In a game series known for its punishing difficulty and unforgiving mechanics, we've seen close to 30 years of Fire Emblem's infamously challenging antics. This tactical-RPG series focuses on war-like scenarios in which you control various units to seize victory on the battlefield.
Fire Emblem sticks out among other tactical-RPGs for its focus on its story and characters, in which it has some of the best of both worlds. To make things less confusing, we'll be looking at the Normal Modes of all listed titles. From Shadow Dragon to Three Houses, which titles provide the greatest challenges to young tacticians around the world?
14 Fire Emblem Awakening
Awakening’s sense of difficulty may pay a heavy tribute to the nature of the series before its release, as Awakening was intended to be a final gambit to either revive the series or move on from its unfortunately pitiful sales.
Luckily, the game was a huge hit and single-handedly brought Fire Emblem into the mainstream. To appeal to new fans, this game is far easier than others, with main characters like Chrom, Robin, and Frederick having a little too much plot armor, becoming absolutely unstoppable beasts on the battlefield.
13 Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright
The Fire Emblem Fates games released in a sort of Pokémon fashion, where the two titles used the same exact engine and assets, but are two different experiences. Birthright is undoubtedly the easier of the two, with its missions being very straightforward with some highly overpowered units.
Like Awakening, a viable strategy is to wait for enemies to inevitably approach, only to be slaughtered by powerful units like Ryoma or Corrin.
12 Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Sacred Stones also suffers from some overly buff main characters, as well as some particularly low enemy stats. The game does provide a decent challenge at times, however, namely within Ephraim’s route.
The map designs were a large improvement from the previous GBA title, adding a bit more strategic elements to the mix to spice things up. Overall, though, a notoriously easier entry.
11 Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
When this GameCube entry was brought to the west, Japan must have had some low confidence in the other regions, and removed their Maniac Mode to instead put in an Easy Mode. Even when talking about Normal Mode, however, it still compares to the others as a less challenging adventure, with a few issues in enemy balancing.
Don’t be deceived by the first few chapters, however, as some later maps in the game can dish out some surprisingly difficult challenges.
10 Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
This is a DS remake of the first game in the series, Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light. This game nicely modernizes the archaic gameplay from the Famicom, while adding in some fresh new twists that would become essentials within the series.
The game features a wide range of Hard Modes, but its Normal Mode is a pretty straightforward ride that doesn't do much to deviate from the norm.
9 Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Gaiden changed up a ton of mechanics from the first game, and Shadows of Valentia keeps its title as the black sheep of the franchise. With some action-RPG elements, differing map mechanics, and the lack of a weapon triangle, this game would forever steer the series in a new direction.
The challenge presented is fairly standard, with an unfortunately grind-heavy Hard Mode that’ll push most players towards Normal. It’s a fairly challenging romp, with some maps forcing frequent usage of Mila’s Turnwheel.
8 Fire Emblem: New Mystery of the Emblem
Like Shadow Dragon is a remake of the first game, New Mystery of the Emblem is a remake of the third game in the series. This entry is similar in difficulty to Shadow Dragon on the DS, while providing just a bit more variety to spice up the gameplay.
New Mystery of the Emblem added new things like a customizable main character to set it apart from its Super Famicom counterpart.
7 Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The newest edition to the ongoing Fire Emblem series has rapidly become one of the best selling games in the franchise. With Persona-Esque character interactions and extremely customizable builds, Three Houses has a huge focus on personalizing every member of your army, and any character can become a potent threat.
Units like Dimitri are absolute beasts on the battlefield, as you can throw him into a horde of enemies and watch them be picked off one by one.
6 Fire Emblem
The west’s first introduction to Fire Emblem came with 2003’s Fire Emblem for the GameBoy Advance and served as a fantastic entry into the franchise’s coined difficulty level with it standing right in the middle of the series.
Better known as Blazing Sword, this entry has fairly balanced difficulty, ramping up quite quickly and making it known to the player to not leave any unit left behind.
5 Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade
Featuring the mysterious swordsman from Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Binding Blade was the last game to remain a Japanese exclusive.
As a predecessor to Blazing Sword, this title has some quirks that were later ironed out in the next game, like just how laughably weak Roy is as a lord. The units are pretty unbalanced in this game, as some of them will be doing little to no damage during chapters.
4 Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
The fourth game in the series added a plethora of new additions, with staples like the weapon triangle and unit skills debuting here. This is an extremely intensive title, with its measly 12 chapters actually being extremely lengthy battles, and one mistake could waste your hours of time.
Without preparation before battles, being able to carefully manage your units in the middle of a heated battle is an absolute necessity.
3 Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
When brought to the west, it was decided to remove the highest difficulty setting in place of an Easy Mode. However, the naming of the modes wasn't altered to fit this change, and the Normal Mode for the western version is actually the same as the Japanese Hard Mode.
Some units are noticeably stronger than others, and you'll have to do some trial and error to figure out which ones are holding you back. The game does get progressively easier, but it can feel like a brutal challenge at times.
2 Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest
Looking at Birthright and Conquest side-by-side, it's more than obvious to see which title was more geared towards veteran fans of the franchise. Unlike Birthright's more straightforward and simple mission requirements, Conquest has a lot of unique battles to keep you on your toes at all times.
Normal Mode might be a challenge all on its own, but Conquest's Lunatic Mode is known to be extremely difficult and reserved for true tacticians.
1 Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
This is more often than not considered the hardest game in the entire series and for good reason. Battles are similar in length to Genealogy of the Holy War, with some particularly tricky mechanics like same-turn reinforcements, staves being able to miss, fog, and some tough enemies that require careful planning if you're not ready to lose any of your units.
The difficulty never feels unfair, however, and Thracia 776 resides as a beloved cult-classic.
Vi and Caitlyn's romance becomes official in Arcane's final act - and it's adorable.