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What order should I play Kingdom Hearts in?
Do I need to play the Kingdom Hearts mobile game?
Which Kingdom Hearts games can I skip?
Like the numerous questions about the order to play Professor Layton and Ace Attorney, which prompted me to write a guide, questions about the order to play Kingdom Hearts appear regularly.
Where should I start Kingdom Hearts? Should I go in release order or chronological order? Which Kingdom Hearts games are the best versions? Is it necessary to play Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ? What IS Kingdom Hearts 2.8?
And one of the most common questions of all: If I’ve only played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, will I be lost in 3? The answer to that is YES, because every game contributes to the story.
Fortunately, the Kingdom Hearts series isn’t quite as intimidating as it used to be. You can now play most of the series on a PS3, and the entire series on a PS4.
But with all the releases, re-releases, and remixes (not to mention their wacky titles), it can be confusing. Let’s take a quick look at the remixes.
What’s in the Kingdom Hearts Remixes?
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix (PS3) – Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Re: Chain of Memories, and the remastered cutscenes from 358/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix (PS3) – Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and the remastered cutscenes from Re:coded
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix (PS4) – all of the above, on one disc
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (PS4) – Dream Drop Distance HD, 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, and a new cinematic called χ Back Cover
In short, if you get Kingdom Hearts 1.5, 2.5, and 2.8, you will be entirely caught up in time for Kingdom Hearts 3. The one exception is the mobile game, Unchained χ, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
For now, let’s move on to the critical question, the order to play the Kingdom Hearts games.
Kingdom Hearts – Order to Play the Games
If you’ve never played the series before, you should play the Kingdom Hearts games in order. That is, the Kingdom Hearts release order.
The most efficient way to get into Kingdom Hearts is to buy the 1.5 & 2.5 Remix for the PS4 (or the two PS3 remixes), then 2.8, and go in the following order: Kingdom Hearts, Re: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 2, 358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep, Re:coded, Dream Drop Distance, 0.2, Back Cover.
Here is a more detailed list, with links included for convenience:
- Kingdom Hearts (PS2) / Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- Chain of Memories (GBA) / Re: Chain of Memories (PS2 / 1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- Kingdom Hearts II (PS2) / Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- 358/2 Days (DS) / watch the remastered cutscenes (1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- Birth By Sleep (PSP) / Birth By Sleep Final Mix (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- Re:coded (DS)1 / watch the remastered cutscenes (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
- Dream Drop Distance (3DS) / Dream Drop Distance HD (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)
- 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)
- χ Back Cover (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)2
- Kingdom Hearts III (forthcoming, PS4 / Xbox One)
1: Re:coded is the remake of a mobile game called Kingdom Hearts Coded, but the original was never released outside of Japan.
2: Kingdom Hearts 2.8 is not yet out. However, Nomura has said that while 0.2 should be played after Dream Drop Distance, it doesn’t matter when you watch Back Cover. We can’t be sure yet if he meant this only in relation to the contents of 2.8, or if Back Cover can be watched at any point in the series.
There are some variations, but this is the best Kingdom Hearts playing order.
And yes, 358/2 Days should be played before Kingdom Hearts II, despite their placement in the remixes. It clarifies confusing points in Kingdom Hearts II’s story, but it also spoils some key plot revelations.
Now, let’s talk about that one game I haven’t included so far.
What About χ[chi] and Unchained χ?
Japan had a Kingdom Hearts browser game called χ[chi], which has now ended. It was more or less adapted into the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ (commonly written as Unchained X, because X is a lot easier to type than χ). It is available for iOS and Android devices.
χ[chi] and Unchained χ are set long before the rest of the series and cover the events leading up to the Keyblade War. χ Back Cover takes place at the same time, but from a different perspective. The game shows the perspective of a Keyblade wielder, while the movie focuses on the Foretellers.
However, this means the two stories don’t overlap as much as you might expect. It is recommended that you still go through the Unchained χ story.
Be warned, the story in Unchained χ is slow-paced and stretched out across a ton of missions. If mobile gaming isn’t your thing, but you want to be caught up on the story, here is a video compilation of the story so far.
As for its spot in the order, Unchained χ still isn’t finished, so it’s hard to say. It’s probably best played after Dream Drop Distance or at least after Re:coded. However, the story progression is so slow–and so disconnected from current events–you shouldn’t worry about starting it sooner.
Now, let’s clear up a few final points…
Which Versions Should I Play?
As you can see from the above list, the remakes and remixes mean there are multiple versions of everything.
In general, it is better to play the newest version possible. For example, it is better to play Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix than Kingdom Hearts II, if possible. (If it’s not possible, it’s not critical.)
The most questionable case is Chain of Memories. Chain of Memories on the GBA has 2D combat, where Re: Chain of Memories has 3D combat. 3D is not necessarily an improvement. I struggled with the combat system, and many people say it worked better in 2D.
However, some story events were altered, so Re: Chain of Memories is probably the best version from a story perspective.
What About 358/2 Days and Re:coded?
358/2 Days and Re:coded are not playable in the remixes. Only their cutscenes, remastered in HD, are available. Re:coded also has a new secret ending found only in 2.5.
If you only care about the story, the cinematics are enough. If you want to play them, you’ll need to get the DS versions. The full game for 358/2 Days has additional characterization through moments not included in the cutscenes. Meanwhile, Re:coded is generally praised for its gameplay over its story.
What Kingdom Hearts games can I skip?
Short answer: You really shouldn’t skip anything.
- If you need to skip Chain of Memories, you can get by, but it’s not recommended.
- You can skip 358/2 Days, but at least watch the cutscenes.
- You can skip Re:coded, but at least watch the ending and secret endings.
- You can skip Unchained χ, but you might want to watch the story scenes.
- Whatever you do, don’t listen to Master Xehanort.
Kingdom Hearts Chronological Order
Chronological order is not recommended if you’re new to the series. However, if you’ve already played the games and you want to see the story as it happens, you might want to play the Kingdom Hearts games in chronological order:
- Kingdom Hearts χ[chi] / Unchained χ / χ Back Cover
- Birth By Sleep
- 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage3
- Kingdom Hearts
- Start of 358/2 Days
- Chain of Memories
- Most of 358/2 Days
- Kingdom Hearts II
- Dream Drop Distance
- Kingdom Hearts III
3: Kingdom Hearts 0.2 may cover a wide span of time. This is its place in the official timeline, but it may end significantly later.
And there you have it!
Kingdom Hearts might look intimidating on the surface, but it’s easier than ever to play the games, thanks to the remixes. Do you have any other questions about where to start Kingdom Hearts or how to play the games? Let me know in the comments.
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