The Kingdom Hearts franchise is the product of studio cooperation between Final Fantasy producer Square Enix (formerly Squaresoft), and Disney Interactive Studios. The series was first announced at 2001’s E3, the project was presented as a fusion of Final Fantasy art style and storytelling elements combined with Disney’s most famous characters and movies. The puzzling partnership of Square Enix, who is known for their rather serious and story intensive games, and Disney, who is famous for their numerous children’s movies and cartoons stunned many people and led to doubts about how compatible the characters would be.
All doubts were cleared however when the first game in the series launched in 2002 and was widely received as an excellent story and a great action RPG. The critical and commercial success of the first game has helped the franchise grow to see a spin-off for the GBA named Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and a proper sequel, aptly named Kingdom Hearts II.
Four side stories for the PSP, Nintendo DS, mobile phones, and Nintendo 3DS have been released named Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, Re:coded, 3D: Dream Drop Distance respectively. The third numbered entry in the series, Kingdom Hearts III, was announced to be in development for the PS4 and Xbox One at E3 2013.
In an interview with popular Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, Tetsuya Nomura, creator of the franchise, mentioned that it started by him getting in between requests from Square, who wanted a game with Mickey Mouse as the main character, and Disney, who was looking to create a game based on Donald Duck. He compromised with the two by proposing a game featuring a vast cast of Disney characters, with no single character being the focal point of the title.
Instead of the Keyblade, the first weapon proposed for the title was a chainsaw. This was a request that was quickly shot down by Disney, who couldn't envision a game featuring Disney characters being able to house such a mature weapon.
Many years ago, the world was whole and made of light. People thought that light came from Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts contained the hearts of all worlds. It was guarded by the X-Blade. Those who seeked Kingdom Hearts created darkness. The warriors who seeked Kingdom Hearts made replicas of the X-Blade called keyblades. This led to the Keyblade War. The clash shattered the X-Blade into twenty pieces: 7 of light and 13 of darkness. Without the X-Blade, Kingdom Hearts was swallowed by darkness. Over the many years later, a young man named Xehanort lived at Destiny Islands and claimed this world is too small. He was greeted by his heart to grab 12 incarnations of him via time travel. Xehanort returned to the present and found a way out of the Islands. He went to the Land of Departure to become a Keyblade Master. Over the years, Xehanort was learning about what happened in the past, including the Keyblade War. He has conflicts with his classmate and fellow Keyblade Master Eraqus. Xehanort decided to find a vessel suitable for him to forge the X-Blade. Xehanort found a teenager named Ventus and let him use his darkness but the failure let to Ventus' darkness extraction and made into a human named Vanitas. Xehanort returned to his hometown and let Ventus rest. Ventus was greeted by a newborn's heart and heals him. Xehanort took Ventus to train with his former classmate, Eraqus. Ventus met his classmates, Aqua and Terra but Ventus can't remember what happened to him. Terra and Aqua participated in the Mark of Mastery exam. The result was that Aqua became a keyblade master. Xehanort wanted to let Terra be his new vessel to live a longer life. Xehanort allied with a man named Braig to become another vessel. At Radiant Garden, Aqua met a girl who touched her keyblade. This made the girl wield a keyblade. After teaming up with Mickey Mouse, Aqua talked to Kairi and cast a magic spell. At Destiny Islands, Terra met Riku and let Riku become a keyblade wielder. Xehanort told Ventus some of his lost memories to forge the X-Blade. At the Keyblade Graveyard, Vanitas revealed to Ventus that he created the Unversed. Vanitas fused with Ventus to recreate the X-Blade. Xehanort stabbed himself with his Keyblade and aimed his heart at Terra. Xehanort is now inside Terra's body and heart but his mind resisted and it lives in his armor. The X-Blade was later broken by Aqua. Xehanort lost his memories after the battle. At the Land of Departure, Aqua put Ven's body in the Chamber of Waking. This resluted in the destroyed land becoming Castle Oblivion. Xehanort wondered who he was at Radiant Garden. Xehanort was plunged into darkness after he stabbed himself with his Keyblade to get rid of Terra inside him. Aqua sent him and her armor and keyblade to the light and survived in the darkness for 11 years. Xehanort was met by a teacher named Ansem. His old ally, Braig helped him remember again. Ven's heart was sent to the same kid who healed him. The kid's name was Sora. Xehanort created experiments until Ansem forbid them. He and his allies worked on more inventions without Ansem's permission. Xehanort took Ansem's name and sent him to the Realm of Darkness. Xehanort remembered and stabbed Braig with his keyblade which resulted into Braig's Nobody born. Xehanort and his other apprentices became Heartless and Nobodies. Over the next 9 years, Xehanort's Heartless, Ansem ravaged multiple worlds with darkness and expanded Kingdom Hearts. Xehanort's nobody, Xemnas created Organization XIII to find Xehanort's heart and divide it into 13. Xemnas made a Kingdom Hearts that is filled with the hearts of men so he can transfer Xehanort's heart to the Organization. During the same time, a horrible storm caused by the Heartless ravages Destiny Islands. Sora is separated from his friends Tidus, Wakka, Selphie, and more importantly Riku and Kairi. After mysteriously receiving the keyblade and battling a giant heartless, he wakes up in Traverse Town where he meets Donald Duck and Goofy. The two of them are on a quest to find their King (King Mickey) and the three soon become friends and search for Riku and Kairi, and King Mickey respectively.
After a while, Riku is manipulated by Xehanort's ally Maleficent and begins to believe Sora to have forgotten all about him, as he begins his quest to single handedly get the Seven Princesses of Heart and Kairi's (whose heart was purged by the heartless) hearts back. He was eventually possessed by "Ansem" and is sent to the realm of Darkness because he was about to make Riku the thirteenth vessel. When Sora stabbed himself with Ansem's keyblade, his nobody Roxas was born. Roxas became the 13th member of Organiation XIII. Like Sora and his look-alike, Ventus, he used his keyblade to defeat Heartless to find Xehanort's heart. Sora was later greeted by a hooded man. Six days later at the realm of darkness, the hooded man said to Roxas, "He (Sora) looks a lot like you." Sora opens the door to Kingdom Hearts (which Ansem says it was filled with darkness). Upon its opening, light from the interior of Kingdom Hearts, which destroys Ansem. Sora enters, only to find King Mickey and Riku. Riku decides to travel with King Mickey, and King Mickey and Sora use their keyblades to lock the door to Kingdom Hearts. As the door is locked and all the worlds lost to the heartless are reconstruct, Sora vows to save Kairi (who restored her heart). A new fourteenth member of the Organization named Xion appeared. She is a Replica of Sora from his memory when the hooded man first met Sora.
Sora enters Castle Oblivion (The Land of Departure), only to find out that the castle makes him forget and screw up his memories. As Sora progresses up the Castle, Riku progresses up from the basement. As each character progresses, they fight members of Organization XIII, Riku searching for his light to erode the darkness left in his heart. Organization XIII manipulate Sora as he progresses up the castle, making him forget Kairi using Naminé (who can erase and change memories of this connected to Sora). After he defeats all of the Organization members that confronted him, he meets Namine and reveals that she was threatened to alter Sora's memories. She then puts Sora, Donald and Goofy to sleep, restoring their lost memories. Meanwhile, Riku meets a mysterious character named "DiZ", and also battles a replica of himself created by Organization XIII. He finally learns that he needs no light, and that he needs to find a balance between the light and dark inside himself. Roxas at the World That Never Was decided to quit the Organization XIII. He battled Riku to avenge Xion and got sent to a digital copy of Twilight Town.
Roxas searches the mysterious mansion outside of Digital Twilight Town only to find a sleeping Sora. Upon finding him, the two become one and Sora wakes up from him slumber (which was placed on him to restore his memories by Naminé). Goofy and Donald wake up as well, and the three continue their adventure to find King Mickey and Riku. They soon take a train out of Twilight Town, which takes them to Yen Cid's castle, and he soon tasks them with finding Riku and defeating the remaining members of Organization XIII. After travelling to various Disney Worlds (similar to the original Kingdom Hearts), Sora returns to Hollow Bastion to find that it is overrun with Heartless, and he, with the help of Cloud, Squall, Yuffie and Tifa defeat all of the heartless. Previous to this, it is revealed to Sora, Donald and Goofy that the "Ansem" they defeated before was not actually Ansem, but his apprentice, Xehanort. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Xehanort's nobody is the leader of Organization XIII.
Sora then begins his mission to defeat the remaining members of Organization XIII. He successfully defeats Demyx in Hollow Bastion previous to his battle with the heartless, and then Xaldin in Beast's castle. Upon successfully finding "The World that Never Was" (Organization XIII's base), he then goes on the defeat Xigbar (Braig's Nobody who is already part Xehanort), Saix (Isa's Nobody who is already part Xehanort) and Luxord. It is also revealed to Sora that the cloaked figure that has been helping Sora out is actually Riku (who has taken on the appearance of Xehanort's heartless because he used the power of darkness while he was battling Roxas a year ago in order to reunite him with Sora). Riku had also successfully rescued Kairi, who had been captured by Organization XIII and taken to The World that Never Was. Finally, Riku and Sora successfully defeat Xemnas, and are seen returning to Destiny Islands through a mysterious door. At the Realm of Darkness, Ansem the Wise met Aqua and told her the events so far. During the battle, Mickey and his friends coded Jiminy's Journal so a data version of Sora can defeat the bugs. Riku, Sora and Kairi are then seen receiving a letter from King Mickey. The letter reveals that all the events are somewhat related and shows the origins of Aqua, Terra and Ventus. Sora vows to find the three people.
Yen Sid warned Mickey that the death of Ansem and Xemnas can lead to the resurrection of Master Xehanort.
Sora and Riku tested the Mark of Mastery exam to become Keyblade masters via sleep. Sora and Riku were greeted by Xehanort and his many allies. Xehanort revealed his purpose on his plans: to create a Second Keyblade War. Mickey needed Seven Guardians of Light and the Princesses of Heart while Xehanort needed thirteen darknesses. Sora was rescued by Lea, the natural form of Axel. Riku became a keyblade master. At the mysterious tower, Mickey needed one more guardian of light. The guardian was revealed to be Kairi.
Sora, Donald and Goofy are tasked to find the "Key to Return Hearts". Mickey, Riku and Kairi are tasked to find Aqua, Terra and Ventus.
- Kingdom Hearts: Unchained χ*
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep**
- Kingdom Hearts
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days***
- Kingdom Hearts II
- Kingdom Hearts coded
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
- Kingdom Hearts III
*The first Keyblade War, an important event mentioned in several of the games, takes place after Unchained χ. In fact, Unchained χ explains, in detail, the events that led to the first Keyblade War.
**Birth by Sleep's Secret Ending "Blank Points" at least in part takes place after Kingdom Hearts II.
***While the majority of 358/2 Days takes place between Chain of Memories & Kingdom Hearts II, the beginning of the game takes at the same time as the end of Kingdom Hearts and then at the same time as Chain of Memories.