Best Final Fantasy Games: Ranking the Main Titles
When it was first released way back in 1987 for the NES, the first Final Fantasy was said to be the last hurrah for Squaresoft. The company was circling the drain, and they had just one Hail Mary pass to make to keep from going under which is why the game that would become the juggernaut it is today bears the name it does. Except that's not exactly true. For years people believed that story, but creator Hironobu Sakaguchi revealed that the real reason behind the monicker was because it had 'FF' in the title and this is pleasing to the Japanese ear. So, theoretically, it could've been called Fudge Factory and would've still seen the light of day.
What isn't in doubt, however, is that it was this game that saved the company and it has since gone on to make them billions of dollars, pounds, and yen worldwide. Thirty years later and the whole Final Fantasy thing is a global phenomenon and today we shall be looking at, and rating, the 15 games that make up the main series.
Final Fantasy Games Ranked
Final Fantasy XI
Even though Final Fantasy XI is the most profitable game in Square's history, thanks in no small part the $12.95 monthly subscription you have to cough up each month if you want to keep playing, it ranks at the bottom of this list. There is a simple reason for it, and that's because if you do want to carry on your adventures in Vana'diel, then it's going to cost you $155.40 a year to do so. It doesn't matter that you can still play the game on PC, the fact remains that you shouldn't have to fork out for a game and then pay for the privilege to play it.
Final Fantasy XIV
After the previous entry, this could've been a simple cut and paste job, but there's one thing that Final Fantasy XIV has that its younger sibling doesn't. As of June 2019, it went free-to-play. Kind of. You can download the game for PC and PS4 and play through the story to your heart's content, but as soon as you hit Level 35, then you have to decide if you want to fork out the $12.99 a month it's going to cost you to carry on. Overall the game now has positive reviews, even if they did have to blow up the entire world to get to that point, as well as quite a dedicated fan base so if an MMO Final Fantasy does sound like the game for you, then this is the better of the two available.
Final Fantasy XIII
From a personal point of view, this one hurt the most out of all the Final Fantasy releases. The anticipation that came with this game was pretty high after the hours that were spent with the far superior Final Fantasy XII, so it was an essential day one purchase, but then it got put into the machine, and it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that something was wrong in the land of Gran Pulse. Taking away the ability to go full-on open-world and explore your cotton socks off until deep into your adventure was a major misstep and one that had a lot of people, myself included, never finish their adventure and instead remove the disc and use it as a frisbee.
Final Fantasy II
After the original Final Fantasy shipped over half a million copies it was only a matter of time before the sequel would be released on the world and in 1988 that's what happened, but you have to ask yourself if they really should've bothered. Final Fantasy II is a strange little creature as it seems Square decided to mess around with the essential formula that had made the first one a successful just for the sake of it. For example, you no longer could upgrade characters class, and it was replaced with a "you hit them with that weapon so that's now what you are mechanic and even though it would get a make-over for future consoles and introduced Chocobo's and Cid to the world's lore it really hasn't aged well.
Even though this is Patient Zero, genesis if you will, and may have saved the company for finding itself on the gaming scrap heap the first-ever Final Fantasy really doesn't look good, even if you are playing one of the many fresh skinned versions, and it plays as a pig stuck in a molasses spell. It's the one that kicked everything off, and for that alone it deserves a lot of respect, if not quite the same amount of love.
Final Fantasy III
It's not too much of a stretch to say it took Square until Final Fantasy III before they started to find their feet and figure out what direction they wanted to take the franchise in. Taking the best parts from the first two entries and bringing back the leveling up system was a good start but it's this game that also allows you to summon giant ass creatures for the first time. It also introduces the ability to steal as well as the job system, and if you're looking for a fun and challenging old school RPG, then you could do a lot worse than start here.
Final Fantasy V
If Final Fantasy III was a fun challenge, then Final Fantasy V is challenging in a way that would make Dark Souls proud. The boss battles in this game are brutal and are guaranteed to have you throwing your controller down in frustration as you get squished for the hundredth time in a row, but the satisfaction that you get when you finally defeat your foe makes it all worthwhile. The story is quite cliched with such hammy dialogue that it should come with a not vegan-friendly warning on the box, but it can easily be ignored thanks to some excellent gameplay.
Final Fantasy VIII
If my partner ever reads this list and sees how lowdown I've ranked Final Fantasy VIII, then I could very well find myself sleeping on the streets but marital strife aside because it's such a marmite game then it really can't be any higher on this list. You either love Final Fantasy VIII due to its bold attempt to drag the franchise in a completely different direction, or you hate it because nobody wants their hero to be a whiny emo kid. The addition of trigger hits is an interesting attempt to add something new to the mix, as is having to draw magic from your opposition, but its cast of truly unlikable characters makes it hard to love this game.
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X may have far superior graphics to some of the other games yet to appear on this list, but there's just something about it that doesn't quite seem right. Considering this was the first Final Fantasy on next-gen consoles it should've been a monumental moment and one that would still be talked about in glowing colors today but after all, was said and done it just felt a little "Meh" in its final execution. Even though the gameplay was solid and the story was standard Final Fantasy mumbo-jumbo, the voice acting was terrible, and the addition of Blitz Ball just seemed to be there as filler.
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV was a significant turning point in the series as it looked a lot better than the three that had proceeded it and it introduced the Active Time Battle system which put the player under pressure to pick and choose their actions before the timer ran down. It also had a story that may or may not have borrowed quite liberally from a certain movie sci-fi epic *cough* Star Wars *cough*. Final Fantasy IV almost redefined the genre of RPG, and it would be this game that became the foundation of all the goodness to come.
Final Fantasy VI
The proto steampunk world of Final Fantasy VI is a joy to visit even now, and it's the first, and some might argue the only, Final Fantasy game that has a decent story as well as satisfying character arcs. It doesn't hurt that it has an intuitive style of gameplay as well as 14 playable members of your party so you can mix and match to your specific taste and style of play. Final Fantasy VI has enough going on to keep even the most ardent RPG fan satisfied for hours.
Final Fantasy XII
There was so much innovation in Final Fantasy XII that you have to look at Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII and wonder, "How the hell did you mess those two up?". A license system, a gambit system, hunting side quests, the list of good ideas that Square put into practice in-game is nearly as long as the boss battles you find yourself caught up in but still, some people weren't happy. The main complaint was it was hard to get your head around all the new additions to the franchise but if you're willing to put the time in you'll find that Final Fantasy XII is one of the best games that Square have ever released.
Final Fantasy IX
After the a-hole filled adventure that was Final Fantasy VIII, Square Enix needed to do something to bring those fans back onside who felt as if they'd been let down by the series and their remedy was the quite simply wonderful Final Fantasy IX. Seen by the developers as a retrospective of the earlier entries it ditched the settings that had been in the previous three games and went back to medieval times and it worked wonders. It's a whimsical, almost light-hearted game and after all, the dark brooding of the previous installment was like a breath of fresh air.
Final Fantasy XV
Well, something had to finish in silver place and Final Fantasy XV is the ever so close but no cigar option. This wasn't an easy decision to make either as Final Fantasy XV could've and should've been a complete failure, stuck as it was in development hell for 10 whole years, so the fact that they not only managed to get it out the door but made it the most visually stunning and playable entries in the series says all you really need to know about Square. When they put their mind to it and dig in their heels, they really can do anything. Except give us a sequel to Sleeping Dogs apparently.
Final Fantasy VII
It's hard to call any game perfect. After all, even the best of the best have a few small faults (unless your Rockstar Games and then you can do no wrong) but Final Fantasy VII is the closest thing to perfection that you can ever get from an RPG. With hours upon hours upon hours of gameplay, a group of characters that everyone knows by name, and one of the better-written stories in its illustrious history, Final Fantasy VII is a testament to how a game can draw you in and break your heart and do it all while giving you an experience you will never forget.