sora (referred to as Data-Sora) created from Jiminy Cricket’s Journal. Mickey tasks Data-Sora with reenacting previous events to find the meaning of a mysterious message left in the journal. Along the way, Sora fights harmful cubes known as Bugs and Heartless. This game fills in gaps in the story thus far and ends with Sora receiving a letter from King Mickey, which is the ending of Kingdom Hearts II! The story is tied together and ready to move forward.
7. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Next on the playlist is Dream Drop Distance. This game allows you to play as both Sora and Riku as they take their Mark of Mastery Exams to become Keyblade Masters. They travel through various worlds while preparing for the return of Master Xehanort. This game introduces new enemies while still retaining the cast of characters from previous games. The plot gets even more complicated toward the end of the game and teases even more content for Kingdom Hearts III.
8. Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
This game is an epilogue to Birth By Sleep and a prologue to Kingdom Hearts III, and it features Aqua as the protagonist in her journey through the Realm of Darkness. It is a quick play that explains a few key plot points before going into Kingdom Hearts III.
9. Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ / Union χ / Back Cover
Here is where things get even more complicated! By the way, that is not an X, that is pronounced as “key” as in the letter Chi. This is a browser/mobile game that takes place before everything thus far as a prologue to the entire series. It also has a companion film, Back Cover, that introduces several important characters that are crucial to Kingdom Hearts III and beyond. The game and companion film explains the origin of Keyblade wielders, the Ancient Keyblade War, and gives insight to characters we have already met!
10. Kingdom Hearts 3
The Holy Grail of Kingdom Hearts games. We waited over a decade for it, and the game did not disappoint. If you have been on the ride this far, then, of course, you will play this game. KHIII ties the story thus far together and sets us up for future events! I will not include any spoilers here. It is a beautiful game and you will love every second of it!
No game series has a more complicated story than Kingdom Hearts, but this is without a doubt the best order to play the Kingdom Hearts series in. After this gaming marathon, you may STILL be a bit lost on the plot. But never fear! There are plenty of plot summaries and explanations on YouTube and forums to help you catch up. Hope you enjoy your next full playthrough thanks to our help!