There are a total of eight main-series KH games, five of which came out after Kingdom Hearts 2. This Kingdom Hearts series recap will explain the biggest moments of the series to get you all ready for Kingdom Hearts 3‘s release.
If you’re new the to Kingdom Hearts games and aren’t sure where to start, this is definitely not the place to do so. I won’t turn away a loyal reader at the get-go, but do understand that I will be referencing all of the events of the first three main-series games in this Kingdom Hearts series recap without explanation, including the Game Boy Advance game Chain of Memories.
Although I will be effectively “sparks notes”-ing the major events of the five games between KH2 and KH3, complicated plotting will follow, so proceed with caution. The embedded videos will start at relevant timecodes to get you right to the meat of the story being referenced.
There are two ways to approach a Kingdom Hearts series recap: chronologically and according to the series timeline, or per game release as information was revealed. I’m opting to go with the latter, as jumping through time (which, they do in later games) is still less complicated than trying to piece together the information of each game into a cohesive and definitive timeline. There’s some overlap of timelines between games, as will be referenced when they occur.
Some of the Kingdom Hearts games that released since Kingdom Hearts 2 were more filler than others, with more important titles being sprinkled in between. Birth by Sleep is arguably the most important in terms of overall series plot, let alone Kingdom Hearts 3‘s plot. However, some other titles brought in a lot of information that will be important in Kingdom Hearts 3. Thus, our adventure into the world of Heartless, Nobodies, Dream Eaters, and Unversed begins.
1. There was a fourteenth member of Organization XIII
Xion was her name, and her two best friends were Roxas and Axel. She wasn’t talked about much after because DS title 358/2 Days pulled a Chain of Memories and erased all memories of her out of everyone’s minds.
Xion was a shell made from the fragments of Sora’s memories that were escaping as Naminé repaired Sora’s memory in Castle Oblivion. Without these memories, Sora would not be whole, and might not ever wake up. Xion was very sad, and often transformed into young Sora. In her sadness, she had Roxas kill her in battle, thus crystallizing her remains before they went back to Sora’s pod. Roxas left the Organization shortly after this, leading to the events of the opening of KH2.
2. Master Xehanort and the Wayfinder Trio do battle
Master Xehanort was a creepy and powerful denizen of darkness with an agenda of opening Kingdom Hearts, and an end goal of becoming even more powerful/destroying the entire universe. He uses the power of darkness to break up three friends that are training for something called a Mark of Mastery exam; if they pass, they will be given the title of Keyblade Master. The three friends share a special moment with something called Wayfinder charms that Aqua made.
Terra wears baggy bellbottoms and lost to blue-haired friend Aqua in the Mark of Mastery exam (with a little push from Master Xehanort, who is after the darkness in Terra’s heart). The Obi Wan of it all, Master Eraqus, hears that creatures called Unversed are attacking the Disney Worlds, so he sends Terra and Aqua off to control the chaos.
The third member of the Wayfinder Tio, Ven, looks like Roxas, and is a fragile boy tied to young Sora’s heart. Meanwhile, there’s a shady character named Vanitas lurking around with Master Xehanort. Vanitas wears an edgy Spider-man 3-like suit, and looks exactly like Sora. As it turns out, Vanitas is the embodiment of the darkness that was extracted from Ven’s heart. Vanitas was created by Master Xehanort in an attempt to forge a superweapon.
Eventually, Terra (accidentally?) kills Master Eraqus, and succumbs to Xehanort’s dark possession; Terra holds on to his consciousness inside of his own possessed body, and is able to defeat Master Xehanort, but isn’t able to keep the old man at bay for good.
Ven fuses with Vanitas to form something called the χ-blade, which is basically a giant OP Keyblade that has the power to start the Second Keyblade War and potentially destroy the universe. Ven also fights and kills Vanitas inside of his own mind, leaving Ven in a sort of coma. Aqua helped in both of the ensuing battle, and is the only remaining conscious and active member of the Wayfinder trio. She protected Ven’s body by bringing him to Castle Oblivion, which she created.
3. Sora, Kairi and Riku are gifted the power of the Keyblade
The Destiny Islands trio are all visited in Birth by Sleep by a member of the Wayfinder Trio. Aqua visits Kairi in the land that was Hollow Bastion before it fell to darkness, Radiant Garden. Aqua is touched by Kairi’s pure heart and gift of flowers, therefore the woman gifts the power of the Keyblade to the young Princess of Heart.
Riku and Sora meet Aqua on the Destiny Islands, wherein they have a similar interaction as Aqua did with Kairi. As it turns out, Riku, not Sora, was the Keyblade’s chosen warrior in Kingdom Hearts 1; Sora was never directly gifted the power of the Keyblade from a Keyblade wielder. However, Sora and Ven share a heart connection, giving him an in with the Keyblade.
Sora’s heart is like the Holiday Inn of the Kingdom Hearts series. He’s had Kairi residing in there, Xion and Roxas now reside inside of his heart, and now, Ven (and likely Vanitas, which is why Sora looks so much like him?) are there as well. Therefore, since Ven was tied to Sora’s heart while Ven’s was in a fragile place, Sora was, in a roundabout way, gifted the power of the Keyblade.
4. Young Master Xehanort time travels to commence the Second Great Keyblade War
This one is pretty much as zany as it reads on the tin. As if this Kingdom Hearts series recap couldn’t have gotten any more metaphysical, we’ve now entered… the time travel sequence.
In Dream Drop Distance, the only Kingdom Hearts game for the Nintendo 3DS, Sora and Riku begin their very own Mark of Mastery exam under Yen Sid. The two boys dive into their hearts to do battle with evil Dreameaters, all the way being pestered by Young Master Xehanort. No, we do not know what sort of time travel we’re talking here, and no, we do not know how this sort of time travel will effect the literal timeline of the Kingdom Hearts series. Reader, you’ve made it this far, so congratulate yourself about that!
YMX, as fandom affectionately calls him, is coming back to present-day to pick up where his much older self left off in Birth by Sleep. He still has the ability to posses, or “Nort” whoever is deemed susceptible to his silver tongue, brute force, and overall evil ways. His goal now is to bring together the Thirteen Darknesses to oppose the Seven Guardians of Light, somehow reforging the χ-blade. The Thirteen Darknesses consist of most of the original Organization XIII members, but with Roxas having returned to Sora’s heart, the Darknesses are one short, likely leading to much of the conflict present with YMX and any of his other forms in Kingdom Hearts 3.
5. Aqua continues to wander in the Realm of Darkness
This one is a bit of a bummer to have to recap, but unfortunately, Aqua was lost to the darkness per the last time that we’ve seen her. She got there while saving what remained of Terra’s heart, and has been there since the ending of Birth By Sleep. She fights dark versions of herself in the short title Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prolouge, and sadly, it seems that even Mickey wasn’t able to save her from her dreaded current state.
‘Kingdom Hearts’ series recap up to ‘KH3’
Kingdom Hearts 3 will have Sora and friends traveling the Disney worlds in an attempt to save the lost souls of Master Xehanort’s battles, hopefully culminating in the Light defeating the Darkness in a final battle at the Keyblade Graveyard. If the series stays on the same path it’s on, it’s likely that we’ll lose some of our favorite KH friends in the ensuing battles, but no one is really ever lost for good when it comes to Kingdom Hearts mythos.
Kingdom Hearts 3 releases for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 29, 2019.