Kingdom Hearts’ Steam release is the perfect excuse for a replay

Kingdom Hearts is a timeless series, and revisiting it is simply wonderful.
kingdom hearts steam release

I first played Kingdom Hearts 2 on the family couch, and I remember distinctly spending hours and hours fighting through its final stages – only to hit bedtime before I could put away Xemnas for good. I left the PlayStation 2 running all night, then returned the next afternoon to finish the job. It was elating. Euphoric. My first big video game boss, finally defeated.

I’m getting the same warm and fuzzies playing through the game again in 2024 – this time via Steam, and in handheld mode on my trusty ROG Ally. There’s a real timelessness and giddy excitement to Kingdom Hearts, by design. While nostalgia comes into play here, as the game is populated by classic Disney characters and worlds, Kingdom Hearts has always been about more than nostalgia.

It’s a story that weaves in grand, complex ideas about friendship and the power of love, and caring selflessly. It’s about the value of power, and how you wield it. These themes resonate at any age – but as a child discovering each game, I know it certainly had a significant impact on a younger me.

Read: One year on, the Asus ROG Ally has transformed my PC gaming habits

Kingdom Hearts was one of my first tastes of maturity in video game storytelling. I loved Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot growing up, but those franchises only cartoonishly addressed loss and sacrifice. I remember playing Kingdom Hearts and feeling profoundly moved – in moments when Sora put the greater good first, and in his persistent rivalry with Riku.

Kingdom Hearts is backed by grand, emotive storytelling, with personal, human flourishes even in its twisting tales of magical powers and darkness.

It’s lost none of its power on my latest replay.

kingdom hearts riku
Image: Square Enix

Kingdom Hearts reflects gaming history

Sure, there’s elements of Kingdom Hearts, beyond its main narrative, that have aged poorly. The Gummi Ship segments are still hideous and frustrating, and seem to exist only to break up the game’s pacing. Some of the object collision in certain worlds seems off, and not all character models are created equal.

Bu arguably these lightly janky elements are endearing. Of course Kingdom Hearts is a product of its time. The PlayStation 2 era was experimental and bold, and pushed gaming forward in significant leaps and bounds. There were some teething issues in this process, but these leaps needed to be made to get to a brighter future.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise is actually a wonderful reflection of this push. It functions as a timeline of sorts, with each entry marking another leap forward in gaming technology. Kingdom Hearts is one of the longest-running franchises in video games, and with releases every few years, you get to see exactly how technology has evolved. (It’s worth noting the Kingdom Hearts games on Steam and other modern platforms are remasters, but they have preserved the style and design of each game.)

Sora and his pals get crisper with each new game release – more textured, with higher polygons. Worlds get more complex, and lusher. Jungles sprout new leaves. Hair shines. Cloaks get swishier. In Kingdom Hearts 3, the latest franchise release, the tiniest details are packed in. While exploring the world of Toy Story, Sora is an plasticky action figure with tiny little knee joints and arm joints. The Pirates of the Caribbean world is stunning, and features a wonderful rendered likeness of Davy Jones, and plenty of realistic, moody skies.

kingdom hearts 3 davy jones
Image: Square Enix

Each Kingdom Hearts game spans dozens of dozens of hours, with each world charting a new course, experimenting with new gameplay styles and visual quirks. There’s whiplash in entering the cosy, wholesome world of Winnie the Pooh in one level, and then running face-first into a hyper-realistic version of Orlando Bloom – but that’s the joy of the series.

Why now is the time to replay Kingdom Hearts

Replaying the games in 2024 made me remember just how wild, weird, and wonderful the franchise is – and how good. I often wonder if Kingdom Hearts could have been made in the 2020s or even the 2010s, given it feels Disney is now more protective of its brands and their image in the public eye.

Whatever the circumstances of its existence, Kingdom Hearts feels like a minor miracle of brand synergy – and I’m glad that it exists, and continues to get sequels. (Let’s not mention the long wait for Kingdom Hearts 4 – it’ll only break my heart.)

With the games now available on Steam, there’s ample opportunity for newcomers and veterans to check out the games on a fresh platform. For those with access to a handheld gaming device (Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go, or otherwise) it also represents an opportunity to settle in on a couch, and relive the days of childhood in cosier fashion.

I’m having a blast reminiscing about this series, and I’d heartily recommend the revisit. As an added bonus, replaying the games will amply prepare you for whenever Kingdom Hearts 4 pops into the spotlight again.

The entire Kingdom Hearts series is now available on PC via Steam.

A code for all three new Kingdom Hearts releases was provided to GamesHub for the purposes of this review.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.