With Kingdom Hearts 4’s development likely well under way, we should all be asking ourselves if the long wait for its release will even be worth it.
Update March 12: The Kingdom Hearts 3 DLC has revealed new info on what we can expect in Kingdom Hearts 4. Check out our analysis on the Verum Rex Re Mind and Limitcut DLC here. As we wait for new Kingdom Hearts content, we’ve added a “games like Kingdom Hearts“ section to this piece to satiate your thirst for action adventure RPGs.
I waited many, many years to play Kingdom Hearts 3. I fully grew up in the time it took for the third proper title in the Disney/Square Enix JRPG series to release. So why am I not waiting with bated breath for Kingdom Hearts 4?
To me, the answer to that question is not so simple.
Will ‘Kingdom Hearts 4’ be announced soon?
Probably not. It’s very like the Kingdom Hearts development team to keep fans waiting for years for any official news about the next numbered title in the series.
Things didn’t always use to be this way. Back in the good ol’ days of the early 2000’s, it took a mere three years for Kingdom Hearts 2 to release. That was quite the turnaround from 2002’s Kingdom Hearts 1 to 2005’s Kingdom Hearts 2, especially considering 2004’s Game Boy Advance title Chain of Memories also released.
Back then, there was an excitement buzzing around the series, because it felt like it was moving forward! How awesome! Square Enix knew that we were thirsty for more Kingdom Hearts content, so they delivered at a great pace!
Then, everything changed when 358/2 Days attacked. No longer were we concentrated on moving toward Kingdom Hearts 3. Instead, we were meant to be tided over with side games like RE:Coded and Dream Drop Distance. Sure, they all moved the story forward some, but they didn’t fully get us to the conclusion that the wonderful Kingdom Hearts 2 had set us up for.
‘KH4’ is already going upstream without a paddle
While there is no doubt in my mind that there will be at least two more side games before Kingdom Hearts 4 is even announced, there is also the concept that Kingdom Hearts 3 was a very clean, effective ending to the Xehanort saga.
How can Kingdom Hearts 4 work as an interesting followup to Sora, Riku, and Kairi’s beginnings? There isn’t going to be much left to discover about these characters, as all three already saw some pretty concrete character arcs to their completion.
In the KH3 secret trailer, we’re tossed into Shibuya, as Sora and Riku wake up on a rainy night under a full moon. After I watched the secret movie, I was left thinking “…okay, so what?”
Verum Rex seems to be the name of the game here, but after committing so many hours into all of the Kingdom Hearts games, I’m slowly finding myself disenchanted with starting all over again. Yozora already feels like a diet Noctis, and the thought of more Mech tank battles doesn’t do much for me.
What if ‘Kingdom Hearts 4’ ends up being amazing?
See, you’re assuming that we even get to see a proper Kingdom Hearts 4. A watched pot never boils, and when it comes to the Kingdom Hearts series, that pot is forever left on a low simmer.
“You want this amazing game? You want it within the next decade? Welp, sorry, we’re gonna have to give you an I.O.U. there,” says Square Enix. Then why was the gap between KH1 and KH2 so short?
Even if the world loves Kingdom Hearts 4, I can promise you that I won’t be the only superfan that majorly bowed out of the series after KH3 released.
Will I still play every Kingdom Hearts game? Yeah, sure, why not. Does the series still hold the same anticipation and magic that it once did? Positively, absolutely no, it does not.
Maybe the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ series should be done for a while
Kingdom Hearts 3 left a pretty sweet taste in my mouth. It cleaned up many of the lingering plot points that had been teased out over many of the side games, and while it was almost too clean, I was very satisfied by the end results.
I’m of the mindset that it would have been a more effective ending if Sora entered a final rest. As opposed to reassuring the King that he would both be able to save Kairi and return himself unscathed, maybe it would have been better if Sora never made it back.
For many long-suffering characters, a certain peace fell as they played frisbee and splashed in the warm waters of the Destiny Islands. What was the price that they paid for that happiness? Apparently, it wasn’t Sora’s death, seeing as the Kingdom Hearts 4 teaser revealed that he was still alive.
A happy ending can come with a bit of a bittersweetness. Kingdom Hearts 4 sets us up for a different type of bittersweetness; one in which I’m not sure I’m all that interested in waiting for. KH4 may actually release sometime in the next ten years, but even that’s asking for a lot.
Games like ‘Kingdom Hearts’
If you’ve had enough of the Kingdom Hearts series, but you’re still curious about other games that play like Kingdom Hearts, look no further than series creator Tetsuya Nomura’s other major titles, along with some miscellaneous titles that take a page or two from the action of the KH series.
It’s impossible to find a game that is exactly like Kingdom Hearts, as there has yet to be a development team brave enough to take on an entire uber-popular cinematic movie-verse such as Disney and compress it into playable chapters.
Maybe it’s a good thing that there aren’t any Kingdom Hearts clones out there. After all, how can you recapture the magic of games like Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth By Sleep again?
Nomura is a man of vision and style, as is apparent in all of the projects he put his hands on. Whether you’re looking for his fashion, character design, and story elements, or even the unique hack and slash gameplay, here are the best games like Kingdom Hearts.
‘Final Fantasy VII Remake’
The first of the games like Kingdom Hearts is a remake of one of Tetsuya Nomura’s first passion projects. FFVII originally released for the PSX in 1997 on two discs. Cloud Strife’s epic adventure through Midgar is widely considered to be one of the best games of all time.
In all of Nomura’s titles, you’ll find similar features, many of which originated in FFVII: character designs with lots of zippers, big spikey hair, big shoes, and broody, androgynous male protagonists. Even if you’re not looking for a Kingdom Hearts-specific game, this sprawling adventure is worth checking out in the upcoming April 10, 2020 remake release.
‘Final Fantasy XIII’ series
The Final Fantasy XIII games have a lot of content to dig into, as Lightning and Serah’s adventures sprawl through the different universes and timelines of Cocoon. This Nomura-esque style is my personal favorite of the series, as the cutscene action and camera work is unparalleled in any other Final Fantasy game.
At that, these three games are better experienced as a movie, as opposed to playing through them. The gameplay can be a bit dull, but God does it look pretty. Save yourself the time, and agony, by experiencing the beauty of the games without suffering through the arduous linear path gameplay.
‘Final Fantasy XV’
Final Fantasy XV should have been Tetsuya Nomura’s magnum opus, but as creative decisions apparently forced the director out of the game’s development, this action-packed title had one of the most bloated development periods out of any Final Fantasy game in recent memory.
The end result is majorly worth it, as the story, action, and the gameplay feel like a more mature Kingdom Hearts offshoot. While the game looked and felt a lot more like Kingdom Hearts when Nomura was still helming the project, a lot of his personal touches, such as Noctis’ broody disposition and the hack and slash action, made the final cut.
‘The World Ends With You’
The protagonists of The World Ends With You straight up look like Sora, Kairi and Riku. That was probably done on purpose, as Nomura’s Neku, Shiki and company went on to make an appearance in the Nintendo 3DS title Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
TWEWY is far from a simple Kingdom Hearts clone, as it’s a touch-based game that requires you to draw with precision as you pay close attention to dual screens. It’s a highly stylized Kingdom Hearts-like game, and for the most part, it will satiate that KH fix.
‘Epic Mickey’ series
Epic Mickey is almost the grimiest Mickey Mouse has ever been. It’s a rare Disney property video game that is focused on the overarching Mickey Mouse world, featuring characters like Pete, Donald, Goofy, and Oswald.
It’s a platforming gem for the Nintendo Wii that’s worth catching up on, and is probably the closest thing you’ll find to the Disney elements in the Kingdom Hearts games. Fingers crossed that we finally get a sequel to 2012’s Nintendo 3DS title Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion!
‘Devil May Cry’ series
While they might not be the first games like Kingdom Hearts that come to mind, Dante’s adventures play surprisingly similar to games like Kingdom Hearts 3 and Final Fantasy XV. They’re full of teleporting, hovering, and hack and slash combos fit to please any Nomura fan.
Nomura has interest in the Devil May Cry series, as he has gone so far as to produce a stage adaptation of the series. It’s a much darker, bloodier story than any of the Kingdom Hearts or Final Fantasy games, but the lore and complex story are everpresent in DMC.
Potential ‘Kingdom Hearts’ side games before the ‘KH4’ release date
Let’s face it: we have to play through at least four different side games until we get Kingdom Hearts 4. It will be a grueling wait, which is why I’m personally checking out of the whole waiting in a state of excited anticipation process. It will get here when it gets here, but in the meantime, I’ll blindly play the side games, knowing that I am now participating in them more out of an obligation to a long lost love affair, rather than a genuine interest in the series.
Some of these side games may seem ridiculous, but let us consider the fact that we returned to the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 for the umpteenth time in Kingdom Hearts Coded. Were we meant to believe that that was a game of actual canon significance? Because if so, I’m not buying it. Speaking of returning to Kingdom Hearts 1…
Kingdom Hearts 3 1/2: Another Side
All of that time that Kairi spent being dead? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about here. We need some justice for our girl, and without a full game dedicated to her training and survival, I’m not sure how else that would happen.
Kairi could be a really effective mage if the developers decided to give her that role (think Aqua). Being a Princess of Light, she would have a plethora of Holy spells at her disposal. She would be able to utilize that power of nature and fauna to do her bidding, seeing as her Keyblade consists of both.
The story would require Kairi to have some interesting companions. What if she joined forces with some of the Kingdom Hearts χ characters that were teased at the end of Kingdom Hearts 3? Sora would have to come in to save the day, making his arrival the climax of the game. Perhaps Kairi and Sora could work together to take down Kairi’s version of a Darkside Heartless, thus freeing her heart once more. Speaking of Kairi’s lost heart…
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Clone Wars
Kairi died twice. One Nobody was Naminé, and now, we’re in need of another character to fulfill that role. With Naminé having been revived at the end of KH3, she would be the most likely candidate for being the main character. As for the gameplay of this side game, I’m not exactly sure how Naminé’s witchy drawing powers would come in to play. Maybe this could be another Nintendo Switch exclusive that operates in a similar fashion to The World Ends With You?
Kingdom Hearts 1.3: Return to Destiny Islands
This game would revolve around Sora and Riku traveling back to the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 via time travel. Why? A. Nostalgia B. Ease of access to a well-developed story C. It’s fodder that makes for easy filler content in between main series titles.
I’d imagine that there would be something to do with Sora passing his Mark of Mastery exam here, seeing as he wasn’t able to in Dream Drop Distance. Would he succeed this time? That will all be decided by the next game…
Kingdom Hearts FINAL: Mark of Mastery
It would be too simple to give Sora everything that he wants just like that. Once he reaches the final stages of his Mark of Mastery exam, the previous game will cut off, leaving Sora to have a boss fight rush through all of the Kingdom Hearts series bosses. Since the PSP and Vita are out of the question, this one would have to be exclusive to the Nintendo Switch. Why? Simply to give fans another reason to buy another console to play the series on (not that you need much convincing to buy the excellent Nintendo Switch).
The code for the bosses might be salvageable from other games (perhaps from the Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix remaster on PS4?), making this an easy cash cow… that I’d actually be excited to play. Does that make me a hypocrite? Yeah, probably. But hey, what can I say; it was super fun fighting all of the Organization XIII members at the end of KH2FM!
No matter which way the series goes next, bets on when Kingdom Hearts 4 will hit are somewhere in the ten-year mark. Watch Hypable for all of the latest Kingdom Hearts news, including details as they’re unveiled for the Kingdom Hearts 3: Remind DLC.