Kotaku has been running a series called the Pecking Order, ranking games in a series from best to worst. In the spirit of this series, let’s look at the Fire Emblem series today, ranking them from worst to best. All of the games in the Fire Emblem series are worth playing in their own right, but which are the best in this great series?
Previously I took a look at what the Fire Emblem series does so right, examining how this storied franchise has managed to stay relevant and stay true to its roots over the years. It can be daunting trying to get into a new franchise for the first time, so the Pecking Order is meant to make this a little less scary.
I’d like to point out that this is my opinion, and disagreement is encouraged! I’ll be looking only at the 6 installments that have been released worldwide.
6. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (2009)
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is the series first installment on the Nintendo DS and is a remake of the first game in the series, Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Tsurugi. Set on the continent of Archanea, it follows the Altean prince Marth as he ventures to defeat the shadow dragon Medeus.
This game is the only in the series I would not wholeheartedly recommend, and is by far the weakest of the worldwide releases for a number of reasons. Being a remake, it does not reflect the improvement that has been made over the course of the series.
Features such as supports are not utilized and characterization suffers greatly as a result. In addition, the class switching system is hugely unnecessary and clutters the focus of the gameplay. The story is also very bland and lacks the depth of future installments, and the colourful spirites of the Game Boy Advance games is changed for unremarkable semi-3d spirtes. The only strong point is the gameplay is still good albeit less developed than what we would expect from Fire Emblem today. Put short, this game feels dated despite its remaking and is disappointing.
5. Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (2007)
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn was released on Wii and is a sequel to 2005’s Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. Set on the continent of Tellius, it follows Michiah and the Dawn Brigade as they attempt to free Daein and features the return of characters from Path of Radiance.
This game is a solid installment in the series, and serves as a good follow-up for players who want to continue the story began in Path of Radiance. The story itself is very good and it is nice to see returning faces from Path of Radiance. It is not as captivating a story as Path of Radiance but it expands upon the world of Tellius well.
The gameplay itself is good, but the game is known for its punishing difficult curve and on normal is arguably the most challenging game in the series. I felt the graphics were largely underwhelming, with character illustrations of good quality but graphics in battle are nothing remarkable and lack the character of the sprites used in the Game Boy Advance games.
4. Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (2005)
Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones is the second game in the series released worldwide. Released on Game Boy Advance and set on the continent of Magvel, it follows the twins Eirkia and Ephraim after their country of Renais is invaded by the Grado Empire.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones is a strong entry in the series and builds upon the gameplay concepts established in Fire Emblem with features such as choosing promotions and an overworld map with optional skirmishes. In addition, it offers a basic skill system which was new for the series, a branching story and improves on the graphics from Fire Emblem.
This game is a great one, and I really enjoyed it. The story is pretty good, but I felt the overworld map was an unnecessary addition considering how wonderfully balanced Fire Emblem was. I felt that the features added such as dual-promotions didn’t really add to the gameplay, but the characters in this game are very good and help this game to stand as a strong installment in the series.
3. Fire Emblem: Awakening (2013)
Fire Emblem: Awakening was released on Nintendo 3DS and was the first original Fire Emblem game released in more than five years. Taking place on the continent of Ylisse, it follows Chrom and his allies as they journey to defeat the dark dragon Grima.
Fire Emblem: Awakening represents a great return to form for the series and is by far the most progressive, adding in many new features. It introduces the battle pairing which encourages players to pair up characters in battle for state increases. It builds upon the overworld map from Sacred Stones and adds the most robust support system to date in the series.
Awakening earns its high place in the series based on its innovative gameplay additions such as battle-pairing which compliment the gameplay nicely. The robust support system is fantastic and characters having children is another interesting feature that was added to the game. (Seisen No Keifu also featured children but was not released worldwide)
The art style is also strong, and this is the only entry in the series in which 3D has really added the game. The graphics are a cool fusion of the 2D sprites with 3D graphics and I hope that future entries will go in this direction if they decide to pursue 3D. The new features introduced in Awakening work well, and feel like a natural extension of the series. However, the story is underwhelming in comparison and this holds back the game from being the pinnacle of the series.
2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance was released on Nintendo Gamecube and marked the series’ return to home consoles. Taking place on the continent of Tellius, the game follows Ike and the Greil Mercenaries after the country of Crimea is invaded by Daein.
This game is a fantastic entry in the series and is a departure from the gameplay structure shared in the Gameboy Advance games. It introduces a number of new gameplay concepts such as the use of Laguz units and also incorporates a skill system. In my opinion the use of Laguz clutters the gameplay and is largely unnecessary and the gameplay is not as polished compared to Awakening and Fire Emblem. The graphics are also unremarkable and lose some of the charm that other installments in the series have, holding this game back.
The story in Path of Radiance is amazing and is the best in the series, propelling it into the upper echelon of these rankings. The story of Ike as he comes of age is extremely compelling and draws players in, standing out in a series of strong stories. The characters are also particularly excellent, and the overarching story of characteristic political intrigue is enthralling.
1. Fire Emblem (2003)
Fire Emblem was released on Gameboy Advance and marked the debut of Fire Emblem outside of Japan. The game follows Lycian nobles Eliwood, Lyn and Hector as they attempt to find Eliwood’s missing father, unraveling a darker conspiracy.
This is the game that started it all, and represent Fire Emblem at in its most pure form. The balancing is phenomenal, with every gameplay element creating a cohesive and focused whole. It lacks some of the more complicated features of future games but this does not detract from the experience and makes it more streamlined and immediately accessible. There are no unnecessary gameplay elements to be seen and the level of focus is fantastic, making it a wonderfully smooth experience gameplay-wise.
The story is also great, and the characters presented in this game are some of the most memorable in the series. It should also be noted that character art-work is strong, with the battle sprites adding a lot of personality to the game. There is simply no topping this game when looking for the definitive Fire Emblem game.
So to sum up:
- Fire Emblem (2003)
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)
- Fire Emblem: Awakening (2013)
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones (2005)
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn (2007)
- Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon (2009)
So that’s that, disagreement is welcomed so please feel free to let everyone know what your rankings would be!
The Fire Emblem series is published by Nintendo and contains 13 games, 6 of which have been released worldwide. The latest iteration, Fire Emblem Awakening, was released on February 6, 2013 for 3DS and can be purchased at any games retailer or on the Nintendo eShop.
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Matt has been a fan of the Fire Emblem series since 2003, finishing each of the games released worldwide, including finishing Fire Emblem (Rekka No Ken) over 7 times.