Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode Guide: How the Ultimate Difficulty Level Works

The best part about the gameplay in the Kingdom Hearts series is how varied it can be. It can be customized to be as straightforward or as complex as players want these action RPG games to be. The same is true for Kingdom Hearts 3 and its ultimate difficulty level, Critical Mode. If you want to know everything about it, you’re in the right place with this Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode guide.

Critical Mode might be familiar to any Kingdom Hearts fans who have played past games in the HD collections and remixes, like I did, including the original Kingdom Hearts, II, Dream Drop Distance, and so on. Critical Mode is the ultimate challenge for players, tasking them with taking on foes that are much harder than ever before while the player is weaker than ever before. Find out how to master it in this Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode guide.

Bottom Line Up Front

There is a Critical Mode option in Kingdom Hearts 3; players don’t even have to wait for the definitive version of the game to enjoy it. It is available in the base game for all players on all platforms, including PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Unfortunately, the ease of access isn’t helped by the fact that players have to start over completely to enjoy the Critical Mode. If you do, though, you’ll find the most significant challenge yet with stronger enemies than ever before, less health for Sora than before, and some fresh abilities that are exclusive to this mode.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode Overview

If you’re anything like me, if there is a game you love, you’ll want to see everything it offers. There are only a few games that I usually have this mindset with, but they generally are JRPGs, especially from Square Enix, like that of Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is no exception as a game that I was proud to beat for the first time before it was even released to the public. As such, I was able to sit on the completed game for several months before Critical Mode finally arrived in the game as an extra challenge for me to tackle.

Yes, Kingdom Hearts 3 does have Critical Mode. And, no, you don’t have to pay for it or anything like that. Players can access this ultimate difficulty mode in the action RPG by simply downloading the game and the patch that contained it, which was years ago at this point in time.

If you are a true glutton for punishment or someone who has already beaten the game once and wants something more unique, then Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode might be for you. This much harder difficulty option is the greatest challenge for fans of Sora, Riku, Kairi, and the gang. Here’s everything you need to know about how it works and tips on how to master it.

How to Unlock Critical Mode in Kingdom Hearts 3

critical mode start menu kingdom of hearts 3

For starters, there is the task of unlocking the Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode in the first place. Thankfully, this area doesn’t work as the previous games did. In the past, players could only find this exclusive difficulty option in the HD remixes and remasters that were for older games like Kingdom Hearts 2 and so on.

Critical Mode was one of the main reasons to replay the games in their HD collections, besides the fact that there were better graphics and sometimes much better gameplay controls, too. Thankfully, that isn’t the situation with Kingdom Hearts 3, as it is available on all platforms right now.

All you need to do is own the latest Kingdom Hearts mainline game on whatever platform you prefer — Xbox, PlayStation, PC, or Switch — and then make sure it is updated to the latest patch version. If you have done so, the Critical Mode option will be available to you.

However, there is a vital part to this that is a bit annoying for some players. There is no way to change the difficulty option of a current playthrough of Kingdom Hearts 3. If you want to experience Critical Mode, you’ll have to start the game fresh from the very beginning. Fortunately, there is a silver lining to this aspect.

New Game Plus Elements

ultima keyblade weapon kingdom hearts 3

While you aren’t able to change your current playthrough to the Critical Mode, there is a positive here. If you’ve beaten Kingdom Hearts 3 before, there are some light New Game Plus elements you can carry over to this version of the game. To be clear, there is no genuine New Game Plus in this RPG.

That said, there are some aspects of your original playthrough that can be carried over if you start over with a new save file in Critical Mode. You can bring over any Keyblades that you earned in the original playthrough of the game and start immediately with them in your possession.

So, yeah, you can have the Ultima Keyblade from the moment that Sora steps foot into Olympus and take on the bosses there with the best weapon around in the game. In fact, you’re going to need it if you want to master everything that Critical Mode has to offer.

Unfortunately, nothing else carries over to this new playthrough besides the Keyblades you have and some other minor details—none of your levels, abilities, stats, and all that will be available in this version. In addition, you have to have a completed save file for the game to transfer this progress, meaning you beat the main story. Partial completion won’t count.

Critical Mode Stats: Health, Damage, More Explained

critical mode gameplay kingdom hearts 3

As for how the Critical Mode works in Kingdom Hearts 3, it is what you might expect from an ultimate difficulty mode but with some special exceptions. This version doesn’t necessarily work exactly the same as in the previous titles.

That said, the first change you’ll notice is the stats for all of the enemies you come across in the various Disney-themed worlds. They all have much stronger damage potential than before, able to wipe out Sora in no time. Even the most basic trash mobs can make short work of Sora, Donald, and Goofy with only a few hits.

This is also because of the changes that happen to Sora in this version. He has only half of the health that he usually has in the game. Even if you max out your vitality stat to the best possible version, it will still only be roughly half of what it would be in any other difficulty option.

The same is even the case for your MP, too, ensuring that you aren’t able to Cure yourself to victory. You’ll have to be extremely picky with what spells and abilities you use in fights, or else you will run out of MP possibly even before you are out of HP.

There are some other extra changes to the fights here in this mode, too, including how battles work. Typically, you will occasionally receive the option to use grand magic spells or the chance to ride a Disney attraction and deal some severe damage to all foes.

Those still happen in the Critical Mode, but you will see these unique options much less often than you would otherwise. Form changes work the same way, as you will pretty much never see this outside of a particular method that allows them to pop up (more on that in a bit).

Bring together the damage boosts to foes and the limited stats that Sora has, and you have a challenge worthy of the most talented Kingdom Hearts players around. Even the most basic fights against trash mobs across the various worlds will feel like an actual test of skill here, so Critical Mode may not be for everyone.

Critical Mode Abilities Explained

kingdom hearts 3 critical mode fighting

That said, Kingdom Hearts 3 doesn’t altogether leave you hanging when it comes to dealing with all of the formidable enemies in this version. Sure, even the “easiest” fights may feel like legitimate boss battles, but some extra tools are available at your disposal.

As you likely already know, Sora has various skills that he is able to use in combat. These add extra features, moves, and attacks for him to do. When you boot up a new save file for Critical Mode, you will automatically have some abilities unlocked to help you out. Plus, there are some exclusive abilities that are only available in this mode that make it somewhat easier.

Returning Abilities

In total, players have around 15 skills that are unlocked as soon as they start the Critical Mode playthrough. You might be familiar with these abilities from when you played the game the first time. They are here to offer players the chance actually to succeed in this otherwise painful experience.

Here are the 12 abilities that are available in the other difficulty options and you might already know how to use well:

  • Aerial Recovery: An ordinary skill that lets Sora press a button to immediately get back into form after being attacked in the air.
  • Air Slide x3: This basic skill lets Sora slide across the air in a certain direction. This is the third version that is more powerful.
  • Combo Master: This is a handy skill. With it, your combo won’t stop even if an enemy defends an attack or you miss. So long as you haven’t used a finisher move and are still attacking the enemy, the combo will continue.
  • Counter Slash: This lets Sora use a successful block to use the attack button and then immediately attack the enemy with a powerful slashing counter.
  • Counter Impact: This is a similar skill to the previous one. The difference, however, is that it allows Sora to hit and send the enemy up into the air after a successful Counter Slash.
  • Counter Kick: Players can press the dodge button after blocking an enemy’s attack to then have the character dash ahead to the opponent and kick them.
  • Damage Control: This is a basic passive skill that decreases the amount of damage that Sora receives by 50% anytime your health points are at 25% or less.
  • Groundbreaker: This is a helpful skill whenever you are in the middle of an air combo. If you select the dodge button, you can send the opponent back down to break into the ground.
  • Final Blow: When Sora is able to use a reprisal to stop an enemy attack sufficiently, this skill lets the user then attack instantly with the attack button and start a combo on the next opponent.
  • Risk Dodge: This is the ultimate counter to an enemy’s counter. You can press the dodge button whenever an enemy is able to defend against your hits to dodge out of the way of their counter. You can then press the dodge button after that to allow for what is essentially a counter-counter-attack.
  • Rising Spiral: This combo extender lets you send an enemy into the air whenever you press the dodge button during a melee combo.
  • Superslide x3: This is similar to the Air Slide, but the difference is that you are in a current state of flow. This lets you dash even further in the air than before. It is the most potent form of this skill.

As you can see, these are some of the core abilities that are found within the other difficulty levels of Kingdom Hearts 3. But there is an emphasis on combos, blocking, and countering in this version. They are the key to survival, which is why you have access to these skills right from the start.

Exclusive Abilities

kingdom hearts 3 with ultima keyblade

In addition to the 12 returning abilities that you might be familiar with, there are three exclusive skills that are only in Critical Mode. These three are here to ensure that the player is able to successfully do well in fights where they can be KO’ed instantly.

Here are the three skills you’ll only find in Critical Mode playthroughs:

  • Critical Converter: This is sort of a risk-and-reward skill. On the one hand, this is the ability that is the reason behind no longer being able to use the Disney attraction rides as attacks in this mode. However, on the other hand, it benefits you by letting you have forms more often with the command bar when it fills up.
  • Critical Counter: This one is quite simple. All it does is boost the amount of damage that you deal when you use a reprisal counter.
  • Critical Recharge: How this works is that whenever you are regaining your mana points, the command bar will go up even quicker than usual. This helps you not only gain MP as usual but gain further benefits from it.

Overall, as you can see, the three new abilities are all about making the best of the circumstances you’re in with this mode. It pays off to master reprisals and the various forms in the game so that you can make the most of these skills.

Critical Mode Stat Recommendations

When it comes to playing the Critical Mode, there are some tough decisions you need to make early on that will determine how well you do in this difficulty mode. For one, there are the stats that you focus on for Sora when leveling him up and using the various equipment in the game.

As mentioned, you have a situation where you have half of the health as the other difficulty modes. In this way, you may want to prioritize those health points and maximize them as much as possible. However, this isn’t the best idea in the end.

This is mainly because no matter what you do, it will still be half as efficient as it would have been in the other modes. So, you are almost wasting your time in a way. Instead, magic is going to be your best friend here. Choosing stats like Wisdom is going to be crucial to surviving and thriving in this mode.

The goal should always be to ensure that you are able to fight back with as much power as possible. Chances are if you were to lose without maxing out your Vitality, you’d probably lose even with it maxed out in this mode. Or at least be somewhat close to doing so. So, focus on the more magical-themed stats here, like Mystic, when you have the choice at the start of the game.

General Tips for Mastering Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode

critical mode kingdom of hearts 3

With all of this said and done, there are some final tips that I have to impart to you. The Critical Mode is a devastating difficulty option, but it can provide excitement and thrill in Kingdom Hearts 3 unlike anything else. If you want to do well in this mode and master it, here are some general tips to get you started:

  • Reprisals and counters are the keys. If you don’t have a mastery of blocking and countering in Kingdom Hearts 3, it’s time to learn. Otherwise, you won’t be able to enjoy this mode. I recommend first practicing on the lower difficulty levels and working your way up.
  • Take every battle super slow and methodical. As mentioned earlier, every enemy can waste you quickly in Critical Mode. You have to be slow, take every fight with purpose, and go on the defensive, rather than the all-out offensive that works everywhere else.
  • Carefully plan out every attack. This is not a mode where you can mash the attack button over and over to win. This is where you should break enemies up to fight one-on-one and choose when to use your magic and skills wisely.
  • Be flexible in your equipment and stats. Some Keyblades and accessories are better suited for certain bosses and worlds. Be sure to switch up often so that you are using the best items for that particular world and its enemies.
  • Use every feature and option at your disposal. Look for all of the items in the game, buy anything you can, upgrade everything to the max, use the cooking minigame to boost your stats, and so on. If it exists in the game to help you, this is the mode where you need it all.


Question: How does Critical Mode work in KH3?

Answer: Critical Mode is the most challenging difficulty option in KH3. It significantly boosts the overall damage of enemies while halving the health that Sora has. But, at the same time, it gives players more options in terms of skills that are exclusive to it.

Question: What do you get for beating KH3 on Critical Mode?

Answer: You get the Oblivion Keyblade for beating KH3 on Critical Mode. This is the Keyblade Riku used and then gave to Sora in the original Kingdom Hearts.

Question: Should I play KH3 on Proud or Critical?

Answer: If you should play KH3 in the Proud or Critical Mode difficulty levels depend on a few factors. If you are new to this game and playing it for the first time, check out Proud first for a solid but fair challenge. But if you’ve beaten the game at least once and have a feel for counters and reprisals, feel free to take the plunge into Critical Mode.

Where to Start in Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 Critical Mode is the epitome of challenge and difficulty in this latest mainline game in the beloved Disney and Square Enix mashup series. If you want to see if you are among the best Kingdom Hearts players around, this difficulty option is the one to go with.

That said, there is so much to this that it can be truly overwhelming for even the most talented players out there. As such, you always want to ensure you start out on the right foot. This even begins with the first decision you ever make in the entire game.

That is what stats you would prefer to focus on for the duration of your playthrough. There are several options to choose from, so which are the best? I already mentioned which stats are the best for Critical Mode, but we have previously covered a full breakdown of what the best starting choices are for everyone.

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