The Final Fantasy role-playing series is turning 30 this year, which isn't too bad for a franchise that reportedly started with a game that could have been the last for both designer Hironobu Sakaguchi and developer Square. This is one explanation for the "final" in the title.
Final Fantasy super fans have encountered countless enemies over the past three decades, 15 main-series titles, and fistfuls of spin-offs and sequels. However, the most memorable battles are with the series' scores of bosses, who serve as the punctuation at the ends of dungeons, secret areas, and the main storylines.
With 30 years of games, each containing dozens of major encounters, not all of the boss fights are going to be equal.
Depending on design, strategy, and your own parties' abilities, taking on the big bads throughout the series can be a beautifully balanced, challenging, and exciting experience. But it can also be a complete pushover or a grueling, miserable slog that takes hours of attempts to overcome.
These are our picks for some of the most powerful bosses in Final Fantasy -- along with others who were so easy to defeat that it was almost insulting. Be sure to let us know about your favorites in the comments.
Here are the 8 Strongest (And 7 Completely Worthless) Final Fantasy Bosses.
15 Powerful: Lich
The Lich from the first Final Fantasy isn’t the toughest enemy ever, but you do fight him twice in increasingly powerful forms.
In his first incarnation, he’s weak against fire attacks, and if players unleash a strong enough one, they can take him down pretty easily. However, the second time he shows up, he loses that vulnerability and has better stats all around, and the only option is to beat him into submission.
This monster also has a wealth of attacks of his own, and they have a chance to cripple the party. His physical hits can paralyze their targets, and he has several spells that can make his turn come faster, put characters to sleep, or blast them with elemental attacks. It’s a lot to prepare for.
14 Worthless: Ardyn
One of the most time-honored traditions among video game bosses is their habit of switching into a “final form” for your ultimate encounter with them. Ardyn Izunia, whom you face at the end of Final Fantasy XV, missed that memo.
We don’t demand that characters turn into giant demon heads or huge robots before we defeat them for good — although when they do, we wonder why they didn’t just do that sooner, before we’d leveled our party up enough to kill them. However, the final form is such a staple that it feels weird when we don’t see it.
Ardyn gains some challenge points for forcing players to take him on with a single character instead of their entire squad, but it still doesn’t take much to beat him.
13 Powerful: Iron Giant
Iron Giant wasn’t present the first time Final Fantasy III came out, but it shows up in the later remakes. And it makes up for its absence by being ridiculously hard to fight.
If its 200,000 hit points aren’t daunting enough, it also gets four attacks when its turn comes up. They aren’t just plain hits; they also inflict status effects your party. If all of this sounds a little unbalanced, it gets better. Later in the fight, Iron Giant switches to an attack that damages your entire party with one hit.
Between the brute force and the side effects, this encounter is all about defense. Players are always so busy making sure they’re safe from the monster that they don’t get around to actually hitting it themselves.
12 Worthless: Yu Yevon
The final boss fight of any game should be memorable, dramatic, and ideally the most difficult battle players encounter. But many developers don’t get that, and Final Fantasy X’s Yu Yevon doesn’t really live up to its role.
Reasons for this are several, but we’ll start with the part where it’s vulnerable to its own main attack. That’s pretty weak. Yu Yevon must have slept through “Stop Hitting Yourself” class in Boss School.
That doesn’t even matter in the end, however, because your entire party heals automatically the whole time. One would have to try to lose this thing. The fight against Yu Yevon is so easy that some players deny it “final boss” status. They give that to the previous encounter, which is way harder.
11 Powerful: Emperor
We’d hope that a character who sometimes goes by the name of “Emperor of Hell” would present a bit of a fight, and the last monster in Final Fantasy II lives up to that expectation.
The Emperor is super scrappy for someone his size, and he heals himself with every attack. He can also slow, blind, and curse the player’s party, making things even harder. Those looking to turn the the status-effect game against this monster will be sad to know that he’s immune to all of them. And elemental attacks don’t work, either.
Winning this fight means dodging the Emperor’s attacks so he doesn’t get any health back, juggling items to counteract the status effects, and speeding up characters to make sure they get a chance to hit him in the middle of all of that.
10 Worthless: Necron
The last boss of Final Fantasy IX isn’t really a pushover, but it has its own issues. Players take on this embodiment of death after they think they’ve already beat the game.
We’re typically alright with getting more of things we enjoy, but unfortunately, this one feels like pointless filler.
We don’t have any issues with the actual battle. Necron isn’t as much of a beast as the villain players had just defeated, but it still has some solid attacks. It’s just hard to get too pumped about playing something you already feel like you’ve beat.
And that’s saying a lot in this case because remember that this enemy is essentially the cosmic representation of mortality. It’s hard to make that feel pointless, but Necron manages to pull it off.
9 Powerful: Angra Mainyu
Final Fantasy X-2’s Angra Mainyu is a hidden superboss that is so powerful that even the Cactuars were afraid of it. And those things will destroy you. They sealed it away like a Balrog, and like the ancient fire demon lurking in the depths of Lord of the Rings’ Khazad-dûm, it breaks free when hapless miners dig too deeply.
This monster’s namesake is the destructive spirit of Zoroastrianism, and the destruction may extend to players’ controllers before they beat it.
The thing has over 300,000 hit points and two “extensions,” which are like subcreatures that attack the party independently. And we’re not big fans of bosses that don’t just battle you without bringing their crew along.
It’s like you’re fighting three bosses instead of one, and that’s just cheap.
8 Worthless: Demon Wall
We’ve seen how dangerous moving walls can be in movies like Star Wars, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Saw V.
So we can see how one might fit in with the Final Fantasy series’ eclectic mix of bosses. Sure, it’s weird to have a time-based battle against a slowly encroaching wall covered in spooky sculptures, but video games.
The limited amount of time players have to defeat the Demon Wall is a source of stress for sure, but they can take some inspiration from Luke and Leia in that trash compactor and slow it down with a spell.
As long as they keep that up, they have all the time they need to just bash it until it stops trying to kill them.
7 Powerful: Ultimecia
Multi-stage boss fights are a staple of role-playing games, and Final Fantasy VIII’s last enemy takes the trope about as far as it can.
Players fight big bad Ultimecia six times total, and four of those encounters are in the end alone. Your success depends on how well you’ve been playing throughout, since she randomly selects which party members will take her on. So, if you’ve neglected any of your characters, she’ll destroy you without even messing up her amazing hair.
That’s just the first round. The second go is against her minion, the third fight is with the two of them combined, and for the finale, Ultimecia becomes a ridiculous final form and tries to soak up the entire universe, including time itself.
That’s super impressive, but it’s probably best to stop it. And good luck doing that while she’s flicking members of your party out of the fight like peanuts.
6 Worthless: Sephiroth
Maybe we’re being naive here, but isn’t the final boss supposed to be difficult?
We aren’t talking about Final Fantasy VII’s “Safer-Sephiroth” battle, which is actually a fight, but the one that comes after it. The ultimate encounter with Sephiroth takes place inside a spiritual zone against, we think, the concept of the villain and not the physical being itself? This is a weird game.
More relevantly, this fight is impossible to lose because it’s part of the plot. It’s really just an interactive cut scene that provides the illusion of actually attacking and vanquishing the bad guy, but it’s all just for show.
The developers serve players up with a handy ultimate move to end the battle right away, and even if Sephiroth gets a hit in, hero Cloud will immediately counter and take him out immediately after.
Sephiroth isn’t alone in providing a “gimme” last fight in the series, but this is the most jarring case considering how much the rest of the game builds up how powerful he is.
5 Powerful: Barthandelus
Another pesky habit of video game bosses is forcing you to defeat them several times at different points in the plot. This either raises your emotional investment in defeating them once and for all against rising odds or is annoying and makes you wonder if the developers just ran out of ideas.
Unlike Ardyn up there, Final Fantasy XIII boss Barthandelus has its evolution game on lock. You fight it three times throughout the story, and each time it grows more powerful.
We’re especially impressed (or enraged) by its third incarnation, which boasts a frankly ridiculous 5.2 million hit points.
We know that it’s not really fair to compare this stat across games since they’re relatively more and less doable depending on the fighting system and your party’s strength level. But 5 million is a big number no matter what you’re dealing with.
4 Worthless: Phantom Train
You would think that fighting a train would be among the most difficult things to do. Have you seen trains? They’re made of steel and huge. Where would you even punch one to cause damage? Final Fantasy VI’s Phantom Train is also undead, somehow, and that should make it extra unbeatable. However, that’s actually its weakness.
In many Final Fantasy titles, undead enemies have a silly quirk that players can exploit if they have items to spare.
Because these foes are not necessarily alive, healing items have the opposite effect on them and cause them damage. And players can take the Phantom Train out with a single Phoenix Down, an object that’s usually for reviving fallen party members.
It makes less sense the more we think about it, but the important thing is that it works.
3 Powerful: Yiazmat
Players don’t necessarily fight every boss in these games. Many are hidden in secret areas or at the end of non-mandatory quests. Some monsters exist just for the most dedicated, persistent, or obsessive players to discover and defeat.
Side missions in Final Fantasy XII have players hunting Marks, which are powerful, optional bosses. And players might take the game up on that “optional” part once they go up against Yiazmat because even with a strong party and solid strategy, it takes over an hour to kill it.
This beast isn’t tough because of its fighting prowess or devastating attacks. Instead, it presents the toughest fight in the game because it has over 50 million hit points. This is enough to make Barthandelus’ life supply seem cute.
2 Worthless: Famed Mimic Gogo
Famed Mimic Gogo in Final Fantasy V is potentially one of the hardest bosses in the entire series. Whatever you do to him, he will return, and each of his melee attacks does enough damage to take out a party member in a single hit. Using magic will get you similar results.
It’s possible to beat him directly, but it takes a lot of planning and some luck. Players can cast Haste on their party to make sure they have enough time to revive their fallen friends. They could also try to “silence” Gogo, disabling his response to their attacks. But why bother with all that if you can just do nothing?
That’s right: Gogo is a boss you can defeat without issuing a single command. If the player stands still for a couple minutes, turning the baddie’s mimicry against him, he eventually congratulates the players on their skills and then leaves. It’s a clever puzzle, but it’s not much of a fight.
1 Powerful: Absolute Virtue/Pandemonium Warden
Final Fantasy dipped into the massively multiplayer online genre with its eleventh entry, and that shift introduced some suitably epic “superboss” encounters. However, one of these threatened to turn the experience into a marathon.
When it first appeared, beating Absolute Virtue was nearly impossible. The developer claimed that players could do it … it would just take 18 hours. And that’s an excessive amount of time, even by MMO standards. Most of those games feel enough like full-time jobs as it is.
Absolute Virtue wasn’t alone. A group attempt to defeat another FFXI superboss, Pandemonium Warden, ended after players started passing out and vomiting at the 18-hour mark. The developer, Square, eventually made both enemies more manageable to keep from killing their customers.
What are your picks for hardest -- and weakest -- Final Fantasy boss fights? Be sure to let us know in the comments.