Which Kingdom Hearts Games Do I HAVE To Play?

The typical fan answer to this often heard question is usually “All of them” but that’s not actually true. While the Kingdom Hearts franchise is sprawling and wide, to follow the core story of what has been dubbed “The Dark Seeker Saga” – namely every game between the first Kingdom Hearts and the wrap up of the mobile game Dark Roads which is set to come out in the near-ish future – you really only need to play five of the games. The rest of the series is mostly there to flesh out the characters or additional backstory/worldbuilding.

So which games are the ones you have to play to follow Kingdom Hearts thus far? Well, I’m glad you asked. I’ll happily tell you. Here is my list of the five Kingdom Hearts games you have to play to follow the plot, with justifications of course (and trying my best to avoid spoilers):

#1 KINGDOM HEARTS

While not the first game chronologically in this series, it’s always best to start with this one. It establishes the primary characters and their personalities as well as the basic rules by which this fantastical universe operates under. It is the most basic starting point, because it is the starting point for the series. So every concept is treated like you are a newcomer. I do not recommend playing through the series in “chronological order” for this very reason. Each game builds on the previous one and this is the base that everything that comes after sprouts from.

#2 KINGDOM HEARTS II

The sequel starts with our protagonist Sora completely losing his memories of everything that happened since the first game. Hence why Chain of Memories is easily skip-able. If you really end up enjoying the villains of this game – Organization XIII – I would recommend Chain of Memories & 358/2 Days to get more of the Organization’s story but it’s not super critical to the core plot.

Kingdom Hearts II mostly builds off of the first game by expanding the universe and introducing new concepts to the lore – the idea of ‘Nobodies’ as the counterpart to ‘Heartless’, expanding on the villain in the first game that begins to set up the true villain of the saga, and the continuing growth of our main protagonist trio.

#3 KINGDOM HEARTS: BIRTH BY SLEEP

The first “side game” or “unnumbered game” in this list, Birth By Sleep stands as a game-long flashback to 10 years before the first game and helps establish the “how did we get here” part of the story. This game also formally introduces the ‘true’ villain of the saga and begins to explore his motivations and methodologies. If you’ve ever heard a Kingdom Hearts fan use the term “Norted” – yeah, this is where that whole thing started.

Birth By Sleep always introduces another trio of characters who become more important in the fourth and fifth games on the list, but were only hinted at in the special edition ‘Final Mix’ version of Kingdom Hearts II. They serve to help expand and establish the role of Keyblade Masters and Wielders in the games’ universe.

If you enjoy this look back at the backstory, I’m afraid the only other recommendations are to dig into the now offline mobile games which fill in the role of legends and myths about how this world came about. Which might not be a terrible idea to explore for reasons I’ll get into below. There’s also the Birth By Sleep ~A Fragmentary Passage~ which is something of a mini-episode tech demo that takes place following Birth By Sleep’s Final Episode ending.

#4 KINGDOM HEARTS: DREAM DROP DISTANCE

This unumbered game was originally released on the 3DS hence the 3 D’s in the title. It’s now been remade as part of the re-release collections with a much easier to use control scheme. Dream Drop Distance is the immediate prequel to Kingdom Hearts III and introduces a number of concepts that will become important in that game. It also fills in the gaps between Kingdom Hearts II and III as well as ties Birth By Sleep into the current events of the saga.

In short, Dream Drop Distance is the pin that connects all the various pieces of the franchise to get it ready for the big finale. It’s also nice because it includes codex style entries that give a brief run down of the events of the other games in the series that are left off this list. So if you want to fill in some of the gaps, Dream Drop Distance offers a refresher course.

Dream Drop Distance also introduces what is probably the most controversial concept in the franchise, which is saying a lot. Quite a few people have stated that this game was the one that lost them because of it. That concept being ‘Time Travel’. I won’t lie, it can take a bit to chew through the very different rules of Kingdom Hearts Time Travel, but its also a crucial concept that comes up in the final game.

#5 KINGDOM HEARTS III

I don’t think this one needs explaining. It’s the finale of the story. It takes all the elements in the previous games on this list and brings them to their conclusion while also beginning to set up the next saga in the Kingdom Hearts franchise which will kick off… someday. No clue. We’re about to launch into a big anniversary year for the series, so maybe we’ll hear something then.

The one thing to note is that there is a DLC for the game titled “Re:Mind” and I do recommend playing it to get the full experience even though it can be very disorientating at times (There’s more of that Time Travel stuff involved as well as fallout from fundamentally breaking the laws of nature… you’ll see.) Re:Mind serves as kind of a more complete ending that takes a lot of what is implied in the original and then expands it to make it explicit.

Why Isn’t X on this List?

The title of this section is a lore pun for the series as much as it is an honest question. If you assume X means ‘fill in the blank’ then I can only say that most of the other games in the series tended to fall into one or more other categories: A) Expanded on elements of the story, but did not add significant new ones, B) Is explained or recapped in the games on the list or C) Literally not applicable. Chain of Memories is actually all three, since it’s canonical that Sora has no memory of those events even happening until much later. Skipping it is tantamount to experiencing what Sora is experiencing in Kingdom Hearts II.

Ultimately, Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days flesh out the Organization, Re:Coded honestly ties more into the mobile games than the main series, Dark Road is the villain origin story and Back Cover is just a tie in movie to the mobile games. Speaking of…

The other part of the joke is that the original mobile game was titled CHI as in the Greek Letter represented as X. It becomes a reoccurring thing starting in Birth By Sleep since CHI can be pronounced KEY. Anyway, the mobile game series which consists of X, it’s reboot sequel Unchained X and the final installment Union Cross, all take place an unknown amount of time before the Dark Seeker Saga. They are regarded at the time of Sora’s adventure as fairy tales. However, everything thus far has indicated that they are directly tied to the next saga of the series. We see several prominent characters from it reappear in Kingdom Hearts III and the rhythm game Melody of Memory which serves as something as a prequel to the next saga.

So why isn’t on this list? Well, for one, it’s not possible to play through. The game went offline earlier this year. There’s a theater mode update to watch all the cutscenes coming, but you might as well just watch a youtube video that recaps the plot of them. The other reason is that it mostly is stuff that sets up a saga that hasn’t really begun yet. Just teased. This list is about understanding the Dark Seeker Saga, and really the X stuff just doesn’t play a significant role in it other than filling in a single plot hole about a Disney villain that no one was even asking about because ‘it’s magic, you don’t have to explain it.’

Okay, But The Games Still Don’t Make Sense

Sigh… Okay, I see this one all the time. The games don’t make sense. The story is silly and can’t be followed. The rules of the world are inconsistent. Look, all I can tell you is that this isn’t hard sci-fi. The universe and the stories are dominated by emotional storytelling, not hard and fast logic. To paraphrase Jean Cocteau, the world is built on the logic of a dream and you need to interpret with childlike fancy and the whims of a fairy tale. Why does Rumpelstiltskin want a first born child? Why does a kiss wake up a girl poisoned by an apple? It’s that kind of thing. Very Disney. The games try to provide some rules they try to follow, but in the end emotion rules the plot. A rule can be broken by determination and true love.

My recommendation is to start from that point and then follow the story and rules from there. I never found the story hard to follow like that. But then again, maybe this isn’t the story for you? Some stories are like that. But hey, then maybe the games are fun to play. Don’t need to enjoy the story to enjoy the mechanics of a fun game.

Vry vs The Dungeons & Dragons 5e Character Sheet

I have a bone to pick with you, Mr. Character Sheet.

Your attempts to make things “easier” and “accessible” have left me with a constant frustration at our table. You’ve dumbed things down so far as to completely break any attempt to swim against the stream. Customizable? Hardly. You sir, have betrayed the very players you swore to aid!

Of course, what I’m actually talking about is the way that the Dungeons & Dragons character sheet automatically assumes that you should fill in the appropriate ability score modifiers with the skills they “go with”. Bah. I scoff at you, Sir Sheet. I use the very rules laid out in the Player’s Handbook that state – AND I QUOTE!

In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. In such cases, the DM might ask for a check using an unusual combination of ability and skill, or you might ask your DM if you can apply a proficiency to a different check. For example, if you have to swim from an offshore island to the mainland, your DM might call for a Constitution check to see if you have the stamina to make it that far. In this case, your DM might allow you to apply your proficiency in Athletics and ask for a Constitution (Athletics) check.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Player’s Handbook

How then am I supposed to accomplish that easily when every player at the table immediately stares at the big glaring number next to the word Athletics and murmurs out a series of monosyllabic grunts that could only be interpreted as, “Well that’s what I use right?” Instead, I – their benevolent god of all – have to halt the game that I have crafted with these two hands of untold power for their amusement to explain that no, simple ignorant player of meat and bone, if you have proficiency with Athletics, you can add your Proficiency bonus to a Constitution check. Then attempt to reascend my throne of conjured creativity to wrangle these blind and deaf cats to the next plot point before one of them opens their steaming word hole to unleash another question that they would know the answer to if only they had pried open that holiest of tomes that they spent half a c-note on and actually read something in it.

How about a proposal, if you will, to hide the ‘default skills’ and just show that big dot that shows you have Proficiency with the skill. Indeed, we can clean things up significantly by putting Skills & Saves in a single column (first Saves, then Skills) and just a dot next to them to indicate whether to add the proficiency bonus to them. You could put the box that indicates their current Proficiency Bonus right at the top of the column. Just give it a quick scan and see if you add the number at the top to your Ability Check.

I don’t think this approach is unreasonable. Not in the slightest. In every adventure, on every monster block, and indeed any part of any published text will always frame the check as such: [Ability Modifier to Add to Roll] (Skill to Add Proficiency With) [Difficulty Check Number]. So really there wouldn’t ever be a need in that format to remember what skill goes with what ability score. If you really need to remember on the fly, Dungeon Master Screens and various other shortcut cheat sheets for the Dungeon Master can readily have that information available for reference. The only possible way this would be difficult is if you were completely illiterate and are still learning what colors are and which shapes going in the different holes. In that case, 4th Edition is over there.

At the core of it, I’d like to draw attention that these are called “Ability Checks” in both the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Not “Skill Checks” – which was the nomenclature of previous editions. Shouldn’t the focus be on making a check with your ABILITY SCORE and then getting a bonus based on your training. If you wanted the focus to be on Skills then why didn’t you call them Skill Checks as was the standard until this very edition? Do you hate the written word so much at the Wizards of the Coast that you wish to destroy the already unstable foundation that our modern English shakily stands on like a chihuahua trapped in a wind tunnel?

Defaulting assigning a specific numeric value to the Skill on the character sheet will cause the player to associate that number and that number alone with that skill. For example, if the player had a great strength score and decided for some reason to make constitution their dump stat, then using the example above would be akin in their mind to driving over their first born in a pick up truck. You have robbed them of a potential 20% increase in their chances to succeed and believe me when they are muttering to themselves in the late of night while sharpening the very blade that is destined for your poor dungeon master throat – you will regret the false hope that Mr. Character Sheet gave to your player.

So really what I’m saying is maybe a few more options for character sheets set at the campaign level in D&D Beyond.

That’s all.

Oh, and uh. One final note here. This is all just for fun. The Character sheet thing is a pet peeve of mine that I figured I’d have a bit of a laugh at making a big hyperbolic argument about it. However, the internet is a place where sarcasm and humor is sometimes very easily missed so I wanted to place this little disclaimer here at the bottom before everyone got their blood boiling. No, I don’t think this is a serious issue. Yes, I would love more options for character sheet layouts on digital tools. No, I don’t hate D&D 5e. I don’t hate D&D 4e. In fact, 4e has a very fond place in my heart. Do not worry, this was just hear to be a bit of silly-angry-rant-fun. Hope you had a giggle. – Vry

I Can (Not) Manage a Park – Planet Coaster

The plush mascot glove has been thrown and pick it up I shall answer! Vry takes on one of Planet Coaster’s Challenge Scenarios in Campaign Mode and then gets… distracted.

Full Stream Here.

Closing Song: Fiddlesticks Rag (OC Remix) by Diodes

You can find me on Twitter @Vrykerion and on Twitch where I record this footage live at http://www.Twitch.tv/Vrykerion

Rise of the War Queen – Long Live the Queen

Meet Elodie. She’s just your average princess-soon-to-be-queen-with-a-dead-sailor-scout-mom-and-rapidly-aging-dad. That old story. But there’s a twist! She has a goal. An ambition. To rule the world with an iron fist while manipulating the populace from the shadows. She will be the War Queen!

Full Stream Here.

Closing Song: Fiddlesticks Rag (OC Remix) by Diodes

You can find me on Twitter @Vrykerion and on Twitch where I record this footage live at http://www.Twitch.tv/Vrykerion

Time is an Illusion, The Plot Doubly So – Final Fantasy 1 #8 [END]

The Fiends have been defeated (Sort of), the Darkness defeated (Kinda), and all that’s left is to talk to the Old Guys at Crescent Lake and end this thing (Not at all). Time to do the Time Warp and hop back 2000 years to finish the story, build on theories, and have our minds blown a few more times!

Original Archived Full Stream Here.

Opening Song: Hymn to the Crystals (OC Remix) by Rebecca E Tripp
Closing Song: Fiddlesticks Rag (OC Remix) by Diodes

You can find me on Twitter @Vrykerion and on Twitch where I record this footage live at Twitch.tv/Vrykerion

I Guess It’s JUST A THEORY – Final Fantasy I #7

As we dive into the Mirage Tower, Vry reflects on the story of the game so far and has a few “Game Theories” of his own about what’s going on. Wait. What’s this? We need WHAT?! Ugh. Time to go fetch a stick.

Full Stream Archive Here!

Thumbnail Moogle Art Source: Winter-Artwork (https://www.deviantart.com/winter-artwork)
Opening Song: Hymn to the Crystals (OC Remix) by Rebecca E Tripp
Closing Song: Fiddlesticks Rag (OC Remix) by Diodes

You can find me on Twitter @Vrykerion and on Twitch where I record this footage live at Twitch.tv/Vrykerion

What Else Lives Under The Sea? – Final Fantasy I #6

The Third Fiend awaits us as we dive to the bottom of the World’s oceans to find the lost Sunken Shrine. We’ll fight sharks, we’ll find treasure, and why not we’ll rescue some mermaids.

Full Stream Archive Here!

Opening Song: Hymn to the Crystals (OC Remix) by Rebecca E Tripp
Closing Song: Fiddlesticks Rag (OC Remix) by Diodes

You can find me on Twitter @Vrykerion and on Twitch where I record this footage live at Twitch.tv/Vrykerion

Trials and Tails and Oxy-Ales – Final Fantasy I #5

Well, we all knew it would happen one day. Our little Warriors of Light have leveled all up and it’s time for them to get Jobs. But to do that we’re gonna have to prove ourselves to Bahamut, the King of Dragons. Why? I dunno. He’s the one handing out promotions? Then it’s off to run some errands to get ready to tackle the Water Shrine… Where is the Water Shrine anyway?

Full Stream Archive Here!

An Episode of Fire & Ice – Final Fantasy I #4

The quest to restore the light of the Crystals continues as we visit the peaceful village of Crescent Lake to learn more of the Prophecy of Lukahn from the man himself. Then we have a clash of elemental forces as we dive into Mt. Gulg to defeat the Fire Fiend and then cool off in the Ice Cave to grab a Levistone. What’s a Levistone? Oh, you’ll see…

Featuring “The First Story” OC Remix by BONKERS: https://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02451

Full Stream Archive Here!