It has been over 12 years since the release of Kingdom Hearts II, and fans have been patiently waiting for Kingdom Hearts III ever since. Now, this new entry is finally coming out in less than a week, and I think it's easy to say that, with new worlds and tons of amazing gameplay footage already revealed, many are excited to get their hands on the game.
With that said, there have been a plethora of games in the series released after Kingdom Hearts II, and it's about time to see where they rank from worst to best. To make it on this list, the only requirement is that it has to have been released on an actual game console, so don't expect to see the likes of Union X here.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded originally started its life as an episodic cellphone game in Japan, beginning in 2008 and ending in 2010, before being released on the Nintendo DS. This version came late in the DS's lifespan, and many would agree that it's easily the worst game in the series.
Re-Coded is more of a filler game than anything else, with only small details that progress the over-arching story of Kingdom Hearts. It's such a pointless installment that many were relieved to hear that it was just remade into a movie when it was released in Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix.
The game reuses every world from the original Kingdom Hearts and attempts to shake things up by adding different bits of gameplay to each of the various worlds. However, it suffers from being a jack off all trades, master of none.
No element feels interesting or fun, as the various mechanics are not fleshed out, and none of the joy or wonder from past games is present, with the re-used environments feeling like pale imitations of their PS2 counterparts.
I can't speak for everyone, but I'm pretty sure that no fan will say this game is their favorite.
After Kingdom Hearts II, fans were aching for the next installment of the beloved series. What they got was... something.
Taking place between Kingdom Hearts I and II, 358/2 Days is sort of the origin story of Roxas, focusing on his days with Organization XIII. Throughout, we see Roxas learning about his true nature and hanging out with his friend Axel and newcomer Xion. What follows is an adventure that... exists.
The best way to describe 358/2 Days is that it is a game of its era. It is impressive to see a game like it on the DS, but it just doesn't really hold up that well.
Its mission structure limits how much you can explore in each of the worlds, compared to previous games, and the writing for these worlds is lacking the spark that the films that they are based on had. Moreover, the main plot moves at a snail's pace.
Top all of this off with a lackluster combat system, repetitive levels, and a story that's only for diehard fans, and you'll see why this and Re:Coded were relegated to animated films in the various HD collections.
While it was the first sequel to Kingdom Hearts, many saw Chain of Memories as just a watered downed repeat of the original put out on the Game Boy Advance. It didn't help that it featured a card-based battle system rather than the typical one that many were used too.
While it is an impressive title for the GBA, featuring a card system that requires some strategy and solid looking 2D sprites, its port from handheld to console robbed it of some of its charm.
That is, the 3D worlds of the GBA release feel much smaller and more confined when put side by side with Kingdom Hearts. This was acceptable on a handheld console like the GBA, but not so much with the PS2 version, as expectations are much higher for a home console.
Furthermore, the reused and cramped worlds mean that combat can become a chore to play through, especially since there is nearly 30 hours of gameplay in Chain of Memories. Other games in the series at least try to mix things up with different gameplay types.
Featuring nothing but combat, this game quickly becomes monotonous, and it makes it hard to see the plot through to its conclusion, despite the story holding up adequately.
Also, that Vexen Boss fight can go straight to the darkest realm of the Darkness.
Dream Drop Distance may have been another handheld game, but it does enough in setting up the events of Kingdom Hearts III to justify its existence.
The worlds are decent at making you feel like you're in your favorite Disney films, and they contain much larger environments than some of the games in the series. Meanwhile, the combat is expanded with the new Flowmotion system, allowing you to pull off various attacks by using your surroundings.
It's not perfect, as the Pokemon-like Dream Eaters feels needless, and the plot does start to become convoluted near the end, but it's worth checking out on either the 3DS or PS4.
First teased in the secret ending to Kingdom Hearts II, this prequel moved away from the story of Sora, Riku, and Kairi (somewhat), and instead focused on a new trio of angsty teens: Ventus, Terra and Aqua.
Taking place 10 years before the events of the original, Birth by Sleep sees the three on their own adventures that sadly ends in tragedy, as they become manipulated by Master Xehanort's plan to obtain Kingdom Hearts.
Playing as three characters, each with a unique personality, helps mix things up, as it allows us to get to know each of the characters before their unfortunate fates.
While the game has shown a bit of its age, with each world feeling much more confined than past entries and the characters playing extremely similarly to one another, being able to craft new abilities does help alleviate some of the issues that plagued past handheld titles.
Furthermore, the handful of Disney worlds that were chosen to be in Birth by Sleep, including Lilo and Stitch, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, still manage to retain some of the charm of the films that inspired them.
Also, how can you say no to a game that features two of the biggest sci-fi actor's of all-time in Mark Hamill, as Master Eraqus, and Leonard Nimoy, as the villainous Master Xehanort? You just can't.
After 4 years of waiting, fans finally got a proper follow up to Kingdom Hearts in Kingdom Hearts II. Sora, Donald, and Goofy's adventure to find Riku and King Mickey expands upon the original, introducing new combat abilities, like drive forms and limit attacks, as well as improved level design and Gummi Ship sections.
There are more Disney worlds to explore, including Mulan, The Lion King, Tron, and Pirates of the Caribbean, with none feeling out of place.
Kingdom Hearts II has a few stumbles, like having one of the worst tutorials of all time and a lack of difficulty, but it's still a sequel that's almost as good as the original.
The game that started it all has to be the game to make it to the top of the list. Sure, the combat isn't as refined as its sequels, and the platforming wasn't that responsive, but it's remarkable that this 2002 title still holds up in 2019.
The combat is simple, but it's still a blast to fight against the hoard of Heartless. Meanwhile, the worlds of Alice in Wonderland, Tarzan, Aladdin, and the rest are beautifully recreated in 3D that still looks good.
The writing manages to perfectly capture each of the various films' spirits, and the simple yet effective story of Sora's search for his friends still manages to hit home. It's the closest that the series gets to feeling like an interactive Disney film.
It is easy to see why Kingdom Hearts captured the heats of millions, and it just goes to show that great game design and storytelling never gets old. Here's hoping there's more of the Kingdom Hearts universe after its third home console installment.