For the man who sold the world(s).
Yeah, the MGSV reference doesn’t make that much sense, but it does serve as a segue into the point of my list; worlds!
One of the staples and selling points of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, the worlds of the series serve as the levels of the game with it typically following the plot of the Disney movie it is based off of. There are exceptions of course, and not all of them are originally based on Disney movies, but each world is so unique in level design and even gameplay that fans enjoy ranking them.
Since I too am a fan of the series, I decided to make my own ranking of the worlds. However, I will be limiting myself to just the first game of the series since we have now reached over thirty plus worlds in the series all together and that’d be a tough list to rank… for now.
So without further ado, here is my descending ranking of the original Kingdom Hearts worlds from worst to best. Please remember that this is my opinion, and just because a world you like is low on the list it does not mean it is a bad world – I just feel that there are better.
All right Heartfull Readers, let’s get started!
Atlantica is just a big underwater level and par for the course, underwater levels are the worst. The swim mechanics in the game are easy to maneuver but combat in this world is sluggish, especially when compared to the fast movement we are used to in other worlds.
One of the most annoying parts of the level are having to ride the dolphin through the underwater currents because you have to wait for the dolphin to show up. If there are any enemies around you have to kill them; otherwise, you can’t even open a treasure chest, let alone ride the dolphin! (Thank you KHII for fixing the treasure chest issue.) By the time you finish off your twentieth Heartless jellyfish, the dolphin has passed you by already and you have to wait again for him to show.
It’s not all bad in Atlantica. The final showdown with Ursula is fine, although her “Get ready for this!” line can be a little much sometimes. The world has good use of blue color and its design from space is unique. But compared to other worlds on this list, this one I wouldn’t mind skipping.
Monstro is an odd choice on this list because he’s not really a world. He’s a mammal. Yet here we are.
Monster is usually everyone’s least favorite world due to him basically being a maze. His body is broken up into “chambers” but when you first play it, you don’t know what chamber leads to where. So it all becomes one big guessing game where you will likely end up running in circles. Or just buy the strategy guide, like I did since Internet walkthroughs weren’t as big back when the game was first released. This is Monstro’s major flaw as the boss battle with Parasite Cage and story importance of the world are all fine.
What also helps with it being so low on the list is his random appearances. There are Trinity Marks and Puppies in Monstro that you need for a 100% completion. But after you complete the level, Monstro comes and goes at will. When you try to Warp Drive to him he will either be there or won’t and you’ll have to crash your Gummy Ship and try again.
I haven’t noticed this issue yet in the HD remake of the game so hopefully it’s been removed. But my memories of frustratingly waiting for Monstro to show have not.
11) 100 Acre Wood
The 100 Acre Wood may be an optional world, and an uneventful one at that, but there is a certain kind of charm to it. There is no boss battle or enemies to worry about. All it has are mini-games. What more can you expect from a world based on “Winnie the Pooh?”
Pooh Bear was about having fun with friends, not battling enemies. The 100 Acre Wood is low on this list due to its child-like level design and gameplay, but I put it specifically here due to it capturing the essence of the world it is based on in more than just story and characters.
Protecting Pooh from bees, saving Rabbit’s garden from Tigger, and the swing mini-game are all fun distractions. Mixed in with a heartwarming end scene, they make the level even better.
Sometimes, after battling the forces of darkness, playing some fun mini-games doesn’t sound so bad.
One of the first Disney worlds you visit in the game, Wonderland is infamous for its confusing design. But unlike Monstro, it makes sense and is easy and fun to figure out. This is Wonderland after all, so it makes sense that things don’t make sense here.
If it seems odd that I am praising Wonderland and putting it so low on the list, it’s because there are better worlds. Wonderland has its shortcomings, two to be precise. One being the Mad Hatter and March Hare being reduced to just a painting; the other being the boss battle with Trickster.
I have no issue with video games being difficult. I love the original Kingdom Hearts because of its difficult levels. But this is the first Disney world you come to and opening it with a platform heavy boss battle like the Trickster is sort of a low and heavy blow to the player.
One of my favorite aspects of the level are the talking flowers. Giving them potions or other items can give you special bonuses, but what I really like about it is how it is lifted from the movie. I like additions such as these because it makes the world feel more like an actual world rather than just a backdrop – a common complaint some had with the worlds of Kingdom Hearts 3D.
9) End of the World
A.k.a. Boss Fountain! For those who do not know, a “boss fountain” is the part of a level that gives you bonuses or extra items before a difficult boss or the final boss. End of the World provides the same conditions in giving us high leveled enemies for us to battle and to quickly level up in preparation for the final battle with Ansem/Xehanort’s Heartless.
Other than the onslaught of mini-boss battles and dreary music, there’s not much else EoTW has going for it. The only parts of interest it has are near the end when you find the Heartless device that teleports you to other worlds. There are some fun Easter eggs of worlds the Heartless have destroyed already, but it doesn’t help it stand out amongst these better worlds.
The design does gives it a melancholy feel, but overall is pretty drab. Especially when compared to the city of the World That Never Was in KHII.
If you need a place to grind and level up fast, then End of the World is the world for you. Well, for you and Dio. (Five points if you get the anime reference).
This world should technically be labeled “Hook’s Ship” since we never set foot on any kind of land, but we’ll let that slide. Neverland is a fun world solely on the flight mechanics that are only available here. Unlike Atlantica’s swimming, the flight system helps with combat and is very smooth and optional.
The flying is especially helpful against Hook, who is an amazing boss battle since it feels like battling an actual Disney villain. If you use fire on him he’ll run around in the air like a cartoon; he throws present bombs and even gets dizzy from his own spin attack.
The best part of the world has to be the London section, just because there is so much to see from one small location. The design of the Big Ben is amazing and looking out and seeing all the London houses, accompanied by a score only heard there, makes for a memorable moment. Until the secret Phantom boss battle shows up and ruins it all.
Hey, here’s a question (or four). Is there an England in this world, and if so, does this mean that anyone who lives in London actually lives in Neverland? In that case, is there an America too? And is it also in the Neverland world or does it have its own separate world? Do we all live in the KH universe? Kingdom Hearts geography is pleasantly weird.
7) Destiny Islands
It may seem weird to list a world that is basically a tutorial hub so high on this list, but Destiny Islands is up here for more than just gameplay.
What brings it up here is the memories we as the player make on our short time there. Finding food for Kairi, racing Riku, or battling all of our Final Fantasy friends on the island are moments we all had on the island.
But when the island is destroyed, that’s it. We never get to go back to Destiny Islands. If the world was available to re-visit, then it would be ranked higher on this list. However, it is because our time there is so limited and it is taken away from us that makes it that much special. Once the tutorial is over, we can no longer play Blitzball with Wakka or hear the vacation-like musical theme of Destiny Islands. That’s why it is such a shock to Sora, and to us the players, when we finally return to the islands at End of the World; we finally make it back to a home we have not seen in a while, and we see what remains of it after the darkness has consumed it.
Let’s move on to a whole new world, shall we? (Yes, I see the pun and I am sticking with it.)
Agrabah is a fun world and… that’s pretty much it. It’s just a fun world. It has a lot of areas to explore from Agrabah itself to the Cave of Wonders, so our time here feels justified.
Some of the worlds have you either fight a giant Heartless or a Disney villain as a boss, but here we get a Heartless boss and two Disney villains, Jafar and the Cave of Wonders. Plus, this is the world where we get introduced to Genie!
Most of Agrabah is great, except for the flying carpet segment. Ending the level on an automatic escape through the Cave of Wonders is really weak and takes the excitement out of what should be a fun, Star Fox-like escape. It almost feels like something that was tacked on near the end and never polished. Especially since we get much better flying carpet segments in KHII.
Agrabrah is a fun world to play and explore, but you can’t help but wish for it to be better. (There goes another pun!)
5) Olympus Coliseum
The smallest world but with a lot of heart, Olympus Coliseum is one of the few worlds that has replayability value due to its different tournaments. The story line in the world may be short, but it’s always a blast to participate in the latest tournament and get that sweet, sweet XP. Which is kind of a bummer how they remove that feature from tournaments in KHII, but we’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the original Coliseum.
A majority of the sequels to Kingdom Hearts try to expand the world by adding new areas, but I’m perfectly fine with the small scale of this world. Being greeted by the two warrior statues as you enter to participate in a tournament just fills me with nostalgia every time.
The tournaments themselves are simple, but effective. Just fight one wave of enemies and then the next. It’s almost like a proto-type for Gears of War Horde Mode. Where the level really kicks in is in the final tournaments against the Ice Titan, Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth and the Hades Cup!
The longest and most difficult tournament in the game, the Hades cup was intimidating to us when we first saw the brackets list and even though it was optional, we still took part of it just to win that coveted trophy. I did it so I could finally fight Hades. Who doesn’t want a boss battle with James Woods? This was a fight where you really felt the heat as Hades is one of the more difficult boss battles; but he should be easy to handle once you get a pattern down.
Olympus Coliseum may be small, but it has a lot going for it. The better parts of the level are saved for the end and it takes quite a while to get there which holds it back from being higher on this ranking. Other than that, it is a staple of the series that I’m fine with always seeing in my travels.
The Deep Jungle is special me not only because I loved the movie “Tarzan” as a kid, but also because of its uniqueness in this game. That uniqueness being how it is only in this Kingdom Hearts game. Due to legal rights I am not getting into in this article, the Tarzan characters have not appeared or even referenced in any other Kingdom Hearts game. Even the manga left out the Deep Jungle arc in its pages.
But Deep Jungle has more going for it than just being in one game. The level uses the jungle setting nicely by including an enjoyable tree slide mini-game and platforming that you can get used to eventually. Just like in Wonderland, it is aspects like these that make the worlds feel more like actual and unique worlds taken straight from the original source.
The boss fight with Clayton and his Heartless are difficult, but fair. My biggest complaint about the boss fight is that we go straight to the Heartless too quickly. I would have preferred it if we could fight Clayton a bit longer.
Deep Jungle may never appear in another Kingdom Hearts game again, but it accomplished a lot in its only outing.
3) Halloween Town
Going to be blatant here. I love “Nightmare Before Christmas” (and I’m sure you do too) so that’s why the world is up so high. But in my defense, a lot of people like this world due to the movie. I believe it reappears in KHII because of its popularity.
But don’t think that I ranked it third just because I like the movie. No, I like this world for many reasons. One of them being its art style. Kudos to the developers for making everything look like it was made of clay as it was in the original movie through its thick outlines and rough exteriors.
Oogie Boogie, one of my favorite Disney villains, has a boss battle fitting with his character where you have to beat him at his own gambling game. It’s a fun fight where the roll of the dice determine what attack Oogie has in store for you.
The boss fight inside Oogie’s mansion is so fun that I feel the level should’ve ended there. But instead we got to have a final fight with… Oogie. As his house.
Possibly one of the weirdest in the KH series, Oogie’s Mansion fight is a fine battle, but is nowhere near as enjoyable as fighting Oogie himself. Plus, the story in Halloween Town is very focused on the characters and town itself, leaving Sora and friends as background characters. In fact, only Sora has any voice dialogue in this level and it’s his own name!
There are flaws in Halloween Town, but they are small enough to be overlooked for such a spooky good time.
2) Hollow Bastion
The world where the adventure took a serious turn. You knew Hollow Bastion was going to be serious when the first minute in you lose your Keyblade, your gummi ship, and your friends! If not for the Beast and your magic, you’d have no chance in surviving this world.
The heartless of this world also take a serious turn design wise. They’re no longer goofy and colorful as they were in the Disney worlds. Here they seem like they’d be better suited for the world of Final Fantasy with their monstrous look and threatening attacks.
The music of this world never gives you a happy feeling, which is what you would not expect in a place like this. The orchestral tone and weight it has makes you feel like you are nearing the end of the adventure (which is why End of the World came as quite a surprise as the true final level). The score is so haunting that I can’t believe they brought it back (or a rendition of it) for Hollow Bastion in KHII. In KHII, Hollow Bastion became your new Hub world, but the score never made me feel welcome in that place.
Then there’s Riku II. The infamous unstoppable cut scene and Riku’s cheap darkness powers make it both frustrating and fun. It’s especially difficult since your meat shields – I mean, friends – Donald and Goofy aren’t in the fight.
The size of Hollow Bastion is also impressive with it being a huge and sprawling world with many secrets to find. It also has one of the longest story arcs in the game. The Hollow Bastion arc takes the most time to complete, and it’s no wonder, with how much has to be accomplished in this one world.
Hollow Bastion may not be based on any Disney movie, but it is one we will never forget.
1) Traverse Town
You just defeated a boss and sealed the Keyhole and are ready for your next journey. But before you depart, you return back to Traverse Town to buy items, practice your new spells with Merlin or just explore the town. That’s what I did. Because once Destiny Islands was destroyed, this became your new home.
It may seem weird to have Traverse Town as the best world in Kingdom Hearts since it serves primarily as the Hub world, but I find there’s a sort of comfort it has the others don’t.
This was your new home, the only constant in your journey through the cosmos. When the battle gets tough, you know you can always go to Traverse Town and expect it to be there for you.
They tried to make Hollow Bastion the new Hub world in the sequel, but it sorely lacked the communal feel Traverse Town had. This was a world made up of people who lost their homes as well. They knew what you were going through and you could be there for them. In addition to this, the soundtrack of this world is perfect. The jaunty and warm tune of walking through the first district is one of the most memorable original songs in the Kingdom Hearts orchestral collection.
Possibly one of the saddest moments for me is when I delivered all ten letters to the mail box in Traverse Town. It was the first side quest I began in this town and now that I finally completed it, it felt as though a chapter had closed. I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to Traverse Town and all of its citizens. It was the perfect embodiment of a small town story.
That small town aesthetic is what gave it its charm which is why I wasn’t a fan of 3D adding a whole carnival level to its design. I hope we can return to Traverse Town in KHIII as our Hub world, but I doubt it will happen. Even so, it’s nice to know that it’ll still be here for me when I replay this game.
The music that welcomes you, talking to the NPCs, the crackling fire of Cid’s Item Shop; they’re small details that I love about this world that the others don’t have. I know other worlds have better arcs and fights to them, but Traverse Town has the most heart and most memories for me; it is thus the best world in the first game of the Kingdom Hearts series.
What are your favorite Kingdom Hearts worlds from the original game? Sound off the in the comments below!