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The creepiest things we found in Kingdom Hearts games

Beyond the three titles in the main series, the Kingdom Hearts franchise includes multiple spin-offs and expanded versions of many of the games, as well as manga and other tie-in media. That adds up to ton of story and different takes on the events and characters. For those unaware, Kingdom Hearts tells a sprawling tale of a young man named Sora. He and his friends get wrapped up in a conflict involving classic characters from Disney, Pixar, and Square Enix properties. It's a tale of friendship, betrayal, and epic battles with Keyblades.

Despite what you may have been led to believe, the presence of Disney characters doesn't take the bite out of the narrative. Disney movies have a dark history, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Kingdom Hearts veers into creepier territory than you'd expect from its cutesy art style. With that in mind, let's take a look back at some of the more disturbing moments of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. Spoilers incoming.

The vast Keyblade Graveyard

The First Keyblade War, in which the many Keyblade wielders fought over possession of the ultimate weapon, was a devastating event in the Kingdom Hearts universe. It also formed the basis for the machinations of Xehanort, the main villain of the franchise, who planned to start a Second Keyblade War and destroy everything in his path. 

While the aftershocks of the First Keyblade War echo throughout the events of the game series, the most palpable and unsettling reminder of the war is the Keyblade Graveyard. Not only is it the home to the horrific swarm of Heartless known as the Demon Tide, but the sheer number of Keyblades left in the earth and strewn about is staggering when you stop to think about it. These abandoned weapons stand as a stark reminder of the thousands (millions?) of warriors who fell in the First Keyblade War. The graveyard's theme music is also genuinely haunting. It all adds up to a place you'll want to escape as quickly as possible.

Kingdom Hearts manga: A heart is destroyed

The main enemies of the Kingdom Hearts series are the Heartless, "physical, living manifestations of the darkness within people's hearts." These creatures roam many worlds, hunting for people's hearts and consuming them. While this is usually not portrayed in a graphic way, the fact remains that a major plot point of this series involves people's hearts being torn out. In fact, one of the most shocking moments in the entirety of the original Kingdom Hearts manga involves this process. 

While wandering around Traverse Town for the first time, Sora encounters a very "friendly" lady who offers to show him around. All of a sudden, a Heartless leaps out of nowhere, plunges its hand into her chest, and removes her heart. It holds her heart aloft for a few moments before crushing it in its hand. The woman falls to the ground and disintegrates before Sora's eyes. While the heart is depicted in the same cartoonish style from the games, the action of tearing it out is still terribly visceral. The whole sequence is bloodless, but horrifying.

Kingdom Hearts: Greetings from Glut

"Glut the Shark." Those words don't strike terror into your heart, do they? Heck, it's not like he's Darkwing Duck (the terror that flaps in the night, of course) or anything. His design, with his comical glare and almost jowly mouth, also doesn't lend itself to scary situations 

Despite his less than imposing countenance, Glut manages to pull off a few solid scares in the first Kingdom Hearts game. His first appearance is basically the Kingdom Hearts equivalent of the zombie dogs bursting through the windows of Arklay Mansion in the first Resident Evil. Glut appears in a similar manner, lunging at the heroes while they're exploring a sunken ship. Even after evading him, the shark will continue to stalk Sora and his companions, making it impossible to feel at ease during these underwater sequences. While Glut stalks his prey, you can hear his gnashing teeth and bizarrely upbeat enemy music well before he swims into view.

Kingdom Hearts 3: Angelic Amber takes a peek

If you're the kind of person who gets spooked by toys staring eerily at you, you may want to find a friend to take over and play through the Toy Box sections of Kingdom Hearts 3. There may not be a spookier toy in the Kingdom Hearts franchise than Angelic Amber, a Heartless-possessed doll who kidnaps Hamm and menaces the Toy Story gang. Amber first appears peering into a dollhouse window, evoking classic haunted house movies. She doesn't get less spooky after that, always slowly gliding into scenes.

The boss battle against Amber is also creepy, as she's accompanied by several Marionette Heartless who swoop around the battlefield and possess more toys to attack Sora and his friends. It becomes a race to take out the Marionettes while avoiding Amber's attacks, all while she stares you down with those glowing, dead eyes. Somehow, the presence of Woody and Buzz Lightyear doesn't make these sequences any less tense.

Kingdom Hearts: Battling the Phantom

The Phantom is a hidden boss in Kingdom Hearts that appears in the Neverland sections of the game, where it has taken over the clock tower, using it to cast deadly spells on its enemies. The Phantom's introduction is very unsettling, as it silently glides up beside Sora and stares him down. It never makes a sound or introduces itself in any way, instead preferring to go about its business of attacking Sora and his friends. 

Worst of all, the Phantom has a one-hit killing spell called Death Sentence, which takes out one party member at a time at regular intervals. This move is shocking if you're playing through this fight for the first time and don't know to expect it. Essentially, you'll spend the entire battle watching your friends drop like flies ... one by one. If that doesn't hammer home the Phantom's Grim Reaper similarities, nothing else will. Defeating the Phantom will instantly revive these characters who have fallen, almost as though their souls were being returned to them.

Re: Chain of Memories: Larxene fades away

The Kingdom Hearts series doesn't mess around when it comes to character deaths. The villainess known as Larxene especially gets it rough, particularly in her death scene in Re:Chain of Memories (which, again, varies depending on which version of the story you're playing/reading). 

A bit of a sadist, Larxene clearly enjoys the pain she inflicts and the power she holds over the heroes. That's why it's hard to feel sorry for her when she's defeated in CoM — at least at first. When you defeat Larxene, she begins to fade away, disintegrating in front of the protagonists. This is a pretty normal occurrence for fallen bad guys in Kingdom Hearts, but it's what she does next that will haunt you. As pieces of her float away, Larxene frantically tries to hold herself together. It's an unsettling image that might cause players to feel pity for her. It's also worth noting that the scene is creepier in the original Japanese version, because her voice actress sounds less annoyed by her predicament and more helpless and afraid.

Kingdom Hearts 2: Axel burns out

No matter which version of Kingdom Hearts 2 you play, Axel's sacrifice in battle plays an integral part in the story and Sora's character development. Surrounded by enemies, Axel decides to use all his power at once to give Sora a chance to continue his journey. Axel releases an enormous, blinding explosion that takes out the army of foes in an instant. When the light clears, Sora sees Axel lying on the ground and slowly fading away. With his last words, he encourages Sora to keep fighting.

It's a heartfelt and grim scene that was actually edited in its original release outside of Japan. In Western versions of the game, it appears as though Axel simply used too much energy and it caused him to perish. However, in the Japanese version, there are more flames in the explosion and you actually see his body still burning for a moment afterwards. This had to be censored for audiences in the US because kids' games normally don't feature upsetting, smoldering corpses (naturally).

Kingdom Hearts: Heartless eyes are watchin' you

The final boss battle of Kingdom Hearts is a massive, multi-stage affair. You'll face off against the big bad Ansem, then Sora's evil counterpart, then Ansem again. It all culminates in a showdown with a horribly transformed version of Ansem that is larger than the screen, a cosmic entity of epic proportions. Several times during the battle, you can enter portals around Ansem's body that send you into a realm of absolute darkness. That's when things get really spooky.

You face off against hordes of Heartless during these sequences, however, the creepiest part is that you usually don't see them until they are bearing down on you. Their bodies are as dark as the void surrounding them, so you will have to look out for their beady, glowing eyes if you hope to stand a chance against them as they skitter forward with their jerky, unnatural movements. It's an unnerving visual that puts you on guard for the rest of the battle.

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix: Xemnas steps out of time

Xemnas is the Nobody counterpart of the Kingdom Hearts series' ultimate villain, Xehanort. That's right; he's literally the Big Bad without a heart, so you do the math when it comes to how much bad news this guy really is. Xemnas wasn't formally introduced until Kingdom Hearts 2, where he served as the main antagonist; however, he made a sly appearance in Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, where he is credited as "Unknown" and appears in what might be the spookiest cutscene of the game (and remember, this is a game that still features the freaking Phantom).

Clad in a black, hooded cloak, Xemnas appears to be phasing in and out of time and space. He flickers like a ghost as he materializes before a shocked Sora, whom he walks straight through. His dialogue is silent, projecting onto the screen in glitched-out lettering, like something out of Silent Hill. It's an entirely unexpected and unnerving sequence that sets up one of the game's best (and creepiest) secret boss battles.

Kingdom Hearts: Riku's Struggle

Near the end of the first Kingdom Hearts game, Riku has a very telling moment of rebellion. Though he's been corrupted by Maleficent and is under the control of the evil Ansem during most of the game, even coming to blows with his friend Sora, he manages to manifest his true self for a few moments to warn his friends, shouting: "No. You won't use me for this!"

If you stop and think about this moment, it implies a terrible truth about Riku's situation: Riku is entirely aware of what's happening, even during his possession. That means he's conscious of all the awful things he's being forced to do, but is helpless to stop himself. It's only at this one moment of intense emotion that he's able to fight back and buy his friends some time. The idea of having no control over your own body and being forced to do terrible things to the people you love is a special kind of horror.

The many deaths of Vexen

Much like Axel's death, no matter which version of the story you follow, it doesn't end well for the corrupt scientist known as Vexen. Though he eventually seeks redemption, his first several appearances paint him in a bad light. Vexen created an evil replica of Riku and generally caused all kinds of trouble for the real Riku and Sora. That may be why both versions of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, as well as the CoM manga, gave him three different shocking death scenes.

The Game Boy Advance version of Chain of Memories featured Vexen getting struck from behind by one of Axel's chakrams, but it's the other two that are really upsetting. Somehow, the tamer of the two is in Re:Chain of Memories, in which Axel burns Vexen alive in front of Sora while the scientist begs for mercy. The topper is in the Chain of Memories manga, which takes Vexen's original death to the next level, actually showing Axel impaling Vexen on one of his chakrams, causing the scientist to disintegrate in front of the heroes. Oof.

Dream Drop Distance: A rematch with Chernabog

The demonic entity Chernabog first appeared in the film Fantasia and, although its name come from the Slavic "black god" called Crnobog, Walt Disney meant for this incarnation to represent Satan himself. In Fantasia, Chernobog gets up to all kinds of nightmare-inducing shenanigans, including conjuring up ghosts and demons to help him wreak havoc on the earth. As a boss in Kingdom Hearts, he's no slouch, breathing fire and raining down lava on Sora.

He kicks things up a notch in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. Though not as intense as the previous boss battle, the rematch adds some extra creepiness. While many of Chernabog's attacks in DDD are similar to the first battle, he gets an extra assist from hooded ghosts that randomly drop in from off-screen and latch themselves onto Riku, draining him of his life energy. With Chernabog essentially being Disney's answer to Satan, this implies he's conjuring up the souls of the damned to drag Riku down with them.

Birth by Sleep Final Mix: Red eyes in the dark

Dark Hide is yet another secret boss that feels like it has no right to be in the same game as Huey, Dewey, and Louie ... but here we are. In Birth by Sleep Final Mix, you can find this Pureblood Heartless in the timeless dimension known as the Realm of Darkness. Sounds super inviting, right?

Dark Hide makes its presence known in a disorienting cutscene where we see protagonist Aqua from the creature's point of view, bringing to mind similar scenes from the Evil Dead movies. Dark Hide then pounces, swiping its razor-sharp claws and revealing a red-eyed monster that resembles the Shadows from Devil May Cry. Even with its hulking size, Dark Hide can move impossibly fast, leaving after-images of itself behind to confuse Aqua. Each time it retreats to the darkness, all you can see are its horrible glowing eyes. Basically, the entire encounter feels like a horror movie has suddenly invaded the game.

358/2 Days: It's hungry

Spin-off title Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days follows supporting characters Axel and Roxas as they go about their business of exterminating Heartless and being all-around best bros. Much like in the main series, the focus on the power of friendship doesn't lessen the creep factor of the story. At one point in the game, Axel and Roxas are tasked with investigating rumors of a giant Heartless that has taken up residence in the streets of Twilight Town. They ask several locals in hopes of finding leads in the case, but the most disturbing clue comes in a form that is easy to miss while playing.

While it's not visible to the player, Roxas can stumble upon a message written on one of the alley walls in Twilight Town. The message simply reads, "IT'S THERE... IT'S HUNGRY... DON'T TURN AROUND!" This raises several questions, but the most pressing are: who wrote this and what happened to them? Presumably, they were the victim of the giant Heartless stalking the town.