The Mana series has come a long way since its first inception. Initially penned as a side-story to Final Fantasy, the franchise has spawned several fan-favorite releases. With a captivating art style and approachable gameplay, this series includes some of the most gorgeous and gratifying RPGs in history. So, as you begin your journey through the Switch remake version of the new remake Legend of Mana, you may wonder if the other entries of the series are worth picking up. Our retrospective will go over everything that you need to know!
How many Mana games are there total?
The Mana series (known in Japan as Seiken Densetsu) has 15 total games stretching from the Game Boy to the Nintendo Switch. Four of these Mana games comprise the main series, while another six are spin-offs. The remaining six are all remakes of previous games.
Put another way, there are four games that follow the style of the Mana series’ first game, Seiken Densetsu (released in North America as Final Fantasy Adventure). Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2) for the SNES was a smashing success, and is often counted among the best RPGs of all time. The third game, Seiken Densetsu 3, was available exclusively in Japan between 1995 and 2019, until it released as Trials of Mana in the Collection of Mana bundle. Finally, Dawn of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 4) released for the PS2 in 2007, and is typically counted among the series’ weakest releases.
Beyond these, the series spins off in a few different directions. New approaches to the formula include Legend of Mana, which notably allow the players to build the world themselves. Then there are games like Heroes of Mana, a tactical RPG, or even Circles of Mana, a mobile card battling game.
Finally, there are six remake titles in the series. Sword of Mana remakes Final Fantasy Adventure with a new storyline, while Adventures of Mana is a more loyal remake of the first game. Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana are re-releases of the same game. Remakes also include Collection of Mana, a game which bundles together the first three RPGs in the franchise, as well as the latest Legend of Mana remake.
Which Mana game should I play first?
There is no correct order by which to play Mana games. While the series does have a storyline, it’s pretty convoluted. It may be better to play the games in order of release, or just choose a game you enjoy and start from there.
If you wish to start from the beginning of the game’s incarnations, then you should play Final Fantasy Adventure on the Nintendo Switch through the Collections of Mana. This is the first game of the series, and is the hallmark of many different tropes that the series follows to this day. Alternatively, you could play Sword of Mana or Adventures of Mana on the Game Boy Advance or mobile phones, respectively.
If you would like to start the series with the beginning of the story, Dawn of Mana is the game to play first. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been re-released in any way yet; the only way to play it is on the PlayStation 2. Plus, Dawn of Mana is not necessarily the best introduction to the series, as it was received very poorly when it launched.
The best advice may be to start where most players started, with Secret of Mana. This game serves as a colorful introduction to world of Mana, plus it established both an art style and a gameplay direction that influenced the rest of the series.
Is there a correct order to play Mana games?
Technically, there is a correct order to play the Mana series. If you’d like to play them in a set order, there are two directions you can go: Release order and storyline order.
If you’d like to play the Mana games in order of release, you have some options to get you there. Below, we will list the games and the most modern console incarnation that they have. Please note that the most modern console incarnation may not be the best version of the game; the ports of the Mana series are notoriously poor.
- Final Fantasy Adventure (Switch, via Collection of Mana)
- Secret of Mana (Switch, via Collection of Mana)
- Trials of Mana (Switch, via Collection of Mana)
- Legend of Mana (Switch)
- Children of Mana (Nintendo DS)
- Friends of Mana (Mobile; Shut Down)
- Dawn of Mana (PlayStation 2)
- Heroes of Mana (Nintendo DS)
- Circle of Mana (Mobile; Shut Down)
- Rise of Mana (Mobile; Shut Down)
Unfortunately, most of the mobile game incarnations of the Mana games have been shut down. It will be difficult to find those, but can be worth it if you want to see the direction that the series decided to take later on in life.
This is where things get a little fuzzy. Like the Final Fantasy series, most Mana games take place in slightly different universes and worlds while sharing a few themes. That being said, there are some games that do have connections to one another. For example, Children of Mana and Dawn of Mana are seen as connected by a 10 year time gap, placing them into the “World of Mana” sub-series.
Chasing down a correct “storyline order” is impossible, however. It is best to assume that the Mana games are not connected by storyline at all, and instead simply play the ones that most interest you.
Which Mana game is considered the best?
It’s difficult to gauge critical reception for Mana games; many were exclusive to Japan, and reviews for older games have been replaced by reviews for remakes. With that said, Secret of Mana is usually hailed as the best Mana game, and its iOS port scores the series’ highest rating on Metacritic.
The Mana series has a tumultuous history, and most of the games received bad critical reception in general. Looking at review scores can be helpful, but it’s also confusing, particularly because of all of the different Mana remakes. Still, Secret ranks in the first place position. From there, it’s a close match between most remaining games.
Looking at outside metrics provides more context. For example, Secret’s sequel, Trials of Mana, surpassed one million shipments. That’s no small feat, and since it was not sold in the US beforehand, it’s carried solely by its connection to the Mana series and its gameplay. As far as reviews are concerned, it also ranks second overall.
As for the players, many fans cite Legend of Mana as being one of the series’ best entries. However, it is a divisive game, and should be explored with an open mind. Fortunately, the Legend of Mana Remake has earned mostly positive praise, earning it a third-place position overall.
Speaking generally, Secret of Mana and Trials of Mana both deserve to be counted as the best. They each have their charm and a fantastic art style that transcends the ages. And, as luck would have it, they’re both available for the Nintendo Switch.
Love Mana games? Check out some of our guides and features on this mythical series!
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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.