Whenever the Role Playing Game genre is mentioned in videogames, the first thing that comes to the top of your head might be Final Fantasy. It might be hard for newcomers to understand the whole thing without research, but the franchise has definitely made up for that with the amazing stories, well-written characters, and challenging gameplay.
Excluding spin-offs, crossovers and direct sequels, there are fifteen games total in the franchise to date. This article would go over all of them, from the forgotten ones to the highest-rated fan-favorites.
Furthermore, all these games will be ranked based on their original runs, which means no HD, remastered ports – all the improvements that were made later will not be a factor on this list. Also, the two MMOs will also be counted into the list, as they are considered number games.
15 - Final Fantasy II
As Final Fantasy II is the game that introduced fan-favorite Cid Highwind to the cast and rolled out the first chocobos, you would have thought FF2 would be higher on the list. Despite being the first game in the series to introduce many aspects that Final Fantasy would be known for later, there is a reason that Final Fantasy II never get an international release at the time. The proficiency system in FF2 can seriously hamper your gameplay experience since you are getting punished for trying new things rather than sticking to set patterns. It has a better storyline than the first game, but that’s is not enough.
14 - Final Fantasy I
The one that started it all, Final Fantasy saved Square from bankruptcy and is pretty much a revolutionary game by 1987 standard. Featuring a large overworld, with strategic turn-based combat and a grand story following four Light Warriors, Final Fantasy I give players of the time a taste of freedom and creativity that’s not often seen.
However, the game does not hold up well by even the 90s’ standards, as it just does not have enough customization and variety to keep players occupied. You can experience Final Fantasy I for yourself, using an emulator – or buying the Android/iOS version.
13 - Final Fantasy XV
Taking a lot of risks, the most recent entry of the Final Fantasy Series ditched the traditional random encounters for a real-time battle system. Coupled with the open-world design, the experience created was far from the usual Final Fantasy the players would expect. Furthermore, due to the open-world structure, we can clearly see the western influence on this installment of our favorite JRPG franchise.
Final Fantasy XV is, on the surface level, far more action-oriented and flashy, however, it lacks the intricate depth and crafted nuance that a turn-based system would be able to convey. They should have reused the Final Fantasy XII’s combat system if they want an action-based FF. The character designs are also just as bad, with the main party being a group of annoying teenagers, with mannerism so weird they could come from an emo band. The beautifully open world helps somewhat, but it cannot save the game when the story falls flat on its face.
FF XV overall is not a bad game, it's just a bad Final Fantasy game.
12 - Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII was one of the best looking game during the time it was released. However, every other aspect of it has been slammed down by either critics or die-hard fans of the franchise. Final Fantasy XIII brought back the Active time battle system, but way too simplified – which leads to a series of random battles that could literally be completed by pressing the same button over and over. You can mitigate the grind somewhat by setting the game to Auto-Battle for the game to play itself, however.
The worst issue in XIII is how linear it was compared to other games in the series. The story and settings were nice, and they get even better in the other two parts of XIII. It’s overall a fun game, but Square could have done better instead of just staying in the safe zone.
11 - Final Fantasy III
The first game in the series to include the Jobs and summon systems. The original never saw any international release but the remake is available now on iOS, Android and PC. Closer to FF I than FF II, Final Fantasy is one of the best game in the NES-era, with all the improved dungeons, jobs and battle switch-outs. The story, unsurprisingly, plays out similar to the first Final Fantasy game.
10 - Final Fantasy XI
The first out of two Final Fantasy MMOs, XI started out as a run-off-the-mill MMO experience. Nobody could have expected the game to grow out that much during the next decade. Final Fantasy XI was originally released on the PS2 and PC, but it even manages to invade the Xbox 360 afterward, become the first MMO on the system. As usual MMO shenanigans go, XI is the same, with partying, raiding dungeons and acquire better loot. There have been five expansions plus numerous bonus addons and seasonal events – the last of them came in 2015. You can still play it on PC today – on Steam even.
9 - Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy V took everything good from FF 3 and expand them. The last strictly medieval-themed Final Fantasy, V has aged pretty well – it's just as playable today compare to how it was in 1992. The Job system getting a huge overhaul, with the inclusion of methods to switch abilities and powers within the same job. The changes, in turn, create endless possibilities for creativity from the players’ part.
However, Final Fantasy V would be ranked much higher on the list if it has a better story, as the game has some of the most uninteresting and unmemorable cast of characters ever in a Final Fantasy game.
However, the quality of the story is subjective, and if you can bear with it, Final Fantasy V would definitely be one of your favorite. The remastered version is available on PC, iOS, and Android.
8 - Final Fantasy XIV
This game at its release state would be on the bottom of this list, however, a later expansion named A Realm Reborn fixed that. The 2010 MMO was so bad Square shut it down and relaunch the whole thing after three years run with A Realm Reborn. The 2014 version of the game, however, would be some of the best MMO experience that you could find on the Market. The planet of Hydaelyn is amongst the best Final Fantasy settings ever made, with a deeply crafted story and lore comparable to any other MMO on the market. Coupled with a big array of quests, party raids, and engaging PVP actions, A Realm Reborn is something that can easily steal hundreds of hours from your life.
Since launch, there have been three great expansions, including the latest, Shadowbringers. Even if MMO is not your thing, FF XIV’s qualities might even be able to change that. The game is pretty much the best multiplayer experience for fans of the series.
7 - Final Fantasy IV
The Final Fantasy game that turned the series into the giant juggernaut of the JRPG genre known today, FF4 is the first game with the active time battle mechanic. The class system received a new upgrade based on the character-driven narratives, with each class telling a specific part of the story. Cecil and co. were the primary protagonist of the story, however, the other people in the cast also played a great part.
Released in America as “Final Fantasy 2”, FF IV is a huge improvement over the previous entries of the series – you can play it today on either DS, PC or mobile.
6 - Final Fantasy VII
Probably the most iconic installment in the series, Final Fantasy VII’s brightest point is its story. The game features some of the most brilliantly written story and characters in the franchise, both good and evil. Coupled with some of the most groundbreaking cutscenes and emotional sound design, Final Fantasy VII is probably the one game that comes to people’s mind whenever the franchise is mentioned.
However, people often see this game through the nostalgia tinted glasses, as the endless hype surrounding the game has concealed quite a lot of the game’s weaknesses. Moving out of 2D for the first time, a lot of details in the game are rough and unpolished. The battle system was quite slow, with not much from FF VI retained.
Overall, despite being a great game, Final Fantasy VII has not aged well. However, there are still hope, as the PS4 remake is almost here to save the day. The original can still be played on every console under the sun if you are into the old graphics.
5 - Final Fantasy IX
There have been a lot of debates among fans about the superior FF game from the PS1 era. While VII might be the most iconic game in the series, Final Fantasy IX took everything enjoyable from 7 and improved them. The medieval fantasy elements from VI and the science fiction elements from VII have been combined together by one of the best writing the franchise has ever witnessed, creating one of the longest and most emotional adventures in the series.
Launched near the end of the PS 1 lifecycle, Final Fantasy IX has used everything the console has to offer. As of now, you can still enjoy the game just like how it was twenty years ago. The game is available on multiple platforms, including PC, Switch and Androids.
4 - Final Fantasy XII
The second entry to be released in the PS2, Final Fantasy XII is widely regarded to be a modern masterpiece. Being the first mainline Final Fantasy to drop the random battle system and replace it with real-time combat, the initial opinion about XII was divisive amongst fans.
Set in the world of Ivalice, Final Fantasy XII contains an array of well-designed characters and beautifully detailed environments. The overhaul combat system, known as the Active Dimension Battle, has a lot of depth and is very satisfying. The reason behind that is the highly modified limit break system, called Quickening, and the gambit mechanic. And that’s still not everything the game, with the Sphere Grid from FF X also getting added, under the name License Board – further, increase the customization of the combat system.
With a recent update named the Zodiac Age, further improving the game, it is hard to compare XII to any other Final Fantasy games since it is just… different. Once you get through the first few slow hours and get used to the game, XII is probably one of the most exciting and rewarding JRPG experience around.
Final Fantasy XII has an HD remaster on PS4, XBOX One and Switch.
3 - Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is pretty much the strangest entry in the series. It reinvents the active time battle wheel while still taking into consideration a lot of good factors in previous games. The armors and accessories were replaced with the new junction system – opening up brand new options for customization. Each character has their own combat style, decided by their set weapons.
The biggest change in FF VIII, however, is the new focus on summoning. Combined with the built-in collectible card game and a completely new level scaling mechanic, everything in VIII were bold and fresh – a step in the right direction. All the new changes mesh together pretty well, giving the players freedom of choosing their adventure how they see fit.
The game was set in a planet consists of five landmasses based on Europe – with a level of details unprecedented. And with the advent of 3D models, VIII has improved a lot from VII’s base designs, giving the players the chance to see Squall and co. in greater detail.
Lastly, Square Enix has finally decided to give Final Fantasy VIII some love, as the HD remaster is going to hit PC, PS4, XBOX One and Switch next month.
2 - Final Fantasy X
Released on the height of PS2 gaming, Final Fantasy X is probably one of the most beloved entry in the franchise. As time passes, people have slowly realized the brilliance behind this game – as what made it corny is actually quite enjoyable. Coupled with one of the best turn-based systems in the series, Final Fantasy X’s high placement on this list is very justified.
A fairly linear gaming experience, Final Fantasy X comes with large and detailed environments dotted with dungeons involving great puzzles. However, at the time, the graphics are the best selling point of the game, and at 2001, the processing power of the PlayStation 2 has allowed the game’s graphics to move to the next generation, making the Asia based land Spira and the models of characters look better than ever.
The relationship in Final Fantasy X was very well written – watching the bond between Tidus and Yuna grow alongside their adventures is something sorely missed in later FF games. On a more tangible level -for the first time in the series, all the cut scenes have full voice acting. Combined that with the corny dialogue, Square has been really successful in making every moment of their romance highly emotional and fluid.
Furthermore, Final Fantasy X’s gameplay has to get back to the root of the series, with turn-based combat replacing the active time battle system. Combined with the depth added by the sphere grid, a character’s class can be highly customizable. Blitzball, the underwater sport minigame, is also something that needs to be mentioned – as a lot of fans has demanded Square to make a standalone Blitzball game.
The HD collection for Final Fantasy 10 is available on all system – the direct sequel of FF 10 isn’t as good, however.
1 - Final Fantasy VI
Consider by many the best in the whole franchise, 1994’s Final Fantasy VI is a massive hit in every sense of the word. Released in the United States as Final Fantasy 3, the last 16 bit FF entry features a huge cast of more than 12 characters. Combined that with the steampunk world design, FF VI has set the trend for many a game released in the late nineties. In this setting, magic has become the stuff of legend, while the world has become filled with advanced technology from the Second Industrial Revolution.
The story of FF 6 was highly regarded for a reason – it is paced perfectly. The first half was solely made for introducing the players to the main cast of characters, from the protagonist Terra Branford to the rogue treasure hunter Locke Cole. That allows those characters to grow and make connections to each other – an incredible feat since there are more than a dozen character on your side. The second part of the game opens up the story, letting the player complete the story in a non-linear order – that degree of freedom in playing is pretty much unheard of at the time. The gameplay aspects of FF6 is also not to be trifled with – as there are just so many new things to tinker and experiment with - unique magic spell and customized summoning system are the two things that we can get immediately from the top of our head.
Most fans of the series would not be surprised to see Final Fantasy VI being number 1. To the majority of players, FF6 is not only their favorite entry of the series but also their favorite game ever.
Every aspect of Final Fantasy VI, from the compelling story to the highly customizable combat system and the excellent world designs have combined to create a nearly perfect Final Fantasy experience. 25 years later, Square Enix still hasn’t able to beat this game. This is probably Square at their very best.
You can get the game now on PC, Android, and iOS.