How to get caught up with the Trails series before Trails of Cold Steel IV

Get ready to spend 100 hours reading finely crafted text boxes.


JRPG fans: Get your eyes checked and get ready to read because The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV will release in the west on Oct. 27, 2020 for the PlayStation 4. This will be the final entry in the gargantuan Cold Steel cycle, which has steadily been receiving localizations over the last few years.

This series can be understandably intimidating to get into, though. These are long games, renowned for their deep and unique fantasy worldbuilding. In between turn-based battles are reams and reams of text to read and dialogue to listen to. But if that sounds like your cup of tea, you’re in for a treat, and now is a great time to catch up.

Isn’t Trails of Cold Steel IV actually the 14th game?

Technically, there are currently 14 games in The Legend of Heroes series dating all the way back to the ’80s, but the Trails series itself is more of a sub-series and is completely independent of the rest of The Legend of Heroes games. To make matters even more complicated, the Trails series is further divided into three sub-sub-series, or cycles, only two of which have been published in the West. We know—it’s complicated. But each cycle within the Trails series takes place in a different country, and although there are various references throughout, each can be played entirely independently of the other.

What’s really the start of the Trails series?

The first cycle in the Trails series begins with Trails in the Sky, is followed by Trails in the Sky SC, and concludes with Trails in the Sky the 3rd. While the first two have western localizations on the PSP, the best way to play this trilogy is on a Windows PC. That said, you definitely don’t have to play the Trails in the Sky cycle in order to get into the Trails of Cold Steel cycle, and the cycle that takes place between Sky and Cold Steel never had a western release at all.

Where do I start with Trails of Cold Steel?

Given that all these games take a tremendous amount of time to complete, if you’re aiming to get up to speed in time for the fourth and final release in the Cold Steel cycle, it’s probably best just to start with Cold Steel. The Cold Steel games are all available in the west on modern consoles and feature some welcome quality of life improvements (such as a turbo mode to allow you to plow through the grindier portions of the game).

In the West, Trails of Cold Steel I, II, and III were all released on the PlayStation 4 in 2019, and Trails of Cold Steel III specifically was also released on the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC in 2020. Each entry takes dozens of hours at the very least to complete, but they’re well worth the effort if you’re looking for a great JRPG to sink into, and Trails of Cold Steel IV is shaping up to be a stellar conclusion.