With today being the Kingdom Hearts series' 20th anniversary, I decided to reflect on which scenes in the games impacted me the most. It was a time-consuming process, and my mind will probably change in due time, but each of the following scenes is undoubtedly engraved within my heart.
Of course, there’s nothing objective about this list as it’s primarily dependent on nostalgia and personal impact. Still, there's bound to at least be a few most of us agree on.
Before beginning the piece proper, I'd like to credit the following individuals:
- Regular Pat for creating the handy Wayfinder Project, an amazingly convenient tool for finding most of the cutscenes in the series. Identifying the names of most of the aforementioned scenes would have been truly burdensome if not for this resource.
- Damo279, since the Kingdom Hearts Union χ screenshots I used throughout this piece are from his video compiling the game's final scenes.
20. An Unexpected Bond
Re:Coded receives a decent amount of flack, and some of it is justified. However, its Castle Oblivion segment is arguably one of the most underrated finales of any Kingdom Hearts title. Data Sora confronting Data Roxas about accepting his pain, even if it consumes him, is one of the few times I was genuinely moved in this game.
Despite this not being the Sora we’ve come to know and love throughout the series, he still is Sora. Further, Roxas’ lashing out afterward is starkly emotive. Frankly, just seeing an iteration of Roxas acting somewhat antagonistically toward Sora directly is noteworthy, especially in Re:Coded, where it is a spread-out, gradual process. Alas, if only the HD 2.5 movie showcased their fight instead of skipping past it.
19. 7 and 13
Due to its platform and genre, I don’t have as much of a connection to Kingdom Hearts Union χ as I do the other games, but following its plot, despite its sporadic updates, was a thrilling experience. The finale contained a bunch of bombshells, such as the final seen conversation between the Master of Masters and Luxu.
The revelations regarding the truth of the Foretellers’ being trained to unwittingly harbor the willful Darknesses, Luxu’s immediate opposition to it, and the Master’s chilling attitude were immensely memorable, to say the least. As heinous as the Master’s acts are, the gray morality showcased here has me indescribably excited for his future endeavors and Luxu’s actions.
This is most likely the strangest entry on this list, but this is easily one of the most standout scenes in 358/2 Days and the series as a whole. Roxas finds himself on Destiny Islands and sees Xion in the distance. However, after approaching her, she removes her head and reveals herself to be…Zexion?
From then on, it becomes a disturbing mishmash of Riku’s and Zexion’s final conversation from Chain of Memories, with Roxas morphing into various other figures. After realizing that this is essentially a nightmare of Xion’s comprising her struggling with her identity, its oddities become far clearer. Due to its somber subject matter and the legitimately chilling sound design, this is honestly the most unnerving scene in the franchise, and it will likely always stick with me.
17. Fall to Darkness
Back to Kingdom Hearts Union χ, the finale contained yet another notable scene; the Player’s false betrayal toward Ephemer and Skuld. The sheer shock value of this scene alone, alongside the eventual reveal of Ephemer and Skuld being the final bosses, was jaw-dropping, to put it mildly.
Even as an onlooker of this game, I was amazed by the boldness of this twist, and the eventual reveal of the Player faking it all to deceive the Darknesses makes this initial occurrence even more notable. This scenario reminds me of the classic phrase stating that to deceive your enemies, you must fool your friends first, and while that happens here, it’s severely tragic. Skuld and Ephemer aren’t aware that the Player was not taken over. Moreover, the Player perishes soon afterward. A bitter, sudden farewell for all parties involved.
16. Phantom Promise or Not
Chain of Memories has some of the best showcases of Sora’s characterization, and this scene of him, Donald, and Goofy confronting Marluxia exemplifies it. Marluxia threatens Namine to eliminate Sora’s memories which would lead to his demise due to the inherent connective tissue memories boast in this series.
However, Sora doesn’t fear this at all. In fact, he dares for the erasure to occur. His faith in himself and his friends piecing himself back together displays how selfless and open-hearted he is. Honestly, reflecting on moments like this when Sora’s selflessness and love for others ultimately led to his eventual banishment makes exchanges like this somewhat ominous.
15. Closing the Door
The Kingdom Hearts I ending sequence is classic and its placement shouldn’t require much explanation. Admittedly, I can’t deny that my love for this scene, and many forthcoming ones, primarily stems from nostalgia.
Still, the effectiveness of Sora and Kairi parting ways, the worlds’ restorations, and the beginning of "Simple and Clean" hitting as soon as Sora’s and Kairi’s hands leave each other is such magnificent timing. It’s simply a fantastic ending sequence that undeniably struck many of us since our first viewings.
14. Darkness' Call
Despite its mixed reception, I adore Dream Drop Distance’s endgame for a multitude of reasons. One of those reasons stems from Riku’s final conversation with Ansem, where Riku frankly acknowledges his mistakes, even questioning his fittingness for the Keyblade.
His honesty and lack of fear here say volumes when speaking in front of Ansem Seeker of Darkness himself. Additionally, the revelation of Riku being a Dream Eater is a noteworthy, excellent twist. Riku’s growth is stellar, and seeing it so transparently depicted here is remarkably satisfying.
13. Place to Belong
Days has several impressive scenes, with one of the more memorable ones being Axel’s confrontation with Xion in front of Twilight Town’s mansion. Axel is really the star of this exchange, as his simultaneous adoration and frustration with Xion and Roxas reach a boiling point. “…I’ll always be there to bring you back” is an iconic line, perfectly encapsulating Axel’s fervent desire to keep the three of them together for as long as possible.
12. Vexen's End
Speaking of Axel, him eliminating Vexen in Chain of Memories is, as the kids say, ‘kino.’ Throughout this title, Axel remains a consistent enigma. His true allegiances are shrouded in whatever personal goals he’s pursuing, and it isn’t until this instance that the sheer strength of his determination is showcased.
Personally, I find him burning Vexen in Re:Chain of Memories more brutal than the chakram stab in the GBA version. Regardless, Axel’s absence of hesitation makes this a grim departure, and Sora’s exclamation at who precisely these black-robed fellows are aligned with those of us who experienced this game before Kingdom Hearts II.
11. My Friends Are My Power!
My favorite scene in Dream Drop Distance is right before Sora’s final boss in The World That Never Was. While there is a fair amount of exposition here detailed between Xemnas and Xigbar, I found it to amplify the already present tension emitted from Sora’s shock. It also made the tragedies that took place in Days more prominent in efficacy.
Still, even in the face of these veiled truths, Sora’s cheesy yet effective faith in his friends allows him to strive further, even taking Xigbar aback. That visual alone of Sora with the other central cast members makes this scene a top pick.
10. Kairi Awakens
Of all the moments in the original Kingdom Hearts, Sora’s Sacrifice is the most emotionally impactful. Even when removing all context, the imagery of Sora stabbing himself to restore the Princess’ hearts is astounding. The musical choice here is also notable, resulting in this scene being one of the first I think of in relation to this title. Roxas’ and Namine’s eventual creation also stems from this sacrifice, making it truly hallmark.
9. Dreams Connected
Putting an opening here may be cheating somewhat, but this is my favorite visual sequence for any Kingdom Hearts introduction. The well-timed musical beats with the imagery are sublime. It also excellently recaps the previous two games in engaging, distinct ways.
8. Light Expires
The Guardians of Light all falling was an appalling sight. From Donald’s Zettaflare to Riku’s final stand, everything here was a bombardment of surprise. However, what elevates this scene for me above all else, is Sora’s emotional breakdown, highlighting his disconcerting sense of self-worth.
As it turns out, his reliance on others granting him strength has been too severe, tainting his self-image. Ultimately, seeing Sora, of all characters, lose himself in such a state exemplifies the bleakness of this tragedy.
7. You Admit it / Candid Words
The Days trio reuniting provided an indescribable sense of catharsis that few pieces of media have managed to make me feel. Roxas, Axel, and Xion are my favorite of the trios, primarily due to how 358/2 Days' pacing was handled. Its slow-burn focused on the growing friendship between these three, and it was heart-wrenching to see it all ripped away by the end. Honestly, just seeing these three crying and laughing together brought me to tears.
6. Lost Masters
The Kingdom Hearts III Epilogue remains one of the most startling sequences in the series, especially with added retrospect from Kingdom Hearts Union χ. Xigbar being Luxu puts so many prior oddities into newer, wilder contexts, and several scenes make inestimable more sense. I still vividly remember my shock when seeing Luxu pull off his hood and my mind scrambling to arrange puzzle pieces into their proper place.
5. Birth by Sleep
This is an unoriginal and almost cheesy pick, but the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix still amazes me. It’s a visual treat boasting intense combat and the masterful “Fate of the Unknown.” When I was younger, I viewed this scene on YouTube countless times, transfixed by what this breathtaking cinematic alluded to in the future, or as we’d come to learn, the past.
4. Blank Points
Blank Points needs no words. It expertly weaves in prior series elements, culminating in a tear-jerking finale where the burden Sora bears is evident. The swapping between multiple perspectives and times amplifies the weight Sora carries. Following the melancholic atmosphere Birth by Sleep tends to embrace, Blank Points provides a profound sense of hope for the future.
3. I've Been Having These Weird Thoughts Lately
Yozora remains an enigmatic existence. Still, the Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind Secret Episode gave us a decent lens regarding his personality and what to potentially expect from the future. And, the scene when losing against Yozora probably gave us more than what any of us expected.
Between Sora’s crystallization and Yozora waking in a recreated shot from Final Fantasy Versus XIII, I was quite literally speechless for longer than I’d like to admit. Then, of course, the addition of the original Kingdom Hearts opening quotes was the cherry on top, ultimately providing a distinct sensation reminiscent of my childhood memories of magical wonder with the series.
If there’s one scene that made me cry unrestrained, it was this one. Xion’s acceptance of her fate, combined with the fading memories and Roxas’ mystification at the events before him, is almost too much to bear. Further, Xion’s hopeful grasping for Roxas to fulfill her wishes despite the memory conundrum is endearing amidst all the grief.
A scene is undeniably effective if it still impacts you after dozens of viewings, and this cleanly fits that bill. The updated scene in HD 1.5 with the shown battle between the two is also very much appreciated.
1. Kingdom Hearts III Ending
Kingdom Hearts III’s ending managed to make me feel what I thought was impossible with an entry this long-awaited; simultaneous satisfaction and yearning. The sheer sight of the vast cast playing together on Destiny Islands always causes me to have a joyous smile when combined with the phenomenal “Don’t Think Twice.”
Furthermore, the updated visuals near the launch of Re Mind only enhanced my appreciation for this segment. Finally, and most notably, Sora’s fading by the end left me hooked. While I completely understand the distaste for this final shot, I've remained enthralled by its implications and what the future will be like with this altered cast.
With the Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary event arriving April 10th, 2022, us fans will certainly have a whole new era of Kingdom Hearts to look forward to. I, for one, can not wait, and am eagerly looking forward to making more memories with this franchise.
Which Kingdom Hearts scenes are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!