Ah, another day another ranking article from yours truly. I’ve spent the last 2 weeks playing through all of the Kingdom Hearts games so I could be properly ready to take on KHIII when it eventually comes out. Being the ranking nerd that I am, I decided to share my opinions about these wonderful Disney-cross-Final Fantasy adventures.
But this time I’ve decided to go more in depth with my picks. I have determined my rankings based off of 4 separate scores for story, gameplay, the world selection and quality, and overall enjoyment. With those numbers out of 10, each game will be rated out of 40 total points. I’ll give you my score for each category and reasoning for giving it such.
Keep in mind that this is purely my opinion. You may absolutely love the game I hate the most or despise my #1 pick. I’d love to see your rankings in the comments. Without further ado, let’s kick this ranking list off with my pick for the worst Kingdom Hearts Game.
#7 Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded
This is definitely not a controversial choice. Re: Coded is well known as the absolute worst Kingdom Hearts game. But why is it so bad when compared to the other 6 games in the franchise? Well, here are my thoughts:
One of the biggest complaints about Re: Coded is its story. Now it’s no secret that the Kingdom Hearts franchise has a complicated storyline, so much so that missing one entry in the series will cause you to not know what is going on in the story. Luckily, Re: Coded is the one game in the series that isn’t like this! The story is absolutely unnecessary and boring. It’s not flat out bad, but it is not enjoyable in the slightest.
We follow a digital version of Sora as he explores the data of worlds that have been stored by King Mickey. That’s…pretty much it. There is really nothing of note here aside from one or two cutscenes that were added in the full console version. Overall, this story is just unnecessary and boring.
Similar to the story, the gameplay of Re: Coded doesn’t feel unique or interesting to me. It uses a very similar system as Birth By Sleep with its command deck system. The leveling is actually sort of fun though as it uses the Matrix System. But a good leveling system isn’t enough to keep me engaged in the gameplay. Besides that one unique feature, Coded just plays like a worse version of previous KH games.
World Selection/Quality: 5/10
Lot’s of 5s for this title, but it certainly earns them. Every world in Coded is just copied from other KH games. With new KH games, I want to see new worlds from Disney. Sure, I enjoy the occasional dip into previous worlds like Olympus Coliseum and Halloweentown, but I also like a healthy mix of new worlds to explore. Coded just doesn’t have that.
Not to mention that nothing interesting happens in these worlds. This is mostly due to the weak story, but every time I enter a world in Coded I just don’t care about what I’m doing in it. No mission is interesting, nor are there any character interactions that are memorable to me.
Overall Enjoyment: 4/10
FINALLY NOT A 5! But it’s a 4. Yeah sorry guys, I just don’t like Coded. It’s an unnecessary title that just plays like worse versions of its predecessors. I don’t really recommend playing it unless you’re a hardcore KH fan. Just watch the cutscenes in KH 2.5 and you’ll be fine story wise.
Total Score: 19/40
#6 Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain Of memories
This one may be controversial. I know there’s a lot of Chain Of Memories fans out there, but I wasn’t the biggest fan. It’s not all bad though for several reasons. I still recommend you play it as you may absolutely love some of the elements I’m not too keen on. Let’s get into my scores for this title.
If there’s one thing that Chain Of Memories does oh so right, it’s the story. As a direct continuation to Kingdom Hearts, this title has Sora and Co. meeting Organization XIII, a group of Nobodies who want to find a way to have a heart in Castle Oblivion. Sora gets false memories implanted in him by Namine, a nobody created from Kairi, causing him to desperately try to get to the top of the castle to “reunite” with her.
The story is really good and entertaining. If things like the gameplay or worlds don’t hold your attention, the overall story will without a doubt keep you pushing through. It’s definitely worth playing through for the story alone. There’s even an epilogue section with Riku that is pretty good as he learns to embrace the darkness within him and use it as a weapon. You could even argue that this epilogue is better than the main game’s story, but I wouldn’t go that far.
You fellas like cards? Cause you’ll be using a lot of them throughout your journey. This is really something that you’ll either love or hate. Honestly, it’s somewhere in-between for me. I don’t hate it, but I still much prefer the action-oriented gameplay of the other KH games. I will admit that it was pretty cool to play as Riku for the first time, but other than that I wasn’t the biggest fan of this card system. Not bad in any way, just not really my thing.
The exploration also isn’t very entertaining in either version. The levels just look significantly worse than their counterparts from the original game. I understand that in the RE: COM version this is because they had to translate the isometric view from the GBA version of the game, but it just looks awkward as hell today.
So why do I give this a 6/10? Well, even though I’m not a big fan of it, the card system is actually pretty good. It’s well thought out (for the most part) and can be fun to build a good deck. That being said, you can break this game extremely easy. So easy that, if you get a strong deck and/or strategy, you really have to try to make the game difficult for yourself. That’s never a good thing. Regardless, this game as a solid foundation that just needed a little more ironing out.
World Selection/Quality: 5/10
What is up with these in-between main title games that are so lazy with their world selection? Besides Castle Oblivion itself, every world in COM is taken from the original Kingdom Hearts. The game does very little to try and make these worlds worth visiting again, making them feel boring and tedious. There really isn’t much to go into detail about here, I’m just really disappointed in the lack of new, interesting worlds in this title.
The main issue with the worlds is that there is pretty much no new stories in these worlds. Every mini story is pretty much a repeat of what it was in the original Kingdom Hearts. Why would I want to play through these stories again with a worse combat system when I could just replay the original Kingdom Hearts anytime I want? That is what really kills these worlds for me. They aren’t bad, and they contain some fun boss fights with the card system, but they are still extremely lackluster.
Overall Enjoyment: 6/10
COM is not a bad game at all. I think if I had enjoyed the card-based battle system more, I would end up loving this game. But as it stands, COM is one of those odd entries in the franchise that I found myself playing once for the story and never going back to it.
I totally understand if you love this game though, it has a lot to like. But for me and many others, COM just doesn’t do enough right to stand as one of the franchise’s better titles.
Total Score: 25/40
#5 Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
Another portable title, 358/2 Days is another mixed bag. Similar has very similar strengths as COM but also shares some of its same weaknesses. Even though I am a big fan of Roxas, I cannot deny this game’s many shortcomings. But before tackling those, let’s talk about the game’s biggest strength.
This game stars Roxas, the Nobody that was created in Sora’s image after he is briefly transformed into a Heartless during the events of Kingdom Hearts. We got some small snippets of Roxas’ past in Kingdom Hearts II, but not as much as we would’ve liked. 358/2 Days goes into detail about Roxas’ time in Organization XIII and the relationships he forms with Axel and Xion.
Needless to say, the story is what keeps pushing you forward through the game. Not to say that everything else in the game is bad, but the story is truly what shines here. Square Enix was smart to just put in the cutscenes to this title in the 1.5 Remix since the gameplay did get pretty boring and frustrating throughout the experience.
For a portable title, 358/2 Days actually has a decent KH style of gameplay. It’s in no way perfect, but it works. That being said, it’s less of the mechanics that bog the game down and more of the way they tackle mission structure. This game gets so repetitive and downright boring from a gameplay perspective. As the title suggests, you play through pretty much every day that Roxas is in Organization XIII. Just like real life though, not every day is exciting.
There is way too much of doing the same slog over and over. The only thing that really pushes you forward is the excellent story, but even I found myself having my patience tested during my playthrough of this game. I would love to see Square Enix remake this game from the ground up; keep the excellent story, but adjust the mission structure and the amount that you have to do. But what wouldn’t fix this game’s other big problem…
World Selection/Quality: 5/10
Yet again, the third time in a row now, we have a game that has no original worlds of its own. It just copies other worlds from the previous titles in the series. Ugh, what can I even say that’s new at this point? It’s just boring to go through the same worlds again and again. To its credit though, it’s not like it was in COM. There are indeed different stories in these worlds, but they just aren’t nearly as entertaining or interesting to the main plot. The worlds mostly just function as an area to do missions for Organization XIII.
Overall Enjoyment: 6.5/10
This game isn’t bad, it’s just pretty flawed. Like COM, the story is engaging enough to keep you pushing through, but it doesn’t take away any of the game’s major issues. Another decent, but heavily flawed title in the series for me. It just barely beats out COM mostly due to me slightly preferring 358/2 Days‘ combat and story.
Total Score: 25.5/40
#4 Kingdom HeartS: Dream Drop Distance
This is the last title we have to tackle before hitting the big 3. Dream Drop Distance is a very solid action-RPG experience. You’ll have a good time with this title whether you play the original 3DS version or the HD remake for PS4 in the 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue collection. Even though it has some problems, it’s excellent gameplay and actual attempt to introduce new worlds to the KH series make this a great title.
Aside from Coded, I believe DDD has the worst story of the series. This is mostly due to one thing: the introduction of time travel. The KH storyline was already complicated enough, but with Riku and Sora not only traveling to a new “dream world” but through the fabric of time itself, things get more complicated than needed.
That’s not to say that the story isn’t enjoyable though. There are some really cool moments in both the overall story and the stories within the worlds. Having to go through each world twice (once with Sora, once with Riku) keep things interesting and engaging, even though things do get sort of complicated. Riku also becomes a fantastic character, much more enjoyable than he’s been in pretty much every other KH game. That’s a good thing too since Sora becomes kind of annoying in this title. Nitpick, but he does get on my nerves occasionally. All in all though the story is just good, not great, not horrible, just good.
The gameplay is there DDD truly shines. Aside from one game, in particular, I believe that DDD has the best gameplay out of all the KH games. Combat is very fast paced and exhilarating thanks to the Command Deck from Birth By Sleep making a return, as well as the new Flowmotion system coming into play. Through this system, you can bounce off walls, swing on poles and enemies, and perform powerful attacks to obliterate the enemy. Some of these Flowmotion moves feel a little overpowered, but it’s a blast.
You also don’t have a traditional set party, but instead, you can create little creatures that each have different moves and abilities to help you fight, as well as gain new moves and abilities. This monster creation system can feel a bit gimmicky, but I grew to really enjoy it. You can also perform special finishing moves on enemies through a Reality Shift. These moves differ depending on what world you’re exploring, but each move is just as satisfying to pull off as the last.
As you can tell, I had a lot to say about the gameplay here because it’s just THAT good. If there is only one reason to play DDD, it’s for the gameplay. You will not be left unsatisfied here.
World Selection/Quality: 7/10
DDD is one of the rare portable KH titles that attempts to bring new worlds into the series. For the most part, it succeeds in bringing titles like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, Tron Legacy, and even Fantasia to the world of KH. It’s so refreshing to have a title where Olympus Coliseum isn’t present (even though we all love it) and to focus on all new worlds.
My biggest complaint about the levels is their design. Sometimes they’re just big open areas with really nothing interesting to do except kill Dream Eaters and gather a plethora of small chests. That’s not to say that I find the levels bad because I don’t. But exploring mostly the same areas with both Sora and Riku just to try and find every small chest can get quite tiresome. Still, overall solid world selection and design.
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
I really enjoyed my time with Dream Drop Distance. It’s the second best KH game on a portable console and one that I had a blast playing, mostly because of the extremely fun combat. The story is enjoyable, but a bit ridiculous (even by KH standards). Still, I would highly suggest playing this game if you plan on getting Kingdom Hearts III.
Total Score: 30.5/40
#3 Kingdom Hearts
Now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. You all probably guessed which 3 games would be at the top of the list, all that was for debate was the order they would be in. I could understand any argument for why any of these 3 games is the best in the series, but for me, the one that I find the weakest would be the original Kingdom Hearts. Let’s get into why.
People usually compliment the original Kingdom Hearts for keeping things relatively simple when compared to the rest of the entries of the franchise. And, to an extent, I agree. Kingdom Hearts has a fun story that is easy to follow but is still entertaining. There are some elements of the story that I’m not a fan of, such as how annoying I find Riku in this game (thank god he got better as the series went along), but overall I think this story is pretty damn good. Enough said.
One thing that has seems to have only gotten worse about Kingdom Hearts is the gameplay. The combat system just feels so sluggish after playing later entries in the franchise. It’s in no way bad, but it definitely does not hold a candle to some of the later entries in the series. I keep this score at a 7.5 mostly because I know that, at the time, this gameplay was phenomenal. But a way to tell a game’s lasting power is how well it holds up over time. While many aspects of this game do indeed hold up, the combat isn’t one of them.
The overall gameplay though is indeed solid. My biggest gripes with it were indeed fixed in most of the sequels, so it’s understandable that the development team experimented with things that may or may not have worked then, but worked over time eventually. Great ideas that sometimes work out, and sometimes don’t.
World Selection/Quality: 9/10
For me, Kingdom Hearts has the best world selection of all of the KH games. Now yes, it is the original so it would make sense that it would have a strong selection of Disney worlds to explore. Its selection is so good and varied that so many of the sequels have copied most, if not all of the worlds that this game has. You get worlds based off of Aladdin, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, Tarzan, and much more. We are able to live through all of these Disney childhood classics through this game, which is simply amazing.
The only reason this isn’t a 10/10 is that some of these worlds don’t have the best level design. But even with some shaky level design here and there, I still think that no other KH game has topped the movies and worlds that are in Kingdom Hearts.
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
This game is a classic. Its gameplay hasn’t aged the best, but it is still such a fun title to go back to. As the start of, what is now, one of Square Enix’s top franchises, Kingdom Hearts is a game that I think most fans of action-RPGS and/or JRPGS should experience at least once in their life.
Total Score: 33.5/40
#2 Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
What’s this? A portable KH title that is even BETTER than the original game? How is this possible? Well, we’ll get into specifics in a second, but Birth By Sleep really deserves this spot. As a prequel to the events of the series, we get a game with equal parts engaging story, fun gameplay, and, of course, seeing a plethora of beloved Disney characters along the way.
I think that most people will agree with me when I say that BBS has the best story in the entire KH series. Truth be told though, I was nervous about how the narrative would be in this title going into it. Having three playable characters, Aqua, Ventus, and Terra respectively, who had semi-separate stories has a lot of room to be pretty bad. Luckily, BBS manages to juggle all of these characters and stories perfectly. Each character has an important journey and arc that they go through. All three are equally likable as well, although I’m sure fans have their own personal favorites.
The game also has what is, in my opinion, the best villain in Master Xehanort. He’s an elderly man who seeks not only a new body from Terra but the legendary χ-blade from having Ventus fight the embodiment of the darkness he once had: Vanitas. He isn’t a perfect villain, but one I found loving nonetheless. It was also fun seeing a younger, less wise King Mickey join up with these new characters.
The only reason this doesn’t get a 10/10 is mostly due to how I found the storylines in the individual worlds a little weak. It was cool seeing how one character’s actions affected what another character had to do, but the stories were still a little weak in my opinion. Still, this game stands as the best story that the KH series has seen to date, and it’ll damn hard to beat.
The biggest innovation that BBS brought to the series was the Command Deck system. This system was made to make using items and abilities less cumbersome in combat. And it works extremely well. By using either the D-Pad or the right and left triggers, you can scroll through a list of special moves, spells, and items that you have put in your deck. It works beautifully and makes combat way more manageable. Customizing your deck and trying to find the best set for your character and playstyle is a lot of fun; so fun that Dream Drop Distance and Re: coded copied it.
It can be kind of frustrating trying to find what command combinations will make which moves and/or abilities, especially if you’re looking for one in particular. But nowadays most if not all combinations are online somewhere if you’re desperate enough to look it all up. Similar to a lot of KH games, the bosses provide a steep difficulty spike that can and will frustrate players, especially new players, but that’s a flaw that all of these games have.
BBS is solid in its gameplay overall. I don’t think it outshines the story in any way, but it’s still very fun and a nice change of pace from the entries that came before it.
World Selection/Quality: 7.8/10
It feels like BBS had a great idea and starting point for its worlds, but it never quite committed to it. The game starts out with three worlds from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. While these aren’t any of my personal favorite Disney films, I really liked the formula that the developers were going with by putting in more classic Disney properties as worlds. It makes a lot sense seeing as this game is a prequel and takes place before the events of Kingdom Hearts. But unfortunately, BBS doesn’t keep this up.
After these first three worlds and Enchanted Dominion, we get worlds from Lilo and Stitch, Hercules, and Peter Pan. While I absolutely love Lilo and Stitch, I don’t feel it was the best choice here. The level itself is fine, but I didn’t think it fit the overall tone of the game. Returning to the Olympus Coliseum was kind of cool, but do we really need this are in almost every KH game? Neverland does fit the tone set by the opening 3 worlds though.
I think it would have been smarter and more interesting to have every world in BBS be based on a classic Disney film. It would have been perfect given the prequel setting this game takes place in. The selection isn’t bad by any means, just a little disappointing for me overall. The level design does somewhat make up for it, which holds up the score here.
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Birth By Sleep is an excellent entry in the KH franchise. I personally prefer the Final Mix version of the game for the PS3 and PS4, but you really can’t go wrong with any form of this game. I’d highly recommend giving this game a play-through if you enjoyed any entry in the series. You can’t go wrong playing this game.
Total Score: 34.3/40
#1 Kingdom Hearts 2
Surprised? Nah, I’m sure you’re not. While Kingdom Hearts 2 is considered by many to be the best game in the KH franchise, and I agree with it, I think I can provide some new and interesting things to the discussion. So let’s go over why this game is the best in the entire series.
Why do people hate on this game’s story? I get that many people did not play Chain of Memories, so that left a sour taste in people’s mouths, but nowadays I think the story of Kingdom Hearts 2 deserves more credit. I like a lot of what we get here. Organization XIII is a fantastic addition to the world and makes good villains. Their goals make sense and are pretty sympathetic. I also love the addition of Roxas and his tragic story, although I wish we got more about it here rather than having to wait for 358/2 Days.
Sure, things do get “more complicated” than it’s predecessors, but I’ve never seen why this is particularly a bad thing. Yes, the story gets deeper and introduces new concepts and characters…like any good sequel should. Don’t get me wrong, the story is far from perfect, but it’s not bad in the slightest. I was able to keep up just fine with everything and really enjoy it. It’s not as good as Birth By Sleep, but it’s very enjoyable to go through.
This is where KHII truly shines. For the time, the original Kingdom Hearts had some good, but slow combat. KHII takes everything from the original title and amplifies it. Combat is much more fast paced and engaging. There are new Limit moves and Summons, as well as the brand new Drive Forms, different forms that Sora can activate to give him new abilities and fighting styles. That’s not even mentioning the excellent boss battles that are in this game. The mixture of original and Disney character bosses make each battle intense and thrilling.
Exploration is also excellent. Each world, whether it’s a returning one from the previous title or a brand new one, is very fun to go through as they are pretty expansive (for a PS2 title, at least). I enjoyed every world (mostly) from start to finish due to how engaging they were by design. There hasn’t been this good of level design in the series before or since.
There’s really nothing bad I can say about KHII‘s gameplay. It’s simply the best that we’ve been given in the entire series. From what we’ve seen from KHIII trailers, it looks like the developers are attempting to expand the combat even more, so I may not be saying that KHII is the best in terms of gameplay for too much longer.
World Selection/Quality: 8/10
KHII has a good mix of both new and returning worlds. We get places like Olympic Colosseum and Halloween Town back from the original game, as well as new worlds from films such as Mulan, Beauty and The Beast, and even Pirates Of The Caribbean. The returning worlds all have new areas that were never in the original game, making it feel like a new journey in a familiar place. All of the new worlds are also pretty enjoyable, even though it always felt weird being in the more realistic world of Pirates Of The Caribbean as an anime character.
But this game is a solid 2nd for best world selection. We get some returning worlds, but not too much where it feels lazy. All of the new worlds are pretty great choices as well. I also really liked how we got to visit each world twice; once to go over the basic Disney story (the usual formula) and again to chase down Organization XIII members. It really allowed us to get a feel for what each world had to offer. While the worlds are pretty well designed, some areas did feel somewhat lackluster, such as the returning Agrabah and Disney Castle. But overall, the world selection and quality were excellent.
Overall Enjoyment: 9.5/10
This game is simply great in every aspect. I would honestly say it’s one of the best action-RPGs of all time and without a doubt my favorite KH game. It has some flaws here and there, but its pros far outweigh its cons. I wouldn’t recommend this be your first KH game, you should at least play the original before tackling this one, but you’ll absolutely love it. I guarantee that.
Total Score: 35.5/40
There you have it, folks, all 7 entries of the Kingdom Hearts franchise ranked. How would you guys rank these games? What are your favorite aspects of each title? Let us know in the comments below!