The first Final Fantasy game was clearly based upon Dungeons & Dragons. The resemblance was so strong that they had to change one of the enemies before the game could be released in America, lest they be sued. Much like Dungeons & Dragons, the Final Fantasy series is filled with dungeons, each one like a maze, filled with random encounters against monsters, and conveniently placed treasure chests. These locations form the backbone of the RPG genre. Most of the fun in fantasy video games comes from tackling these villainous hideouts, defeating the big boss, and coming out with armfuls of treasure.
With the Final Fantasy series consisting of so many games, it is only natural that some of the dungeons would be sub-par. They might have annoying puzzles, or too many random encounters. The dungeon might have some special rules that ruin the whole experience. We are here today to name and shame the Final Fantasy levels that wanted to make us switch off our consoles. From the forest filled with annoying plant puzzles, to the dreaded ice level that ruined one of the most dramatic scenes in gaming history. Here are the 15 Worst Final Fantasy Dungeons.
15. FF7- The Ancient Forest
This dungeon places low on the list due to the fact that it’s optional. In order to gain access to the Ancient Forest, you need to defeat Ultima Weapon in several different battles. Once it is killed, the Ultima Weapon will crash into the Earth, and create a path to the Forest. You could also go through the long and arduous process of breeding a green (or better) chocobo.
The Ancient Forest is filled with plant based puzzles. You are given the opportunity to catch flies and frogs, and experiment with how the local man-eater plants react to them. This involves feeding a group of hanging plants, so that you can use them as platforms. The whole thing is incredibly tedious, especially if you don’t have a guide to help you. The developers must have thought so too, as they give you the option to fast travel to the entrance at any time.
After all of the messing around, the only treasure worth finding in the Ancient Forest is the Apocalypse. This is Cloud’s only sword that grants triple materia growth, and is useful for people who want to take on the Weapon monsters.
14. FF4 – Lodestone Cavern
Some games insist upon using dungeons that have a gimmick. Whether these dungeons are fun or not really depends on what the gimmick is. Take the Legend of Zelda series for example. The Timeshift Stone dungeons in Skyward Sword were a lot of fun, as you had to reverse time within the radius of the stone in order to solve puzzles. This meant using your brain, and you were rewarded for figuring out the dungeon’s secrets. On the other hand, you have the infamous Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, where the gimmick revolved around restricting Link’s movement, and making everything go slower than it needed to be.
The Lodestone Cavern (also known as the Magnetic Cave) in Final Fantasy IV prohibits you from using any metal equipment. If a character uses anything made of metal within the dungeon, then they will be unable to move for the duration of any battles you have. This forces you to change things around a bit. Cecil is pretty much useless for most of this dungeon. As a Paladin, his whole shtick is wearing plate armour, and fighting with a sword & shield. You have to take all of that off inside the dungeon. Cid can use his Wooden Hammer weapon (which isn’t great), but he cannot use any metal equipment (like a shield). Most of your fighting will fall onto Yang and Tellah. Yang’s only useful trait is his Kick ability, which allows you to hit all of the enemies at once. Tellah is a powerful mage, but he is severely limited by his low maximum MP score, which means you cannot rely on him to carry you through the dungeon.
13. FF6 – The Cultist’s Tower
Speaking of restrictive gimmick dungeons…
In Final Fantasy VI, Kefka becomes the God of magic, and destroys parts of the world with his newfound power. This inspires a cult to worship him, and they convert a tower into a temple. You can access the Cultist’s Tower during the second half of the game, but you best be prepared before venturing in, as it is like no other dungeon in the game.
The Cultist’s Tower restricts the party from using any command other than “Magic” and “Item.” The only exception to this is Umaro, as he is set into a permanent berserk state. The party must climb the tower, and can only battle its residents using magic or items. The thing is, a lot of the enemies have a built in Reflect status, which severely limits your attack options. Some enemies can only be defeated by draining their MP, which is a very lengthy process. The most annoying part of the Cultist’s Tower is the final boss. The Magic Master awaits you at the top of the Tower, and when he dies, he casts an Ultima spell. If you don’t know this going in, then there is a good chance that he will get a revenge kill on the party, and force you to restart the game. The safest way to defeat him is to drain his MP, which will take a very long time.
If there is one positive thing about the Cultist’s Tower, it is the treasure you get for completing it. The Soul of Thamasa relic awaits you at the top of the Tower. When equipped, the Soul of Thamasa allows you to cast two spells in one turn.
12. FFT – Merchant City Of Dorter
Final Fantasy Tactics has one of the weirdest difficulty curves in gaming. The first half of the game pulls no punches, and will throw you into extremely difficult fights. The game takes the Spartan approach to parenting, and expects you to learn how everything works straight away. After you have learnt how to abuse the combat system, the game gives you T.G. Cid, the most broken character in Final Fantasy history. With Cid on your side, the remainder of the game becomes laughably easy.
One of the most unfairly difficult battles in Final Fantasy Tactics happens very early on. The fifth story battle in the game takes place in Dorter Trade City. You must face off against an enemy force that starts out with a massive terrain advantage against you.
The battle in Dorter Trade City pits you against three Archers, two Black Mages, and a Knight. One of the Archers starts off on top of a very tall building. He will be able to attack your party for several turns, before you can move a unit in place to retaliate. In order to proceed towards the other units, you have to move through a choke point created by several of the buildings. It is here that the Black Mages and remaining Archers will rain death upon your troops, as they try and bypass the Knight.
If this battle took place later in the game, then it wouldn’t be too much of a problem. The fact that it happens this early, at a point when you are at a low level and can only buy crappy equipment, is what makes it so unfair.
11. FF1 – The Earth Cavern
The original Final Fantasy can be forgiven for a lot of its issues. It came out almost thirty years ago, and was one of the earliest games in the JRPG genre. The developers of the game were still learning how to code on Nintendo hardware (which might explain why the game has so many bugs).
Final Fantasy has one incredibly frustrating section, and we know for a fact that it wasn’t caused by a bug, because it has appeared in the remakes of the game. Within the Earth Cavern, there exists a corridor that is known as the “Hall of Giants” by fans.
Within the first floor of the Earth Cavern, there exists a corridor that you can access by travelling left from the entrance. If you walk down this corridor, then you will activate a battle with every single step you take. In each battle, you will have to face a creature known as a Hill Gigas, who are one of the most powerful creatures in the dungeon.
The only advantage to the Hall of Giants is that the Hill Gigas drops a lot of gold and EXP. If you know what you are doing, then you can use the entrance of the Hall to spawn a fight, and throw everything you have at them. The only thing a new player can expect to find in this Hall, however, is death.
10. FF3 – The Crystal Tower/The Dark World
There is nothing wrong with making a difficult final dungeon in a video game. This is the point when the party will be at the peak of their strength, so they should be able to survive anything that is thrown at them.
Final Fantasy III went way too far with its final dungeon. Namely because you have to go through several final dungeons in one go, as there is nowhere for you to save!
Once you complete the Crystal Tower, you have to travel to the Dark World. It is here that you will face the Cloud of Darkness, and save the world from annihilation. In order to do this, you have to defeat numerous difficult boss battles, survive all of the random encounters, and sit through numerous unskippable cutscenes. This is all followed by the incredibly difficult final boss battle against the Cloud of Darkness. If you mess up at any stage, then you have to go back and do it all again.
9. FF10 – The Cloister Of Trials (Bevelle)
When it comes to bad dungeon design, it is hard to say which is worse: a frustrating dungeon, or a boring one.
The Bevelle City Cloister of Trials in Final Fantasy X definitely falls into the latter category. Throughout the game, you must complete a series of puzzle dungeons known as the “Cloister of Trials”. Completing these dungeons will give you access to new summon monsters, and even some treasure (if you are smart enough to complete all of the puzzles). The problem is, the puzzles are all really boring. They involve pushing stone plinths around, and placing gems into socket. In order to ramp up the excitement, the developers made it so that you sometimes have to put the gems into the plinths, and push them both around at the same time.
By far the most tedious of the Cloister of Trials is in Bevelle. You are stuck on a moving track for most of it, which means you have to stare at Tidus’ prone form for minutes on end. We highly recommend using a guide for this part of the game, so you can minimise the amount of time you have to look at Tidus riding on an LSD conveyor belt.
8. FF13 – All Of The Game Before Gran Pulse
When Final Fantasy XIII was released, the single biggest complaint about the game was its linearity. From the start of the game, you are put at the start of a corridor. This corridor continues on for another twenty or so hours.
As can be seen with some of the maps created by fans, each area consists of a single long corridor. While there might be an occasional divergence (with a treasure chest at the end), you will be forced to return to the path, and continue your journey down the corridor. There are no towns or NPCs to interact with. All of your shopping is done at save points. There are no side quests or mini games to partake in. You are trapped in one very boring dungeon for the beginning of the game.
Final Fantasy XIII does open up once you reach Gran Pulse. You are given some large areas to explore, and even a few optional hunting quests to complete. The only problem is that it can take around twenty hours to reach this area. It is no surprise that many players quit before this point, as they got frustrated waiting for the game to start.
7. FF5 – Karnak Castle
Karnak Castle is a bad dungeon because it has a twist that is intended to trip up first time players. If you know what to expect, then it just becomes another dungeon.
After the Fire Crystal is destroyed, the party are teleported to Karnak Castle, where they are given ten minutes to escape before it explodes. Karnak Castle is filled with awesome treasure (including one of the few Ribbons you get in the game), so the player will want to make the most of the time they are given. As they explore the Castle, the clock is always ticking, even in battle.
Once the player escapes the Castle, they are thrust into a boss battle against the Iron Claw monster. The clock is still ticking, and if you take too long beating Iron Claw, then it is an instant game over. The fact that the game waits until after you leave the Castle to spring this boss on you is what makes it so unfair.
6. FF9 – Desert Palace/Oeilvert
The most important rule in Dungeons & Dragons is “Don’t split the party!”. This tends to happen frequently in video game RPGs as a means of creating artificial difficulty. This is usually a bad thing, as having less party members, or being forced to use weaker ones will just make the battles longer. You will be forced to play defensively, in order to keep everyone alive.
In Final Fantasy IX, you are forced to split your party into two groups, and send them off into different dungeons. Oeilvert is a dungeon that is covered in a powerful anti-magic field. This means that you should only take your physical fighters with you there. This leaves all of you spellcasters to take on the Desert Palace.
The Desert Palace is filled with puzzles that involve hidden passageways. This means you will be forced to engage in numerous random encounters as you try and solve the puzzles, while using a team composed of your physically weakest characters. The other party members in Oeilvert will have a low damage output (at least compared to the magic-users in the game), making their journey all the more tedious.
5. FF8 – D-District Prison
Using a prison as a dungeon in an RPG seems like an obvious fit. You have an excuse to use numerous rooms with locked doors. It is likely to be haunted (in a fantasy setting), meaning you can fill it with undead monsters. If the prison is still active, then you can create a story based around the party escaping.
Final Fantasy VIII has a dungeon set in a prison. The D-District Prison sequence happens at the start of Disc 2. After the assassination attempt on Edea fails, the party are locked up in a huge prison in the desert. As Zell is the only party member who knows how to fight barehanded (even though all of the characters are soldiers from a military academy), he is forced to do most of the heavy lifting in this dungeon. An anti-magic field is placed across the prison, meaning you cannot use any spells or summon monsters until it is deactivated.
The most annoying part of the D-District Prison is the final cutscene that plays before you escape. Squall is walking across a runway when the Prison begins descending into the sand. You have to run towards the camera, and then start moving right as soon as you appear on the ledge of the runway. You are given no prompts to do any of this, and if you mess it up, then it’s game over.
4. FF4 – Sealed Cave
Any Dark Souls player can tell you that a Mimic is bad news. The Mimic is a monster that originated in Dungeons & Dragons, and it was presumably created by the most spiteful Dungeon Master of all time. They are creatures that resemble treasure chests, and they wait for greedy adventurers to open them, so that they can be devoured.
A Mimic must be used sparingly, as its effect only works as a surprise. If you threw too many Mimics at an adventuring party in Dungeons & Dragons, then the party would just start stabbing every treasure chest they see with a spear, and the effect will be lost.
It seems that the developers of Final Fantasy IV did not take this lesson to heart, as they filled a dungeon with Mimic Doors. The Sealed Cave dungeon is filled with doors that attack the party when opened. The annoying thing is that they are mostly guarding empty rooms.
A lot of the dungeons in Final Fantasy IV let you use the Warp spell to escape to the surface. The Sealed Cave does not allow you to do this, as it intends to throw a boss at you when you leave. You are forced to schlep your way back to the entrance, where the Demon Wall is waiting for you.
3. FF3 – Nepto Temple
Final Fantasy III had the idea of using gimmick dungeons that forced you to be under the effect of status spells to enter. They did this by creating lots of really small dungeons, and forcing you to cast “Mini” on all of your party members. This allowed them to create dungeons where you had to fight tiny regular animals, only now they were huge.
This idea isn’t a bad concept in and of itself, the problem involves the side effects that Mini enforces upon the party. Any character with the Mini status will not longer do any significant physical damage with a weapon. For these dungeons, you need to turn all of your characters into magic-using classes, and rely on spells to win battles. The resource you need to cast spells is very limited in Final Fantasy III, and your characters will likely be killed in one or two hits due to the Mini effect. This makes for some incredibly frustrating dungeons, where your best option is to just flee from battle.
The final boss of the Nepto Temple dungeon (where you need to enter the eye of a statue) is a regular rat. The only reason it poses a threat is because you had to turn your party into tiny people in order to face it in the first place.
2. FFT – Riovanes Castle
Final Fantasy Tactics has one of the most frustrating dungeons in the entire series. Riovanes Castle is infamous among RPG fans for the cheap trick it pulls on new players.
Riovanes Castle involves three battles that take place one after the other. You are given the opportunity to save, and access the party menu between each fight. The first battle is easy enough, and you will likely save the game in good faith.
The second battle in Riovanes Castle starts with a one-on-one fight, where your main character faces Wiegraf Folles. He is a powerful White Knight, with a selection of ranged attacks. If your main character has been a magic-using class for most of the game, then your chances of surviving this encounter are slim. If you somehow manage to beat Wiegraf, then he transforms into a powerful demon, and summons his own cadre of monsters into the battle. It is at this point that you can bring in the rest of your party to even the odds.
The third battle in Riovanes Castle takes place on the roof. You have to protect a single suicidal unit from death, as she runs headfirst into the enemy. If she dies, it is game over. You are facing three powerful opponents, two of whom are assassins, and possess a move that can kill in one hit.
Riovanes Castle has forced many players to restart the game from scratch. If you saved after the first battle, and didn’t have a backup file, then you had no other choice, as the game does not let you leave in order to level grind.
1. FF7 – The Northern Continent (After The Death Of Aerith)
The death of Aerith in Final Fantasy VII is one of the most iconic moments in video game history. While her death is common knowledge nowadays, it shocked the hell out of players back in 1997. The sweet and adventurous flower girl, whom you may have been romancing throughout the game, is brutally murdered before your eyes. As Cloud lays her body onto the water, and she descends into the Lifestream, you realise that she isn’t coming back.
So how does Final Fantasy VII follow this up? With some radical snowboarding! After laying one of his closest friends to rest, Cloud decides to do a sick 1080° spin.
The next few dungeons after the death of Aerith do all they can to diminish the effect of what just happened, with a series of silly gimmicks. First you have Corel Valley, a dungeon with an annoying mountain climbing minigame. You then travel to the town of Icicle Inn, where you have to dodge the punches of Elena from the Turks. This is followed by the aforementioned snowboarding game. Then you have the Great Glacier, where the character can pass out from the cold if you spend too long exploring. Finally, you have Gaea’s Cliff, a dungeon that makes you stop periodically in order to raise your temperature.
It is fortunate that these dungeons are close enough to the death of Aerith that most fans tend to forget about them. One wonders if these atmosphere killing dungeons will appear in the same form in the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake?