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Numbered games can be dangerous when not every main-series game receives a number. The numbers stand out. They make those games appear the most important. Worst of all, it leads to the non-numbered titles being viewed as “spin-offs,” games unnecessary to the overall story.

Sometimes that is completely false, as in the case of Kingdom Hearts. Players who have only played Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 will be very lost when Kingdom Hearts 3 comes around. Several games have come out aside from those two. They aren’t spin-offs. Some of them are very important.

In short, you should play the non-numbered titles before Kingdom Hearts 3.

For example, let’s take another look at the awesome Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer shown at last year’s E3.

Do you know who the boys playing chess are? You should.

Let’s go through some more questions. Do you know who Master Xehanort is? (No, not Ansem’s apprentice, not exactly.) Do you know who Terra is? Ventus? What about Aqua, who stars in the new episode “Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage,” included in 2.8?

What was the Keyblade War? What is the χ-blade?

Most importantly, what is the plot setup for Kingdom Hearts 3?

Some of the non-numbered titles are more important than others. In particular, Birth By Sleep is incredibly important. It’s a prequel, set approximately 10 years before the first game. It sets up major plot points and introduces several important characters. Meanwhile, Dream Drop Distance is arguably the most important game in the series since Kingdom Hearts 2, leading directly to Kingdom Hearts 3’s plot and adding a large amount of story content.

Dismissing the non-numbered Kingdom Hearts games as spin-offs isn’t a good idea. If you skip major Kingdom Hearts games, you’ll be at a great disadvantage when Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out, and you’ll think the story is more confusing than it is. Fortunately, the compilations make it easier than ever to experience the entire Kingdom Hearts series.

Don’t forget to check out our guide on how to catch up on the Kingdom Hearts series. If you’re interested in the Kingdom Hearts story leading up to Kingdom Hearts 3, you won’t be disappointed.