Heartless Kingdom Hearts Guide

Latest posts by Laura-May Randell (see all)

There are some games that you come across in life that don’t have a huge amount of lore. You pop in and pop out as you please, and never have to wonder what the heck is going on.

Kingdom Hearts is not one of those games. The lore and story of Kingdom Hearts are deep and complex, and it could even warrant its own encyclopedia at times, to be honest.

There is so much complexity to the Kingdom Hearts story that if you even blink during a cutscene, you could miss out on some vital information.

There is also so much to it that it’s hard to absorb it all into your brain at once, so there is a good chance you may have missed some of the Kingdom Hearts lore, even if you’ve just played all the games back to back.

That’s what I have just done, but honestly, I still have plenty of questions swirling about my brain, and you probably do, too.

One of the things you could find yourself wondering about throughout your play-through is the Heartless. What are they, and how did they come to be? And most importantly, how do I defeat them? In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about Kingdom Heart’s Heartless.

And by the end, everyone will be fighting to get you on their team during Kingdom Hearts Heartless trivia night. Okay, maybe that’s a long shot, I’m not sure if Kingdom Hearts trivia nights exist, but they definitely should.

Key Notes Up Front

The Heartless are one of the main types of enemies in Kingdom Hearts. They are present in almost every game and come in two varieties. Pureblood Heartless, and Emblem Heartless.

There are hundreds of different varieties throughout all the games, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Heartless can’t be defeated with traditional weapons. They can only be defeated with a Keyblade.

The Lore Behind the Heartless in Kingdom Hearts

Heartless are formed from the darkness in people’s hearts. Essentially, every Heartless you see and defeat used to be a person. In Kingdom Hearts, three components make up a human. The heart, the body, and the soul. When someone dies or becomes consumed by darkness, these parts of the whole are divided.

The heart becomes a Heartless, and, in some cases, the body and soul go on to create a Nobody (but that is a topic for a different day). There are two different types of Heartless, Pureblood Heartless, and Emblem Heartless.

The Heartless are predominantly black, dark blue, or purple in color, with piercing yellow eyes, although Emblem Heartless have a tendency to don brightly colored armor.

Pureblood Heartless

pureblood heartless

Pureblood Heartless are completely organic beings and can be created in a few different ways. One way a person can turn into a Pureblood Heartless is when their heart is completely corrupted by darkness. Another is if someone gives in to the darkness in their heart, embracing it and turning to the dark side, if you will.

The last way is if someone is killed by a Heartless. This is the worst way to become a Heartless, in my opinion, because it isn’t a choice. Being killed and consumed by a Heartless, thus being sentenced to living out your days as one until a Keyblade wielder hopefully puts you out of your misery, is a pretty rough way to go.

Emblem Heartless

An Emblem Heartless is a synthetic entity, meaning it was created artificially by a machine designed to replicate the process that occurs when a heart is consumed by darkness. While this method of creation may be artificial, the hearts used to create Emblem Heartless are all too real.

The machine in question was created by Xehanort (of course) in Ansem’s lab, as seen in the first Kingdom Hearts game. Emblem Heartless can be differentiated from Pureblood Heartless by the symbol imprinted on their bodies.

Heartless Forms

Since the Heartless are physical manifestations of the darkness that dwells within a person’s heart, there are, in turn, varying strengths and forms that these manifestations can take on.

The forms are a result of the amount of darkness that was dwelling in the heart that made them. For example, if you are particularly evil, your Heartless would be incredibly strong.

If you were a predominantly good person and just got consumed or killed by a Heartless, your Heartless would be very weak because there wasn’t much darkness in your heart to give it strength.

The perfect example of this in the Kingdom Hearts games is Xehanort and Sora’s Heartless. In the first Kingdom Hearts game, Sora becomes consumed by the Heartless. Since he has very little darkness in his heart, he became one of the most common and weak forms of Heartless, a Shadow.

Xehanort’s Heartless, on the other hand, is by far the strongest in the game. This does make sense since he is the biggest bad guy, after all. Xehanort’s Heartless, Ansem, is so strong that it actually retained all of Xehanort’s thoughts, memories, consciousness, and human form.

This is unprecedented in the series since, usually, Heartless, either Pureblood or Emblem, behave entirely on instinct and don’t retain any sense of consciousness.

Common Forms of Heartless in Kingdom Hearts

There are quite literally hundreds of Heartless varieties throughout all of the Kingdom Hearts games. Each game has many different worlds, and each world often has its own unique species of Heartless.

But there are some staple varieties that have made repeat appearances in many of the games. If you have ever found yourself up against a Heartless, it was more than likely one of these ones. 

Shadow Heartless

kingdom hearts shadow heartless
Shadow Heartless

Weakness: Thunder Magic

These are the weakest and most common forms of Pureblood Heartless. They are also the same variety of Heartless that Sora became in Kingdom Hearts. They are often found in groups and can sink into the ground just like a shadow and pop up to attack you.

Shadow Heartless are invulnerable when they are in shadow form, which is more annoying than it is an actual issue. When they rematerialize back into the real world, they only take a couple of hits to dispatch.

They are particularly weak to magical attacks, but physical attacks still do plenty of damage to a Shadow Heartless.

Neoshadow Heartless

kingdom hearts neoshadow heartless

Weakness: Stop Magic

Neoshadow Heartless are like the grown-up version of Shadow Heartless. These Pureblood Heartless not only look like they have had a growth spurt, but they are also far more developed in terms of intelligence than the Shadow Heartless are.

They are far more tactical in battle and also have more strength and HP, which can make them quite challenging foes to defeat.

Neoshadows are hard enough on their own, but they can also work in teams, which makes them even more of a threat. They can use the same shadow ability as Shadow Heartless can, where they sink into the floor and negate all damage. Neoshadows are definitely up there with some of the hardest Heartless in the game.

Darksider Heartless

kingdom hearts darksider heartless

Weakness: Their heads and hands

You don’t see Darkside Heartless running around the worlds like you do Shadow and Neoshadow Heartless (thank goodness for that), but if you do play through all the Kingdom Hearts games, you are guaranteed to go up against a few of them sooner or later.

The Darkside Heartless are the most common boss monster in the Kingdom Hearts games. They have appeared numerous times throughout the series to do Xehanort’s bidding and are very strong.

Darksides are Pureblood Heartless that are absolutely massive in size and have a huge gaping hole in their chest where their heart used to be.

They are not easy bosses to go up against by any means, but as long as you know that their weak points are their heads and their hands, they aren’t too difficult.

Large Body

kingdom hearts large body
Large Body

Weakness: Their backs

The Large Body Heartless are big Emblem Heartless found at several points throughout the Kingdom Hearts series in one form or another.

There are several varieties of Heartless similar to Large Bodys, like the Armor Heartless, Helmed Body, and Fat Bandit. They all have slight differences but are just different variations of the same type when it comes down to it.

All of these fat Heartless have massive bellies that you bounce right off if you try to land any attacks on their fronts, meaning that the only place you can target them is their backs. The fact that these types of Heartless are invulnerable from the front does make them significantly more challenging.


kingdom hearts defender

Weakness: Their backs

Defenders are a type of Emblem Heartless that have a large shield with a dog face attached to it. Because of their ferocious and aggressive shields, they are also invulnerable from the front, like the Large Bodys.

You can still attack their backs, though, which is their weak point. There is also a red version of the Defender, called an Eliminator, which uses the same strategies as the Defender does in battle. Both of these varieties use magical attacks as well as physical ones.


kingdom hearts soldier

Weakness: Physical attacks or the Reaction Command: Cyclone

Soldiers are an extremely common form of Emblem Heartless in the Kingdom Hearts games. They almost look like the Shadow Heartless but wearing a brand new shiny suit of armor. Soldiers aren’t particularly strong or fast, but they are very numerous.

There are lots of varieties of Solder Heartless. Some are very similar with different job titles, like the Commander, Deserter, and Sargent Heartless, but there are also much harder varieties called High Soldiers.

The Soldier and High Soldier Heartless are like the Emblem Heartless equivalent of the Pureblood Shadow and Neoshadow Heartless.

The Hardest Heartless in Kingdom Hearts

Not all Heartless are created equal, and some varieties definitely present more of a challenge than others. There are many varieties of minion Heartless that you will find causing havoc throughout the worlds in Kingdom Hearts.

These Heartless can be pretty strong and can require a significant amount of attention to dispatch without burning through all your MP using Curaga.

But many of the bosses in the Kingdom Hearts games are Heartless themselves, and they are undoubtedly far more challenging than the hordes of minions you face throughout the majority of the game.

Almost every Kingdom Hearts boss is formidable, and the game is well known for taking no prisoners when it comes to boss battles. But just like the minion Heartless, not all Heartless bosses are created equal. Some are almost unfairly brutal, and here are some of the toughest of the tough.

The Lich

kingdom hearts the lich
The Lich

The Lich from Kingdom Hearts III is one of the most drawn-out and unique boss battles in the Kingdom Hearts franchise due to its many stages. In this boss battle, you have to travel through multiple worlds to save each of your friends who have been captured by the Lich.

The fight involves you finding the Lich and giving it a beat down in each world before you finally defeat it. Young Xehanort also explains in the game that the Lich is unlike any of the other Heartless you will encounter throughout the series, including the boss Heartless.

The Lich exists purely to shepherd hearts into darkness, making it almost like the Grimm Reaper of the Heartless.


kingdom hearts anti-sora

Sora is pretty strong in Kingdom Hearts, and so is his Heartless body double, Anti-Sora. I found this boss fight to be particularly difficult, not just because of Anti-Sora’s strength or HP or even because of the many clones it creates that add more chaos into the mix.

The hardest part of the fight for me was the dodgy camera angles and the tiny space in which you have to fight.

The battle takes place in a pretty cramped room on the ship in the Neverland world, and the game doesn’t have the greatest camera control at the best of times.

Kingdom Hearts was released before the blessing of a controllable camera, and this is the point in the game where it becomes the most obvious. I died at several points throughout this battle because my view was obstructed by the table or chairs that were in the way.

Sora’s Digital Heartless

kingdom hearts sora’s digital heartless
Sora’s Heartless

When Sora, Donald, and Goofy enter the digital realm in Kingdom Hearts: Coded and ReCoded, they find a digital imprint of Sora’s Heartless from the first Kingdom Hearts game that is even stronger than its physical counterpart ever was.

Somehow Sora’s Heartless became incredibly powerful in the digital realm, resulting in a five-stage boss fight.

Thankfully it manifested as a Darksider Heartless, which isn’t too difficult to defeat when you know its weak points, but the five stages that it requires to take this Heartless down make it far harder than your regular Darksider.

The Phantom

kingdom hearts the phantom
The Phantom

The Phantom is an Emblem Heartless boss from the first Kingdom Hearts game and is easily one of the most unique in the series. The Phantom possesses a clock tower in the game, so the concept of time is an important mechanic throughout the fight.

The reason why the Phantom can be so tricky to defeat is because of its Doom ability. When the Phantom uses this ability, it places a curse on the clock tower that activates a ticking timer. Once the timer is up, and the clock strikes twelve, one of your party members dies.

Dark Inferno

kingdom hearts dark inferno
Dark Inferno

The secret bosses in Kingdom Hearts are known for being particularly brutal, so much so that I only started actively seeking them out after playing the games for a long time. And when it comes to the extra difficult secret bosses, Dark Inferno is right up near the top.

Dark Inferno is extremely powerful and fast, to begin with, but as you progress through the fight, it only becomes harder. Both Dark Inferno’s speed and strength increase as its HP decreases, so memorizing its attack patterns will be your best friend when you are going Keyblade to blades against Dark Inferno.


kingdom hearts ansem
Ansem, Seeker of Darkness

Would it make any sense to write a section on the hardest Heartless in Kingdom Hearts and not include Ansem? I didn’t think so. Ansem is by far the hardest Heartless in all of Kingdom Hearts history.

I already went over Heartless Ansem’s unique ability to retain a sense of self, so I don’t want to bore you by going over that again. I will just put it this way.

The final boss battles in Kingdom Hearts are known to be almost never-ending. Oh, you’re up to phase two, and you think the fight will be over soon? Think again!

A good Kingdom Hearts final boss requires dedicating a massive amount of time and effort to defeat, and the reason why is simple. They’re really, really strong. Ansem is the perfect example of this.

The Mushroom XIII

kingdom hearts the mushroom xiii
Mushroom XIII

Games: Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix

The Mushroom XIII are not only some of the hardest Emblem Heartless to beat in the game but also the most unique. They are different from the usual enemies you find rolling about the worlds, causing trouble.

The Mushroom XIII each represents a member of Organization XIII and only appears after you have finished a world. Each Mushroom XIII member has a special quest for you to satisfy to win the challenge.

If you pass all of their tests, you get the Winner’s Proof Keyblade and the Mushroom Master trophy. The trick is that you don’t know what the challenge is before it starts, and the Mushroom certainly isn’t going to tell you. Thankfully for you, however, I am going to tell you.

Mushroom #1: Halloween Town

You have to deflect 80 of the Mushroom’s missiles.

Mushroom #2: Beasts Castle

You have to follow the Mushroom and collect 450 of the orbs it drops.

Mushroom #3: The Land of Dragons

To win this challenge you have to kill 85 Mushrooms.

Mushroom #4: Agrabah

Defeat the Mushroom in 10 seconds or under.

Mushroom #5:  Olympus Underworld Caverns

You have to defeat all of the Mushrooms in 45 seconds or under.

Mushroom #6: Twilight Town (Tunnelway)

Destroy this Mushroom in 10 seconds or less.

Mushroom #7: Twilight Town (The Tower)

Hit the Mushroom 85 times without letting it touch the ground.

Mushroom #8: Twilight Town (Old Mansion)

Defeat 40 Mushrooms within 60 seconds.

Mushroom #9: Radiant Garden (Castle Gates)

Attack the Mushroom to make it start spinning and keep it spinning for 75 turns.

Mushroom #10: Port Royal

This Mushroom will create clone Mushrooms. Find and destroy the real one within 45 seconds.

Mushroom #11: Timeless River

Beat the mushroom in 19 seconds.

Mushroom #12: The World That Never Was

This Mushroom is only accessible via post game, so it will be the second last Mushroom you will get. You have to hit it 70 times in 30 seconds.

Mushroom #13: Radiant Garden (Great Maw)

This is the final Mushroom XIII challenge. To satisfy it, you must have achieved high scores for all of the other Mushroom challenges. Then head to the location to find them all waiting there for you.

The Most Annoying Heartless in Kingdom Hearts

When creating this compilation of the best, the worst, and the hardest Heartless in Kingdom Hearts, there was one variety that kept coming to mind.

It isn’t the toughest Heartless variety to beat by any means, especially when compared to Ansem or Dark Inferno. But it is most definitely the most annoying Heartless in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, so I felt it deserved a mention.

Some of you may already have an inkling of what this Heartless could be. But without further ado, the winner of the Most Annoying Heartless in Kingdom Hearts is, of course, the Hot Rods.

kingdom hearts hot rod
Hot Rod

Hot Rods are by far the most annoying variety of Heartless in the entire series, mobile games and all. They have absolutely no business being so strong. The Hot Rods gave me so much trouble during my play through because of their move set.

They are cars, well, hot rods to be specific. And their speed matches that of the fastest Ferrari. The Hot Rod Heartless just slam into you left, right, and centre and they hit about as hard as a real car would, too. They are absolutely relentless, especially when there is a lot of them around.

They are weak to Thunder magic, though so make sure you have a Thundaga on deck, especially before you head into the old times Disney world, Timeless River.

Key Heartless Moments Throughout The Kingdom Hearts Series

There is so much that goes into the Kingdom Hearts story, but the Heartless are undoubtedly an intrinsic part of the whole. What would Kingdom Hearts be without the Heartless? There are several key moments involving Heartless throughout the story’s progression, and these are some of those highlights.

Sora Turning Into a Heartless

kingdom hearts sora turning into a heartless
Sora’s Heartless

Sora turning into a Heartless in Kingdom Hearts is an absolutely iconic moment in the games. Not only in terms of the revolutionary way in which Sora was able to retain some sense of his personality in his Heartless form that allowed him to still care for his friends but also for the fact that you got to actually play as a Heartless in the game.

It was the first and last moment in the series where you could play as a Heartless in Kingdom Hearts. Sadly it was the weakest form a Heartless could be, but it was still awesome nonetheless.

The 1000 Heartless Fight

There is a moment nearing the finale of Kingdom Hearts II where you fight an seemingly endless tide of Heartless. The horde contains almost every type of Heartless from the game, both Pureblood and Emblem.

The 1000 Heartless battle is absolutely epic, even epic enough to ignore the drops in frame rate due to having so many assets on screen at the same time.

There is also a 10,000 Heartless battle in Kingdom Hearts III, but for some reason it isn’t quite as memorable. In that fight, your system isn’t capable of having all the Heartless loaded onto your screen at once, so the Shadow Heartless are more like placeholders and don’t contribute to your score.

Make sure you aim for the larger and more difficult Heartless to make the battle move faster.

The Lore of the Guardian

kingdom hearts the lore of the guardian

One of the most interesting and important Heartless moments that I feel is entirely underrated is the backstory of Xehanort’s Guardian. The Guardian is a Heartless entity that Xehanort uses to assist him in battle at several points throughout the game, but its origins were never necessarily explained.

It becomes clear later in the games, however, that the Guardian is the manifestation of Terra’s heart. If you are not keen on spoilers, look away now.

When Xehanort forced his heart inside of Terra’s body, Terra’s heart was forced out. And with nowhere else to go, it formed a Heartless that still remained tethered to its old body.

Terra’s heart was constantly battling the darkness for control, which is why the Heartless it created was one of the strongest Darksider forms.

In a pivotal moment in Kingdom Hearts III, Xehanort captured Aqua and Ventus and was moments away from killing them. Just as they are about to die, the Guardian bursts forth and saves them, rips the scraps of material from its mouth, and speaks using Terra’s voice.

This moment is insanely awesome and just goes to show the strength of Terra’s heart as he gains control the Heartless to save his friends.

Destroying the Kingdom Hearts Encoder

kingdom hearts ansem the wise
Ansem the Wise

Ansem the Wise is one of the most interesting characters in the Kingdom Hearts games, and you spend a lot of time just trying to figure out if he is a good guy or a bad guy.

In the end, most settle on the theory that he is a good guy despite giving Xehanort most of his knowledge about the darkness that he was able to twist to suit his own agenda.

In Kingdom Hearts II, Ansem the Wise created a machine called the Kingdom Hearts Encoder. He planned to use it to eliminate the Kingdom Hearts that Organization XIII was creating by converting it into data.

Unfortunately, the task proved too big for the machine, and it began to implode. There was nothing Ansem could have done to stop it, but he decided to remain with the machine anyway, like a captain who refuses to leave his sinking ship.

When the machine exploded and the Kingdom Hearts was destroyed, all the hearts fell to the ravening Heartless below, who devoured them all.

This caused many thousands of new Heartless to be created, which was unfortunate. But there is no doubt that the moment where Ansem the Wise sacrificed his own life to destroy the machine was one of the most emotional in the entire series.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are there other Types of Enemies in Kingdom Hearts Besides Heartless?

Answer: Absolutely. There are also Nobodies, Dream Eaters, and Unversed that you will find yourself battling throughout your Kingdom Hearts adventures.

Question: How many Varieties of Heartless are there?

Answer: There is a smaller amount of Pureblood Heartless in the Kingdom Hearts universe, but there are hundreds more Emblem Heartless.
Each type has several different forms, along with a huge amount of special event-themed Emblem Heartless that were introduced in Kingdom Hearts: Union X and Kingdom Hearts: Dark Road.

Question: Are there any Kingdom Hearts Games that don’t have Heartless in them?

Answer: The enemies found in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance are Dream Eaters rather than Heartless, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep has Unversed instead of Heartless as its enemy type instead.

Congratulations on Completing Your Course on Heartless 101

I wish there was enough room to talk about every type of Heartless individually, but there are quite simply far too many for that to be feasible.

It’s actually rather interesting because when I was playing through the Kingdom Hearts series, I thought there was a lack of enemy design and felt like I was repeatedly defeating the same few enemies over and over again.

It turns out I could not have been more wrong. There are almost endless tides of Heartless out there, all waiting for you to defeat them, and hopefully, this guide has helped you on your journey to do just that.

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