Earlier this week the Fire Emblem series celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Japanese debut. In honour of the occasion Japanese Nintendo Switch Online subscribers (or any Switch Online subscriber with a Japanese Nintendo Account) are able to play two special versions of the original Famicom game on Switch right now.
Of course, in the West we had to wait until 2003 to get a localised entry of The Blazing Blade on Game Boy Advance, but with thirty years under the franchise's belt we thought it timely to republish our list of the best games in the series to release in the West, originally published in February. If you disagree with our personal ranking, our reader poll of the best Fire Emblem games might make for an interesting comparison. Enjoy!
It might have taken a while for Nintendo's premier SRPG series to find its feet in the West, but the storming success of last year's Fire Emblem: Three Houses on Switch proves that 30 years since first launching in Japan Intelligent Systems' turn-based strategy series is now up there with the Marios and the Zeldas in terms of hallowed Nintendo franchises. With so many entries and nary a low point among them, it's high time we attempted to wrangle them into a ranked list. As you can see below, we have done just that and landed upon our personal ranking of the best Fire Emblem games available to humanity.
Well, that's not quite correct. You see, we haven't included Japan-only Fire Emblem games that never officially left their homeland. That means you won't find the Super Famicom trio Mystery of the Emblem (in its original or 'New' form), nor Genealogy of the Holy War, Thracia 776, The Binding Blade on GBA or the ephemeral BS Fire Emblem for the Satellaview. We've got our fingers crossed for rereleases/remakes of those Japan-only treasures, but in the meantime we'll have to 'make do' with the little lot below.
We have included the spin-off Fire Emblem Warriors and the mobile game Fire Emblem Heroes, although we decided against Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (Encore) on the grounds that it's really a Shin Megami Tensei game with Fire Emblem cameos and it seemed a tad unfair to rank it here when the title doesn't even feature the words 'Fire Emblem'. Fire Emblem Warriors might be Musou in Fire Emblem clothing, but it's got plenty of that clothing, no?
If there's one thing that's clear from the list below, it's that the overall quality of this series rivals the Mario and Zelda franchises in terms of consistency. Ordering these was a real challenge; it's not really possible to play a 'bad' Fire Emblem game. If you're interested to find out how our personal list differs from the that of Nintendo Life readers, check out our reader-voted poll of Fire Emblem games.
So, climb aboard your mounts if you've got 'em, and prepare for battle as we countdown the best Fire Emblem games ever...
In pure revenue terms, this mobile entry in the series is hugely popular and it's not without a certain charm. The fact that Fire Emblem Heroes costs nothing to try is certainly a positive, although the mobile game's trademark timed mechanics and mixture of currencies will no doubt rub series veterans the wrong way.
As a one-handed, 'lite' interpretation of the series it's not bad, although its battles quickly become repetitive once you've built a strong team and the gatcha mechanic used to 'discover' new allies moves away from the careful weaving of core gameplay, narrative and character relationships which makes the Fire Emblem formula so special.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors games have a loyal, passionate fanbase and the steady stream of crossover Musou games has helped keep the formula fresh and given fans of other franchises an attractive entry point into the world of Warriors. Zelda fans have Hyrule Warriors and Fire Emblem enthusiasts have their predictably named crossover, too.
Fire Emblem Warriors delivers trademark Musou gameplay - which pits you against hundreds of enemies simultaneously in real-time combo-licious combat - but also adds a layer of unit management and gives you the ability to instruct units on-the-fly and zip between them across the conflict zone at will. Consequently, you get a Fire Emblem-style feeling for the entire battlefield, in addition to the balletic third-person button-play you'd expect from a Warriors title. Throw in luscious visuals, loads of characters and a dusting of mechanics borrowed from Nintendo's series and you're left with a compelling hack-and-slash that even Musou sceptics would do well to investigate if they've got an ounce of Fire Emblem fandom in their veins.
Don't think it should be included here? Well, just imagine that Heroes is at number 10 instead and everyone's a winner.
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The first home console Fire Emblem to be released in the West (and only the third to be localised), GameCube's Path of Radiance introduced us to Ike, leader of the Greil Mercenaries and rocker of a blue barnet. The game was the first in the series to feature fully 3D graphics and as a first attempt it does a good job. By modern standards it's lacking somewhat when it comes to presentation, but as we said at the outset, there really aren't any bad Fire Emblem games - just ones lacking refinements and/or favourite characters. We like Ike, just not as much as some of the other greats.
Radiant Dawn is a direct sequel to Path of Radiance and could even accept save data brought over from its predecessor which boosted character stats. It was well worth doing, too, as Radiant Dawn was noted for its high difficulty and any advantage was welcome.
The Wii entry brought back dark magic and increased the scope and number of characters in comparison to Path of Radiance, but arguably didn't push the envelope and wasn't the sales success Nintendo had hoped. Despite having their fans, the GameCube and Wii entries represented a low point in sales that pushed the developers back towards portable hardware until the series came to Switch 12 years later.
The next game to release after Path of Radiance, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a DS remake of the original Famicom Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light that launched the franchise in Japan and never saw release on the NES. Featuring series favourite and Smash Bros. veteran Marth, it was the first time people outside Japan could experience the original game and the DS provided the perfect platform for it. Nintendo has a reputation for top-notch remakes and this is no exception, with a localisation courtesy of 8-4 Ltd. It'll cost you a pretty penny to pick up a copy nowadays, but it's still the only official way for us lot in the West to experience the first game in the series.
Also known as Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, this was the very first entry to come to the West and is actually a prequel to the Japan-only Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade which starred series stalwart Roy. The Blazing Blade (or just plain old Fire Emblem if you prefer) follows Roy's old man Eliwood and served as a wonderful introduction to the series for us Westerners, the majority of whom had been wondering about the series after seeing Roy and Marth as fighters in in Super Smash Bros. Melee.