The Final Fantasy series is one of the most prolific video games series of all time. It 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
Ranking such an iconic and storied video game series as Final Fantasy is no easy task. Things that were considered were both each game’s impact upon release and lasting impact. From there, the characters, story, and overall playability were taken into account.
Top Ten Final Fantasy Games – The Best of the Best
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. Finally, MMORPGs are an entirely different style of game, 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.
For games 10-9 (and the rest) click here!
5. Final Fantasy IX
The first entry into the top five was the last installment on the original PlayStation era. With both Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII moving towards more modern and sci-fi takes on the series, Final Fantasy IX returned to the old-school fantasy world that made the series what it was in the first place. This is immediately evident by the character models, which were not scaled with a concern for realism, giving them an appearance unlike any other game in the series.
Besides just their models, the cast stands out above other installments. Overall, the cast of characters is some of the most original of any title. For example, there is the blue mage, Quina. He/she/it is part of the Qin tribe, a chef-like creature with its tongue constantly hanging out. Then, there are other non-humans like Vivi, a childlike black mage, and Freya, a mouse-like lancer. Even the main character Zidane, who was relatively humanoid, has a tail.
As far as the story goes, the game is rather engrossing, with many twists and turns that embody and good Final Fantasy title. It begins with Zidane simply trying to kidnap Princess Garnet of Alexandria. Of course, the players quickly find out that Garnet’s mother is evil, and work to stop her reign of terror. However, there is much more going on from there, as the game that potential players will have to see when they play it for themselves.
4. Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV is a game that is often left out of the top-title consideration. While most would agree that it deserves top-five talk, there aren’t quite as many people who would rate it as the all-time best compared to some of the other installments. Still, Final Fantasy IV was a benchmark in the series for a number of reasons and has aged as well as any of the titles.
For one, FFIV took a major step forward in terms of character development. Final Fantasy I, and the original version of Final Fantasy III did not have individualized characters with their own unique names and backstories. Final Fantasy II did, but there was not a ton of development on them. In FFIV however, character development was a huge part of the plot, something that became a staple as the series progressed.
Cecil Harvey, a Dark Knight, took center stage as the protagonist here. True to his title, Cecil makes some questionable moral decisions early in the game. FFIV also was the first game to also feature an iconic villain in Golbez, and even a sublet of villains, the Four Elemental Archfiends. With plenty of twists, turns, and surprises, those who play this game will be pleasantly surprised at just how good it is.
3. Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X is considered by many to be the pinnacle of the series. It took a huge step forward for the franchise, helped by the fact that it was the first of the titles to be released on the PlayStation 2. Already establishing a reputation for pushing graphical capabilities to their limits, FFX took it to a whole new level and was years ahead of almost any other game in terms of its visuals. Its cinematic quality was also enhanced by it being the first Final Fantasy title to include voice actors.
While the main character, Tidus, might not be a favorite of the series, he still holds his own. He and the rest of the cast act as the summoner Yuna’s “Guardians” as she embarks on a pilgrimage to defeat the larger than life monster Sin. One interesting feature about this game was that since all characters are together basically at all times, the battle system allows players to swap in different party members at any time during battle. Each of them has their own specific role that makes sure they are all used relatively equally. Also, it let players actually control the summons (called Aeons) in battle, which is awesome!
Final Fantasy X is rooted in spiritual undertones, with a melancholy feel to it at times. It is arguably the most emotional of any in the series, aided greatly by the master composer Nobuo Uematsu’s breathtaking soundtrack. To really understand just why the story is so good would induce spoilers, so those that haven’t played will have to see for themselves. Overall, it is an emotional roller coaster that will have players thinking about concepts like life, death, and hope.
2. Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI was no doubt ahead of its time. The game released in Japan all the way back 1994, yet still continues to be ranked not just as one of the greatest Final Fantasy games, but in the greatest RPGs of all time. There are so many iconic scenes and characters in the game: The opera scene, complete with the characters singing in midi form. Then there is Kefka, who has one of the most unique appearances and demeanors of a villain ever. And of course, who could forget the foul-mouthed octopus, Orthos?
One confusing part of FFVI is figuring out who the main character is. Is it Terra, who players start out controlling? Is it Locke, a thief who has more of a hero mentality? Some might argue it should be Shadow, the enigmatic ninja. Regardless, FFVI is full of great characters for the players to enjoy. In fact, it has probably the biggest cast of any game. There are 14 to be exact, including some interesting unlockable characters like Umaro, a Yeti.
Though initially the game has the traditional “overthrow the evil empire” story, it puts a unique spin on it. For one, the game has a baroque feel to it. But, it is juxtaposed with an industrial revolution-like time period. Then, add in all of the magic and mythos of the Final Fantasy series, and VI has a very unique world that draws the players in for hours on end.
1. Final Fantasy VII
This one probably comes as no surprise, but probably the chagrin of some fans. Simply put, the influence of Final Fantasy VII cannot be denied. The game is one of the most iconic video games in history. FFVII was really the game that brought the entire series, and in some ways, RPGs as a whole, into the mainstream. It was so popular that it inspired its own movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, and a prequel, Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation Portable.
Cloud Strife, the protagonist, has even extended beyond RPGs and the series. He was a playable character along with some of the other heroes from FFVII in the fighting game Ehergeiz for PlayStation. Most recently, he joined the humongous roster of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. People who played Final Fantasy Tactics were even able to unlock him as a playable character as well, the first time two Final Fantasy worlds have crossed over.
Aside from the Cloud, the rest of the cast is extremely beloved, each with their own quirks and appearances. Of course, this review would be sorely in question without the mention of Sephiroth, one of the most well-known video game villains ever. He leads the entire gang on a chase to stop him from summoning Meteor to wipe out the entire planet. Throw in the evil corporation Shinra to the mix, along with some crazy scientists, and the world of FFVII is created. The story is complex, yet rolled out so that it is very understandable, with all kinds of side quests to get all the extras that don’t fit in the main vein.
Interestingly, Final Fantasy VII has probably aged the worst of the entire series in terms of graphics and gameplay. Since it was the first 3-D game, it is very clunky by today’s standards. However, this doesn’t stop fans from playing it over and over again.
Last Word on the Top Ten Final Fantasy Video Games
The Final Fantasy series has spawned its own extremely active communities over social media and online in general. They are a place to go for people to nerd out about chocobos, moogles, and Cactuars. Debating the top title is also done frequently in groups for fun. While no ranking will have every fan in complete agreement, one thing that Final Fantasy players can come together on is just how great the franchise has been. Here’s to many more great games for the franchise!
This was part two, where the top five games were ranked. For part one, with all the rest of the rankings, click here!