The Kingdom Hearts Games, Ranked From Worst To Best


Square Enix / goodgamez

You ever feel like you’re still in search of a high a game made you feel as a child? Kingdom Hearts II is one of those games. To this day, Kingdom Hearts II is the full package of the best parts of the franchise. Soundtrack? 10/10. The action-based combat’s blend of style and substance? Unmatched. The compelling melodrama mixing Final Fantasy, Disney, and the original characters? Imprinted on my soul.

Kingdom Hearts II remains the series’ highest high. It successfully knocks down every pin the first game and Chain of Memories sets up, has memorable Disney worlds like Mulan, Tron, and The Lion King (Sora’s lion transformation is iconic), and also features some incredible action set pieces like the final boss run in which Sora and Riku take down Xemnas. If you grew up with this game like I did, tell me you weren’t thinking of that fight as you were playing the final fight of Final Fantasy VII Rebirth. That shit was unforgettable. But also unforgettable was the debrief between Sora and Riku that follows, in which the series’ two leads finally reach an understanding after three games of being rivals. God, it’s perfect, and leads into a similarly perfect ending.

There’s probably a universe in which Kingdom Hearts ended after II and was largely remembered as a near-universally beloved action RPG series that escalated into darker, more complex territory in the sequel. Even as it introduces new concepts and characters, Kingdom Hearts II is pretty reasonable as a sequel before every spin-off that followed built Kingdom Hearts III into an Avengers-level crossover event. Kingdom Hearts II is the pinnacle of what the series could have been, and while I’m not mad that it’s continued, I do feel like as the series has gone on, it has gotten less succinct in its themes, mechanics, and the worlds it’s explored. Now that Kingdom Hearts III has concluded one story, I guess we’ll see if the series can peel back those layers and scale back to something this pure. But even if it doesn’t, Kingdom Hearts II is a summation of the best things the franchise has ever done.

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