Kingdom Hearts is a series with an incredibly odd premise: What if we took Disney worlds and Final Fantasy characters, ran them through a blender, then molded the resulting concoction in the form of a 14-year-old kid with floppy shoes who kills things with a giant key? As mad as it sounds, it all actually works and the result is one of the most unique RPG franchises around.
Sora travels to quite a few Disney worlds during his adventures, making new friends in each, all of whom are apparently quite accomplished fighters (regardless of whether that makes sense or not for their respective characters). You can swing through the jungle with Tarzan, take a jaunt through Halloween Town with Jack Skellington, or fly around the skies of Neverland with Peter Pan.
But who do you actually want with you, and who would you prefer stay behind? If party members weren't restricted by world, who would be in your ideal party?
Now, I'm sure most of you have your own opinions on the matter. And I'm here to tell you that you're wrong. Unless you opinions match up with mine, of course, in which case: congrats on being right!
Here's the definitive ranking of all the Kingdom Hearts companions, from worst to best.
Okay, this is kind of a sneaky one, since Ping is actually (spoilers if you've like… never seen Mulan, ever, somehow) Mulan pretending to be a guy. While in the guise of Ping (for a thankfully short period of time), she is just intentionally bad, tripping in combat, attacking slowly with her sword, and generally being useless. She has a couple of support abilities and item boosts, but that hardly justifies dragging her ass around in combat.
Now, when she finally drops the disguise and fights for real... well, that's a different story, as you will see further down the list. As for the next entry, they have no such excuse…
14 Peter Pan
The leader of the Lost Boys meets Sora and company in the bowels of Captain Hook's ship and, after being a bit of a dick to you, agrees to work together so he can save Wendy. Though really, he needn't have bothered as there's not much point in replacing either of your mainstay party members with the flying menace.
As far as combat goes, his abilities are all pretty subpar. He attacks with a dagger that does very little damage, and has two magic abilities that, by the time (late in the game) you finally meet him, Donald should already have better versions of. Plus, he's just annoying. How many times can you hear “Coo-Coo-Coo!” before you want to turn your keyblade on a new target?
I do want to give a special shout out to Tinkerbell, though, the series' best summon. You can do better than Peter, Tink.
13 Jack Sparrow
It's not unusual for Sora and company to seem out of place among the art style of the worlds they visit, but this was cranked up when interacting with the characters of Port Royal. Instead of creating cartoony versions of the Pirates of the Caribbean cast, Square opted on a style that more realistically represented the actors of the films, to an incredibly bizarre effect.
In addition to the oddity of Sora traveling with a realistic pirate, who is voiced by Tidus' voice actor doing his best Johnny Depp impression, Sparrow doesn't really bring much to the fight. He's almost a poor man's Aladdin, though without the speed that makes Aladdin useful. He does supplement his style with projectiles, though even those don't add much.
Let's leave Sparrow in the strangely realistic world of Port Royal and move on down the list.
Another bit of an oddity character (and a real surprise entry in the second game), Tron, the computer program, aids Sora and company when they get stuck in Ansem's computer. He is a required party member during the fight with the MCP, but other than that you likely won't be using him much. He's a ranged focused character (which already puts him lower in my books) and his weapon, the Identity Disk, has incredibly low power.
When he first joins your party he is almost as useless as Ping, with access to limited support abilities. Later in the story he gets more powerful abilities and a Thunder spell, but it is not enough to make useful. He does have an incredibly powerful limit, but even if we are picking our party by limits alone there are better options.
Light Cycles are fun, though.
Okay, just to be clear here: for the point of the game in which you first meet Tarzan, right near the beginning of the game, he's a more than decent character, with a high strength, long reach, and a healing ability right off the bat which makes him a bit more useful at the time than your usual allies.
Unfortunately, Tarzan doesn't get much stronger, and if you return to the Deep Jungle after certain events release stronger Heartless into the world you are going to have to leave him sidelined. While he has a variety of special abilities, his low MP means he will usually be unable to use most of them, and with only one accessory slot there's not much you can do with equipment to help that.
The King of the Pride Lands falls much in the same boat as Tarzan, as a strong physical fighter with a decent variety of abilities including a healing spell. His aggressive fighting style means he's always going to be in the center of the action, though he doesn't necessarily have the suitability of other melee fighters. Overall, he's a balanced melee fighter whose only real flaw is that there are just other characters who do what he does better.
His limit, King's Pride, is actually pretty decent, although it does make me feel dizzy every time I look at it.
He appeared in the first game as well, as a summon, but as the unlikely one you weren't going to make much use of, as Proud Roar left you very vulnerable to punishment.
9 Jack Skellington
“C'mon, fellas, let's go!” One of the more delightful characters to travel with (assuming your don't mind the tune of “This Is Halloween” permanently engraved in your mind), Jack Skellington is a combination mage-fighter. He wields no weapon but still has decent physical power and he has enough MP to make good use of his elemental magic.
Unfortunately, in the first game he has no support abilities, and in neither game does he get a healing spell, meaning you are not likely to use him as your primary magic user. Still, as far as offensive magic goes Jack can keep up with the best of them, and with decent physical power and HP he doesn't become completely useless when he does run out of MP (unlike a certain other mage I know).
Speaking of which...
One of Sora's main allies, Mickey's Royal Magician is a staple of the series and available for Sora's party just about anywhere. In both games he is by far the strongest magic-user, both in offensive and healing magic. Unfortunately, that's just about all he can do, as he has low HP and little physical attack power. Your options are to continue to feed him your precious ethers in order to keep him in the fight or watch his MP dwindle into uselessness.
In the first game he learns spells as Sora does, so he gets a variety that makes him useful in most situations. In the second game, he is considerably depowered, having access to only four basic spells throughout the game.
I would have put him much higher on the list if he just used Cure ONCE when I needed him to… no, Donald, not Aero, I'm close to death that's not going to help… ugh, and now you're out of MP, having wasted it all on Gravity. Good work. I guess.
Everyone's favorite street rat is a party member in both games, and in both he is among the stronger options for melee characters. His sword deals good damage and he hits with it quite fast. In the first game, his techniques are powerful melee attacks, though they will drain his MP quickly. In the second, he has a bit more variety, with attacks that cause the Stop effect and produce orbs, amongst other effects.
His limit, Trick Fantasy, though not overly powerful, is one of the coolest-looking in the game. Plus it drops a bunch of HP and Drive orbs to get you back in the fight against whatever is not dead. Truly, you couldn't ask for a better ally if you were due for a bit of grinding.
Once she sheds her Ping persona, Mulan becomes a veritable badass. She's a hybrid fighter and mage, who uses her dragon Mushu's power to add a little (or a lot) of fire to her attack routines. Also, she looks cool while doing it.
As a melee fighter she is balanced, using agile sword strikes with good power behind them, and she's capable of several aerial attacks. With Mushu, she can engulf herself in flames and rush in at the enemy. Or she can just have him spit fire over them in a decent area.
She lacks a little in the defense department, and her kit doesn't include much support or many heals. Still, her fast and deadly style has earned her a spot this high on the list.
Sora's other mainstay companion, along with Donald, is Goofy, who is available for Sora in just about any world. Goofy is the tank. Pure and simple. No other character can match his staying power at the higher levels, though Beast competes in pure HP. That, combined with some incredibly good support abilities, ensure that Goofy is never a poor choice for the party.
In the first game, his MP Gift ability, in which he transfers some of his MP to an ally, is every mage's best friend and is part of why he pairs so well with Donald. In the second, Auto Change can help Sora overcome a particularly tough boss, while Once More and Damage Control keep Goofy in the fight even longer.
His only lacking attribute is attack power, as he is mostly focused on defense and support. When paired up with someone with some damage ability, Goofy can make your party unstoppable.
Auron is awesome. There, I said it. He's a fan-favorite character from Final Fantasy X, during which he stole the show with his armor-shattering attacks and badass flaming tornadoes. So to say I was excited to be paired up with Auron in the Olympus Coliseum is a bit of an understatement. Thankfully, he lived up to the hype.
As far as pure physical offense goes, Auron is second to none, leaping through the air with his longsword and laying out Heartless with rapid attacks. But unlike some of the other melee fighters on this list, Auron is not a one trick pony. He's balanced offensively and defensively, and his abilities include the group heal Healing Water.
Also, he and Sora can spin their weapons together so fast they make a tornado. How cool is that?
Ugh. Just thinking about the Atlantica level in the first game is enough to give me the cold rage shakes. Underwater levels have never been fun, and Kingdom Hearts' attempt at one was no better than most. But I can't help but admit that it would have been a whole lot worse without Ariel.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, this Disney Princess is one of the most useful party members to have around. She's a mage type, with high MP and low attack power. While she lacks in the sheer number of spells, at least compared to Donald, she makes up with her access to both Cure and Aero, as well as a few attacks.
Putting her up over Donald on this list is a third accessory slot, allowing her to be customized for more situations, and higher HP and defense, making her slightly less vulnerable when her MP runs low. Which happens less often than Donald since she doesn't waste it on high-costing Gravity spells against enemies immune to it.
Of course, in a dream party scenario, I suppose she wouldn't be very useful on land. Just make sure you're fighting things near a large body of water.
Angsty teenager Riku finally joins his childhood friend's party late in the second game and it is well worth the wait. High physical damage, high magic power, decent defense, and six item slots make him the most versatile character in the series.
He has only one non-reaction command ability, but it's a cure effect that heals the entire party to full, so I think he gets a pass on that. His reaction command abilities are also quite useful, from firing dark orbs to stun enemies to shielding Sora from damage.
And of course there's his Limit, Eternal Session, possibly the most powerful (and certainly the longest) limit in the game. It features three stages of Sora and Riku just wailing on their enemies, followed by a strong final attack.
Now if only we could do something about his attitude...
Sora's keyblade is lost, replaced with a useless wooden sword, and his allies have deserted him. However will Sora make it through Hollow Bastion? Don't worry, Sora: Beast has got this.
For the first part of Hollow Bastion, Beast has to pretty much solo his way through hordes of enemies and escort a greatly weakened Sora. He lives up to his name and does so with little difficulty, with his massive health pool and powerful attacks. Even after Sora recovers his Keyblade and his allies, Beast still remains a champion with his aggressive fighting style and eight item slots.
He once again joins Sora in the second game and is no less fearsome. Though he only has a few special abilities, his brute strength alone is enough to lay low any Heartless you come across. Also, his limit, Howling Moon, is powerful, and one of the few that allow Sora to move freely during its use.