Which Fire Emblem Game To Play First
Fire Emblem is a series spanning so many great games. Which Fire Emblem game to play first can be a topic of hot debate from fans of new and old games alike.
Now that Fire Emblem has evolved into such a popular franchise, it is crazy to think that the West almost never received this line of games.
Even crazier still is it to think that, after we did receive a few Fire Emblem games released overseas, they were not nearly as popular as the ones we have today.
Fire Emblem has grown from a niche classic into one of Nintendo’s most beloved IPs with multiple game entries, collaborations with other properties like Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, and spinoffs such as Fire Emblem Warriors.
The games have even gone on to inspire other creators to dabble in this style of game. Games like Octopath Traveler, Triangle Strategy, and Pokémon Conquest all take inspiration from Fire Emblem.
If you are ready to jump into the world of Fire Emblem, take a look at some of the following recommendations of where to start!
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Despite being the most recent game, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a great jumping-off point for new players. The story here is entirely self-contained and no prior knowledge of Fire Emblem’s characters or gameplay is needed in order to enjoy it.
Unlike other Fire Emblem games in which you typically play as a member of a larger army, in Three Houses you play as an educator to a group of young students.
The traditional Fire Emblem gameplay still remains, however. You will need to strategically place units onto the battlefield and navigate dangerous situations via tile-based combat.
What makes Three Houses so great is that it is, for all intents and purposes, three games bundled into one amazing package! At the start of the game, you will have the option to select from one of three groups of students.
Each of these students have their own unique personalities, worries, and classes. Throughout the game, not only will you lead this batallion through various battles, but will help them with any issues they might be having.
It is up to you to learn more about your students an build a connection with them. Of course, this makes the permadeath aspect the series is known for all the more brutal when one of your favorite students bites the dust.
Because of this unique approach to gameplay and storytelling, Fire Emblem Three Houses has tons of replayability, as you can replay through the main campaign with a bunch of new students each time.
Fire Emblem Three Houses is available on the Nintendo Switch making it as accessible as ever. Able to be played on the go or on the big screen, Fire Emblem Three Houses is one of the most definitive Fire Emblem games ever to be made.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Fire Emblem Awakening is the game that kickstarted the new age of Fire Emblem. Before Awakening, the series was focused a lot more on war, strategy, and intricately complex narration.
For some, this was great and we by no means seek to discredit the earlier Fire Emblem games. However, this style is not very inclusive and didn’t do a great job bringing in new players.
Fire Emblem Awakening, on the other hand, leans a lot more into a popular anime style while still keeping the beloved gameplay the series is known for.
The biggest change this time around is the inclusion of character relationships. Fire Emblem games would always have a brief introduction when meeting a new unit and short conversations that could be had on the battlefield between core characters. However, Fire Emblem Awakening cranks this idea up to eleven.
Now, not only is each character brimming with more personality than ever before, but, between missions, you can experience far longer interactions between your favorite characters.
Many liken this aspect of Fire Emblem to traditional Dating Simulators. By pairing up units on the battlefield and building their relationship, you can watch their love blossom until they ultimately confess their feelings and have a child.
This part of the game is not just for aesthetics either. Stats and abilities from the parents will be passed down to the child who can then be recruited. Depending on who is paired up with whom, the child unit will have a completely different playstyle! Those who love strategy will enjoy min-maxing for the perfect character, while those who enjoy romance will enjoy pairing up their favorites.
Fire Emblem Awakening does not shirk on the gameplay either. The core gameplay stays the same, but the animations, levels, and strategy are all great here.
Fire Emblem Awakening is the game that breathed fresh new life into Fire Emblem as a franchise and is a must-play for anyone looking to get into the series as a whole.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon is a remake of the first-ever Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light.
This game features far less of what the series is currently known for. The anime aesthetic still remains but is far less pronounced. Any and all dating simulator aspects are almost entirely removed. Finally, the comedy and whimsy the series would come to use is much more infrequent.
That being said, the gameplay here is top-notch and cannot be faulted. Furthermore, the art style, although less stylized, is still great in its own way.
Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon is great for getting a taste of how the series started. If you want to learn the basics of Fire Emblem before delving deeper into the new additions the later games have introduced, Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon is a great place to start.
Additionally, the game is great for newcomers. Permadeath has always been an integral part of any Fire Emblem experience. After a unit dies, will you choose to restart the entire level to save a beloved or powerful character, or will you press on and allow the said person to be sacrificed.
What makes Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon so great is that the game does not punish you for having units die. New characters are thrown at you constantly in this game with some only appearing if you have had a certain number of units die.
Restarting an entire level can be frustrating especially if it’s your first time playing a game like this. Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon never makes this feel like a step backwards.
Finally, if you found out about Fire Emblem via a popular character’s appearance in another Nintendo IP (such as Marth in Super Smash Brothers), you can recount the journey of Marth with this first game!
When it comes to which Fire Emblem game you should play first, there will rarely be discussions outside of Fire Emblem Three Houses, Fire Emblem Awakening, or Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon.
However, if you are interested in walking down the road less traveled, here are some recommendations of lesser-discussed Fire Emblem games that are also worth your consideration.
As a quick disclaimer, we won’t be talking about games like Super Smash Brothers or Fire Emblem Warriors. While both these titles are great for either repurposing beloved characters or shaking up the turn-based gameplay Fire Emblem is known for, neither of these games do a good job of expressing what makes the core aspects of Fire Emblem so special.
With that out of the way, let’s get started!
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia is considered to be the black sheep of the bunch. It’s gameplay is much more different than other games in the series.
This is by no means a bad thing and the game itself has garnered a cult following from fans that praise its ingenuity.
One of the biggest things this game has going for it is Mila’s Turnwheel (also present in Three Houses). This mechanic allows you to turn back the clock during a battle, and rewind to a previous turn.
This means, if your key unit is taken out in battle, or you need to reconsider some positioning options, you no longer have to restart the entire level and can, instead, just turn back time!
Mila’s Turnwheel is great for new players who aren’t used to Fire Emblem’s mechanics quite yet. In Fire Emblem games, it is very easy for a single mistep to cost you the lives of one or several of your main squad.
After playing Fire Emblem Echoes Shadows of Valentia and transitioning to other Fire Emblem games, you will quickly realize just how valuable Mila’s Turnwheel really is.
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance
If you are an avid console gamer who prefers gaming on the big screen instead of a handheld, Fire Emblem Path of Radiance might just be the game for you.
Sure, Fire Emblem Shadow Dragon saw a rerelease on Wii U, but for an authentic Fire Emblem experience on console, Fire Emblem Path of Radiance delivers in spades.
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance follows another fan favorite character and long time Super Smash Brothers mainstay, Ike.
As you might expect, Path of Radiance incorporates the same tile-based strategy as other Fire Emblem games. Players will play as the mercenary Ike on his quest to restore Princess Elincia to the thrown amidst a world of turmoil.
The game has a solid storyline and is relatively easy for newer players. The only downside to picking up this title is that many quality of life features found in newer Fire Emblem games aren’t here.
That being said, the game is still a lot of fun and a decent starting point for new players.
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
If you are interested in jumping onto the Fire Emblem bandwagon but are a little intimidated by the combat and gameplay mechanics, Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones might be just what you are looking for.
The game is perfect for newcomers and does a great job of explaining the basic mechanics while also telling a very good story at that.
On Easy mode, tutorial boxes will often pop up informing you about key information. Additionally, the game is considered to be one of the easier entires in the series as a whole even on its hardest difficulty.
The game also features a branching path that leads to various different outcomes, making it great for replayability on a higher difficult after you’ve mastered the combat.
All in all, Fire Emblem The Sacred Stones is one of the most beginner-friendly Fire Emblem games you can find.
Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
Featuring another beloved mascot of the series, Roy, Fire Emblem the Binding Blade is a fan-favorite of the series.
However, this is not because the game reinvented the genre or had especially memorable characters.
No, Binding Blade is infamous for being one of the most crushingly difficult Fire Emblem games ever made.
Whether it be via surprise reinforcements who can attack the same turn they appear, character deaths to unavoidable status or weather conditions, or the fact that Roy is an incredibly weak protagonist, there is a lot to not like about this game.
Roy, in particular, is pretty weak compared to the likes or Marth and Ike. Unfortunately, the protagonist is a must-include in every battle and, if they die, you will receive a game over. Therefore, most of the game will be trying to keep Roy out of harm’s way as much as possible.
Ultimately, this game is more trouble than it is worth, but if you are a masochist who loves intense difficulty, give it a shot!
Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade
Fire Emblem The Blazing Blade was the first game to be released outside of Japan and, therefore, there were a lot of changes made from its predecessor to make the game more marketable to first-time buyers.
There are three campaigns that can be played through here which act as pseudo difficulty settings (along with actual difficulty settings that can be manually selected). Lyn’s story is almost like a tutorial to acclimate new players to the game’s mechanics and world before diving deeper into the other two narratives.
The gameplay here is a lot easier to digest thanks to the smaller maps when compared to Fire Emblem The Binding Blade, and the cast have a lot more personality to show off during cutscenes.
The Binding Blade doesn’t really have a lot to offer in terms of uniqueness or narrative when compared to latter Fire Emblem titles, but if you are interested in checking out the first game most Westerners would have likely experienced, be sure to check it out.