Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Nov 282016

order-to-play-kingdom-heartsSkip directly to:
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?
What about Melody of Memory?

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? Is Melody of Memory important?

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

Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far (PS4) – all the contents of 1.5 + 2.5 and 2.8, on two discs

In short, if you get Kingdom Hearts 1.5, 2.5, and 2.8, you will be entirely caught up 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 and 2.8 (or The Story So Far), then Kingdom Hearts 3, 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, Back Cover, 0.2.

Here is a more detailed list, with links included for convenience:

  1. Kingdom Hearts (PS2) / Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  2. Chain of Memories (GBA) / Re: Chain of Memories (PS2 / 1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  3. Kingdom Hearts II (PS2) / Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  4. 358/2 Days (DS) / watch the remastered cutscenes (1.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  5. Birth By Sleep (PSP) / Birth By Sleep Final Mix (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  6. Re:coded (DS)1 / watch the remastered cutscenes (2.5 Remix – PS3 / 1.5 & 2.5 Remix – PS4)
  7. Dream Drop Distance (3DS) / Dream Drop Distance HD (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)
  8. χ Back Cover (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)2
  9. 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage (2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – PS4)
  10. Kingdom Hearts III (PS4 / Xbox One)
  11. Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (PS4 / Switch / 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: It doesn’t particularly matter if you watch Back Cover before or after you play 0.2, but since 0.2 leads directly into Kingdom Hearts III, I prefer this order.

There are some variations, but this is the best Kingdom Hearts playing order.

And yes, 358/2 Days should be played after 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), which was then renamed Union Cross. Its title is now Kingdom Hearts Uχ Dark Road because it includes both Union Cross and the new mobile game Kingdom Hearts Dark Road.

It is available for iOS and Android devices.


χ[chi] and Union Cross 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 / Union Cross story.

Be warned, the story 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, Union Cross 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 slow enough that you shouldn’t worry about starting it sooner.

Events in Union Cross are tied directly to Kingdom Hearts 3 and the future of the saga.

Meanwhile, the Dark Road half is another prequel, this time set when Xehanort was training as a Keyblade wielder. Like with Union Cross, it’s probably best to play Dark Road later in the series, although the story progression is even slower here.

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.

Long answer:

  • 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 Union Cross and Dark Road, but you might want to watch the story scenes, especially in preparation for the next saga.
  • Whatever you do, don’t listen to Master Xehanort.

And that brings us to the latest game to be released…

What about Melody of Memory?

Kingdom Hearts III concluded the Dark Seeker Saga, and Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory is the first game in the next saga, set immediately after the events of Kingdom Hearts III’s Re:Mind DLC.

However, it is primarily a rhythm game. The vast majority of the game is focused on playing through songs from past games in the series, with the new story content coming at the very end.

With that said, Melody of Memory’s ending looks like it might be critical to setting up story events for the next saga. It is one of the more skippable Kingdom Hearts games, but if you’re going to skip it, you should at least look up the new story content to understand what is going on.

And finally…

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 / Union Cross / χ Back Cover
  • Dark Road
  • 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
  • Re:coded
  • Dream Drop Distance
  • Kingdom Hearts III
  • Melody of Memory

3: Kingdom Hearts 0.2 is primarily set after Birth By Sleep, but it is told as a frame story set between Dream Drop Distances and Kingdom Hearts III.

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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  8 Responses to “Order to Play Kingdom Hearts Games”

  1. “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.”

    What a ridiculous sentence. >_>;

  2. this is the most useful thing i have found anywhere on the internet in terms of actually answering all my questions. I do have one specific question though. I have played kh1, kh2, kh 358/2 days, and a short bit of kh COM. I also know a great deal about birth by sleep because of spoilers so i genuinely know almost everything significant that happens in the game. I bought 2.8 final chapter prologue limited edition, and i pre-ordered 1.5+2.5 remix. Would you reccomend that i play the games in release order or in Chronological order, since i know most of the story already? also, is it worth it to re play days AND watch the cutscenes on 1.5+2.5?

    • I’m glad to hear it helped! 🙂

      Hmm, if you know most of the story, it might be interesting to play them in chronological order… although I still favor release order for most of them to see how everything unfolds. (For example, 0.2 is especially difficult to place in a chronological playthrough since it sort of takes place after Dream Drop Distance, but its main events occur before Kingdom Hearts.)

      If you’re going to play 358/2 Days again, there’s probably no point in watching the remix cutscenes. I don’t believe it added anything, and it left out some important moments. On the other hand, if you don’t want to play it again, the cutscenes are fine to refresh your memory on the major points. The only reason I can think of to do both is if you want the full story, character development, etc. from the game, but also want to see the major scenes in HD.

      • Thanks a lot, Samantha! You’ve been very helpful. In the end, I know I’ll be playing through all the games countless times, so I think I’ll take your advice and play in make order first and then chronological later when i replay them.

  3. I was wonder you said 358/2 Days should be played before Kingdom Hearts II, despite their placement in the remixes however the placement in the remixes is before it so did you mean i should play it after kingdom hearts 2?

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