It isn't always easy to like the protagonist of a story. This is because they often have to extol certain positive virtues, and mainly exist to push the plot along. It is often up to the side characters to invest life and personality into the story, which is why we tend to prefer them.
This is true even of video games, especially in the Final Fantasy series. A video game can rely on its gameplay and graphics over the story, which is why so few of them don't even bother to have one, but storylines are extremely important and do a lot to engage the player.
We have had many terrible Final Fantasy protagonists, who were completely outshone by their fellow party members, as they had to carry the story on their own.
We are here today to talk about the Final Fantasy characters who should have been the stars of their games. From the big red cat with the perfect memory, to the wizard who stole the show, here are the 15 Final Fantasy Characters Who Should Have Been The Star Of The Game.
15 Red XIII In Final Fantasy VII
Cloud Strife is one of the most beloved protagonists in video game history and there are likely a lot of people who will disagree with the idea of Red XIII replacing him. The problem with Cloud stems from the needlessly complex story surrounding his memory loss.
In Final Fantasy VII you need to see the hidden cutscene that explains Zack's death, in order to understand the story. You also need to play the game twice in order to fully understand the depth of Cloud's memory loss, and how it affects the other characters (namely Tifa).
Red XIII would give Final Fantasy VII a unique protagonist, who would have a greater connection to the themes of environmentalism. He is the last survivor of a species in a world that is being drained of life.
He is dragged into the Shinra storyline because they want to perform experiments on him. He could have fulfilled a similar role to Tidus in Final Fantasy X, where we could have seen the world through fresh eyes, instead of having the characters explain things that they should already know to each other (such as Barret not knowing how materia works, or Sephiroth explaining Mako).
14 Balthier In Final Fantasy XII
Vaan might be the worst Final Fantasy protagonist of all time. He blunders into the story and acts as little more than a bystander to the events going on around him. Vaan only exists to move the more interesting characters further along in the plot.
He was designed specifically with the Japanese audience in mind, where androgynous boys are often more popular. This is significant, as both Basch and Balthier were originally considered for the role of protagonist before the focus group-tested Vaan took their place.
Balthier is basically the Final Fantasy version of Han Solo: he is a sky pirate and treasure hunter, who loves witty banter and is convinced that he is the hero of the story. Balthier's sidekick is basically a hotter version of Chewbacca, and the two of them go on awesome adventures together.
You could easily start Final Fantasy XII at the moment when Balthier and Fran break into the Palace without losing anything significant from the story.
13 Delita In Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics might be one of the best games in the series, but it has a very boring protagonist. Ramza Beoulve is the epitome of what it means to be a knight, yet he is considered to be a heretic by the church.
He is all about honor and doing what is right, while never involving himself in the petty schemes of the nobility of Ivalice. This actually makes Ramza less interesting than he might have been, as he never falters in his duty, so his actions are predictable.
Delita Heiral would have made for a far better protagonist. He actually involves himself in the schemes of the nobility, as part of his plan to become the king. Delita opposes the other members of the nobility in their use of the Auracite and their connections to the Lucavi.
Playing as Delita would have been like playing Tywin Lannister in a world where he is the only one who can fight the white walkers. We would have been privy to the terrible deeds that Delita commits to rise to the top, yet we would support him as we know that he is the only person who can prevent the destruction of Ivalice.
12 Basch In Final Fantasy XII
Yes, Vaan is so terrible that he makes the list twice.
Both Balthier and Basch were considered for the role of protagonist in Final Fantasy XII, but they were replaced by Vaan. Basch actually makes the most sense as the star of the game, considering his role in the story and his connections to the other characters.
Having an older man who was a former general be the main character of a Final Fantasy game would have been a first for the series. Instead, we got a generic anime character.
Basch is framed for the murder of his king at the start of the story of XII. He is freed from his imprisonment and begins a quest to clear his name.
His story has intrigue and a clear purpose, which is more than can be said for the actual protagonist. Vaan's only goal is to become a sky pirate, which would mean more if there wasn't already an awesome sky pirate in the cast.
11 Auron In Final Fantasy X
Tidus is probably one of the most annoying protagonists in video game history. A lot of this is due to the fact that Squaresoft was still new to voice acting when Final Fantasy X was being made, which is why a lot of the spoken dialogue in the game is so terrible. John DiMaggio is an awesome voice actor, yet even he was trapped in the existential hell that is Wakka.
One of the best characters in Final Fantasy X is Auron. This might be due to the fact that he doesn't speak as much as the other characters and is just a great character.
Throughout Final Fantasy X, we are given glimpses of Auron's journey with Jecht and Braska on their pilgrimage. This is the real story that we should have seen, with Jecht's sacrifice being the end point of the game (and Auron believed to be dead).
Tidus could then have broken the cycle of Sin in the follow-up game.
10 Leon In Final Fantasy II
In Final Fantasy II, you start out with a team of four characters. One of these has the default name of Leon and he is separated from the party after their first battle.
They believe him to be dead throughout the start of the game, and join the rebellion movement against Emperor Mateus. It is later revealed that Leon is alive and has joined the Emperor's cause. Leon then rises through the ranks and becomes Mateus' new dark knight.
The second Final Fantasy game could have really made a name for the series if it followed a villainous protagonist instead of a generic group of heroes. Leon's story of indoctrination into the Emperor's cause would have made for an excellent plot for a video game.
We could have fought against the forces of light for a change, as Leon helps to take over the world. This would have ended with his old friends convincing him to turn his back on the Emperor, with him then leading them into the final battle against Mateus.
9 Aria, Cid, Desch, And Prince Alus In Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III was similar to the first game in the series, in that the main party members were blank slates, that were defined by their character class. In Final Fantasy III, you could unlock more jobs throughout the game, which meant that your characters kept changing appearance.
Throughout the game, you are joined by several other characters, who you often have to escort to other places. These are the amnesiac warrior known as Desch, the water priestess Aria, the deposed Prince Alus, and the wise inventor Cid. All of these characters had stories and personalities, who all would have made excellent protagonists of the game.
The Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy III tried to give the cast personalities, but these all came from the "Big Book of Generic Anime Characters" and are one of the worse parts about the remake. They missed out on using these interesting side characters as the main party members in this new version of Final Fantasy III.
8 Edge In Final Fantasy IV
One of the main complaints about Final Fantasy IV is that it borrows heavily from the Star Wars movie series. The relationship between Cecil and Golbez has a lot of parallels with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Golbez even dresses in a suit of black armor that is reminiscent of the design used by the famous Sith Lord.
The rest of the Final Fantasy IV cast fall into generic fantasy character stereotypes. Yang and Kain, especially, are about as cookie-cutter as they come.
The exception to this is Prince Edge Geraldine, who is the heir to the throne of Eblan. Edge is also a ninja, as well as being a member of the nobility. His kingdom is destroyed by Rubicante and he leads the counter-attack to reclaim it, which ends with him joining the main party.
A game that followed Edge as he opposes Golbez and the four Archfiends would have at least been more original than the retread of A New Hope/The Empire Strikes Back that we actually received.
7 Faris In Final Fantasy V
Bartz Klauser might be one of the most uninteresting protagonists in Final Fantasy history. We saw this most clearly in the Dissidia games, where his gimmick is that he uses the attacks of the other characters in the series. He is simply a wandering adventurer who gets caught up in the quest to stop the destruction of the elemental crystals.
Faris is the most interesting character in Final Fantasy V. She is a member of the Tycoon royal family, who was lost at sea when she was a child. Faris was discovered by pirates, who raised her as a boy and taught her the ways of the sea.
She even befriended a sea dragon, named Syldra, which impressed the other pirates enough to the point where they made her the captain of their ship.
The story of a lost princess, who must struggle with an enforced gender identity, as she is raised among criminals and thieves, is a far more interesting tale than the story of some guy whose only goal is to travel the world on his chocobo.
6 Seifer In Final Fantasy VIII
Squall Leonhart might be the biggest wish fulfillment character in the Final Fantasy series. He is an exceptionally talented student at Balamb Garden, to the point where he completes the SeeD exam on his first try and becomes the first ever Gunblade user among the SeeD.
Beautiful women fall for him, despite his incredibly abrasive personality. The fact that he grew up in an orphanage is overwritten by the revelation that his father is actually the president of one of the most powerful nations on the planet.
Seifer is Squall's main rival throughout Final Fantasy VIII. He is a flawed character, who doesn't always get what he wants. This is what tempts him to the dark side, and is ultimately what redeems him.
Having Seifer as the lead may have led more people to give Final Fantasy VIII a chance, as a lot of people were put off by Squall, who was created to be a power fantasy for teenage boys.
5 Sazh In Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most divisive games in the series. One of the major complaints about the game is how poorly the story is told-- the game never bothers to explain many of the unique aspects of its world and doesn't clarify the motivations of many of the characters. You are expected to read numerous datalogs in order to know what is going on.
Sazh quickly established himself as the most popular character with the fans. This is due to his down-to-earth attitude, the clear motivation for his quest, and his exasperation with the rest of the awful characters.
The story of Final Fantasy XIII would have been far better if it focused on Sazh's quest to free his son from his crystalline state, rather than the poorly explained struggle between Pulse and Cocoon. It would also have been interesting to see the costumes that would have been created for him in Sazh Returns: Final Fantasy XIII.
4 The Villains In Final Fantasy Dissidia
Dissidia Final Fantasy is basically the Super Smash Bros. of the series. It brings the heroes and the villains of many of the Final Fantasy games into a single setting, where they resolve their differences through combat.
In it, a god named Cosmos brings all of the heroes of the Final Fantasy series into an interdimensional struggle against a demon named Chaos, who has summoned all of the villains to his side.
One of the biggest problems with the Dissidia series is that they only focus on the heroes' side of the story. You can only use the villains in some of the optional post-game stories, which allow you to use all of the characters in the game.
Square Enix missed a huge opportunity by not including a story mode for the villains. This would have greatly increased the amount of content in the game, for relatively little work. The omission of a villain story mode is one of the most bizarre aspects of the Dissidia series.
3 Doned Radiuju In Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance has one of the most horrible protagonists of the series. He is a boy named Marche, who is dragged into the fantasy world of Ivalice along with his two best friends and his brother. In this world, all of the kids' problems are solved.
Marche's disabled brother, Doned, can now walk on his own. Mewt Randell's mother is still alive in Ivalice and his alcoholic father is one of the most respected Judges in the land. Ritz's white hair is now red in Ivalice, which is something she desired in the real world.
Marche then decides to force them all back home to the real world, as he realizes that they are living in an illusion. This meant putting his brother back into a wheelchair.
Doned would have made a far more interesting protagonist than Marche. He actually has a good reason to stay in Ivalice and it would have taken a lot to convince him to return to the real world.
We never really got a decent excuse for why Marche wanted to go back home, and the designers of the game would have needed a good excuse for Doned to leave, which is also something we never received.
2 Edgar & Sabin In Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI actually has two protagonists. You start the game as Terra, who is one of the few people in the world who can still use magic, due to the fact that her father was an esper. At the halfway point of the game, Kefka becomes the god of magic and takes over the world.
The party is split up, which is when Celes Chere becomes the main character. She falls into a coma and awakens in a world where Kefka has taken over, and it is up to her to reform the party and take Kefka down once and for all.
The problem with using Terra and Celes as the protagonists is that they have almost no connection to each other. It would have been much better for the game to use Edgar and Sabin as the leads, as they are twin brothers.
Edgar is the womanizing ruler of Figaro, who must send his people into exile in order to deal with the threat of Emperor Gestahl, while Sabin shirked his royal responsibilities in order to become a monk. The story of two twins who are separated by the end of the world and must reunite in order to save their homeland would have made for an amazing story.
1 Vivi In Final Fantasy IX
Zidane Tribal is actually a decent protagonist throughout most of Final Fantasy IX. He is a snarky thief, who botches a mission to kidnap a princess and ends up going on an adventure with her.
The problems with Zidane start later on in the game, when we discover that he is actually an artificial human from an alien world, and now must deal with issues pertaining to the meaning of having a soul.
The problem with Zidane's story of growth is that it's done far better by another character in the game. Vivi Ornitier is the prototype model of an army of magic golems, which are used as weapons in a devastating war.
Vivi was separated from his kind and was not placed under magical control, and struggles with his magical origins. He also discovers that his lifespan is only a few years long, so he decides to dedicate the remainder of his time in an attempt to save the world.
Vivi's story of self-discovery is beautifully told, and Zidane's story can't help but feel like a watered down version of the same tale.
Which other characters do you think Final Fantasy games should have focused on? Let us know in the comments!