Of all of the franchises in gaming history, the journey of Fire Emblem is far from unique. FE started as a tiny, Japan-only strategy game with permanent death for your named units. The series did not make its way overseas until Fire Emblem (The Blazing Blade) in 2003. It was fairly popular, but did not hit its stride until Fire Emblem Awakening in 2012, the main game that most inside and out of the community know FE for. By then, the series had become so large that newcomers became confused about where to start. Fortunately, if you’re looking to better understand Fire Emblem games, we’re here to help. This guide will briefly touch on the total number of games, where the games were released, what order you should play them in, and which one is counted as the best.
How many Fire Emblem games are there total?
There are 16 different games in the mainline Fire Emblem series. Five games were released on the Super Famicom, three released for the Gameboy Advance, and another two games landed on the GameCube. After that, two FE games launched on the Nintendo DS, three released on the 3DS, and one has released on the Nintendo Switch.
There are a few spinoffs for the FE series, four in total. These range from crossover games to mobile gatcha-type games.
The characters of FE also play a major role in the Smash Brothers universe, with eight series characters representing the series in Super Smash Bros Ultimate. This has caused some fans to jokingly refer to SSBU as a FE spinoff game which, while hilarious, is not true.
Which Fire Emblem should I play first?
With a list of 16 titles, there are admittedly a few options to choose from. You could start with the Super Famicom games, but those might be hard to find, since several of them were never released in North America. Don’t worry too much about missing these; other than references to the characters, the FE story resets after each game.
That leaves 11 games to choose from, assuming that you have your GameCube or Wii in good working order. That’s still a lot, and each of the games are unique, having some different quality that makes them entertaining.
The simplest recommendation is that you start with Fire Emblem Awakening. Awakening was heralded as the series’ revitalization for a good reason. The gameplay is smooth, there are good areas to grind, and the story is solid. You also don’t have to deal with quite as much experimentation as Fates or Three Houses requires; basically, Awakening established the baseline formula for modern FE games. It’s also fairly close to the older entries in the series, though that’s not saying much. FE doesn’t do too much experimentation between games.
If you’re looking for something more nostalgic, then the Game Boy games are an easy recommendation. Binding Blade, Blazing Blade (Fire Emblem), or Sacred Stones are all decent options to start off on, though Blazing Blade is perhaps the one most popular among fans. That may be the nostalgia factor, though, so be on your guard!
Is there an order to play Fire Emblem games?
Maybe you’ve already enjoyed a FE game, whether modern or otherwise. What order should you play the rest of the games in? Well, as stated earlier, the Fire Emblem series doesn’t really have a specific order; each of the game’s stories are unique. You can play any of these games however you’d like, but you might not catch references to certain character’s names.
If you’re wanting the specific order, consider this:
- Shadow Dragon (Nintendo DS or Super Famicom)
- Echoes: Shadows of Valentia or Gaiden (Nintendo DS or Super Famicom)
- (New) Mystery of the Emblem (Nintendo DS or Super Famicom)
- Genealogy of the Holy War (Super Famicom, Japanese)
- Thracia 776 (Super Famicom, Japanese)
- The Binding Blade (Game Boy Advance)
- The Blazing Blade (Game Boy Advance)
- The Sacred Stone (Game Boy Advance)
- Path of Radiance (GameCube)
- Radiant Dawn (Wii)
- Awakening (3DS)
- Fates (3DS)
- Three Houses (Switch)
Phew! That’s a lot right? Well, there are 16 games in the series, but three of them are remakes. If you want to play through the entire series, you’ll want to play at least these 13 games with original storylines.
Note that this list is in order of the games’ initial storyline creation. Right now, only two of the games aren’t available in overseas versions by retail; Genealogy of the Holy War and Thracia 776. You’ll have to do some extra legwork if you want to find a translated version.
This is not to say that the remakes of the game are better than the original games. Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard to compare the originals to the remakes, but it tends to be at least easier to find.
If you simply want to hit the highlights of the Fire Emblem series, you can get away with just playing a few of the biggest hitters:
- Shadow Dragon
- Blazing Blade
- Path of Radiance
- Three Houses
This is not to say that these games are better than the others in their franchise. These are just the ones that tend to be most talked about. By all means, play each of them if you have the time and enjoy the series’ play style.
Which Fire Emblem is best?
What a question! Before we dig too far into the realm of opinion, we might want to quickly check the aggregate review sites. Unfortunately, Metacritic isn’t too clean with the full series, but it does at least gives us a decent idea about what the audience tends to enjoy.
Generally, the core Fire Emblem games have received scores in the 80s and above by the critics on Metacritic. That’s solid. The only mainline game to receive a score below 80 is Radiant Dawn, with a fine 78.
According to Metacritic, the best Fire Emblem game is Fire Emblem: Awakening, which received the coveted “Must-Play” award. Three Houses and Blazing Blade were fairly close behind, scoring 89 and 88 respectively.
This is to say that most of the Fire Emblem games are great, and each release is worthy of your time. And don’t worry; the series’ turn-based tactical RPG elements are less daunting than they may seem from a distance. Anyone can pick up these games during their free time and enjoy them without needing to dig deep into mechanics or grind to build up skill. Heck, the modern games even allow you to ignore the permadeath mechanic that FE was first known for (though we don’t recommend it!). No matter where you decide to begin (or continue) your journey, the Fire Emblem series has plenty of unique adventures waiting.
Jason Toro-McCue has committed his schooling to the study of the connection between game design and narrative. When he's not working on this bond through writing articles or guides, he's playing Dungeons & Dragons, or just playing games themselves and looking at the story there.