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Final Fantasy is one of the most iconic franchises in the history of video games. Not only is it one of the most popular names in video game history, but it is also one of the original ones to ever come out. The Final Fantasy name stretches back 30+ years, and within those years have come some of the most iconic stories and experiences the medium has ever seen.
Synonymous with the term JRPG, Final Fantasy defined what turn-based RPGs were supposed to be in the 90s and then slowly shifted their formula to dole out memorable experiences in the 2000s as well. The series then went dormant for quite some time but re-emerged with the fantastic Final Fantasy 14, which is still an incredibly popular game to this day.
Past that, the somewhat divisive Final Fantasy 15 was a pretty large success, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake completely put the franchise back on the map as one of the major contenders in the RPG world.
For me, Final Fantasy 7 was my first 3D RPG. I had played Dragon Quest as a 3-year-old, but it didn’t really grip me, so I didn’t know if RPGs would be for me. Then came Final Fantasy 7, and I was instantly drawn into this wild mix of sci-fi and Fantasy that had a mature tone to it. While the story was interesting, it was the characters that really drew me in.
Cloud, Barrett, Tifa, and co. felt so real to me. This was the first time I saw video game dialogue that sounded like humans. They cursed, they had attitude and personality, and it was the first time a video game looked like it would be focused towards adults, and as a 7-year-old kid, I loved that.
Every Final Fantasy I’ve played since that day has gripped me the same way, and it’s always because of the characters. Say what you want about the series from game to game; one thing that never falls short is the cast of characters they introduce you to.
With that in mind, in this Final Fantasy Characters Guide, we’ll explore the most memorable characters from this amazing franchise. Some entries in the series had more memorable main characters than others, so we might highlight more in one game vs. another.
Final Fantasy I
The Warrior of Light
The one that started it all. The storyline of Final Fantasy I is as simple as it gets, and this was one of the games that just pitted you against the forces of evil without giving much in the way of character backstory either.
The Warrior of Light is as close as you’ll get to a main character here, and he’s the first protagonist in Final Fantasy History. He’s a warrior class character, and that means all other main characters in Final Fantasy basically derive from him.
The first big bad is Garland, and despite him being in the primitive age of gaming, he was still a standout villain. While he wasn’t a character with a ton of depth, he certainly had gravitas and was purely evil throughout the game. He ends up actually being one of the only Final Fantasy villains who actually succeeds in his evil plan, and for that, we have to give Garland the respect he deserves
Final Fantasy II
It wasn’t till the second iteration of Final Fantasy that we started getting some character development with our main crew. Firion was the star of the show in Final Fantasy II, and his personality helped build the legend of the franchise.
A victim of being an orphan, he was taken in by adoptive parents only to have them killed as well when an invasion by the Evil Emperor Mateus invades. So sparks Firion’s call to action to join the rebel movement and set out on a quest to avenge his parents.
Emperor Mateus is the first villain of the series to embrace a flamboyant persona and has one of the most over-the-top designs in the series period. Looking like a cross between Sephiroth and David Bowie, Emperor Mateus had some kind of power trip and declared himself the ultimate judge of humanity, viewing himself as somewhat of a god.
This is the start of a long line of villains who take on a god complex, and this becomes a pattern as we progress through the series.
Final Fantasy III
Luneth leads the cast in Final Fantasy III and is again the typical protagonist with a cross to bear. Luckily, Luneth is a fully customizable character, and because of that, playing as him is a varied experience that can be switched up among the job system.
Arc isn’t the most well-rounded character out there, but he plays a very important role as the main character’s best friend. This is a role that all other RPGs would start to copy from this point forth, as the main character would seldom be without a buddy or a sidekick that would either serve as a tragic loss for them at some point or be right with them until the end of the game.
If you’re wondering where all the Cid’s in Final Fantasy originated from, this is it. In Final Fantasy III, Cid is an inventor who helps the party out in battle from time to time. Whenever he pops up in a game, you can be an airship is attached at some point, and Final Fantasy III is the birth of that trope.
Final Fantasy IV
Kain is one of the coolest designed characters in all of the Final Fantasy, and he introduced us to the Dragoon class of character in the Final Fantasy world. He is the main character, Cecil’s friend and adoptive older brother, but also has feelings for Cecil’s main love interest as well.
Kain is an awesome character who seems like he might turn on Cecil at certain points over their shared love interest Rosa, but he ends up being the best bud you could ask for and is one of the most fun characters to play as in the game.
While the early games were wont to give the spotlight to female characters, Final Fantasy IV turns that on its head with Rydia, the summoner. She’s not only one of the most powerful characters to play as, but she features prominently in the story as well.
She begins enraged at Cecil and Kain over her mother’s death; she starts out as an enemy but eventually softens up and joins the party, and slowly becomes more mature throughout the story. She is one of the most powerful and important characters in Final Fantasy IV.
Golbez is one of the first multi-dimensional villains in the Final Fantasy series. He’s a master manipulator and initially comes off as an ally before revealing himself to be the mastermind behind the hunt for the crystals.
Golbez becomes victim to one of the most annoying Final Fantasy tropes later in the game as it’s revealed he wasn’t the villain, but rather a powerful god-like being named Zemus was controlling his thoughts the whole time.
Not all is bad here, though, as Golbez ends up conquering his possession multiple times to ensure the party survives. He’s a fascinating character and shows the progression of the writing staff when it comes to creating villains for the party to take on.
Final Fantasy V
Bartz is an underrated character because, unlike his other brethren, he just is an adventurer with few other ambitions besides exploration. He actually refuses the call to action made to him by Lenna and, because of that, shows off the individuality, and it’s great to see because not everybody wants to save the world.
He eventually joins her, of course, and becomes a Light Warrior in no time, which of course, sends him on a world-saving journey. Despite this, Bartz remains friendly, cool, and collected throughout and he’s even further humanized by his consistent fear of heights throughout the game.
Lenna Charlotte Tycoon
First of all, that name. Can you get any better than that? Lenna is as badass as they come and is in many ways the main character of Final Fantasy V. She represents the element of water and starts out devoted to finding her missing father before accepting the duties that the Crystal bestows onto her.
She is headstrong, assertive, and altruistic and literally poisons herself at one point to save another being. She’s also naive and hopes to see the best in everyone, which is obviously not always the case. Regardless, she is an awesome character to experience throughout the story.
Galuf is one of the older characters to join up with the main party in a Final Fantasy game. Despite his age, he actually acts the youngest of all the party members, constantly cracking jokes and making fun of people.
He’s an amnesiac, though, and this is all a cover for his lack of identity. He’s an awesome combatant but feels uncomfortable as an authoritative figure. This is an interesting counter to his bravery and determination, as well as his loyalty. He’s an awesome character that adds some bizarre color to a great game.
Exdeath is a very unique villain in Final Fantasy V because he started out like a tree. Yes, you read that right; he was a tree that was fueled by hate and slowly transformed into a Dark Mage. He then goes on an all-out offensive against the warriors of light and ends up not even losing the final battle against them, but rather must be banished.
Final Fantasy VI
Terra is the first female protagonist in Final Fantasy and an awesome one at that. She’s been trained since birth to be a weapon for the Gestahlian Empire, and her intro into the game via the Magitek armor is one of the biggest OMG moments in the history of the franchise, as it finally marked a shift from pure Fantasy to something a little bit more sci-fi oriented.
Terra is a powerful magic user who joins up with a rebel group to stop the Gestahlian Empire from conquering the world. She’s incredibly powerful and is scared by her own power at first, until realizing she needs to use it to save the world. A reluctant hero, Terra is one of the more interesting characters in Final Fantasy VI’s amazing cast.
Related read: Complete Terra Branford Guide.
Depending on who you ask, many Final Fantasy fans would say Kefka is the best villain in the history of the franchise, and they wouldn’t be wrong.
Seemingly a harmless jester at the start of the game, Kefka is revealed to be much more than that as he eventually turns on the Emperor, takes power for himself, and his genocidal tendencies take hold and transform him into the most horrifying Final Fantasy villain we’ve seen to date. He has an unfathomable bloodlust and is wildly unpredictable and even quite funny as well.
He is also a villain who has a god complex, except….he actually becomes a god at one point and even destroys the world. A lot of villains think they’re gods and want to destroy everything, but Kefka actually does it.
Final Fantasy VII
You don’t just head up what could be considered the greatest video game of all time by being a boring hero, and Cloud Strife is nothing close to the sort. Starting out as a mercenary taking on just another job, Cloud quickly gets pulled onto an insane ride that explores his amnesiac past, his real identity, and his relationship with Sephiroth, aka the villain out to destroy everything.
He’s moody at the start but eventually warms up to the other characters and even begins one of gaming’s most tragic romances that, to this day, fans haven’t gotten over. Cloud also has one of the most iconic weapons in Final Fantasy history in the form of the Buster Sword, a massive, oversized blade that he carries on his back.
It was a tough choice between Aerith and Tifa, but Aerith is the more iconic character in many ways. She’s one of the first female protagonists in Final Fantasy that felt modern, and her personality just bursts off the screen with her quirky behavior and flirtiness with Cloud.
She’s not just some innocent flower girl, though, Aerith is actually a descendant of an ancient civilization of gifted beings, and she uses this gift in one last gasp to save the world and pays the ultimate price for doing so. We are still crying 23 years later.
Barrett is the first African American cast member in a Final Fantasy game, and he is one of the most loveable and hilarious characters in any game ever. He’s also a massive badass with a freakin machine gun for a hand, but in between that, he’s grounded by his relationship with his daughter Marlene and the responsibility of leading Avalanche, a group of Eco terrorists.
His relationship with Cloud is amazing to watch develop, and the role he takes as a leader throughout the game is amazing to watch. He’s also the first character I ever saw curse in a game, so that was something amazing to see as well.
Perhaps the most iconic in Final Fantasy history, Sephiroth is one of the best-written characters in any medium ever. Period. The hero of the militant group SOLDIER, Sephiroth, makes a startling discovery that he is a genetic experiment and not even human causes him to completely lose his mind and destroy the town of Nibelheim where Cloud and Tifa grew up.
From there, his delusions grow as his influence by the alien Jenova causes him to seek the total destruction of the planet he once fought for. Sephiroth cuts a striking figure in a black and silver jacket surrounded by his long silver hair and equipped impossibly long sword, the Masamune Sword.
His relationship with Cloud is a fascinating one to watch develop, and his status of hero to complete evil is as interesting villain’s as the Final Fantasy series has shown us to date.
Final Fantasy VIII
Love him or hate him, Squall is one of the most unique protagonists in Final Fantasy history. He’s moody, rude, and overall a pretty big jerk throughout the majority of the story. Despite that, he does the right thing, has a good heart, and is brave as can be, even willing to kill himself in order to complete the mission or save the one he loves.
His journey is epic, and the character growth he shows along with the romance he has with Rinoa are some of the best the series has to offer. He also has one of the best weapons in the form of the Gunblade, a sword with the hilt of a pistol that can be fired off in cohesion with slashes in combat to create an explosive attack.
Seifer is one interesting character. The foil to Squall in many ways, his initial appearance and personality is that of your typical high school bully. He also dated Rinoah prior to Squall, so they clash in that regard as well. He also wields a Gunblade and is an enemy you’ll face throughout Final Fantasy VIII.
He’s the bully in Balamb Garden who comes off as one-dimensional, but later in the game, you discover he’s the personal bodyguard for the evil sorceress Edea. This seems out of character for him until you see one of the deepest dives in history, which has you play as another character named Laguna where you’re playing a part in a movie where you fight a dragon to save a princess.
In this scene which is a flashback, Laguna uses Seifer’s stance while holding a sword. In the early part of the game, Seifer mentions how he’s always wanted to be a knight defending a princess since seeing that movie. Having this all come together is a fascinating culmination for his character that takes a few playthroughs to fully get the genius of.
Rinoa is Squall’s doomed love interest and a powerful sorcerer who gets possessed by multiple evil sorceresses during the story. She’s friendly, incredibly brave, and optimistic and her dog Angelo is every bit as loveable as well.
She falls for Squall quickly, and that love begins to twist into her sorcerer powers within her mind, slowly turning her into a being of mass destruction who compresses time in order to be with the one she loves forever.
This is how I chose to interpret the story, and there really is no definitive explanation otherwise. She’s one of the most interesting characters in any game I’ve played, and her tragic spiral towards the end of the game is incredibly powerful.
Final Fantasy IX
Zidane is one of the most unique looking of all Final Fantasy protagonists. After FF7 and FF8 featured very human-looking main characters, Zidane was a shock as he’s undersized and has a tail.
Zidane starts out as a mischievous thief and accidentally ends up with Princess Garnet, who is seeking an escape from her royal duties and is intrigued by Zidane’s freewheeling nature. He’s brave, funny, and incredibly loyal and makes for a breath of fresh air after the past two entries more somber and moody protagonists.
He, of course, ends up being much, much more than he initially seems, and the origin behind his tail is one of the wilder developments in the game.
Vivi is one of the most amazing characters in Final Fantasy history. His design is that of a Black Mage, a classic Final Fantasy character type, but this appearance completely throws us off guard as he has one of the most tragic discoveries in gaming history at one point that throws his entire identity into a tailspin.
Even despite the hardships he encounters, he’s hopeful, appreciative, and overall an excellent companion to have with you during the wild story of Final Fantasy IX.
Despite heavy competition, Kuja is one of the best villains Final Fantasy has to offer. He’s a gunrunner who is obsessed with power, and he’s magically gifted as well. Kuja has some memorable monologues throughout the game and, unlike Zidane, is well aware of his origins and hides the tail he has in order to rid himself of his past.
Kuja is a tragic villain who has been programmed to die by his creator Garland. He goes insane at this notion, feeling the world should not be able to exist without him, and uses this notion to obtain a massive power that ends up threatening to destroy all existence.
He’s a fascinating villain and, despite his somewhat comical appearance, is a tragic character with understandable motivations and anger. He’s right up there with Sephiroth and Kefka in my book.
Final Fantasy X
Without spoiling anything, get the tears ready for your journey with Tidus. He starts out as your average futuristic sports star until his entire world is thrown on its head by the invasion of the being known as Sin, and what happens from there is one of the most bizarre and imaginative stories that Final Fantasy has to offer.
Tidus is fun-loving, naive, and incredibly brave and brightens up every scene he’s in. He’s also the first protagonist to have voice acting, and luckily, it’s a great improvement that brings a ton of life to his character.
The epitome of badass, Auron is a one-handed swordsman with one eye who used to be Tidus’s father’s best friend and remains a mysterious guiding presence throughout the game.
Most Final Fantasy games save their most badass characters for later in the game, but you get Auron right off the bat here, and he’s got an incredible design to him, and his voice actor is the perfect mix of subdued and stern.
His story becomes clearer as you discover more about Yuna’s father, Braska, and the pilgrimage he went on with Tidus’s father, Jecht, and Auron at his side. He also has one of the coolest special attacks in Final Fantasy X, creating a flaming tornado that he unleashes at his enemies.
Yuna is given the unpleasant task of taking a pilgrimage to save the world like her father did before her. She is young, ambitious, and headstrong, and she cares deeply for the companions willing to support her during her trek.
She is in command of some of the most powerful beings in existence called Aeons, and her quest to gather them on her way to defeat Sin is an incredible one, and she is in many ways the hero of this story. Her relationship with Tidus is also one of the better love stories in RPG history, and how it all ends is just incredible.
Related Reads: Check out our complete Yuna Guide.
Final Fantasy XII
Did you know that Basch was initially supposed to be the main character of Final Fantasy XII? They threw in Vaan at the last minute in order to achieve mainstream appeal, but that doesn’t stop Basch from being the main attraction. Basch is easily the most mature character in Final Fantasy’s protagonist history, and his voice acting and the character design are both top-notch.
Basch is a disgraced knight who has been wrongly accused of killing a king. He’s fiercely loyal to Dalmasca and does everything in his power to protect Ashe throughout the story. He’s a genius in war strategy, a cunning combatant, and the biggest twists of the story concern him and his family. It’s clear Basch was always supposed to be the focus of this story.
Ashe is a warrior princess who has lost everything dear to her. As the sole heir to the throne of Dalmasca, she’s forced to go on the run after an invasion threatens her life.
She’s incredibly independent yet knows she alone can’t do anything to avenge her kingdom and family. The main storyline follows her journey to acquire the power needed to avenge her kingdom, so you can also consider Ashe the protagonist as well. Both her and Basch overshadow “main character” Vaan so badly it’s embarrassing.
Final Fantasy XIII
Lightning is the protagonist of Final Fantasy XIII and has one of the best designs of any main character in the series. She’s a stoic character who is incredibly strong. What starts as a quest to save her younger sister Serah becomes a massive plot to save her homeworld.
The sequels take her on some crazy paths as well, and she ends up being the savior of all existence. Lightning might be the only good thing about the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy in my eyes.
Final Fantasy XV
Noctis is the main character in the long-awaited FF15, and he fits the hero build well as a prince being sent on a journey to meet with his childhood love and secure an alliance.
Along the way, he matures, takes on massive responsibility, and even makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to save his best friends and the rest of the world. He’s got an endless amount of abilities in combat, and the voice acting is rock solid all the way through.
Ignis is essentially Noctis’s butler, but he’s also the most fiercely loyal companion in Final Fantasy history. At a certain point in the story, Ignis gets blinded, and there’s no mention of how.
Then we play his DLC and see just what he sacrifices in order to ensure Noctis’s safety. With this additional content, he cements himself as one of the best characters ever, and in Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition, you can play as him throughout the whole game if you’d like, and his twin dagger combat is incredibly fun and completely different from Noctis.
The Kefka or Sephiroth for the new generation, Ardyn starts off as an ally before revealing his true intentions. He’s a clever and brilliant manipulator that has you marching to the beat of his drum throughout the entirety of the game until he completely pulls the rug out from under you.
His past shows a tragic backstory that reveals he was heir to the throne of Insomnia until his brother disgraced him and stole the throne.
Question: Which Final Fantasy Game Should I Start With?
Answer: Most of the games are completely separate from each other, so you can’t really go wrong with any of them. If you want the one that has the best mix of graphics and gameplay though, I would start with either Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy VIII. Both have a modern look to them with some awesome stories and incredible battles.
Question: Are any Final Fantasy Games Multiplayer?
Answer: The main titles are single-player, but there are games like Final Fantasy 14 and even Final Fantasy 15 that have multiplayer. Final Fantasy 14 in particular is one of the most popular MMORPGs in the world, so if you like Final Fantasy and want to play with your friends, that’s the way to go.
Question: How Long Does it Take to Beat these Games?
Answer: Final Fantasy as a series, is known for having some extremely long games. The majority of these will take 50-80 hours to finish and they all have loads of optional content like side quests and hidden super bosses. They are the epics of the videogame world.
As you can see, there’s an incredible amount of epic characters in this incredible series, and no matter what title you choose to play, you’ll have several awesome characters along the way.
Continue reading related Final Fantasy character guides