Kingdom Hearts is probably the weirdest crossover gaming has ever seen (and that’s a high bar in an industry that put Mario and Sonic together to play sports at the Olympics), combining the aesthetic and storytelling of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy with the world and characters of Disney’s animated film canon. It’s a marriage that doesn’t seem like it should work, but does, bridging the gap between two wildly disparate styles of fantasy and adding in some iconic new characters and enemies to boot.
But beyond its indelible combination of disparate styles, Kingdom Hearts has also gained notoriety for a story that can be charitably described as “complex.” For a game that features Disney icons, Kingdom Hearts can be inscrutable, incomprehensible, and even inappropriate; its cartoon characters and bright, colorful worlds mask dark deeds and some extremely adult themes. Beloved characters commit murder while others seem to be doing things that no child-friendly character should do. And, playing these games as an adult, you wonder how exactly all of this stuff escaped you as a kid. For a game that’s about keeping childhood wonder alive, Kingdom Hearts sure does know how to ruin it. Here are the fifteen most inappropriate moments from Kingdom Hearts.
15 Terk Hits On Donald - Kingdom Hearts
The original Kingdom Hearts is the lightest game in the series. As the first installment, it had to prove that its psychedelic monster mash could work at all, so many of the series’ darker thematic elements are absent. But the combo of Disney and Square still creates enough friction that there are weird, creepy moments, even this early on. One such moment comes when Sora and the gang visit Tarzan’s jungle. In a cutscene, the gorilla Terk climbs on Donald while the other characters laugh; it seems that Donald has a new admirer. Donald is scandalized and says that Daisy would kill him. He’s not disturbed by the fact that Terk is literally a different species, but rather that he already has a girlfriend. So if he didn’t… he’d be okay with it? Yikes.
14 Goofy Dies - Kingdom Hearts 2
In one of the most dramatic yet completely unnecessary scenes in the whole series, there’s a moment in Kingdom Hearts 2 where King Mickey is in the path of a falling boulder. Goofy, being the loyal knight that he is, leaps in to save the king and takes the blow in his stead; he then falls to the ground with his eyes closed. The other characters try to rouse him to no avail – Donald literally cradles him in his arms. The game wants us to think that goofy, an iconic Disney character, a favorite of children the world over… is dead. And that we watched him die. Though it’s revealed that he’s only knocked out and he returns to the party shortly after this scene, you have to wonder who exactly thought this was okay?
13 Roxas Has... Dreams - Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 opens with the player controlling a new character named Roxas rather than Sora. As the game familiarizes us with Roxas' home in Twilight Town and his friends, we learn more about the life he leads and the weird goings-on in this new world, but the connection between Sora and the new kid remains mysterious. The game only doles out information in bits and pieces, leaving players to wonder how this sequence will connect to the main plot. But we get one big clue… in a surprisingly suggestive scene. Roxas tosses and turns in his sleep, and lets out a series of moans. Then he rolls over, wakes up, and thinks aloud, “Another dream about him…” And at that moment, a million fanfictions were born.
12 Master Eraqus Dies - Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
The later games in the Kingdom Hearts series get progressively darker, as Square fills out the world’s backstory with more characters and behind-the-scenes machinations. The series is nothing if not ambitious, essentially trying to rewrite everyone’s childhood as an extremely meta tale of good versus evil, light versus dark; it’s no surprise, then, that the games end up going in some extremely mature directions. Birth By Sleep, a PSP side story, is probably the darkest entry in the series. Instead of focusing on Sora and friends, it serves as a prequel, telling the tragic story of three young Keyblade wielders who try and fail to stop darkness from entering the world. And remember – they’re teenagers. This means that when Ventus kills Master Eraqus, we’re watching a 14-year-old literally murder his teacher. When I was 14, I was worried about passing gym class.
11 Vexen's Blaze Of Glory - Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 was released two years after the original, enough time that developers were better able to exploit the PS2’s power and Haley Joel Osment’s voice had dropped an octave or two. The passage of time allowed the game to be darker and weirder than the first, fleshing out the bizarre world these games inhabit by introducing (to the console entries, anyway) the sinister Organization XIII. One member of the organization, Axel, serves as an amoral secondary antagonist; in one of his prime scenes, he dramatically appears by… setting another member, Vexen, ON FIRE. And this happens while Vexen is giving a dramatic monologue to Sora, so the 15-year-old hero literally watches someone burn to death five feet from his face, which is cool and not at all traumatizing.
10 Zexion Gets His Life Drained - Kingdom Hearts: Chain Of Memories
In between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, Square released Chain of Memories for the GBA. It’s a radically different and divisive entry, but the story is important in the series’ overarching plot. It serves as the real first appearance of Organization XIII and fills in the yearlong gap between the first and second entires. There’s a lot going on, but one of the freakiest developments is the introduction of Riku Replica, who is exactly what he sounds like – a sentient clone of Riku who thinks he’s a real person, but is actually a puppet for Organization XIII. Plot developments lead to a disturbing scene where Axel commands Riku Replica to suck the life out of Zexion, a rogue XIII member. Riku Replica grabs Zexion by the throat, lifts him in the air, and strangles him until his body falls limp. 10-year-old me was not the same after this cutscene.
9 Cogsworth Can Wind Himself, Thanks - Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 features some of the same characters and locations as the first, including repeat appearances from Belle and the Beast. It also expands its cast of Disney characters, leading to one disturbing moment with Cogsworth. If you’ll recall, Cogsworth is one of the castle’s servants who has been cursed into a mantelpiece clock, per the witch’s spell that turns the prince into a beast and the servants into monsters. But despite the servants’ appearance, they are still people with desires, bodies, and ideas about privacy – which means that when Donald opens Cogsworth’s body to look at his innards, he’s either taking off Cogsworth’s clothes or literally prying open his skin. Cogsworth’s scandalized cry in response is more than warranted.
8 Kairi's Inside Sora - Kingdom Hearts
At the beginning of the first Kingdom Hearts, there's a bizarre and evocative cutscene where Kairi seems to be blown towards Sora by a strong wind, but just as she lands in his open arms, she disappears. Sora then spends the rest of the game looking for her after this strange disappearance and the destruction of their island. Then, at the climax of the game, he finds a possessed Riku alongside a passed-out Kairi. He’s overcome with emotion and unsuccessfully tries to revive her, only to be told by Riku that her heart is inside of him. He responds by collapsing on all fours and uttering, “Kairi… Kairi’s inside me?” I’m not sure that anyone picking up this game back in 2002 was planning on learning about pegging, but here we are.
7 Sora Gets Sucker Punched - Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts’ faithfulness to Disney properties is one of its selling points – what 90s kid wouldn’t want to swing on jungle vines with Tarzan or swim through the sea with Ariel? But this recreation of iconic scenes and locations with new characters can make for some awkward and inappropriate moments, like in this scene based on Mulan. In the film, a fight breaks out when Mulan angers Yao, a hot-headed fellow soldier. In Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora takes the place of Mulan, confronting Yao when he cuts in line for food. Yao responds as any normal adult person would when confronted by a teenager for breaking a rule: he punches him in the face. The scene is funny, but then you remember that Yao is twice Sora’s age and three times his body mass. Not exactly a fair fight.
6 Sora Leads - Kingdom Hearts 2
Riku's redemption is the big story of Kingdom Hearts 2. After his possession at the end of the first game led him to spend a year in the darkness, he doesn't necessarily believe that he can be rehabilitated into someone who is even worthy of the light. Sora, however, is a great friend and never loses faith in him; it’s all very heartwarming, and it’s a compelling plot to hang a game on, but it also leads to this questionable scene in which Sora leads Riku out of the darkness. This would be perfectly innocent except for the fact that, as the camera settles behind the two as they're walking away, we can clearly see Sora's hand resting on Riku's, uh, derriere. Protip: when you’re saving your best friend from eternal darkness, it probably isn’t the time to feel him up.
5 Tron Gets Tickled - Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 also expanded the series’ scope, adding in a more diverse set of Disney properties than the first game could incorporate. One of these new worlds is Tron, and its funky neon design fits in well with Kingdom Hearts’ general cartoons-but-cool aesthetic. But there’s also Tron as a character to contend with, and this is where things get weird. After meeting Tron and leaving his computer world, Sora and the gang find the Organization XIII control room and start trying to interact with the computer. They find out that within that computer is none other than Tron… when he tells Sora that his messing with the keyboard tickles. Sora grins wickedly and proceeds to tickle the keyboard maniacally. This interaction begs the question – what happens when you have to replace Tron’s CPU?
4 Ansem Experiments On People - Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts is full of collectibles, from special items to lost Dalmatian puppies. There are also Ansem’s Reports to collect, fragments of information about experiments that the mysterious Ansem conducted in order to learn about the Heartless. As you progress through the game, these reports become darker and more sinister; they’re fascinating and fun to discover, but the content gets creepier and creepier. Then, you find out that as a part of his experiments, Ansem used live humans and subjected them to the Heartless in order to find out what they would do. Translation: he literally tortured people in the name of science. It sounds more like a plot point from Amnesia: The Dark Descent than a game that features beloved characters like Donald, Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey.
3 What Even Is Ansem? - Kingdom Hearts
Then, at the end of the first Kingdom Hearts, the player confronts the mysterious Ansem, who has become completely immersed in darkness. This immersion has warped his humanity far past the point of recognition, and to illustrate, the Ansem that we see is… well, just look at the picture. What is he? Rather than a normal person, Ansem is like a blown-up, grotesque, inside-out monster. He looks like he doesn’t just move, but oozes. He looks like he ate too much for dinner and just stretched out like taffy. He’s gross. Imagine a 6 or 7-year-old kid who got this game as a Christmas present because it had Disney characters on the cover, and then imagine the nightmares that that kid is going to have because Square and Disney thought it would be cool to have this weird thing in their game.
2 Barbossa Gets Shot - Kingdom Hearts 2
Another new world added in for Kingdom Hearts 2 was the world of the Pirates of the Caribbean films, which demonstrates what was then unforeseen technological advancement; for the first time, games were able to render humans in a way that was relatively realistic. This sequence is technically impressive, but it also demonstrates what happens when a game like Kingdom Hearts abandons its cartoony style. When, at the end of the Pirates story, Captain Barbossa is killed from a gunshot wound, the camera zooms out and reveals that Sora, Donald, and Goody have witnessed the whole thing. Meaning that a teenager and two cartoon animals just watched a human dude get shot in cold blood. Sora’s going to need years of therapy when Kingdom Hearts 3 finally concludes.
1 Riku Gets Possessed - Kingdom Hearts
The big overarching theme of Kingdom Hearts is how, as we grow up, bad things can start to happen; we learn about the darkness within others and within ourselves. Riku is the most telling illustration of the concept, a fun-loving teenager who falls into the hands of evil during the first game and is manipulated by the adults around him. He’s first controlled by Maleficent, who tells him that his friends no longer need or want him and drives him to the dark side, but he later falls into the clutches of the even more sinister Ansem. Maleficent is evil, but Ansem is downright diabolical, stopping at nothing in order to bring the Heartless into the realm of light. The way he accomplishes this is by possessing Riku’s body and killing Maleficent. An adult man… occupies a teenager’s body… and gets him to kill a person. Who says Disney is for kids?