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Hot take: Baldur's Gate 3 is a very good video game.

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My Ranking of Fire Emblems

This list is exactly as it sounds: my personal ranking of the games in Fire Emblem franchise. It's one of the few long-running franchises where I've played basically every game, and thus feel qualified to rank. Note that I'm only including what I consider to be the core Fire Emblem games that were also released in the west. So no Japanese-only titles, no crossover spinoffs, no mobile games, etc. (and definitely no musou games). This ranking is based on my personal, subjective preferences alone, and I will amend it over time as new Fire Emblem games come out. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Last updated on April 7, 2023 (to add Fire Emblem Engage)

See my other rankings of: Metroids | Marios | Zeldas | Final Fantasies | 2D Castlevanias | Fire Emblems | Gaming Years | Consoles and Handhelds | From Software Games | Nintendo Franchises

List items

  • Three Houses felt like the biggest step forward for the series since its western debut. The satisfying tactical battles and (usually) lovable characters were always there. But through its school setting, calendar structure, and more open-ended character building options, Three Houses connected those strengths more holistically than ever before. How you interacted with these characters had mechanical and narrative implications both on and off the battlefield, and I became highly attached to every one of them as a result. When I sit back and reflect on what Fire Emblem really means to me, that’s precisely it. Toss in my favorite writing, world-building, and soundtrack in the series, and it’s no wonder Three Houses sits at the top of this list.

  • The first Fire Emblem game released in the west was a personal revelation at the time: its blend of memorable characters and exciting tactical battles was like nothing I had seen. It’s that iconic pairing that’s always been at the heart of the series, and I think this game executed the formula more confidently and smoothly than most of its successors. It had great characters, a well-told story, some absolutely killer combat animations (still my favorite in the series), and a balanced and varied progression of scenarios that felt right. This game made me care about the characters under my command in a way that strategy games never had, and remains a stellar example of what Fire Emblem is all about. Also, Hector rules.

  • The Sacred Stones was, in many ways, an iteration on the previous GBA Fire Emblem. It may not have done much new or better, but I think it executed the formula nearly as well: the characters, story, battle scenarios, and animations were still rock-solid. It was also the first Fire Emblem game released in the west that had a world map with optional battles, as well a “villager” type of class that started out extra weak but became a powerhouse if trained well; it had Donnels before Donnel. Those were neat touches on top of an otherwise very well-crafted Fire Emblem game.

  • OK, look. Fates had problems, particularly in its narrative: awful writing, a soap opera plot, and one of the weaker casts in the series defined an incredibly silly and cringe-worthy story. And yet, the tactical side of Fates, at least in the Conquest campaign I played, was as good as any (if not even better). All of the mechanical additions from Awakening were refined to a tee here, and the map and scenario design were top notch. I was heavily invested in both the planning and execution of every single mission of this campaign, which made Conquest stand out in spite of its other… issues.

  • Upon release, Awakening was credited for saving the dying franchise: more robust difficulty options allowed newcomers and veterans alike to play their way, a renewed focus on characters deepened the tie between the tactics and role-playing, and new mechanics made battles more dynamic. That said, this was kind of a rough first pass: the new mechanics weren’t fully balanced yet, and I found the throughline plot pretty generic and boring. That made Awakening somewhat less impactful to me than a savior should be, even if it was still a fun ride that has an important place in the franchise’s history.

  • Path of Radiance was an overall solid entry that executed most aspects of the formula well, and had a better than average story by series' standards (even if it's still fairly generic). Yet for all its strengths, I had a number of personal gripes that pull it down for me: I thought the animations were a big step down from the GBA at the time, the biorhythm mechanic sucked, and I did not like the laguz mechanically; I felt they didn’t mesh with the classic Fire Emblem units and hurt the otherwise fun battles. Bonus points for allowing players to distribute bonus experience as they wished after battles though.

  • The long and short of Engage is that it had really fun combat, and really terrible narrative aspects. The "break" mechanic in particular was a great addition to the weapon triangle that had me considering every move more carefully, and the Emblem Rings opened up powerful combos that were fun to experiment with (even if they were pretty broken). It was one of the series' more tactically rewarding entries, yet it was all pulled down by a boring plot, awful writing, and almost certainly my least favorite cast of characters in the entire series. Engage was a game of highs and lows, and for me the lows stick out more.

  • I have very mixed feelings about Radiant Dawn. On the one hand, it had all the same personal gripes I had with Path of Radiance, and was also a much lengthier and more tedious combat slog than most games on this list. On the other hand, its brutal difficulty and strong map design bore out some rewarding combat scenarios that rivaled the series’ best. In the end though, it’s the duller parts of the combat slog I remember most, and that feeling of wanting to be done well before the credits rolled.

  • In some ways, Shadow Dragon was not all the great by virtue of being a remake of an old game with dated design; in terms of raw mechanics it might be my least favorite in the series. But I also respect it as a solid way to revisit the franchise’s origin. It’s kind of impressive how much of the core of the series was present from the jump, and even if it has been noticeably refined over the years, it was still a very playable and interesting piece of history decades later. That counts for something in my book.

  • Echoes was not a bad Fire Emblem game, but it’s the only one I didn’t finish. The early hours contained a lot of slow-moving exposition and repetitive battles with extremely bland map design, and that slower-than-normal start didn’t fill me with much desire to push forward; despite trying twice. Especially given it was another remake of an older game, and all the dated design that entailed. I’m sure the story is as good as I’ve heard, and it’s possible Echoes would move up this list if I ever finished it. But I don't feel compelled to do so.