In the world of video games, few series elicit the same amount of emotional connection as Final Fantasy. For over 30 years, gamers around the world have loved the Final Fantasy franchise, with some of the entries holding strong as some of the best RPG experiences to date. Granted, that doesn’t mean all the games offer an equally positive experience, but it’s hard to dispute the renown the franchise has garnered over the last few decades.
Interestingly, each Final Fantasy game offers an independent and unique story unrelated to previous releases. The number in the title simply stands as the next entry in the series, rather than continuing a sequential storyline. Fortunately, that means gamers can have their favorite Final Fantasy game without having to rely on previous games to provide backstory.
However, it also means that gamers are relegated to the experience of a single game and any plot holes are likely to remain unanswered. While every gamer has his or her favorite entry in the series, some Final Fantasy titles are undoubtedly better than others.
Here are the 8 Best (And 8 Worst) Final Fantasy Games, Ranked.
16 Worst: Final Fantasy XIII
When Final Fantasy XIII launched on the PlayStation 3, gamers had high expectations for the experience on the newly updated console. Sadly, the game failed to live up to the hype. It offered a less-than-stellar experience that was easily forgotten in a franchise littered with incredible entries.
There is no arguing that Final Fantasy XIII is a beautiful game, but the gameplay and mechanics fail to match the visual experience. However, the game’s protagonist, Lightning, has become an iconic and recognizable character in the world of Final Fantasy, as she has since made additional appearances in the series.
Additionally, the game was not a complete failure as a direct sequel was released in 2012 called Final Fantasy XIII-2.
15 Best: Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV built on the successes of its predecessors and made improvements that helped guide the franchise going forward. The powerful storyline, compelling characters, and iconic soundtrack work together to provide an immersive RPG experience for players. The Porum and Palom sacrifice is one of the most memorable moments in the series.
Additionally, the unique rotating background gives the game a unique 3D look that wasn’t available in similar games. The turn-based gameplay is also more polished, as timed attacks create a greater sense of thrill for users.
However, players must be more strategic with their actions and can experience different outcomes based on the parameters of the battle. Such unpredictable experiences mean the game stays fresh and unique, even in a simple 16-bit world.
14 Worst: Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy II set out to change the experience for fans of the original by reworking many of the mechanics in the game. Unfortunately, those mechanics were easily exploited.
Rather than using a standard RPG progression system, Final Fantasy II incorporates a system that rewards players based on how they play the game. When players attack, they increase their strength; when they are attacked, they level up their defense and so on.
Similar to most titles in the series, Final Fantasy II offers an engaging storyline, but the strong plot fails to make up for the failure of the progression system. Fortunately, Square (later to become Square Enix) made improvements going forward, while never ceasing to experiment with new ways to play.
13 Best: Final Fantasy X
When the PlayStation 2 released in the year 2000, gamers worldwide were anticipating a new Final Fantasy experience on the console. Naturally, the hype was unbelievable when Final Fantasy X released the next year.
While the game had some issues, like the easy combat and rough voice work, it was an overall success. This was mainly thanks to a compelling story and the impressive graphics.
Final Fantasy X introduced a handful of new features to improve the player experience and for the most part they work. In fact, some features, such as a top-down world map, helped shape the future of RPG games for the next decade. This was also a rare entry in the series to get a direct sequel, as Final Fantasy X-2 was released in 2003.
12 Worst: Final Fantasy V
While some gamers regard Final Fantasy V among the best in the series, there are a few shortcomings for the rest of the fan base. Final Fantasy V sought to shake up the experience of past games by offering players a choice of 22 classes.
While such a decision provides plenty of replay value, so many class options also makes the experience a bit confusing for players new to the series. The villain also turned out to be a bit of a let down, as he was basically just an evil tree.
However, the ability to customize and upgrade characters was improved with each iteration of the game after this one. Even though Final Fantasy V doesn’t provide the best experience by itself, it helped make future Final Fantasy games great.
11 Best: Final Fantasy XV
With Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix takes full advantage of the current-generation consoles. The game provides a stunningly impressive environment, filled with incredible characters and creatures. The open-world nature of the game allows players to explore the world of Eos however they please.
While Final Fantasy XV did launch with a few bugs and glitches, modern platforms have allowed Square Enix to make quick updates to patch any initial issues. The classic turn-based combat system was also replaced with the Action Cross Battle system, allowing for player movement as they are fighting.
The result is an enjoyable game that carries the Final Fantasy series forward in all the right ways and fans are eager to see what's next for the franchise.
10 Worst: Final Fantasy VIII
While Final Fantasy VIII struggles on its own, it also has the unlucky position of releasing immediately after Final Fantasy VI and VII, two of the most successful titles in the franchise. It’s easy to see why gamers had such high expectations for the game, which the title was unable to deliver on.
Final Fantasy VIII misses the mark in numerous ways, including an underwhelming villain, a confusing plot, and poor gameplay execution. However, the game isn't completely hopeless. While the third act is rough, the early story sequences and opening cinematic are among the most memorable of the franchise.
Additionally, the battles between the heroes and villains are impressive and provide an enjoyable gaming experience. It’s just too bad the rest of the game isn't as good as its beginning.
9 Best: Final Fantasy IX
While not the best experience in the franchise, Final Fantasy IX reminds players of the series’ roots and what makes Final Fantasy so iconic in the RPG genre. That bit of nostalgia helps give the game its own personality, which is heightened by the impressive ways it charms and challenges players.
Where Final Fantasy IX really shines is with the characters. There are eight main playable heroes, each a unique and intriguing personality that works to provide an immersive experience. Their actions and emotions are believable, and easily absorb players into the story and the environment.
The opening sequence of Zidane and his troupe trying to kidnap the princess is also one of the best in the series.
8 Worst: Final Fantasy Tactics
Square released Final Fantasy Tactics in 1997, in an attempt to add new RPG elements in the already well-respected franchise. While the game borrows the thematic elements of the Final Fantasy series, the game engine that drives the battles is completely different for players.
This game introduced the aspects of Job Points as well as Experience Points. This meant that players could assign a certain job to a character, ranging from a chemist to a knight, which would then apply certain bonuses to their stats.
The battle system was also overhauled, as units appeared on a checkered battlefield and had a certain number of moves before their turn was over.The game’s success led to a spin-off on Gameboy Advance and the Nintendo DS.
7 Best: Final Fantasy XIV
With such a compelling and immersive world available in Final Fantasy, it’s not surprising to see that Square Enix released an MMO version of the game. Final Fantasy XIV was originally released in 2010 and was available for a of couple years before it took a brief hiatus.
After the underwhelming launch of the game in 2010, Square Enix relaunched the game as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013. It has seen continued success since then and currently sports an incredible 10 million players.
The game has done a great job at combining RPG elements like dungeon crawling and strong storytelling, with the raids and PVP arenas that players have come to expect from modern MMOs.
6 Worst: Final Fantasy
The first installment of Final Fantasy was a bold move in the genre of RPGs and will forever be remembered as the start of a gaming empire. However, like many new IPs, Final Fantasy came with plenty of issues that were corrected in later titles.
In fact, the original Final Fantasy felt more like a clone of Dragon Quest with a few unique features and gameplay adjustments, rather than a new RPG experience. It also goes without saying that as the first entry on the NES, the pixelated graphics don't hold up as well as the later entries on SNES.
Regardless, Final Fantasy helped to shape the future of RPGs for the next three decades. The core elements of fantastical monsters, an engaging storytelling, and an exciting soundtrack were all present. This gave gamers something to look forward to with later editions.
5 Best: Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is easily the most iconic title to date, especially now that Square Enix is working on a remastered version for PlayStation 4. Final Fantasy VII represents a major shift in RPG gaming with its 3D graphics, compelling side quests, and an immersive story that sticks with players long after they finish it.
The game’s protagonist, Cloud, has become the face of Final Fantasy for many gamers, and has made appearances in numerous other games in the franchise. The musical score is revered by some as the best in the franchise, and the lineup of characters are compelling and relatable.
Additionally, a big moment half-way into the game gives it the emotional gravitas that many other games, even modern titles, lack in a big way. There’s little doubt that Final Fantasy VII will be remembered as one of the best RPG experiences ever.
4 Worst: Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III’s place on this list is tough to gauge, since the title released in Japan 16 years before it made its way West to the United States. For Japanese players, Final Fantasy III offered a technical achievement that bridged the gap between the NES and SNES.
However, for fans of the franchise in North America, the game offered little more than an extra storyline to be experienced, as any new elements it had introduced had already been released in other titles.
That said, many of the risks Square originally took with Final Fantasy III were carried over into later entries in the series. It arguably is one of the most important games in the series, except that it didn’t make it around the globe until over a decade after its initial release.
3 Best: Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII stands as the PlayStation 2’s crowning Final Fantasy achievement. Everything from character customization, battle mechanics, and the immersive storyline were all highlights of the title.
It managed to bring all the aspects that gamers loved about each previous entry into one culminating experience. Granted, Final Fantasy XII isn’t perfect, but it’s just about as close to perfect as any Final Fantasy title has come. It’s the culmination of everything Square Enix learned over the previous two decades from when the first Final Fantasy launched.
This entry was also the first to not include random encounters. Instead, enemies can be seen on the map and players are free to choose whether to fight them or not. Final Fantasy XII is arguably one of the best RPG games to date.
2 Worst: Final Fantasy Type-0
Final Fantasy Type-O released on the PlayStation Portable in 2011 and was a slight break from the norm of Final Fantasy games. The game takes elements that are found in Final Fantasy XIII and XV, and offers a story that’s darker and grittier than others in the series.
The game was originally meant to launch on mobile phones alongside the PSP, but those plans were eventually scrapped. The game’s sales were strong enough that Square Enix released an HD version on home consoles and PC in 2015, just before the release of Final Fantasy XV.
While in no means a bad game, the decision to give Type-0 a real-time battle system didn't translate very well to the handheld device.
1 Best: Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI may not be well known among casual gamers, but it is cherished by those who love the Final Fantasy franchise. Despite being 23 years old, the game still holds its own against any RPG that has come out since, including other Final Fantasy titles.
The game has everything going for it: compelling characters that players care about, an immersive storyline that’s easy to get lost in, an epic soundtrack that’s still impressive despite its SNES heritage, and one of the best villains in gaming history with Kefka.
Kefka is an impressive and terrifying bad guy that players love to hate. All together, these elements make Final Fantasy VI the best game in the series and it set a high standard for all video games going forward.
Are there any Final Fantasy games that should have been included?