Kingdom Hearts Explained: Part One

Game of Keyblades

Twelve years after the release of Kingdom Hearts 2, the highly anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally set to arrive January 2019. The third major game in the series will complete the long list of games titled the “Dark Seeker Saga.” The game’s director, Tetsuya Nomura, has said that the game will ultimately be Sora’s last battle against the Heartless and the various incarnations of Xehanort, the main villain of the series.

Those eyes tho

If you’re unfamiliar with the wonderful world of Kingdom Hearts, now is as good a time as any to jump in. But with over ten different games in the series, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and wonder where to begin—not to mention a story so hard to follow, that the director himself, Tetsuya Nomura, gets confused. I plan to shed some light on this darkness.

For those of you who want to be caught up on the story of Kingdom Hearts, this article is for you. But be warned: major spoilers follow. If you would like to play the games yourself in chronological order, here is how:

  1. Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep
  2. Kingdom Hearts
  3. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
  4. Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
  5. Kingdom Hearts 2
  6. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

There is another game called Re:Coded which was a mobile game re-released as a DS game. It has no major plot points and is a terrible game; avoid it at all costs.

Luckily, almost all of these games come in a bundle on the PS4 and can be purchased as one main game. Final Chapter Prologue includes Dream Drop Distance, which is very important to the story and contains major twists which I will explain in a future article.

I will now proceed to explain the story of each game in an attempt to catch readers up to the story of Kingdom Hearts. Few have trekked this path and succeeded. Once again, be warned that there are major spoilers, so stop reading now or forever hold your peace!

With that out of the way, let’s take a dive into Kingdom Hearts.

Birth by Sleep

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep came out after Kingdom Hearts 2, but sets the stage for Kingdom Hearts 3, and introduces the series’ main villain and the one behind the repeated attempts to conquer Kingdom Hearts: Xehanort. He’s a great villain and is desperately searching for Kingdom Hearts to be able to acquire more knowledge of the great and mysterious Keyblade War that happened a long time ago.

Xehanort, an old keyblade master himself, seeks the X-blade, a mysterious all-powerful keyblade that can grant access to Kingdom Hearts. The only way to make it appear is for a force of pure light and another of pure darkness to clash in battle. Enter Ventus, a boy too timid to allow darkness to overcome his heart. Because of this, Xehanort decides to remove the darkness from Ventus, forming another being made from the pure darkness: Vanitas.



Let’s pause for a moment and I’ll explain what in the world Kingdom Hearts is. In the games, players can travel to different Disney worlds and go on adventures and meet Disney characters. Each world has a “heart,” which lies at the center of that world. But Kingdom Hearts is the heart of hearts, the center of all worlds. If you obtain Kingdom Hearts, you obtain control over all worlds—universal domination.

After Xehanort extracts Vanitas from Ventus, he takes the amnesic boy to another keyblade master and his own personal friend, Eraqus. He gladly takes Ventus under his care and has his two pupils, Terra and Aqua, aid in the care of Ventus.

(From left to right) Terra, Ventus, and Aqua

Time passes and the trio—Terra, Aqua, and Ventus—become strong friends. The time comes for the Mark of Mastery exam, a test that shows if a keyblade wielder is ready to be deemed a master or not. Xehanort shows up as a guest judge and after the test, he tells Eraqus that Terra is weak, but Aqua shows promise. Aqua is granted the title of master. Terra is bothered, but pushes it away and decides to let it be for now.

After the test, Xehanort disappears. Eraqus becomes  suspicious, and decides to send Terra and Aqua out to other worlds to search for him. Secretly, Eraqus tells Aqua to spy on Terra to make sure he does not do anything rash. Ventus runs after Terra as he leaves. Aqua sees this and follows Ventus into space.

For the rest of the game, the three chase each other around the different worlds, finding Disney villains and Princesses of Heart. These princesses are special because their hearts do not contain an inkling of darkness within. One of the main villains Terra meets is Maleficent, who ends up being the main Disney villain in the rest of the games.

Maleficent’s treachery never runs out

Eventually, Terra finds Xehanort who convinces him to train under his instruction, calling him “Master Terra.” Terra is satisfied with this and is sent on a fake errand to track down this mysterious Vanitas.

Aqua continues her quest and notices that every world she goes to, the inhabitants always have something bad to say about Terra. Concerned, she eventually runs into Terra and Ventus on the world of Radiant Garden. She confronts Terra, who tells her to back off. They all go their separate ways.

In his search for Vanitas, Terra finds himself on a mysterious planet called Destiny Islands. There, he finds two boys who are best friends. Seeing that one of the boys, Riku, is strong and brave, Terra plants the mark of a keyblade master onto Riku, giving him future access to the keyblade. Later, Aqua finds the same island and runs into these two boys. She notices that Terra has already placed a mark on Riku and instead looks to the other boy, Sora. She tells Sora to promise her he will always watch out for Riku, even when he is lost in the darkness. He promises.

Aqua meeting Sora and Riku

Ventus finds his way to a mysterious wasteland, only to find Xehanort there. He tells Ventus the truth about his past, angering Ventus. Xehanort blames Eraqus for lying, prompting Ventus to return to Eraqus, demanding answers. Eraqus, realizing Xehanort’s true intentions of creating the X-blade, attempts to end Ventus’ life, eliminating him from the equation, and making it impossible for Xehanort to have what he wants.

But at the last minute, Terra, who Xehanort tips off, saves Ventus and confronts Eraqus. In the battle, Terra defeats Eraqus, but realizes his error and does not finish the job. Unfortunately, Xehanort shows up and deals Eraqus the finishing blow, eliminating him. Terra finally understands that he has been deceived and goes to the Keyblade Graveyard. He finds Ventus and Aqua there. Together, they face off against Xehanort and Vanitas.

Ventus’ angry face makes him look like an angry puppy.

Ventus and Vanitas square off, nearly forming the X-blade. But instead, Ventus resists and destroys it, destroying himself and Vanitas along with it. Somehow, his heart finds sanctuary in someone else’s heart, sparing Ventus from disappearing altogether. While it is not obvious whose heart it is, there are a lot of good reasons why it is Sora who takes Ventus’ heart into his own. More on that later…

Terra fights Xehanort head on, but is no match for him. Instead, Xehanort attempts to possess Terra’s body, turning his hair white and eyes a fiery yellow. But Xehanort’s control is stopped short by Terra’s unyielding will. This causes Xehanort, still in Terra’s body, to lose his memory and he ends up on Radiant Garden. He is eventually taken in my Ansem the Wise, the ruler of that world.

After Ventus and Terra lose at the Keyblade Graveyard, Aqua is left alone to fight off both a possessed Ventus and a possessed Terra and loses. She somehow pulls through with the help of Mickey Mouse and she takes Ventus’ sleeping body to a secret place called Castle Oblivion. She then confronts a white-haired Terra in Radiant Garden and loses once again, only this time, there is no one to save her. She disappears and is lost to the Realm of Darkness.

Aqua holding on to the little hope she has left

Click here to continue reading about Kingdom Hearts on Page 2!

John Campbell

Based in San Diego, California, John enjoys working, writing, eating with friends and family, and gaming - both board games and video games. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Humanities, he currently works in IT, but hopes to one day become a full time college professor and writer. His recent favorite games include Persona 5 and NieR: Automata.


  1. Victoria Bell on February 7, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    I don’t know if you added this to any other pages in the article, but you forgot about Kingdom Hearts Union X/Kingdom Hearts Unchained X. It is actually the first game in the Kingdom Hearts timeline, since it takes place before the events of Kingdom Hearts, and that includes Birth by Sleep.

    • John Campbell on February 7, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      While it is the first game in the series, Kingdom Hearts Unchained is not a console game or a major entry. I planned on touching on it briefly in my next article. But as far as the timeline is concerned, you’re correct, it absolutely does come before Birth by Sleep.

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