The Final Fantasy series is one of the most prolific video games series of all time. The series started with the first Final Fantasy, released all the way back for Nintendo Entertainment system in December of 1987. The latest title, Final Fantasy XV hit the shelves November 29, 2016. That’s almost a 30-year gap, which is almost unheard of for a video game series. There have been countless spin-offs, including the multi-player, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles for Nintendo GameCube, and even mobile Gacha games like Final Fantasy Brave Exvius.
The allure of the series is not only the magic and job systems, but also the trademark elemental summons, like Ifrit, Shiva, and Ramuh. From there, the unique creatures like cuddly Moogles, and mountable Chocobos. Of course, most titles heavily involve either stopping the destruction of or gaining control of powerful crystals in some form or another.
The titles were originally owned by Squaresoft, who merged with Enix to become Square Enix. The games have gone through many incarnations, with early games being known for their in-depth stories. Later, with the advent of the PlayStation and 3-D graphics, the games were known for pushing the boundaries of graphical capabilities. Of course, up to Final Fantasy X, the series also featured masterful soundtracks from the genius of composer Nobuo Uematsu.
Top Ten Final Fantasy Games – Ten Through Six, and the Leftovers
Now, with a series as complex and storied as Final Fantasy, ranking them is challenging. The rules for this ranking will be simple: Only main-series games will be counted. This means games like Final Fantasy Tactics, will not qualify. Also, sequels to the main series will not count. That takes away games like Final Fantasy XIII-2 from contention. Finally, MMORPGs are an entirely different style of games, so Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV won’t be included.
Also, there will be no spoilers in these reviews, so readers should not worry about having to skip over reading about the titles they still haven’t played.
10. Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III is tough to rate amongst the series for a few reasons. For one, the FFIII as North America knows it is almost an entirely different game than the original FFIII released on the original Nintendo system back in Japan in 1990. The first version of the game featured nameless characters whose appearance was only distinguished by their job class, much like the first Final Fantasy title. What made III different was that the jobs could be changed anytime. This popular feature would become a mainstay of the series moving forward.
It wasn’t until 2006 that Final Fantasy III was released outside of Japan, but as an entirely redesigned game on the Nintendo DS. Instead of nameless warriors, the characters were each given their own identity and appearance. The story was more fleshed out and new job classes were added. The remake also took after the lighthearted Nintendo style of visuals. Though the story was still mostly superficial, the gameplay, environment, and remastered soundtrack made it worthy of the long wait outside of Japan.
9. Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy V actually has a ton of similarities to FFIII. Like the previous title, it also didn’t see release outside of Japan until years from its original launch date. After being released on the Super Nintendo in Japan back in 1992, it didn’t see life outside of there until the PlayStation days in 1999, and later, in 2006 on the Game Boy Advance.
Final Fantasy V was one of three of the series titles originally released on Super Nintendo. During this era, the plotlines became more advanced, and the character development was given much more time. Bartz (who is sometimes comedically translated as Butz) is the main character alongside other notables like Faris, the pirate, Princess Lenna, and Galuf, an old knight with amnesia. The game also features the interestingly named villain ExDeath, who seeks the destruction of the universe.
Again like FFIII, the high point of the game is the job class system that lets characters switch between a multitude of roles. The game does have some nice tracks, including Clash on the Big Bridge, but other than that does not quite stand up to the other two Final Fantasy titles on the SNES. Still, it is worth playing even today.
8. Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII is a rather controversial title for many. There are some who completely despise the title. There are others who love it. Most would agree, however, that it is still a welcome addition to the series. The game broke ground by being the first in the series to unequivocally feature a female as the main protagonist. (Yes some would argue Final Fantasy VI does, but there is a debate on who the main character actually is, unlike XIII.) Some criticize her for seeming a bit too stoic at times, though she still shows similar personality traits to anti-hero favorites like Cloud Strife and Squall Leonhart.
FFXIII was the first (and only main series title) to be released during the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 era. During this time, competitors in the field caught up to Square’s breathtaking visuals, but the game still holds its own during that era. Specifically, although the title returned to a more traditional, turn-based battle system, it made it quicker and more dynamic, with the characters moving all around a battlefield instead of just staying static on one side or another.
What holds the game back a bit is the complex, clunky storyline. Admittedly, the storyline is full of complicated jargon and takes place in a huge world. Because of this, most players really don’t get an idea of what is going on for at least half the game. In addition, the character development is severely lacking, with many of their stories just falling flat, or just being outright ignored. Finally, the game probably has some of the absolute worst music of any title.
7. Final Fantasy I
Another tough title to rate is Final Fantasy I. This one started it all, but of course, was released all the way back in 1987. If one were to go back and play the original version on the Nintendo, it probably would not be very fun. For one, it just wouldn’t look good. And two, the mechanics would be sorely outdated. For example, players had to input all four of their character’s moves for a turn before any of them would activate. Say the player targeted the same enemy with all four characters and the enemy died on the second character’s hit, the other two character’s moves were wasted.
Luckily, like all of the sprite-based titles, FFI was completely revamped and released for the Game Boy Advance. This remastered all the music and visuals, as well as fixed weird combat issues like the one mentioned above. With these updates, the game still holds up very well. Though the characters are nameless, the game still keeps the players very involved. Garland, the main villain, appears early for the protagonists and establishes an eerie sort of eternal battle that the Four Warriors of Light must undertake.
Though compared to other titles, FFI is not quite as in-depth, it still gets ranked highly due to its place in history – as establishing one of the greatest RPG series of all time!
6. Final Fantasy VIII
Here is where the real debate begins. Each Final Fantasy title moving forward will have a strong mini-fanbase within the community that believes their particular title is the best of the bunch. Realistically, an argument can be made for any, but all things considered, there are still some that rise above others.
Final Fantasy VIII is the title that fell just short of the top five. Though it has many strengths, there are a few things that hold it back. On the positives, the graphics were groundbreaking upon release. Final Fantasy VII broke ground as the first 3-D modeled game, but it was still rather archaic and not to scale outside of battles. While the graphics don’t hold up today, they were top-notch when the game came out in 1998. The opening sequence CG animation, complete with “Liberi Fatali” playing in the background, remains one of the best opening scenes of any Final Fantasy game.
Still, the world itself might be a bit too modern looking. FFVII moved slightly away from the fantastical world into a more sci-fi style one, but FFVIII may have gone too far. The characters begin at Balamb Garden, a military-type school, and has lets characters drive around in cars rather than use chocobos. In addition, the “Draw” system for using magic was more annoying than anything. Though Squall is a cool character, he is almost a carbon copy personality as his predecessor, Cloud. Many of the other characters are simply forgettable. The game starts off a bit slow, but it does culminate into an excellent climax and is still worth checking out if players can get over the outdated 3-D graphics.
Didn’t Quite Make the Cut
Taking rules into account, there are 13 titles that qualify for our top-ten list. A few didn’t make it but are worth mentioning here.
Final Fantasy II was the second title ever released. Although it built upon the first title by having the heroes actually have names and backstories, it just hasn’t aged very well, or have the same allure as the first title. Firion has a cult following as a hero, but aside from that, the story was not very engrossing. And, the soundtrack was not as memorable compared to other titles.
Final Fantasy XII is one that few will probably debate. It was the first non-MMORPG of the main series that legendary producer Yoshinori Kitase was not a part of. It isn’t so much that XII is a bad game, as much as it just isn’t memorable. Vaan was supposed to be the main hero but didn’t really catch on. Most of the characters lacked an engrossing backstory. The world itself just did not feel very original, or magical compared to previous titles.
Unfortunately, the newest of the titles also makes the list. Like XII, Final Fantasy XV wasn’t a bad game, it just didn’t quite live up to the hype. It was a bit more memorable and original compared to XII, but the story was overall lacking. The visuals were beautiful, and the soundtrack was the best since FFX. The story and character development were simply lacking.
Last Word on the Top Ten Final Fantasy Games 10-6
Readers can do the math and figure out which five titles weren’t listed here and start drafting the hate comments for titles that they disagreed with. Or, they can show some agreement by sharing this around with their fellow Final Fantasy friends and start making guesses at how part two might go, where the top five Final Fantasy titles are revealed.
Either way, tune in next week to find out which game will be crowned the best-ever Final Fantasy.
Can’t wait till next week for more Final Fantasy content from Ryan? Well, check out the other stuff he has written about the mobile game, Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, here.
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