Best Video Game Series: (8) Kingdom Hearts

This is Objection Network’s countdown of the top 25 video game series of all-time. We’re counting down to the best franchise ever on March 31. For more info on the voting process, click here.

8) Kingdom Hearts (4 votes, 205 points)

Chris: The top eight is where this list starts to get serious — there’s a pretty hefty jump in points between Nos. 9 and 8. And it starts with a series that might be the most spasmodic on our list.

If we were doing this ranking in, say, 2008, there’s a good chance Kingdom Hearts would have been in the top 5. I could see it as high as third (which you’ll understand once you see our top two). But it’s 2017, and Kingdom Hearts II was released in 2005. KH III still doesn’t even have a release window, let alone a date. Hell, Dream Drop Distance was 2012, and everything since then has been remakes (including the utterly ridiculous 1.5 + 2.5 Remix) and a mobile game. That’s unacceptable, period.

All we’ve done in the dozen years is completely muddle up what was once a relatively straightforward story. Remember the Heartless? Well, you’ve also got Nobodies and Unversed and Dream Eaters now. Also, there are approximately 4,572 keyblade wielders, and good luck trying to figure out what’s an Ansem and what’s a Xehanort.

Now, that bitterness aside, what captured our hearts about this franchise was its iconic blending of worlds. Mixing Disney and Final Fantasy together with a brand-new story and set of characters seemed like a huge reach in the early 2000s, but the series delivered in spades. Its gameplay was a fun blend of action and RPG elements, and its best moments are on par with any in the industry. Despite the overwhelmingly negative tone of my part of this post, it’s a series we’ve genuinely enjoyed quite a bit, especially in the early going.

Kingdom Hearts III has an almost insurmountable task to overcome. It’s going to have to resolve nearly all of the plotlines that have sprung up, while mixing in a new platform and the fans’ desire to see worlds and characters from new properties (Pixar? Marvel? Lucasfilm?) that Disney has acquired since KH II came out. Oh, and it actually has to release at some point. If it can rise to the challenge, it might rekindle that spark and truly become one of the best franchises ever made. But we’ll see.

Michelle: I struggle with ranking the Kingdom Hearts series. On one hand, KHI & II defined my formative teenage years. I remember sobbing for 45 minutes straight after completing the first game. The overarching story of the series is definitely emotionally affecting and quite beautiful at times (SORA/RIKU FOREVER, FIGHT ME). On the other hand, all of the convoluted plot nonsense and filler/fluff, plus Disney world hopping that does nothing but give you places to grind and the promise of some semblance of plot just doesn’t quite hold up or age well. This is one of those instances where I think it falls down the ranks because we’re talking  best video game series and, to be honest, Kingdom Hearts is all over the goddamn map in terms of character and story across the breadth of its titles. I’ve only played KHI & II, but I’m going to be missing so much backstory if III ever gets released. How is that even possible? The characterizations have been pretty inconsistent (how many Ansems are there, again?), some of the world/level retreads across games are horrendous and borderline unplayable, and there are a lot of in-game plot misses overall. This series is a frustrating mess to me. But I will concede that it has evolved a lot as a series over time. The gameplay massively improved from I to II. The plot did too. I have high hopes for III even though I know that pretty much anything they do will disappoint me. Talk about love/hate. I want to cry into my Riku body pillow now.

Michaela: The Kingdom Hearts series has seen a ton of evolution and change over the years, in both gameplay, graphics, and story. The unusual combination of Final Fantasy and Disney has proven to be extremely successful, and with that success, we got multiple games coming together to create an overarching narrative and conflict. The series is certainly known for the complexity of its story, but each game also did a great job of introducing a new gameplay mechanic to keep the series fresh and exciting. The Kingdom Hearts series is always reinventing itself, and the changes are always really exciting to see. Here’s hoping that Kingdom Hearts III can create an exciting finale for this first half of the series.

Cary: If I have but one regret in life, it’s that I never finished Kingdom Hearts. I swear I will make up for that someday, but it’s cool to see the series in the top ten here. However, given ATB’s general support of the series, I’m honestly surprised it’s not higher.

RELATED LINKS:
(9) Mario Kart
(10) Smash Brothers
(11) Fire Emblem
(12) Street Fighter
(13) Batman: Arkham
(14) Metal Gear
(15) Fallout
(16) Persona
(17) Tales
(18) Saints Row
(19) BioShock
(20) The Sims
(21) Grand Theft Auto
(22) Halo
(23) Animal Crossing
(24) Silent Hill
(25) Donkey Kong
#50-26
Intro/Honorable Mention

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