Square Enix and Disney announced Kingdom Hearts 4 at the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary event last year, giving us a fresh new look at Sora and what he’s been up to after he left his friends for a solo adventure at the end of Kingdom Hearts 3. To no one’s surprise, there haven’t been any updates for the new sequel ever since it was announced to be in development. They also announced the mobile game Kingdom Hearts Missing-Link, but there haven’t been any updates for that one either.
While we wait for more updates and a potential release date for Kingdom Hearts 4, we’re giving you a list of Kingdom Hearts games to play in chronological order. As convoluted as the series’ plot may be to a lot of people, it should give you a clear perspective on the history of the Kingdom Hearts world, how Sora was set up to be the Keyblade’s chosen one, and how Master Xehanort keeps trying to plunge the world into darkness, hence the name of the series’ first arc: the Dark Seeker Saga.
How Many Kingdom Hearts Games Are There?
The Kingdom Hearts series consists of a total of 13 games across multiple platforms including the PSP and Game Boy Advance. There will also be a new game in the mainline series, which was officially announced all the way back in April 2022.
How to Play Kingdom Hearts Games in Chronological Order
1. Kingdom Hearts χ / Unchained χ / Union χ
Apologies for grouping all the titles in one section, but Kingdom Hearts χ [chi], initially a Japan-exclusive title for PC, has been subsequently rebranded into Unchained χ and Union χ [Cross] for mobile users worldwide in the eight years it was running online. The χ refers to the χ-blade, a coveted weapon designed by two Keyblades in an “X” shape capable of unlocking Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts Union χ is set hundreds of years before the series' events, in an era leading up to the Keyblade War. You control a newly minted Keyblade wielder in the 2D world of Daybreak Town who joins one of five factions and works to ensure that faction’s supremacy over the other four as they fight over the finite light available to the world. Union χ occurs shortly after Unchained χ, but in an alternate data world where the player relives the past to forget the Keyblade War. The game shut down in May 2021, but you can still watch cutscenes of it online. If gacha games are not your style, you can watch HD cutscenes of the events in the cinematic Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, which is included in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue.
2. Kingdom Hearts Dark Road
As the title suggests, Kingdom Hearts Dark Road is the villain origin story of Master Xehanort set 70 years before the events of Birth by Sleep. As a young man, Xehanort is taken from Destiny Islands to Scala ad Caelum to train alongside Master Eraqus to become a Keyblade wielder and is tasked by Master Odin to search for the Lost Masters, triggering a chain of events that leads to him becoming the Seeker of Darkness.
Dark Road employed the same 2D gacha-style graphics present in Kingdom Hearts χ and its subsequent rebranded titles, which aren’t very impressive, but the game still contained details integral to the entire series. You may not be able to play the game, but you can still watch cutscenes online to get the full scope.
3. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Set 10 years before the events of Kingdom Hearts, Birth by Sleep is told from the vantage points of Ventus, Terra, and Aqua — all Keyblade Apprentices of Master Eraqus living in the Land of Departure. Shortly after Aqua and Terra finish their Mark of Mastery exam, with the former passing and obtaining the title of Keyblade Master and the latter failing for not keeping his darkness in check, the trio go on separate journeys to find Master Xehanort, who disappeared without a trace, and defeat the Unversed, creatures created by Xehanort’s apprentice Vanitas to attack other worlds.
Birth by Sleep dives into the origin of Sora and Master Xehanort, as Ventus had part of his heart patched up by a piece of Sora’s heart. Xehanort, meanwhile, created Vanitas from the darkness he purged from Ventus’ heart, which Xehanort deemed too frail for him to use as a vessel to forge the χ-blade, forcing him to go after Terra instead. It also explores how Sora and Riku could wield the Keyblade in the first place, as Terra bestowed the power of the Keyblade to Riku, while Aqua sensed strong ties with Sora and Riku to Ventus and Terra, respectively.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep.
4. Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep — A Fragmentary Passage
Although it’s safe to place A Fragmentary Passage (included in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue) before the first Kingdom Hearts game, it acts as an epilogue to Birth by Sleep and a prologue to Kingdom Hearts 3. However, the story for this game begins shortly after the events of Dream Drop Distance because King Mickey tells the story of how he came across Aqua in the Realm of Darkness to Riku, Kairi, and Master Yen Sid.
After sacrificing herself to save Terra from the Realm of Darkness at the end of Birth by Sleep, Aqua has been wandering in darkness for 10 years, trying to find a way back to the Realm of Light. She visits the dark versions of Castle of Dreams, Dwarf Woodlands, and Enchanted Dominion to battle hordes of Heartless that form into Demon Towers, fight apparitions of Ventus and Terra, and save Terra’s heart. Meanwhile, Mickey went to the Realm of Darkness to save Riku. When he meets Aqua after using her lost Wayfinder to find her, he tells her 10 years have passed since they last met and proceed to Destiny Islands after fighting another Demon Tower. There, the door to Kingdom Hearts is spotted, and Mickey goes over there to help Sora and Riku seal it shut, leaving Aqua to dwell in the Realm of Darkness once more.
5. Kingdom Hearts
In the very first entry of the series, Sora sets out on a journey with Donald and Goofy to reunite with Riku and Kairi after the Heartless destroy Destiny Islands and plunge the world into darkness. Along the way, he travels to different worlds aboard the Gummi Ship, meet various Disney and Final Fantasy characters, and help defend their world from the Heartless by sealing Keyholes to prevent the hearts of those worlds from being consumed by darkness. Meanwhile, Maleficent leads a group of her fellow Disney villains to seek out the seven Princesses of Heart to unlock the last keyhole leading to Kingdom Hearts, and employs Riku.
By the time Sora reaches Hollow Bastion, Kairi’s body is found with her heart missing as it was transferred to Sora’s body during the apocalypse at Destiny Islands, Riku becomes possessed by Ansem, who was manipulating Maleficent to open Kingdom Hearts, and Kairi is revealed to be the Princess of Heart, hence the heart transfer from her to Sora, who then frees Kairi’s heart after impaling himself with Ansem’s Keyblade, turning into a Heartless in the process. Kairi manages to turn Sora back to human form by recognizing his Heartless and embracing him, and from there Sora defeats Ansem and seals the door to Kingdom Hearts with help from Riku and Mickey from the other side.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
While searching for Riku and Mickey after sealing the door to Kingdom Hearts, Sora, Donald and Goofy visit Castle Oblivion, causing them to lose their memories upon entry. They’re told by Marluxia, the lord of the castle who is revealed to be a member of Organization XIII, that the deeper they go into the castle, the more memories they’ll lose, but will uncover new ones in the process. The group is given a deck of cards called “world cards” based on Sora’s memories, and they meet memory versions of the characters they met in the previous game and fight a few members of the Organization aside from Marluxia — Axel, Larxene, and Vexen — as they progress through each floor of the castle. Meanwhile, Riku is going through the basement levels of the castle, wrestling with the darkness inside him and Ansem’s attempts to control him while fighting two other members of Organization XIII: Lexaeus and Zexion.
Aside from the cards being decried as an ineffective battle system, Chain of Memories introduced new characters that become essential players in the Kingdom Hearts series, such as Naminé, whom Sora gradually remembered as being an old friend of hers only to find out later she was manipulating Sora’s memories of Kairi by replacing them with fake ones of herself under Marluxia’s orders, and DiZ. After Sora fights Marluxia for his life and Naminé’s freedom, Naminé places him and his companions to sleep in pod-like machines to help them regain the memories they lost.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
358/2 Days is set during the events of Chain of Memories, as it explores the birth of Roxas as Sora’s Nobody when Sora turned into a Heartless during Kingdom Hearts, his daily life as the 13th member of Organization XIII, and his friendship with Axel and Xion, who mysteriously arrived as the 14th member.
As time progresses and their bond deepens, it is revealed that Xion is an artificial replica created after Sora’s memories of Kairi as a fail-safe if Sora and Roxas are proven to be useless for the Organization to achieve their goal of summoning Kingdom Hearts and becoming whole, all the while delaying Sora’s memory restoration process by absorbing them. This discovery causes Roxas to defect from Organization XIII and find himself, and later find Xion, who fights to merge with him to become whole, stopping Sora from waking up. Ultimately, Roxas defeats Xion, who disintegrates into light with all the memories she absorbed returning to Sora.
Fun fact, but not precisely fun: 358/2 was dedicated to the memory of Wayne Allwine, the voice actor for Mickey Mouse, who died of complications from diabetes 12 days before the game’s release in Japan in May 2009.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts 358/2.
Kingdom Hearts 2
The game begins in Twilight Town, where Roxas enjoys his summer vacation with Hayner, Pence, and Olette, having no memories of his time with Organization XIII nor Axel, who remembers him during their encounters, while waking up with dreams of Sora, who had been asleep for a year at that point. Once Sora wakes up along with Donald and Goofy after Roxas merges with him, they set out to once again protect the worlds from the Heartless, while visiting new ones, to stop Organization XIII from creating another Kingdom Hearts that would give the Nobodies their hearts back.
As Sora and the gang explore the concept of the heart even further, they learn that the Ansem they fought was Xehanort’s Heartless; Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, is Xehanort’s Nobody; and that Xehanort was an apprentice of the real Ansem, named Ansem the Wise, the sage-king of Radiant Garden (renamed Hollow Bastion and then Radiant Garden again) who studied the heart alongside Braig, Dilan, Even, Aeleus, Ienzo (human versions of Xigbar, Xaldin, Vexen, Lexaeus, and Zexion, respectively) to protect his people from darkness before he was exiled to the Realm of Darkness for corrupting them with the same darkness and taking on the new identity DiZ (Darkness in Zero). Even more shocking, they learn Roxas and Naminé are the Nobodies and Sora and Kairi, respectively.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts 2.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded
Initially released as an episodic mobile game called “Coded” in Japan, Re:coded centers on King Mickey and a digital version of Sora as they work to repair Jiminy Cricket’s journal, which chronicles the real Sora’s adventures fighting the Heartless and Organization XIII, after it got corrupted as it was being digitized to analyze a secret message Jiminy did not write: “Their hurting will be mended when you return to end it” (originally written as “We must return to free them from their torment” in Coded). In the dataspace, Data Sora and Mickey fight the bugs, who take the form of red-and-black blocks and Heartless, and work to decipher the message's meaning.
Square Enix originally released eight parts of Coded and a preview to Japanese mobile users from June 2009 to January 2010, making it run almost like a full season of a television series. To make the game accessible to fans worldwide, the entire game was repackaged into Re:coded for the Nintendo DS.
Read our review of Kindgom Hearts: Re:coded.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
To prepare for Master Xehanort’s return, Master Yen Sid proctors the Mark of Mastery exam to Sora and Riku in the most unconventional way possible: sending them back in time to unlock the keyholes of seven worlds that were left in a sleeping state after being destroyed by the Heartless, including the worlds of Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pinocchio, Tron: Legacy, and Fantasia, to name a few. Though they go through a different chain of events in the same worlds, they work to defeat the “Nightmare” Dream Eaters with the help of their “Spirit” Dream Eaters and the power of Flowmotion.
Throughout the Mark of Mastery exam, they run into the younger version of Xehanort, who reveals that he, Ansem and Xehanort, who were supposed to have been defeated, lured Sora into a trap at The World That Never Was and put him into a deep sleep (where he was protected by Ventus’ armor), and Riku has been through Sora’s dreams as a Dream Eater the whole time. To save Sora from the darkness, Riku fights the young Xehanort, and the revived, older Master Xehanort arrives with the intent to turn Sora into his 13th vessel for the new Organization XIII, comprised of mostly his past selves from across time, and create the χ-blade by pitting the 13 seekers of darkness and the seven guardians of light against each other. Thankfully, Xehanort’s plans are foiled by King Mickey, Lea (the human version of Axel), and Riku, who ultimately passes the Mark of Mastery exam, with Sora failing for losing the power of waking, which is the ability to restore hearts.
Read our Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance review.
Kingdom Hearts 3
In the final chapter of the Dark Seeker Saga, Sora sets out to reclaim the power of waking and gather the seven guardians of light to prepare for the final showdown with Organization XIII and Master Xehanort, who is hellbent on not only creating the χ-blade, but also keeping darkness and light in proper balance. Meanwhile, Kairi trains to become a Keyblade wielder with Lea, and Riku goes with King Mickey to search for the missing Keyblade wielders.
Kingdom Hearts 3 took 13 years to make, with a few trailers released between 2013 and 2018 before finally being released in 2019. To this day, it remains the best-selling Kingdom Hearts game in the series.
Read our review of Kingdom Hearts 3.
Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory
Melody of Memory is a theatrhythm where Sora and the other Keyblade wielders defeat the Heartless, Nobodies, Unversed, and Dream Eaters to the beat of every song in the series. It’s set against the backdrop of Kairi being in the lab at Radiant Garden, as she gives a summary of the series’ events as the narrator.
Kingdom Hearts Games in Release Order
- Kingdom Hearts – September 17, 2002 (PS2)
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories – December 7, 2004 (Game Boy Advance)
- Kingdom Hearts 2 – March 28, 2006 (PS2)
- Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days – September 29, 2009 (Nintendo DS)
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep – September 7, 2010 (PSP)
- Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded – January 11, 2011 (Nintendo DS)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance – July 31, 2012 (Nintendo 3DS)
- Kingdom Hearts Union χ [Cross] – April 7, 2016 (Android, iOS)
- Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMix – March 28, 2017 (PS4)
- Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue – January 24, 2017 (PS4)
- Kingdom Hearts 3 – January 29, 2019 (PS4, XBO, PC)
- Kingdom Hearts Dark Road – June 22, 2020 (Android, iOS)
- Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory – November 13, 2020 (PS4, XBO, Nintendo Switch, PC)