The Fire Emblem series from Nintendo is one of the best tactical strategy game experiences you will find available on any console. The unique mixture of tactical gameplay with deep character interactions creates a world where players have a vested interest in their characters’ success.
One unique trait of the Fire Emblem series is characters defeated in battle are lost permanently. Later Fire Emblem games make this feature optional through a casual mode. But classic mode encourages players to think heavily about the consequences of each move during battle.
The Fire Emblem series is much like the Final Fantasy series in that they are not all concurrent stories. Some games are sequels to others, but most are set in a unique universe with a fresh story, characters, units, and mechanics to master.
Let’s take a look at some of the best Fire Emblem games in the series.
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#1 Radiant Dawn (2007)
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn debuted on the Nintendo Wii console in 2007 as a direct sequel to a game lower on this list. It sits at the top of the list because it is considered one of the most difficult Fire Emblem games released to date. Hardcore strategy fans will find a lot to like about the game’s grid-based battles.
Radiant Dawn’s story is divided into four different parts that give a different perspective on each side of the ongoing conflict. Four different factions are vying for control of the continent Tellius. Players assume control of Micaiah and her rebellion against the Begnion Occupational Army.
This game is a great entry point to the series for hardcore strategy fans, but casual strategy fans should start with number nine on this list.
#2 Blazing Blade (2003)
For many Fire Emblem fans outside of Japan, Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade was their first introduction to the series.
The game released on the Game Boy Advance in the United States and featured three main characters. Eliwood, Hector, and Lyn serve as the main characters of the game, with Eliwood and Hector having a familial connection to previous Fire Emblem characters.
Blazing Blade is divided into two story segments. The first follows Lyn and revolves around her quest to help her grandfather. The second part is much more substantial and follows Eliwood, Hector, and Lyn as they fight against the sorcerer Nergal.
Players assume the role of a tactician aiding the three main characters on their journey. Players assuming a secondary character role becomes a common theme in later Fire Emblem games.
#3 Shadows of Valentia (2017)
Shadows of Valentia is the fifteenth Fire Emblem game, but it is a remake of a previous 1992 Fire Emblem title. This 2017 remake combines the traditional tactical turn-based gameplay of Fire Emblem with the dungeon crawling aspect found in the original.
The game features two difficulty settings and a Classic and Casual mode that was first introduced in Fire Emblem: Awakening.
Classic mode features permadeath of any character that falls in battle, while casual mode only knocks them out for that battle. This mode makes the game more enjoyable for strategy fans who want to focus on the story aspect of the game, rather than the tactical side.
Players assume command of one side of an army on a continent divided in half by two warring gods. The game follows the story of Alm and Celica, two childhood friends who set off on a journey to restore peace to Valentia.
#4 Conquest (2015)
Conquest and Birthright are part of the Fire Emblem Fates series, a series first that features two games with different stories.
While Birthright is aimed at more casual fans of the series, Conquest is designed to be a challenge for hardcore Fire Emblem fans.
The enemies in Conquest are tougher by design, and the individual levels have special conditions for winning.
These conditions often move beyond “kill everything” as a win condition. Fire Emblem fans who want a challenge should start with this version of Fates, while casual gamers should start with Birthright.
Conquest is a serious tactical strategy fan’s delight, with the story sending the player on missions that are designed to be nearly impossible to complete. The socializing aspect of the game is also more difficult, as players are given characters who hate each other from the get-go.
#5 Birthright (2015)
As previously mentioned, Birthright is part of the Fire Emblem Fates series. Both games are set on the same continent and follow different sides of the conflict, with Birthright designed to introduce the player to the series. The scenarios thrown at the player in Birthright are much more muted compared to Birthright.
It’s necessary to play both games to get the full experience of Fire Emblem Fates, but the starting point is really up to player skill. Birthright is an excellent starting point for casual strategy fans, while Conquest will challenge even hardcore tactics lovers.
#6 Sacred Stones (2005)
Sacred Stones is the third Fire Emblem game to be released on Game Boy Advance and the second outside of Japan. It’s a great starting point after Blazing Blade.
The game uses many of the same mechanics found in Blazing Blade, but it takes place on an entirely different continent. Players will explore Magvel and a plot that focuses on twins Eirika and Ephraim as they investigate a plot against their nation.
#7 Path of Radiance (2005)
Path of Radiance is the first Fire Emblem game released for a home console. It’s set on the continent of Tellius and features an all-new story line unrelated to any previous games. Players follow Ike and his role in his father’s mercenary company that operates within the borders of the nation of Crimea.
The conflict between the human beorc race and the beast laguz is the primary conflict vehicle for the game. The game is the introduction of Ike and Roy, two of the series’ staples that appear in other games like Super Smash Bros.
#8 Binding Blade (2002)
Binding Blade is the second GBA Fire Emblem game to be released in the United States. It is set on the continent of Elibe and takes place around 20 years after The Blazing Blade. Players follow Roy, the son of Eliwood featured in the first game.
A 1,000-year peace is shattered when an invader incites violence between two countries in an attempt to restore dragons to the world. Roy will lead the League of Lycia’s army against Bern the invader to stop the whole continent of Elibe from being consumed by war.
#9 Shadow Dragon (2009)
Shadow Dragon was released on the Nintendo DS and is a remake of the very first Fire Emblem game. The Dolhr Empire led by Medeus invades the continent of Archanea. The prince of Altea, Marth, must set out to reclaim Altea.
#10 Awakening (2013)
Fire Emblem: Awakening is the first game in the series to debut on the Nintendo 3DS. It is also the first game to introduce the new casual mode that features in recent installments of the game. Casual mode offers tactics newcomers more forgiving gameplay through combat knockouts rather than permanent character death.
With a playable character that can be customized, Awakening follows the story of Prince Chrom and the kingdom of Ylisse. The game also introduces a new Pair Up system that allows characters to perform dual moves during battle.