After seeing recent controversy regarding the apparent perplexing nature of the Kingdom Hearts timeline, I found it prudent to illustrate how unabashedly straightforward it is. There are two primary avenues to tackle this perspective, release order and chronological story order. When it comes to just about any prospective new player, the release order is the ideal pathway to take. If you desire to tackle this series as a newcomer, simply playing the games in the order they released is undoubtedly the best way to do so, which should not be an alien concept. Several other franchises follow the general philosophy of following release order for idealized comprehensibility.
If you would like a digestible perspective on playing the Kingdom Hearts games in their release order, I wrote a piece last year detailing that viewpoint when the games were making their way to PC.
However, Kingdom Hearts’ actual in-series timeline is consistently battered for being supposedly nonsensical and needlessly arduous to comprehend when that isn’t the case at all. I could go into strict detail about each game release, discussing their ties to one another, but that would make the connective tissue seem more strained than it truly is for those straining to find seams to pull. So, I have instead found it best to briefly outline each title from the chronological beginning to contemporary times to show that they are unironically simple to parse.
- Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross] & Back Cover are a substantial prequel to the franchise, diving into details about elements that affect later games and setting up plotlines for upcoming titles to pick up on.
- Kingdom Hearts Dark Road is an origin story for the series’ former primary antagonist, Xehanort.
- Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is a ten-year prequel to the first released game, honing in on events that set later catastrophes in motion.
- Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage is an extremely brief playable episode taking place after Birth by Sleep.
- Kingdom Hearts is the first released game of the franchise, introducing Sora and his friends as he first obtains the power to wield the Keyblade.
- Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories takes place literally on the same scene the first game concluded on, continuing Sora’s adventure.
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days takes place at the end of Chain of Memories and a while after, acting as an origin story for the fan-favorite character, Roxas.
- Kingdom Hearts II takes place after the former two mentioned titles, continuing Sora’s adventure.
- Kingdom Hearts Re:coded takes place after Kingdom Hearts II.
- Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance takes place after Re:coded.
- Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind occurs after Dream Drop Distance, concluding the Dark Seekers saga.
- Kingdom Hearts Melody of Memory takes place after Kingdom Hearts III, lightly teasing future story elements.
And that is essentially it. The Kingdom Hearts games follow a linear story path, making them undeniably digestible, especially with the released collections on various platforms. It is worth noting that there are undoubtedly thought-provoking intricacies regarding specific plot beats, but generally understanding the sequential events is legitimately simple.
I’ve come to understand that much of the apparent disdainful confusion thrown around these games has to do with the names of the games themselves rather than any meaningful complications, which is humorously superficial. Still, irksome reputations can turn off initially intrigued players. So hopefully, many aren’t intimidated by others’ needless badgering and realize that this franchise is perfectly approachable.
If you missed them, check out my appreciative pieces on the following data fights:
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