The majority of the titles in the series were released exclusively in Japan. Fire Emblem, the seventh title in the series, became the first game of the franchise to be released internationally in 2003, largely due to the popularity of Fire Emblem characters Marth and Roy's appearances in Super Smash Bros. Melee. Released outside of Japan simply as Fire Emblem, the game was designed specifically with newcomers to the series in mind, and the first ten chapters were structured in a manner that eased newcomers into the gameplay. All Fire Emblem titles produced since have also seen international release.
The Fire Emblem series of turn-based tactics games centers around moving units through a map grid in order to defeat the opposition. Players use strategic movements and positioning to complete mission objectives such as seizing a base, surviving for a number of turns, or defeating a boss. Many conventions of traditional console role-playing games are also present; for example, there is extensive use of scripted cutscenes to advance the story, units gain experience points and grow stronger over the course of the campaign, and the player can visit shops to outfit characters with weapons and equipment. Depending on the game, these events may take place during or in-between battles.
The combat system bases itself on a rock-paper-scissors method of fighting, as each weapon type has both an advantage and a disadvantage against other types. From Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu to the most recent game, Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, the weapon triangle has been lance beats sword, sword beats axe, and axe beats lance. Bows are unaffected by the triangle, can attack from a distance, and do higher amounts of damage against flying units like pegasi, but this is offset by the bow-wielder's inability to counter-attack direct melee strikes. A similar trinity of magic, that varies from game to game, has also existed. In the Game Boy Advance Fire Emblem games, light beats dark, dark beats anima, and anima beats light. In other games, fire beats wind, wind beats thunder, and thunder beats fire. Magic is also unique in that magical attacks can be used from either a distance or in melee range.
Unlike in most other games, most weapons in the Fire Emblem series have a finite number of uses and will eventually break. Therefore, the player must often buy replacement weapons or spend gold to have broken weapons repaired. Typically, weaker weapons allow more uses than more powerful ones.
Using units in battle will allow them to gain experience points; a character's level will increase upon gaining one hundred experience points. Leveling up party members can be a challenge, as many newly recruited units arrive with inferior levels and statistics, but because the amount of experience earned from defeating an enemy is determined by the level discrepancy between the battling units, characters at lower levels earn more experience than higher-leveled characters when defeating enemies of comparable level. In addition to statistics, units have a weapon level for each type of weapon they can use; these run from E (lowest) to S (highest). In Radiant Dawn it is possible to achieve an SS weapon level, which is one level higher than S. Units can only use weapons whose level is equal to or lower than their own, but weapon levels can be increased by repeatedly using weapons of that type.
As characters level up, they may gain the ability to change to a more powerful character class, often referred to as "promotion." Depending on the mechanics of the particular game, characters may promote upon reaching a certain level, or through the use of special items that instantly cause promotion. Major characters may automatically promote during story events. Characters that promote receive a one-time statistics upgrade that is higher than the average leveling upgrade and additional abilities that are standards of the higher-tier classes.
Characters who support each other receive statistical bonuses, based on support level and each character's elemental affinity, that activate any time they are within three spaces of each other on the battlefield. If two characters with a mutual romantic attraction, strong friendship, or other form of mutual connection engage in three support conversations throughout the game, the result will sometimes affect the game's ending. Depending on the characters involved, such results could include marriage, a deepening of friendship, a continued pursuit of their ongoing relationship, or in some cases a bittersweet parting.
Akaneia: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken – Monshou no Nazo – Akaneia Senki
Jugdral: Seisen no Keifu – ''Thracia 776
Elibe: Fūin no Tsurugi – Fire Emblem
Magvel: Sacred Stones
Tellius: Path of Radiance – Radiant Dawn
The eponymous item of the games is a plot device or item that has taken multiple forms throughout the series, changing with the setting. The original Fire Emblem was a shield. In the remake of the original game in Monshō no Nazo, the Fire Emblem can open chests, and in the second half of the game, it can be upgraded with five orbs to turn it into the Shield of Seals. In Seisen no Keifu, it does not appear, but it is mentioned as the family crest of a noble house by the person succeeding it. In Fūin no Tsurugi and Fire Emblem, the Fire Emblem is a gemstone required for a ceremony to recognize the heir to a kingdom, and also to seal away a dragon. In The Sacred Stones, the Fire Emblem is a stone that holds the spirit of a demon deity, but it is split in two, and the Fire Emblem is crushed by the main antagonist. In Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn, it is a medallion containing the imprisoned spirit of a goddess.
|Japanese title||English title||Year||Platform||Notes|
|Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken|| Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragons|
and the Blade of Light
|Famicom||The first Fire Emblem title.|
|Fire Emblem Gaiden||Fire Emblem Gaiden||Famicom||Side story of the first title.|
| Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo|
(lit. "Mystery of the Emblem")
|—||Super Famicom, Virtual Console||Enhanced remake of Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken along with a sequel. It was adapted into a 2-part anime series. Released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan in December 2006.|
| Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu|
(lit. "Genealogy of the Holy War")
|—||Super Famicom, Virtual Console||Deviates from standard Fire Emblem gameplay mechanisms. First Fire Emblem set in a separate universe. Released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan in January 2007.|
|BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki (lit. "Record of Akaneia Wars")||—||Super Famicom Satellaview||A prequel to Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken / Monshō no Nazo divided in four chapters. Broadcast on the Satellaview service in 1997 and later re-broadcast in 1999.|
|Fire Emblem: Thracia 776||—||Super Famicom, Virtual Console||A side story of Seisen no Keifu first released on the Nintendo Power download service. Regular ROM version was released in 2000.|
|Fire Emblem: Fūin no Tsurugi||Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade||Game Boy Advance||The first Fire Emblem title to appear on a Nintendo handheld.|
| Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken|
(lit. "Blazing Sword")
|Fire Emblem||Game Boy Advance||The first Fire Emblem title to be released outside of Japan and the prequel to Fūin no Tsurugi.|
|Fire Emblem: Seima no Kōseki||Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones||Game Boy Advance||Incorporates several play mechanics not seen since Fire Emblem Gaiden. It is currently the only Fire Emblem title not related to any other game in the series by setting or story.|
| Fire Emblem: Sōen no Kiseki|
(lit. "Trail of the Blue Flame")
|Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance||Nintendo Gamecube||The first title in the series to be rendered in three-dimensions and to incorporate full motion video. Also the first title since Thracia 776 to incorporate a skills system.|
| Fire Emblem: Akatsuki no Megami|
(lit. "The Goddess of Dawn")
|Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn||Wii||The sequel to Path of Radiance. First Fire Emblem game since Gaiden to have multi-tier promotions.|
| Fire Emblem: Shin Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken|
(lit. "New Dark Dragon and the Sword of Light ")
|Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon||DS||Enhanced remake of Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken. The first game in the series to have online capabilities.|
A Fire Emblem game was originally planned for release on the Nintendo 64, but the project was discontinued.
There are also recurring tracks in the Fire Emblem series. The most frequently used is the "Fire Emblem Main Theme" which is played at some point during each game. Its use is particularly varied, as it is sometimes used as the title screen theme, while in Path of Radiance, the song is not heard until the very end of the game, when each character's performance is ranked. Since Fire Emblem: Seisen no Keifu, battle themes of previous Fire Emblem games have been remixed as arena battle themes. Similar rearranging appears in other circumstances, as well; for example, the musical score for the trial maps in Path of Radiance was originally the music score for Chapter 10 of Seisen no Keifu. The games' music has been released on various soundtracks in Japan.
Since its inception in 1990, the Fire Emblem series had largely been confined to Japan. In 2001, however, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. Melee, a fighting game containing characters from throughout the company's videogaming history. The original Japanese release of this game contained two characters from the Fire Emblem series: Marth, the protagonist of the first game, Fire Emblem: Ankoku no Ryū to Hikari no Ken, and the third, Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo; and Roy, who stars in the then-unreleased sixth game, Fire Emblem: Fūin no Tsurugi. According to Nintendo's official Japanese website, Marth was put in Super Smash Bros. Melee upon the request of Japanese gamers. If Marth is unlocked, players can change the music of the Temple stage to a remixed version of the "Fire Emblem Main Theme" and Ankoku Ryū to Hikari no Ken's "Encounter Theme".
Marth's design and playability earned him extra attention while the game underwent debug testing in North America, and it was by the decision of Nintendo of America that he was included in the North American version. Roy had been included in Japan to promote the upcoming release of Fūin no Tsurugi, and was likewise included in the North American version. It was due in part to Marth and Roy's popularity from their appearance in Super Smash Bros. Melee that Nintendo eventually decided to localize and market Fire Emblem games for North American and European release.
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Marth returns as a playable character, along with Ike from Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn. Lyn, one of the lords from Fire Emblem, also makes an appearance as an Assist Trophy item summon, while other major characters appear as trophies, stickers or both. One of the game's stages, Castle Siege, is inspired by the Fire Emblem series. The Fire Emblem Main Theme has been arranged similar to the Super Smash Bros. Brawl main theme, including orchestral arrangement and Latin lyrics, though the Fire Emblem music from Melee is used among other pieces of music. A trial version of Fire Emblem: Monshou no Nazo has been included exclusively in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
In another Intelligent Systems game, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, a minor character raves about his favorite video games when spoken to. The first game he talks about is Fire Emblem. Likewise, the Nintendo DS game Daigasso! Band-Brothers features the Fire Emblem theme as a song.
In 2006, Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo appeared in Famitsu's Top 100 Games list, where it is number 68. Radiant Dawn was the highest selling Wii game of the week ending February 25, 2007, with 73,359 sales in Japan.