6 Games Like Kingdom Hearts To Play Next

Kingdom Hearts’ 21st anniversary in the U.S. has passed, and Kingdom Hearts 4 still won’t be out until next year at the earliest. You could play every Kingdom Hearts game to hold you over, but here we’re exploring six recommendations for games outside of the franchise that share gameplay and/or thematic elements with Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts thrives on action-based combat, with each game employing different gameplay techniques than the last. Likewise, these games outside of the series, whether they’re published by Square Enix or not, have wild combat mechanics for players to experiment with and themes such as the power of friendship, the nature of memories, self-determination, emotional health, self-acceptance, and partaking in a cause greater than oneself — themes that are similar to the Disney-Square Enix franchise, no matter what circumstances the characters are facing. Here are six games that may be of interest to fans of the Kingdom Hearts series.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

The Kingdom Hearts franchise wouldn’t be where it is today were it not for Final Fantasy — specifically, Final Fantasy VII.

Released at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Final Fantasy 7 Remake centers on ex-SOLDIER Cloud Strife working as a mercenary for the eco-terrorist group Avalanche. Per the request of his childhood friend Tifa Lockheart, Cloud must stop Shinra Electric Power Company from usurping the planet of Mako, its life source, for profit. The gameplay involves spell-casting, party-based combat, and an improved Active Time Battle (ATB) that enables the use of special attacks, magic, and items. It’s got everything a Kingdom Hearts fan could want, plus additions to certain characters’ lores.

The World Ends With You

The World of Ends With You is the goth/emo cousin of Kingdom Hearts. The Nintendo DS RPG was created by Square Enix in collaboration with Jupiter, the developer behind Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and the characters were designed with a cocktail of alternative and Y2K coolness by Kingdom Hearts creator Tetsuya Nomura. The plot involves anti-social Shibuya teen, Neku Sakuraba and his deceased peers being forced to play the Reapers’ Game over the course of a week (or more) to determine whether they should come back to life or transcend to a higher plane of spiritual existence.

Each mission has a time limit, but it’s not linked to the passage of time for the player, and certain sections are closed off until you fulfill the requests of a nearby Reaper. Fighting the Noise creatures that Neku scans is rhythmic, and the efficiency of your gameplay depends on the pins and clothes you wear. It’s a clever design scheme that imparts some life lessons along the way. Neku and company even paid Sora and Riku a visit in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.

Epic Mickey

Directed by Warren Spector in collaboration with Walt Disney Animation Studios, Epic Mickey blends unexpectedly macabre design with Disney’s expectedly colorful palette, sprinkling pieces of Disney history in between. The game centers around Mickey Mouse as he saves Wasteland, a world created by Yen Sid where forgotten characters and concepts live — such as the obscure Disney character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — after accidentally destroying it with his paintbrush.

Just as King Mickey wields the Keyblade in Kingdom Hearts, this iteration of Mickey wields a paintbrush that grants him the power to draw or erase objects to help players through levels. Enemies can be dealt with by getting erased from existence or befriending them. The Wii game was an attempt by Disney to rebrand Mickey from a pleasant and cheerful character to one more mischievous and adventurous. It gave Disney the opportunity to use Oswald for the first time since 1927 after the company bought him back from Universal in 2006.

NieR: Automata

Developed by PlatinumGames, the studio behind Bayonetta and Astral Chain, NieR: Automata is still a relative of the Kingdom Hearts series on account of being published by Square Enix. Set thousands of years after the original, NieR: Automata contains branching storylines about a post-apocalyptic proxy war between human-made androids and an army of Machines from an alien world. Automata’s band of heroes includes combat android 2B, scanner android 9S, and rouge prototype A2, who navigate the desolate landscape to find value in life and understand why people kill in the first place.

The plot is just about as convoluted as Kingdom Hearts and the hack-and-slash combat takes a while to master, but the good news is you get assistance from a flying Pod robot whose attacks range from simple gunfire to heavy-hitting hammer attacks. Not bad company for getting through a dark world, right?

Final Fantasy XV

Just like Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy 15 made it out of a tasking development cycle. It began as a PS3 spinoff titled Final Fantasy Versus 13, only to have the scope and name changed to be the next mainline Final Fantasy for PS4 and Xbox One. The plot revolves around Noctis, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, as he is accompanied by his friends to Altissia, where he is set to marry Lunafreya, only to go on a quest to rescue the Crystal from Niflheim and save the world of Eos from eternal darkness.

Final Fantasy XV’s battle system was inspired by Kingdom Hearts 2, with Noctis’ moves being limited to basic attacks, parrying, warping, and using items — all while battling in the current environment rather than transitioning to a separate arena. Eos can be explored on foot, by Chocobo, or the Regalia, Noctis’ royal car that lets you play songs from the entire Final Fantasy series, including “Braver” by Afrojack. Hikaru Utada and Afrojack collaboration, when?

Persona 5 Strikers

Persona 5 Strikers is like Kingdom Hearts in that you’re tasked with saving people’s hearts from total corruption. A year after the events of the original Persona 5, Joker and the other Phantom Thieves of Hearts’ summer vacation plans are beset by an investigation into mysterious events involving people and their Shadow selves.

Just like Sora wields multiple Keyblades, Joker wields multiple personas, which he can acquire from random drops or beating mini-bosses in dungeons. Persona 5 Strikers thrives on action-based combat and hack-and-slash gameplay, and like Kingdom Hearts, active party members can be swapped with standby members outside of battle.

Cristina Alexander is a freelance writer for IGN. She has contributed her work to various publications, including Digital Trends, TheGamer, Twinfinite, Mega Visions, and The Escapist. To paraphrase Calvin Harris, she wears her love for Sonic the Hedgehog on her sleeve like a big deal. Follow her on Twitter @SonicPrincess15.

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Author: Lindsey Salzer