The Kingdom Hearts series is a strange mash-up of two huge properties, and that has led to some sweet crossovers. Here’s our list of best Kingdom Hearts character cameos.
It’s no secret that Kingdom Hearts 3 is still a long ways away. The newest sequel to Square Enix and Disney’s Kingdom Hearts series has been in development for what has felt like forever while the franchise is buoyed by an endless succession of Kingdom Hearts prequels and spin-offs. While the series’ bizarre development and release cycle may have created one of the most convoluted narratives in modern gaming, however, it has also spawned some of the most memorable character cameos in gaming history.
In fact, Kingdom Hearts has featured so many different character appearances from Disney and Square Enix franchises that it would likely be easier to compile a list of characters who haven’t made the cut thus far than to detail those who have. Some of those cameos have been forgettable, but it’s the series’ biggest guest stars that have made Kingdom Hearts such a unique gaming property. Here’s Game Rant’s list of the 10 best Kingdom Hearts character cameos.
Yen Sid might be one of the more obscure references on this list for fans of Kingdom Hearts without a deep knowledge of Disney‘s back catalog. The powerful sorcerer and retired Keyblade Master first appeared to the world in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a 1940 short from Fantasia. In the short film, Yen Sid is Mickey Mouse’s master, and Mickey disobeys him by wearing his hat and attempting to channel its magical powers. Yen Sid is the mentor to Mickey in Kingdom Hearts as well, and his casting is one of many examples that demonstrate how perfectly Square Enix has blended the world of Kingdom Hearts with Disney in a way that makes a little bit of sense.
Steamboat Willie Mickey Mouse
Kingdom Hearts 2 is a game that looked to expand on its predecessor’s success as well as its boldness, taking gamers to even more obscure worlds out of Disney lore in the hopes that it would enrich Kingdom Hearts 2‘s gameplay experience. Perhaps no world better embodies this philosophy than Timeless River, where players explore the scenes of the 1928 short Steamboat Willie. The world’s black and white aesthetic is coupled with the inclusion of the Steamboat Willie version of Mickey Mouse to create a character and location cameo that does old school fan-service right.
Including the world of Tron in the Kingdom Hearts series was likely a no-brainer – it offered the developers at Square Enix a chance to create an environment completely unlike anything else in the Disney repertoire. What was a surprise, however, was how effective the cameo of the character Tron was – Tron genuinely became a friend to Sora and crew, and the program’s “sacrifice” as he parts ways with Sora’s party is quietly one of the more emotional moments in the entire series.
When a Pirates of the Caribbean world was first announced for Kingdom Hearts 2, fans were skeptical of Square Enix’s ability to include a character as roguish as Jack Sparrow in the game’s narrative. To the developers’ credit, the Kingdom Hearts 2 version of Jack Sparrow captures his essence quite well while making the cursed pirate a central element in the story, and Sparrow’s half-serious promise to form a bloodthirsty pirate crew to steal Sora’s Keyblade from him has fans hoping they haven’t seen the last of Captain Jack in Kingdom Hearts.
While the other Jack on this list was a questionable inclusion that turned out to be a great one, Jack Skellington is one of the Kingdom Hearts series’ most beloved cameo characters, and one who has made appearances in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. Of his appearances, Jack’s role in Kingdom Hearts 2 is the most memorable – the Halloween King re-enacts some of the plot from The Nightmare Before Christmas, attempting to replace Santa, and Sora humorously has to deal with the consequences.
The second wizard to grace this list, one of the most powerful beings in Arthurian lore makes his appearance as the mentor and friend of Donald Duck in Kingdom Hearts. He’s described in-game as a world traveler, and Merlin is presented like an international man of mystery, teaching Sora how to use magic in Traverse Town and offering him various powerful weapons as he becomes more adept at magic over the course of the game.
Certainly one of the most intimidating characters in Final Fantasy 10, gravel-voiced Auron appears in Kingdom Hearts 2 as a competitor in the Hades Cup. He is forced into attempting to kill Hercules by Hades before Sora and crew liberate his free will and fight alongside him to vanquish the Lord of the Underworld in an epic battle. Instead of resting on his laurels after, Auron decides to wander the Underworld fighting instead. His appearance in Kingdom Hearts 2 is every bit worthy of the anti-hero Auron was in Final Fantasy 10, and his story is one of the most memorable side character narratives in the series.
First introduced to players as Leon, the Final Fantasy 8 protagonist Squall Leonhart is an integral part of the Kingdom Hearts story and one of the few characters who has been received better in the Square Enix and Disney mash-up than their original game. Squall was always criticized as being a little too brooding in Final Fantasy 8, and while he is still quite gloomy, he’s also a much more developed and endearing character. His appearance in Kingdom Hearts comes with a price, however, as fans find out that his homeworld has already been destroyed by the Heartless, and it is heavily implied Rinoa, his love, died during the destruction.
One of the Final Fantasy series’ most iconic characters, Cloud also serves as a central figure in both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2, searching for his nemesis Sephiroth while also assisting Sora, Goofy, and Donald over the course of their adventure. Although Cloud, like Squall, comes to the series as damaged goods, he also provides a number of fan-service moments that will live on in fans memories forever – most notably, standing back-to-back with Squall as the two are surrounded by Heartless and fending them off near effortlessly.
If Cloud is one of the most iconic Final Fantasy characters, Sephiroth is the series’ most iconic villain. The man who killed Aeris in Final Fantasy 7 appears as the one-winged angel in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2, and he provides one of the most challenging boss fights in the history of the series while attempting to hunt down and kill Cloud. Terrifyingly, even when Sora does defeat Sephiroth in combat in Kingdom Hearts 2, he simply shrugs off the battle and requests that Sora find Cloud instead – as the only Final Fantasy villain to appear in the series so far, Sephiroth lives up to the hype as a sinister and, above all else, memorable antagonist in Kingdom Hearts.
That’s our list, but we’re sure any Kingdom Hearts fan already has their own. Who did we miss? Who doesn’t deserve to make the list? Let us know in the comments below and share your own favorite character cameos in Kingdom Hearts.