Final Fantasy has had an historic run since its inception in 1987. Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi in what was supposed to be his final project before heading back to school, Final Fantasy was a huge success and launched a franchise that is still admired and talked about to this day.
The Final Fantasy series spans fifteen core games, but there are a lot more titles under its belt, including spin-offs, sequels, and even prequels. We’ve decided to rank all fifteen titles in the franchise so let’s take a look at what we think are the best Final Fantasy games.
The Best Final Fantasy Games
15. Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy II tried to fundamentally change how the RPG genre plays. Instead of having a traditional levelling system, Final Fantasy II plumped for a system that increased your party’s stats by the actions they preform. For example, the ‘Defend’ action during combat would raise your defence stat while using Magic will increase your magic attack stat. This system was different from many RPGs at the time, but it ended up being a very controversial one, dividing the fanbase on the title. Final Fantasy II also introduced a lot of the staples for Final Fantasy such as Chocobos and the recurring character of Cid.
14. Final Fantasy
The game that started the franchise should be experienced by everyone who’s a fan of the series. Final Fantasy was a simple RPG that capitalized and perfected the formula of what the franchise would become. Final Fantasy began with you selecting the class of each of the four Warriors of Light out of the six available. This was the first glimpse we received at the class system that would become a staple in the Final Fantasy series for years to come.
13. Final Fantasy III
Fans outside of Japan never got to experience Final Fantasy III until it was remade for the Nintendo DS in 2006, 16 years after its original release. The remake brought the game into the 3D realm, and featured a fully reworked script. The Class System that the franchise is known for made a return with some additional classes added for the remake, bringing the total to 23 different jobs. Despite this, it didn’t really capture the hearts of fans as it was so similar in story and scope to other titles. As such, Final Fantasy III is easily one of the more forgotten in the franchise.
12. Final Fantasy XI
The first MMO in the franchise, FFXI went a long way into making the Final Fantasy experience playable with other people. So much so that they made the game almost impossible to get through without using a party. Even some of the most basic of tasks couldn’t really done alone, such as random encounters in the field forcing almost everyone to team up.
Besides the PC, Final Fantasy XI was also one of the few console MMO’s to release during the time of its release. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox servers have since shut down, but the PC version continued to receive updates and expansions some 15 years after its initial release. Amazing, FFXI is getting a new lease of life, as Square has announced a mobile version of the game will be released soon in its entirety.
11. Final Fantasy XV
The last core Final Fantasy title had a troubling development cycle. Planned as a spin-off to Final Fantasy XIII for the PS3 (where it was known as Final Fantasy Versus XIII), it was later moved to a new console generation and re-branded as Final Fantasy XV. It also changed directors after its reintroduction, which in turn changed a lot of the game’s core features from its original premise.
FFXV succeeded in a lot of aspects but it was clear a lot of the game’s content was cut to make release. The portions that suffered the most was the story, which showed plenty of promise but was never fully realised. It wasn’t all bad though, as the combat and music were a stand out. Most importantly, Final Fantasy XV brought back the massive open-world players had been clamouring for, and some of the enemy encounters felt like massive boss battles due to their scale.
10. Final Fantasy VIII
Coming off the heels of FFVII, Final Fantasy VIII had big shoes to fill but it was always up against the wall. The massive change to the character designs and the modernization of the world brought it closer to a contemporary setting than the series had seen up to that point.
A massive gameplay change was introduced in FFVIII that fundamentally changed how battles would work. Characters couldn’t perform magic spells unless they “Drew” spells from enemies. By drawing during combat characters would receive specific spells as items to use. The Junction system also saw you equip a specific summon and gave you the option to call on them without any consequence
The Triple-Triad card game was also introduced in FFVIII. This card game has since gone down as one of the best mini-games in the franchise, and was released as a stand alone game on the PS Vita in Japan and has also been featured in Final Fantasy XIV.
9. Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII divided the fanbase. Some thought it was the end of the franchise while others thought it was the perfect step forward for the series. FFXIII changed the formula in more ways than one. Combat became a lot faster and utilized the “Paradigm” Shift, allowing party members to switch from offensive attacks and skills to more defensive tactics. This became important as some enemies can only be damaged by specific types of attacks.
FFXIII was also a much more linear experience than past titles, with early locations seeing characters run through corridor after corridor, much to the lament of fans. Fortunately, the game opened up a lot more in the later portion of the adventure.
8. Final Fantasy XII
Set in the world of Ivalice Final Fantasy XII was the first core entry in the franchise to be set in a world created from a spin-off (Final Fantasy: Tactics) Final Fantasy XII was a unique entry utilizing the gambit system, a tool that allowed players to customize how their A.I. partners would act in combat. The Gambit System set parameters for your partners to act appropriately when certain conditions were met during combat.
The Zodiac Job system also removed the traditional leveling mechanic and instead gave the party points that they would be able to use to unlock new skills and increase their stats. It was a controversial system, however, as it made each character feel the same without any real skills or classes to distinguish them as they all can learn the same skills and abilities.
7. Final Fantasy X
The first Final Fantasy to release on the PlayStation 2, it was also the first in the series to feature fully voiced characters. Final Fantasy X eschewed the Active-Time Battle System, instead bringing back the traditional turn-based combat.
In addition, FFX also distanced itself from the darker tones that the franchise was becoming known for and settled on a more vibrant cast of characters and a tropical world setting. FFX also featured one of the best mini-games in the franchise in Blitzball, an underwater football game that was so in-depth it could have been its own individual game.
6. Final Fantasy IV
The story of Cecil and Kain is a memorable one. At times, the dynamic between the two felt almost Shakespearean-like. However, what made Final Fantasy IV stand out was the move away from the class system that had been a staple for the franchise.
FFIV also introduced the Active-Time Battle System, which meant you had to think quick about your actions as you couldn’t simply wait around to formulate a plan. Final Fantasy IV was such a beloved entry in the franchise that it was remade on the Nintendo DS with full 3D graphics, and a sequel followed to continue on the story with the descendants of the game’s cast.
5. Final Fantasy V
In Final Fantasy V, Bartz and his pals must team up to stop the evil sorcerer Exdeath from being released into the world and harnessing unlimited power from another dimension. Yes, it’s not the most original story for Final Fantasy, but it got the job done.
Bartz and co were a fun group of characters to play with and the groundbreaking Final Fantasy Class System made a triumphant return here, too. Letting your party change their character class was a staple for the franchise for some time, and in FFV it allowed you to keep the skills you earned from one class and use those skills with another.
4. Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV itself is a miracle. When the MMO originally launched back in 2010, it was considered one of the worst examples the genre had to offer. With so much time and money thrown into the game Square Enix refused to let it die; instead, it put a new team together to salvage what they had and completely overhaul it. Final Fantasy XIV re-released as A Realm Reborn and was a marked improvement over its previous incarnation in every aspect. With millions of players behind it, FFXIV has managed to recapture the magic of a Final Fantasy MMO, and with constant content updates being rolled out, the world of Eorzea continues to evolve and bring players together to this day.
3. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy XI is a nostalgia-packed classic. Harkening back to the roots of the franchise, FFXI put a huge smile on my face simply because I loved the world I was allowed to explore. Revisiting the fantasy-esque landscapes brought back a lot of great memories and allowed the development team to create fantastical characters rather than being restricted to the concepts of a modern offering like Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII.
The story of FFXI was very much a fairy tale, focussing on love, magic, and adventure. It was almost like watching an animated movie from Dreamworks, but one you actually got to play.
2. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is an undisputed fan favorite, and for most people was their introduction to the Final Fantasy franchise, which helped popularise the series in western markets. With the franchise moving to the PlayStation, Square was able to evolve the franchise significantly with the 1997 series entry, which originally started out life on a Nintendo 64. It was the first 3D Final Fantasy and it incorporated animated cinematics to tell its story.
Final Fantasy VII adopted a modern time setting, with the sprawling RPG combining modern technology with fantasy elements, and it worked like a charm. FFVII introduced some of the most memorable cast of characters the franchise has ever seen, and its success spawned numerous other projects, like a movie, spin-off games, and a prequel.
FFVII also incorporated the Materia System, which allowed you to equip specific attacks and magic skills to your party. In fact, the Materia System was so impressive that, in my opinion, Square hasn’t been able to create anything anywhere near as engaging since.
1. Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI was the first title not directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi, but that didn’t stop it from being the quintessential Final Fantasy title. Considered by many as the greatest entry in the series to date, FFVI moved away from a lot of the standards and tropes set up by its predecessors.
FFVI told a dark and gruesome story that a lot of people thought too mature for a video game at the time, delving deep into issues like slavery, war, and how we as a species are slowly destroying the world that is precious to us to survive. These themes still hit pretty close to home today, but at the time developers typically avoided touching on them.
It wasn’t just the darker story and steampunk world that FFVI delivered on. The combat system saw some unique improvements that allowed you to not only play traditionally but also let the player input button combinations to pull off special attacks. With 14 playable party members, there wasn’t a real protagonist as each character had a huge stake in the world and had an equal amount of time to shine in the story.
There’s a lot more to say about why Final Fantasy VI made the top of our list, but we could go on for days. Even though it was originally released on the SNES, it easily stands the test of time and should be experienced by any fan of the RPG genre.
There you have it. That’s our ranking of the core Final Fantasy games. It’s a hard list to rank with so many phenomenal titles in the franchise and that doesn’t make any of them any less better then the others. Unless of course you’re talking about Final Fantasy VI. Let us know some of your favorite Final Fantasy titles in the comments below..