In the JRPG genre, there are few names bigger than Final Fantasy. The series has featured some of the most iconic characters and stories in gaming history, but, like any franchise that has been going for 35 years, it has had some low points as well. If you’re wondering which of the games you are better off avoiding, here are our picks for the worst Final Fantasy games of all time.
The worst Final Fantasy games – our ten picks
While pretty much every entry in the series is iconic in its own way, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t areas where they fall flat. Some of the games on this list are ones that we actually enjoy but don’t manage to hold up to some of the dizzying heights of other, more polished games in the series. We’ll be focusing on the mainline entries to the series for this list, though there are dozens of spin-offs and side games that have the Final Fantasy name on the box.
Final Fantasy I
Square Enix is finally bringing the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster series to consoles, allowing a whole new group of players to see how the first few games hold up after so long. Final Fantasy is the game that started it all back in 1987, but it has, unfortunately, aged like fine milk. The leveling system requires endless grinding to get through a plot that wasn’t that good to begin with. Though it was ahead of its time in many ways, it just doesn’t hold up against other early entries in the series.
Final Fantasy II
There are some iconic elements introduced into Final Fantasy II. We meet Cid for the first time and have our first encounter with Chocobos, which makes this feel more like a Final Fantasy game than its predecessor. However, the absurd difficulty spikes that pop up when you try to explore the open world make the game nigh-unplayable unless you’re willing to spend dozens of hours fighting the same few orcs so you don’t die two seconds later. Add in a leveling system that punishes you as much as it rewards you and you’ve got probably the worst game in the entire series.
Final Fantasy III
By the time Final Fantasy III was released in 1990, Square was starting to find its groove. Elements of the first two entries can be found here, plus some quality-of-life improvements like being able to see how much damage you do or how much you’ve healed your allies. However, there are several huge jumps in difficulty that break up any momentum that the plot gains by forcing you to grind endlessly. The final dungeon is notoriously difficult and, honestly, just not fun, making this one of the least fun Final Fantasy games ever.
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus
It wasn’t until the PlayStation 2 came around that we got to see how Cloud, Tifa, and Yufi really looked. Freed from the blocky style of the original game, this sequel had a lot of promise. Unfortunately, the gameplay was clunky and lazy, making Dirge of Cerberus a chore to play through despite how outrageously cool it all looked.
Final Fantasy VIII
This is a controversial one, as we actually enjoy several elements of this game. The junction system is fun and stands out in a series that has never shied away from trying new things. The problems arise when you examine the story or the characters for longer than half a second. It feels rushed, like the plot needed another year to tighten it up and make it make sense. The mechanics in Final Fantasy VIII are good, but the motivations of both the heroes and villains are practically non-existent which drags the whole entry down and make it one of the worst Final Fantasy games ever.
Final Fantasy X-2
As a sequel to one of the series’ most popular entries, there were high expectations for Final Fantasy X-2. There were some improvements over the previous game, but the new cast of characters felt too scaled back. Many fan favorites from Final Fantasy X were missing and the plot lacked the grand scale of its predecessor. Final Fantasy X-2 isn’t necessarily a bad Final Fantasy title, but it just failed to meet player expectations and suffered for it.
Final Fantasy XII
There are certainly some good parts of Final Fantasy XII, but the game is needlessly padded with quests that don’t add anything to the plot. Not even the dynamic duo of Fran and Balthier can save a cast that feels more along for the ride than active participants in the story. Add in a combat system that feels too passive for a series that, up till then, had given full control to the player and a licensing system that was both frustrating and baffling at times and you’ve got a game that ends up largely forgettable.
Final Fantasy XIII
While the visuals in Final Fantasy XIII are stunning and it features several fantastic character designs, the plot takes entirely too long to find its footing. It takes more than 20 hours before the game finally opens up and allows you to explore the world, causing the opening hours to feel like an extended tutorial. Many fans refer to this entry as “Corridors and Cutscenes” for this exact reason. It just doesn’t feel fun or epic enough compared to other entries in the series.
Final Fantasy XIV Online
We’re going to specify that we’re referring to the original 2010 release of Final Fantasy XIV rather than 2013’s A Realm Reborn version. It takes a lot for developers to completely nuke their MMO from space and start over from the ground up, but that’s what happened here. The original game had poorly implemented mechanics and a storyline that was half-baked even a year into its initial release. However, it did pave the way for one of the best online games of all time so we’re at least thankful to it for that.
Final Fantasy XV
This is another Final Fantasy game that certainly isn’t terrible but lacks some of the touches that make other games in the series stand out. The more action-based combat system didn’t gel with many fans and the ending was incredibly depressing. However, the game’s worst flaw should have been its biggest selling point; the open-world system was too big for the number of quests and items within it, making much of the expansive real-estate feel wasted and boring to traverse.