The Xenoblade Chronicles Series: Every Game, Ranked

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What’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in the name of Xenoblade Chronicles? Is this video game series about a sword or some other type of blade? Are the Xenoblade games related to the wider Xeno universe created by Tetsuya Takahashi? As the word ‘chronicle’ suggests, does each new entry in the series follow the last chronologically, with time progression being dominant through the line rather than recurring characters or settings?


Related: Every Xenoblade Chronicles Protagonist, Ranked

The answer to all of these questions is basically yes, although you don’t need to know anything about the others to enjoy any entry in the series. While Xenoblade is often confusing, there’s one thing it’s not: these games are good. But which one is the best? Let’s find out if some are a little meatier than others.

Updated on 10 May 2023 by Rebecca Phillips: The Xenoblade Chronicles series is full of fantastic games, and thanks to the Future Redeemed DLC for the third title, we get to see how 1, 2, and 3 tie into each other. With this in mind, we’ve added additional DLC story scenarios to their games — let’s see how that affects rankings.

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4 Xenoblade Chronicles 2

Best fictional planets wide shot of Xenoblade Chronicles 2's Rex, Pyra, Zeke, Pandoria, Nia and Dromarch running across a grassy field towards a hovering Titan in Alrest

Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had a breakthrough when it was released in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch. The hybrid console was less than a year old and there was a lack of JRPGs back then. But you know what Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is — a JRPG, and a particularly big and ambitious one at that.

While the game did well at the time, both critically and commercially, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 can often get in its own way and is far from the pinnacle of the series. The battle system is an improvement over its numbered predecessor, but its complexity can often feel clunky and overwhelming.

If you stick with the game for a dozen or more hours, the game starts to come together and it can be very exciting. However, if you get to this point with the game, you have to put up with a shockingly boring approach to quest design and a lot of cheesy character designs.

Torna – Golden land

Landscape shot showing the main characters of Xenoblade Chronicles 2 Torna The Golden Country

For many, Torna — The Golden Country was a huge improvement over what the base game Xenoblade Chronicles 2 had to offer. It takes place nearly 500 years before the events of the base game and follows Lora and her Blade, Jin, who you’ll recognize as the antagonist from the main story.

In addition to a new story that expands on the mysteries of Jin’s past and how he became the despondent figure seen in Rex’s time, the DLC also featured many gameplay improvements that addressed many of the issues seen in the base game. Not only has the sidequest system been revamped into a more digestible Community system, but there have been other small changes that have made a big difference to the overall experience.

3 Xenoblade Chronicles X

wide shot of New LA from Xenoblade Chronicles X showing a female character looking out over a city with tall buildings rising in the distance

Three main things separate Xenoblade Chronicles X from the rest of the series. First, they exist way several bellows. Xenoblade Chronicles X, different from its many compatriots, leans heavily on the sci-fi genre and is all the better for it. The mechs are great and enhance the combat system well. But they need almost half the game to unlock it.

Related: Xenoblade Chronicles X: Tips for Beginners

Second, Xenoblade Chronicles X quite obviously doesn’t have a number in the title. The X here probably doesn’t stand for ten (although with Takahashi’s work, we can never be sure). While this is a superficial difference, it seems to go hand in hand with the game’s focus on gameplay. Unlike the rest of the Xenoblade Chronicles X series, Xenoblade Chronicles X is not as narrative driven. This might be a good thing for some, but others will definitely miss running to the exclamation mark to catch a 30 minute scene.

Third, Xenoblade Chronicles X is the only entry in the series not currently available on the Nintendo Switch. Its Wii U exclusive release unfortunately means not many people will or will ever play it.

2 Xenoblade Chronicles

The Xenoblade Chronicles loading screen shows a Monado on the ground in front of the Mechonis.

For many, it will always be impossible to top the original Xenoblade Chronicles. Originally released in 2010 for the Nintendo Wii, Xenoblade Chronicles was the first new Xeno game since Nintendo acquired developer Monolith Soft. Like all future games, this one was ambitious and in many ways unique from other JRPGs. It was an expensive game to make and a big risk, but Monolith Soft knocked it out of the park.

Xenoblade Chronicles offers a beautiful and vast world to explore, as well as a host of engaging characters. Despite evidence to the contrary, Shulk has a lot more to say than that he “really feels!” and the narrative means something truly noteworthy. Compared to some of the more juvenile aspects of its out-numbered sequel, Xenoblade Chronicles tells a moving story that’s significantly bolstered by hours of absolute banger on the soundtrack. Story aside, the action itself – a game that takes place on the ossified bodies of giants – was compelling and original for its time.

But even without the nostalgia factor, the game still holds up today. 2020’s Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition, launched on Nintendo Switch, proves this. The game’s combat system may still be the weirdest in the series, but that doesn’t detract from what the game does so well or its historical importance to JRPGs.

A connected future

Promotional image for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition - Future Connected DLC featuring Shulk, Melia, Nene and Kino from the game

Alongside the launch of the Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch came the epilogue DLC, Future Connected. About a year after the final events of the main story, Shulk and Melia set out to explore Bionis’ Shoulder, but their ship crashes and they discover two stowaways – Kino and Nene, Riki’s children – who join them in exploring the area and confronting the Mist King.

Although the gameplay hasn’t changed as much as Torna — The Golden Country, picking up where the story left off is reason enough to play through the story scenario. You traverse the previously unexplored region of Bionis and the environment is just as stunning as in the main game.

If you’re a fan of Melia’s character, it’s also exciting to see her take on a bigger role as the group learns more about the Mist King and lends aid to the High Entity. You even witness Melia reconcile with Tyrea, who was her opponent in the main story.

1 Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Full of fun fighting monsters in Xenoblade Chronicles 3

There’s no understating how awesome Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is. The game pushes its hardware, but Monolith Soft’s technical mastery is on full display in their third numbered entry in the series. Artistically, the game is attractive and improves on the Xenoblade formula in almost every way. Borrowing the best aspects from previous entries, the combat is as complex as ever, but it’s clearly explained (for once) and paced at a much more player-friendly pace.

Xenoblade has always had stories that mix ambition and originality with tropes, but here more than any previous title, the right balance is struck. The narrative is essential from the get-go, with a well-paced adventure that still manages to make room for character exploration and development. While the dialogue (at least in the English language localization) can be unnecessarily repetitive at times, all of the main characters are interesting and charming.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the game explores important themes that have recurred throughout the series – identity, responsibility, ethics, morality, mortality and, apparently, xenophobia – and does so with maturity and nuance. Sure, it still has Nopone – it’s still Xenoblade Chronicles – but even if you didn’t like any of the previous games in the series, you’ll still find something special in Xenoblade Chronicles 3.

A redeemed future

XC3 Future Redeemed promo image featuring Nikol, Glimmer, A, Matthew, Rex and Shulk

The fourth wave of Xenoblade Chronicles 3 DLC brought a separate story scenario called Future Redeemed, which takes place a few years before Noah, Mio and the rest of the party begin their journey on Aionios. You begin your journey as Matthew, a City survivor searching for his missing sister Na’el while traveling with A.

Future Redeemed, featuring older versions of both Shulk and Rex, could have been an extra bit of fan service to satisfy existing fans of the series, but it does so much more than that. It somehow manages to string the three numbered titles together in a way that’s understandable rather than complicated, though it can take a while for it all to sink in.

Shulk and Rex are of course the highlights of the DLC and it’s fun to see how they’ve grown and matured as characters, but the overall fun dynamic is the same as in the main game. It also works well as a standalone narrative as you finally get to see how the city was founded and the events leading up to it. Future Redeemed is the last piece of the Xenoblade Chronicles puzzle and fits perfectly.

Next: The best side quests in Xenoblade Chronicles 3

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