- Hermes FFXIV Guide - February 2, 2023
- Every Final Fantasy Game Ranked - January 28, 2023
- Hydaelyn FFXIV Guide: Facing your Maker - January 22, 2023
In 2022, Final Fantasy turned 35 years old. The beloved saga has graced us with countless masterpieces for almost four decades.
No wonder the series created by Hironobu Sakaguchi is one of the main culprits for popularizing JRPGs in the West and introducing this fantastic genre to the masses.
But which is the best Final Fantasy? As often happens in these cases, the answer to this question is very personal, and each player must answer for themselves.
I’m sure these stories, characters, and gameplay features didn’t speak to all of us in the same way. Nevertheless, whether it’s blind nostalgia or personal preference, we are inclined to choose one Final Fantasy over another.
The “your first will always be your favorite” statement is, after all, quite true. Perhaps, like me, you recall a child-like version of yourself sitting on a couch, delving into the bewitching narrative and world-building marvels of Final Fantasy for the first time. Each game grips you forcefully and does not let go.
Still, I wanted to dive into the Macalania Lake and I’ll have every FInal Fantasy game ranked ordered from worst to best.
Ranking all of my favorite franchise’s games is a mean task, but one that I willingly signed up for.
In this section, I’d like to clarify which games will be covered and which aspects were analyzed to decide which number they should be assigned.
To be a part of this ranking, the game must be part of the main entries in the Final Fantasy franchise. Unfortunately, this means no sequels or spinoffs have been included. Sorry, Crisis Core, Tactics, and Dissidia fans!
As the ranking of all Final Fantasy games narrows down to number 1, the following aspects of the game stop verging on the average side and start leaning towards excellence.
- A compelling storyline
- A mesmerizing OST
- Immervise worldbuilding
- Actually entertaining sidequests
- An engaging gameplay
- Charismatic characters
Without further ado, let’s dive into the ranking.
What Is the Best Final Fantasy Game?
15. Final Fantasy II (1988)
Final Fantasy II is one of the most peculiar and strange deliveries of the whole saga.
Hironobu Sakaguchi and his team bet on making a sequel that disrupted the canon established by the JRPGs of the time.
On the one hand, its narrative was enhanced over its predecessor. But, on the other hand, it has a more mature and darker story that seeks to capture all the rawness involved in a war against an evil empire.
Nowadays, we remember this second part is for its peculiar progression system.
Instead of betting on the classic accumulation of experience to level up, our characters would increase their stats and skills based on what they did in combat. For example, if we wanted to increase our expertise in handling swords, we would attack with one. If we wanted to increase our maximum health points, we would have to take damage during confrontations.
On paper, it sounds great. But it turned against us, as we relied entirely on luck for our heroes to get some improvement at the end of a fight.
This leveling system ended up being frustrating, confusing, and tedious.
As you can guess, this slowed the game’s development enormously and ruined any rhythm.
The game also had some of the worst-designed dungeons in the whole series.
Despite these flaws, it is also one of the most influential Final Fantasy. Some of the features we take for granted today date back to this game: dragoons, Cid, or riding on the back of a Chocobo.
Also, watch out for its soundtrack. It’s an absolute delight composed by Nobuo Uematsu.
14. Final Fantasy XV (2016)
Though Final Fantasy XV has plenty of advocates, it left me with a bittersweet aftertaste.
Don’t get me wrong, this placement does not mean that it is a bad game, but its turbulent development and questionable post-release policy tarnished a product that aspired to be much more than it was.
Things like a straightforward combat system with few possibilities, a confusing narrative that mutilated and chopped up its interesting story into different mediums, or its boring side quest design were hard to overlook.
After all, what other JRPG has ever needed patches to add video sequences so the storyline could be properly understood?
Little by little, Square Enix began fixing some of the game’s problems through free updates and paid content, including a Royal Pack dedicated to improving the final chapter of the adventure.
I can’t get over the fact that I only got to enjoy an incomplete and unfinished version as a player who supported the game by buying it during its launch. And if I wanted to enjoy many of these improvements, I would have to pay more than the rest.
Despite the disastrous management of the title (which, by the way, ended with the cancellation of its second Season Pass with its respective half-released DLC), I have to acknowledge that Final Fantasy XV: Royal Edition is currently a highly recommended purchase that offers us tons of content, extras, and improvements that add to its initial virtues (dungeons, characters, story background, graphics, art, the overwhelming soundtrack by the inimitable Yoko Shimomura, etcetera). It all makes the fifteenth Final Fantasy much more worthy of our time and worthy of bearing its legendary name.
13. Final Fantasy XIII (2009)
Shocker! Final Fantasy XIII is not at the bottom of the list? Your surprise is perfectly understandable since many consider this was the installment with which the saga abandoned excellence. Finally, after three generations in which it delivered one masterpiece after the other, Final Fantasy XIII came around.
Sure, this Final Fantasy is far from outstanding. It has some significant errors that are difficult to forgive, such as its null level design (you probably have read the “hallway simulator jokes) and its incomprehensible bet to make us waste an hour of our time reading a glossary to learn how the world works or a cast of somewhat erratic protagonists with whom it was not always easy to connect.
Still, I must admit that I found its combat system entertaining and enjoyable. Each boss was a new spectacle, and its story plunged me into a fascinating and unique world with an extraordinary approach within the saga.
Plus, as soon as it hits third gear, the script shows a pretty good rhythm and intense moments.
Also, watch out for the graphics, art direction, and soundtrack (the musical work done here by Masashi Hamauzu is practically flawless). In short, Final Fantasy XIII was far from the greats but wasn’t as bad as most remember it.
12. Final Fantasy (1987)
Make way for the game that started it all. A workpiece that came in the wake of the JRPG craze unleashed in Japan thanks to Dragon Quest.
Make no mistake; this does not mean Final Fantasy did not have its original ideas or found a signature of its own.
As you can guess, being the first title in the series, it is the simplest and most basic of them all.
Still, class options added depth to the game and opened many playable possibilities. Some other multitudes of features, such as the search for elemental crystals or the birth of now classic enemies.
It even introduced a plot twist so unexpected and surprising that it caught all the players of the time off guard. At the end of the 80s, video games were yet to be characterized precisely by having a particularly elaborate narrative.
The years have yet to be kind to the first entry. An unbalanced difficulty design, way-too-frequent random encounters, and the erratic dungeon design can tarnish its enjoyment today.}}}
Be what it may, we cannot deny that it plays a crucial role in understanding how the industry has evolved. Therefore, it deserves the greatest of my respects (F-smash) and all my admiration for everything it stands for.
11. Final Fantasy III (1990)
Despite the success of the first two installments, Final Fantasy experienced its first breakthrough in quality when the arrival of third game. Final Fantasy III would become one of the most defining entries of the entire series by introducing a polished job system. The game featured the classes seen in the original title and introduced many new ones. You had the opportunity to join a group of four heroes on a magical journey around the world.
Maybe the story was just your average simplistic fairy tale, but being able to unlock new classes and switch the professions of our heroes whenever we wanted was enormously addictive and gave us a considerable amount of possibilities. In addition, final Fantasy III introduced job flexibility that broke with the one-class-per-game constraints.
This translated into a seamless progression system capable of carrying the entire game on its back. That’s not to say it didn’t gift memorable and iconic moments to its players. For example, who could forget the final stretch in the Crystal Tower, a long and arduous dungeon crowned by a challenging wave of bosses in succession, leading towards a faceoff against the Cloud of Darkness to save the world?
10. Final Fantasy XI (2002)
A saga so rooted in single-player experiences venturing into the MMORPG market caught us completely off guard at the time, even more so when the game was not handled as a spin-off but as the eleventh installment of the saga.
However, after countless hours in the eleventh Final Fantasy, it earned its name. It offers one of the best and most respected titles of the genre.
Eighteen years after its release, Final Fantasy XI is still active and has a loyal base of players who continue to enjoy every day what Vana’Diel has to offer.
As with other MMORPGs from the franchise, it continues to evolve and expand to this very day. Final Fantasy XI has shifted from a brutally demanding and unforgiving title to a much lighter, friendly, and accessible experience that offers many alternatives to play solo.
The game’s overwhelming content, fantastic Final Fantasy III and V class system, fascinating world, characters, and story are the main culprits for making the whole experience feel like a proper Final Fantasy.
9. Final Fantasy XII (2006)
Ah, yes. Another controversial and divisive entry.
Final Fantasy XII usually divides the Final Fantasy fandom. However, this workpiece has gained fans over the years, gradually regaining value. At launch, it was a somewhat disruptive delivery. Final Fantasy XII was full of new ideas that either did not resonate with the usual fans or were poorly understood.
In charge of directing Final Fantasy XII was none other than Yasumi Matsuno, who had already showcased with games like Vagrant Story or Final Fantasy Tactics that everything he touches turns into gold. Matsuno offered more mature, complex, raw RPGs with a solid and fascinating political component.
Its strongest virtue is its brilliant combat system and gambits, thanks to which we could program the AI of our heroes to the tiniest detail to automate most of our actions during combats and develop all kinds of strategies as required by the situation.
Thanks to the gambit system, the classic turn-based battles became more dynamic by allowing us to move through the scenarios in real time while respecting the waiting times for the execution of actions and commands. In addition, thanks to the gambits, we were saved from having to do a multitude of routine micro-management that would have hindered the rhythm of the battles.
Unfortunately, Matsuno’s departure hindered the game’s development, resulting in a disastrous last third that ruined a flawless first half narratively and gameplay-wise. Also, the inclusion of Vaan and Penelo as main characters felt forced.
These two characters, who had absolutely nothing to do with the story and felt shoehorned in by Square Enix’s demands, disconnected many players from the story’s unfolding. Final Fantasy XII could have easily been one of the greatest masterpieces of the game if not overshadowed by its development issues.
8. Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Divisive Final Fantasy entries keep coming with the eighth installment of the series. Final Fantasy VIII is a game loved by some and forgotten by most. The game didn’t convince most Final Fantasy players.
Seeing how Final Fantasy VIII goes against the franchise’s tide, I understand the apathy.
This entry tried to implement way too many features, some with more success than others. Enemies leveled up according to our characters’ level, making leveling up counterproductive as battles became harder and harder.
The extraction and magic link systems were another controversial point since they led players to break the game as soon as they mastered it. To top it all, the story did not end up being to everyone’s liking because of the way it solved some of its key points and how poorly it explained others.
Still, Final Fantasy VIII had so many quirks and unique details that no other RPG has offered. Besides, it celebrated authentic moments like the SeeD exam or Edea’s assassination attempt. The bosses were well-designed, the audiovisual aspect was terrific, and the summons was so spectacular that I rarely got tired of seeing them. Also worth mentioning is its addictive card mini-game and the vast amount of content and secrets it hid, guaranteeing hours and hours of fun.
7. Final Fantasy V (1992)
The case of Final Fantasy V is quite strange since it is one of those few JRPGs capable of compensating for everything it lacks at the plot level with its gameplay. Unfortunately, the title has one of the series’ worst and most boring stories and characters that lack charisma. But its progression and combat system are undoubtedly one of my favorites of the entire saga.
In essence, the battles use the ATB system that debuted in the fourth installment and added the job system of Final Fantasy III, but improving it, expanding it, and polishing it to the last detail. As a result, it offers endless possibilities to develop your characters thanks to its massive flexibility.
You had better master all these systems to survive what could easily be considered the most challenging and complicated Final Fantasy. The bosses can tear you to shreds in minutes if you aren’t well prepared.
Throw in a classic world with much charm, good dungeons, and a spectacular soundtrack full of great songs into the mix, and you will have a great game that only sometimes gets the recognition deserves. Final Fantasy V fed many generations of JRPGs to come.
6. Final Fantasy X (2001)
Final Fantasy’s debut on PlayStation 2 delivered one of the series’ most emotional and touching stories. The journey of Tidus, Yuna, Auron, and company is unforgettable and leaves a mark on the player. Final Fantasy X touches upon sensitive themes with elegance, engaging you in the tragedies of the main characters and other inhabitants of the world. It all climaxes with a simply perfect ending.
I don’t care what anyone says. Final Fantasy X’s story ends with the original and not the sequel. Don’t mind me. I’m just kicking my Final Fantasy X-2 copy under the bed to erase its existence.
But Final Fantasy X’s excellent delivery continues beyond the top-tier story. The gameplay aspect is also accomplished with a combat system that returns to the classic turns with a tiny tactical twist. It was also the first entry to allow summons to stay and fight alongside us, thus adding much weight to Yuna’s role as a Summoner.
I wouldn’t dare overlook Blitzball, probably one of the best and most elaborate mini-games I’ve ever seen in any JRPG.
In short, Final Fantasy X is a true classic that was only slightly marred by a somewhat flat and “passive” level design, tedious achievement of certain secrets, and a progression system through a board that, far from being awful, did not quite hit the mark.
5. Final Fantasy XIV (2013)
I didn’t see Final Fantasy XIV coming. When its original version was released, I sat down to play, without a hint of doubt, the worst MMORPG ever.
It was a completely broken and dysfunctional game that did almost nothing right. Square Enix itself recognized it as an indelible stain on the series.
Luckily, the story ended happily when Naoki Yoshida and his team took up the reins of the project and reshaped it into not only one of the best MMORPGs on the market but a different game. As a result, final Fantasy XIV was reborn as a game capable of rubbing shoulders with the best traditional Final Fantasy entries.
A Realm Reborn delighted players with everything that makes an installment of this franchise great: a solid story, a great combat system, well-designed bosses and dungeons, a stunning audiovisual section, and lots of quality content I fell in love with. Since then, it has continued evolving and improving, and expansions like Shadowbringers or Endwalker have delivered some of the best scripts and characters of the entire series.
Final Fantasy XIV is undoubtedly one of my great favorites.
4. Final Fantasy IV (1991)
Fantasy IV is one of the real heavyweights of the saga. In fact, I consider the fourth installment as the first great Final Fantasy. It’s a game with which the series reached excellence.
Final Fantasy IV stands tall with its careful and elaborate narrative, unforgettable characters, unexpected twists, high dramatic charge, and innovative ATB combat system.
The classic turn-based combat gave way to something more dynamic that forced you to wait for the time bar of your heroes to fill up so that you could act. This mechanic was so innovative and revolutionary that it would remain in the saga until the ninth Final Fantasy. It brought much fluidity and added a unique touch to the confrontations that ultimately distinguished it from other genre titles.
What also made the title special was making each character have a predetermined class you could not change (unless the script dictated it). Hence, they were wholly unique and fulfilled a specific role you had to consider to plot your strategies.
Variety and flexibility were sacrificed for a greater identity and relevance in the game’s main characters and jobs, both in terms of gameplay and storyline.
Quick trivia: can you remember Kain without remembering his iconic class?
Final Fantasy IV is A true marvel that has stood the test of time. It still boasts a fantastic world, well-designed dungeons, a beautiful soundtrack full of iconic compositions, a challenging but well-balanced difficulty design, many secrets, and a charming script that takes us to the same moon.
My fangirling is showing, but it’s no wonder. Final Fantasy IV is fundamental to understanding the franchise and JRPGs in general.
3. Final Fantasy VII (1997)
It may not have made it to the top of the list, but no one can deny that Final Fantasy VII is not only one of the most relevant games of the franchise but also one of the most relevant in the history of our much-beloved hobby.
A title so good, epic, and immersive through which Squaresoft gave everything and brought the genre to the masses, popularizing it in the West and revealing what a great JRPG was for the first time.
Cloud’s adventure is a living industry history and has managed to transcend all kinds of barriers. Final Fantasy VIII engrossed players with its script broke their hearts at the end of the first disc, left them open-mouthed with its cinematics and summoning, delighted their ears with its OST, and amused them with its addictive combat and materia system. It’s a feast for the senses.
How could I not praise a game that has marked a whole generation of players and has meant so much to many people?
Still, what speaks wonders about this franchise is that, despite all of Final Fantasy VII’s virtues, two installments rank above it.
2. Final Fantasy IX (2000)
Squaresoft bid farewell to the 32-bit generation with a masterpiece of the genre that continues to resonate and move players today as it did 20 years ago. But, of course, I am talking about Final Fantasy IX, a game with which the company decided to return to the classic fantasy, sword, and sorcery stories that characterized the first titles.
What I did not expect at that time was a game that turned out so flawlessly; it left a trail of permanent memories.
From the beginning, it is the best and most memorable of the entire series, with an initial two hours that justifies the purchase. But it doesn’t stop there: the cast of characters was charming and charismatic, the script tackled severe issues and always managed to give critical and positive messages, the adventure is full of epic and unforgettable moments, the music is an absolute delight, and the visual level was a real technical achievement for its time.
If I had to draw a fault, I would probably only say one name, Eternal Darkness, which does not prevent it from earning the spot as one of my favorite JRPGS of all time and an adventure full of magic that any fan of the genre and video games, in general, should try at least once in their life.
1. Final Fantasy VI (1994)
Here we are at the end of the list with Final Fantasy VI.
The Final Fantasy franchise is full of masterpieces. Still, none has impressed me in the same way as Final Fantasy VI, a simply perfect JRPG with everything: graphics, art, music, story, characters, dungeons, combat and progression system, easter eggs, length, optional content, etc.
This adventure gets everything right, from an incredible story full of cruel twists that change absolutely everything to exquisite character development and evolution. The game features a gallery of charismatic and numerous heroes who undergo an unprecedented amount of iconic and memorable moments. During the story, they will engage in challenging combats full of possibilities when planning strategies and developing protagonists.
In addition, it concealed a thousand secrets and curiosities that rarely failed to surprise me.
But above all, what Final Fantasy VI had was a spectacular villain. Kefka could be a buffoon, but he was a dangerous clown, unpredictable and acting out of pure malice that we would soon learn to fear.
He needed no childhood traumas or motives to be evil. Instead, he acted on impulse and how much he enjoyed committing heinous acts of inhuman cruelty. That was what made him so frightening and always kept us on our toes.
It is often said that the quality of its villain measures the quality of a story, and this game is an excellent example of this.
Final Fantasy VI is an adventure that I continue to replay to this day. It continues to thrill and entertains me as if it were the first time, reminding me every minute why I love this magical and wonderful saga so much.
Question: Which Final Fantasy should I start with?
Answer: We could split the Final Fantasy franchise into two eras: the old era (pre-Final Fantasy XVII) and the “modern” one (post-Final Fantast XVII). The old Final Fantasy games appeal to most, while the modern ones introduced a twist to the genre.
So, to get the best of both worlds, perhaps you could start with Final Fantasy VI and then leap into Final Fantasy VII. This transition will undoubtedly give you a taste of the massive shift in the franchise.
Question: How many Final Fantasy spinoffs are there?
Answer: Believe it or not, there are 78 spinoff titles of Final Fantasy.
Question: Which is the most successful Final Fantasy?
Answer: Surprisingly enough, the game that sold more copies was Final Fantasy VII (over 13 million).
All Final Fantasy games share a common thread; some elements are present in every game in the series. However, just as there is a common thread, the gameplay has consistently offered new systems and stories.
Final Fantasy has not earned its reputation by chance. The title created by Hironobu Sakaguchi in the eighties saved Squaresoft from bankruptcy. It became a clear competitor of Dragon Quest, although fate and circumstances have wanted both sagas sheltered under the same umbrella after the merger of Square and Enix.
After more than thirty years, dozens of video games on the market, and many stories told, Final Fantasy proves to have earned a -rather big- place in the gamer community’s heart.