Kingdom Hearts is a classic. It's admittedly a little too hokey at times, and definitely confusing, and through it all they've still managed to create some of the most memorable characters in gaming. Whether they be heroic protagonists, intricately woven anti-heroes, or bad-to-the-bone antagonists - they've always managed to be both compelling and fun. So, in light of the recent news and the ever approaching release (hopefully!), I have created this list of some of the best characters ever created for this game.
I know, I know, there are a lot of really good characters that have appeared. But, most of them were already established as good characters way before they were dropped into the Kingdom Hearts canon. So, unfortunately characters like Maleficent, Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey will not be appearing on this list. But hey, this is a bi-weekly column, so who's to say there won't be another list up in the future?
10. Terra (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)
Oh Terra, you flawed character, you. Terra is one of the three protagonists of the prequel game, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, set ten years before the original KH game. And honestly, he would have made it higher on this list - but his story seemed just too familiar. Much like Riku, Terra struggles throughout the entire game with his draw to the darkness. And also, much like Riku, he is eventually consumed by it and his body is stolen by the game's main protagonist.
Terra is a great character, and it's interesting to see the rivalry between he and Aqua - and the brother-like relationship he has with Ventus. Not to mention, that unlike Riku, he is still stuck under the control of his evil Master. And we don't really know how he's doing or where he is.
So, despite the predictability of this story, Terra still manages to make this list for being a tragically flawed character.
9. Ansem, Seeker of Darkness (Kingdom Hearts)
You can't beat the original. Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, is one of the many people in this game who take on the moniker of Ansem. In the original game, this dastardly villain is the ring leader behind everything - and one of the driving forces of darkness that is consuming worlds. However, we find out later that the Seeker of Darkness is not Ansem - but his heartless. Which is crazy, because Heartless are not supposed to be this intelligent.
In fact, he's the only Heartless that is this intelligent, as far as I know.
AND THE YOU FIND OUT THAT THIS ISN'T EVEN ANSEM'S HEARTLESS! Ansem never got turned into a Heartless. No, no. This is the Heartless of Xehanort, one of Ansem's lab assistants. It's an interesting web, and the web only makes Ansen, Seeker of Darkness, more compelling as each game gets released.
8. Xion (Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days)
Xion is probably a surprising entry on this list. She is a one-off character who only appeared in a handheld, midquel about Roxas' time with the evil (or misunderstood) Organization XIII. She appears as a fourteenth member, and a surprise keyblade wielder, making her the second Nobody to have the ability. She works alongside Roxas, and forms a strong relationship with both him and his best friend, Axel.
Alas, close to the end of the game, you find out that she was manufactured as a near-replica of Roxas, in case both Sora and Roxas are unable to collect hearts for the Organization. In the end, she decides to sacrifice herself by fighting Roxas and dying to give Sora back his memories. As depicted in the scene above, she dies in Roxas' arms, as he forgets their time together.
It's one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the game's history, and one of the deaths of one of the more interesting characters in the game's canon. I still cry when I watch it.
7. Roxas (Kingdom Hearts II, 358/2 Days)
ROXAS! I love Roxas - he's a wonderfully broody foil to main protagonist, Sora's, chipper attitude. He is the Nobody of Sora that was created when Sora became a heartless in the original game. He is also one of the only Nobodies to have the power to wield the keyblad, and bears a striking resemblance to Ventus (a protag from Birth by Sleep). His story is a sad one, and we are treated to the last week of his life at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II.
What makes Roxas so compelling is his quest to exist. He is constantly searching for his purpose and why he exists, and when he finds out, he decides to take his destiny into his own hands. He fights against the organization, and even when his memories are taken from him, he continues to fight for his life.
Until the end, when he realizes that he must reunite with Sora.
His story is one of the most tragic in the series and it needs to be on this list.
6. Axel/Lea (Kingdom Hearts series)
Axel ranks higher than Roxas, because he's a Nobody who cares so much. He first appears as an antagonist in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and later as a unlikely ally in Kingdom Hearts II and 3D. What defines him most is his relationship with Sora's Nobody, Roxas. His entire quest is driven by his need to find and protect his best friend - and in the end he sacrifices himself to do that very thing.
Only, he isn't dead. After his Nobody and his Heartless (who we never see) are killed - he forms again into his original self, Lea. We find out that most of the Nobodies have returned to normal, and with that, Lea goes again to search for his friend. And actually ends up saving the day and becoming a Keyblade wielder?
Axel's transformation from a villain to a hero, and his later reclamation of his original self is one of the most satisfying storylines in the series. And I can't wait to see what they do with the character in Kingdom Hearts III!
5. Kairi (Kingdom Hearts series)
Kairi's story is also one that improved as the games moved forward. She started out as nothing more than a love interest and damsel in distress for Sora to save - and has now become a more fully fleshed out character. In the first game, Kairi is one of the Sora and Riku's best friends. She is also the object of both of their affections - and later in the game, you find out that Kairi is a Princess of Heart (one of the seven of the purest hearts in existence), and that she was once princess of Hollow Bastion.
Her background is expanded more in Birth by Sleep, when you see her interact with Aqua. You also find out that Aqua bequeathed the ability to wield a keyblade to her, and forged a special bond with her.
My favorite part of about Kairi though, as to be in Kingdom Hearts II. When she regains her memories of Sora back, she decides to take matters into her own hands, and jumps through a dark portal, which eventually leads her to Twilight Town. It's a lovely moment, and a signal the Kairi is not going to take things sitting down anymore.
Plus, SHE CAN WIELD A KEYBLADE TOO! And I hope she is one of the seven lights that will fight the final battle with Xehanort.
4. Xehanort (Kingdom Hearts series)
And here is the guy that started it all. Xehanort is the mastermind behind Kingdom Hearts' entire convoluted storyline. He first appears as a keyblade Master in Birth by Sleep - as the master of the mysterious and evil, Vanitus. He is shown to be at one with the darkness, and we later find out that he seeks to summon the powerful x-Blade, to ignite a Keyblade War, which would allow him to shape the world in his image.
He is a powerful foe, which is proven by his longevity. You find out that every major antagonist from Ansem, Seeker of Darkness, to Xemnas, to the lab assistant of Ansem, Xehanort were all forms of his. He has done this, by putting his heart into those whom he deems a worthy vessel.
It's crazy, and it doesn't always make sense, but I'll be damned if Xehanort isn't a damn good bad guy. He even looks super evil, you know what I mean?
3. Sora (Kingdom Hearts series)
I know, he's the main protagonist of the whole series, so he should be at the top - but honestly there isn't a lot to Sora. We first see him in Kingdom Hearts, he is the unlikely chosen wielder of the keyblade. He dreams of seeing other worlds and getting of his small island - and boy does he ever. Eventually, we find out that he has the power to protect the world - and that's what he sets out to do! Of course, he also plans on finding his friends, Riku and Kairi.
Sora is defined by his heroic nature and his goofy exterior. He is relentlessly optimistic, and is shown to bring out the best in people. His heart is so strong, in fact, that it can call out to other people and help protect their hearts. And he's also an incredibly powerful keyblade wielder, who has managed to fight off the entire Organization XIII and a slew of very powerful heartless.
But, he's not a complicated character. He just loves everybody and wants to help, and that's what he does. Sure, he wants to save his friends, but he never does it at the expense of other people. He is a friend to everyone and loyal to those who he deems worthy of his friendship. And that's about it.
And I mean, let's be honest, they made him really dumb in KH: 3D right? Is that just me? I don't think it's just me.
2. Riku (Kingdom Hearts series)
Riku gets the number two spot for being a flawed character, who comes into the hero role a little bit late in the game. Originally, he was one of the chosen to wield the Keyblade - but it quickly did the old switheroo when Riku opened his heart to darkness and got consumed. This set Riku on a path that had him betraying his friends and getting possessed by an evil Heartless man.
But, our man Riku didn't let that keep him down. And after being locked behind the Door to Darkness at the end of the first game - worked for a year to atone for his sins and help his friends from the shadows. He ends up becoming one of the strongest wielders of his age, and a valuable ally and friend to Sora and the ever on the run, King Mickey.
What makes Riku so great is that we see his story so clearly, and see him feel both guilt and regret for his actions. He works tirelessly to make up for it, and does his best to keep the darkness in his heart in check. And in the end, he actually ends up saving Sora - and making sure that the Organization's plans are thwarted.
His arc is sad, but unlike Terra's, it has a positive resolution and will hopefully receive a powerful conclusion at the end of Kingdom Hearts III.
1. Aqua (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)
So, hear me out, Aqua is the best character in the series for a lot of reasons. She first appears in Birth by Sleep, as one of the three main protagonists and the only one of the three to be considered a Keyblade Master. After Terra leaves to figure things out with Master Xehanort - Aqua keeps trying to find him and also protect Ventus. Her story is a sad one, and it's constantly defined by sacrifice.
During the game, we see Aqua constantly fighting every bad guy under the sun to help her friends. After her climactic final battle with Xehanort and Vanitus - Aqua saves her friend and in the end, after Xehanort consumes Terra - she fights him and wins. But, before that, Aqua puts Ventus in a locked room - and creates Castle Oblivion to keep him locked away.
Afterwards, Aqua ends up saving Terra (and also Xehanort) by pushing herself into the World of Darkness, where she still resides. In the most recent extended demo of Kingdom Hearts III, released on Kingdom Hearts 2.8, we see Aqua constantly throughout the World of Darkness.
It's upsetting, and heartbreaking, but it's also a story of triumph. Aqua constantly struggles against herself and the world around her - but she never loses hope. And I know that she's going to come back with a vengeance, and it's going to be amazing.
So, there you have it! My list of some of my favorite original Kingdom Hearts characters! Did you not see your favorite character on this list? Did you disagree with me? Do you have a character you want to add? Tell me all about in the comments below!
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you'd like him to unpack, hit him up!
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