With Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ last piece of downloadable content arriving this week, new Fire Emblem fans created by the popular Switch game may be looking to expand their horizons to the rest of the series. Does that sound like you or someone you know? If so, here are the most important things to know!
The weapon triangle is important.
One element central to the Fire Emblem series that didn’t fully make its way into Three Houses is the “weapon triangle,” the concept that swords have advantage over axes, axes over lances and lances over swords. This is unavoidable in most Fire Emblem games, and watching enemy weapon types is key to survival in a way that may mean an adjustment for new players. In most entries, axes have a reputation for being “the bad ones,” as their hit rate is lower, but… well, you need them to beat lances. Sometimes, magic has its own triangle, too. It can be a fun system, but it’s less fun if you get invested in your lineup of lance users and don’t diversify before it’s too late.
Older Fire Emblem games are harder.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a game with a fairly low difficulty curve and ample opportunities to grind for experience and money. Classic games, especially those before the 3DS entries, are much more punishing in this regard, and you need to make sure all your battles go to who needs to level up. You never really get to stop being careful, but these two tips will help you through it: avoid using the pre-promoted strong unit whenever possible so your weaker ones catch up faster and get in extra hits on bosses on bases by letting them regenerate HP between turns without killing them.
Okay, let’s talk about kids.
Three Fire Emblem games, including the two most popular 3DS entries, involve child units, and… they’re a whole thing. You pair up two members of your party, and they have a child that inherits stats and skills from both and ends up joining your army for various reasons. A big regret new players of Awakening and Fates often have is unknowingly raising support for two units, unaware of the consequences, ending up with either a kid with skills that just don’t match or simply a couple they’d rather have avoided. If you care a lot about this sort of thing, please do your research before jumping in.
None of the games you should play next have Marth, Ike or Roy in them.
Super Smash Bros. made three Fire Emblem protagonists popular, but sadly, none of their games are really the best for any but the most dedicated players. Marth is the hero of the first adventure and its sequel and remakes, one of which did make it out of Japan as the DS’ Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. It’s not the worst entry, but much of what it does is improved upon elsewhere. Ike’s games, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, are well-regarded games, but they’re also both incredibly punishing and wildly expensive. Roy’s game, The Binding Blade, is still not released in English, and while there’s been great work on fan translations, you should really play the localized ones first.
Your next Fire Emblem game depends on your favorite part of Three Houses.
While many series have a clear play order, since Fire Emblem games are largely unconnected, what to play next is more of a decision tree than a single recommendation.
If you’re looking for battles that play out as similarly to Three Houses as possible, with all the modern comforts available and no weapon triangle concerns, you should go straight to Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia. The “Divine Pulse” feature originated here as “Mila’s Turnwheel,” and the flexible class growth you’re used to has its roots in the game’s Villager units.
If you most like Three Houses’ characters and want a game that lets you really interact with units, customize their abilities and explore their relationships with others, that’s the specialty of Fire Emblem Fates: Birthright. That entry would be a smarter choice than Conquest, which is a much harder game optimized to give franchise veterans a challenge. It’s also a good choice if you like how Three Houses tells other sides of stories through different routes.
If you want to experience the iconic entries in the series to better understand what Fire Emblem’s all about, you should play either Awakening, the 3DS game that saved the franchise, or The Blazing Blade, the Game Boy Advance game known simply as Fire Emblem in the West and the first one to release outside of Japan. Robin, Lucina, Chrom, Lyndis, Eliwood and Hector are revered characters in much the same way as Three Houses’ lords, and it may help you to be alive and around friends who like Fire Emblem if you’re more familiar with their stories. (These two games are widely well-regarded.)