With the story on Kotaku that Final Fantasy XII may finally be getting a long overdue remaster and of course the megaton announcement at the last E3 that Final Fantasy VII will be getting a full on remake I think it’s as good a time as any to personally rank all the main line Final Fantasy games. For the record this will only include mainline single player entries into the series so no MMO’s or perennial favorites like Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Four Heroes of Light as honestly that would just take too long and become way to subjective, for the record though Tactics would probably rank pretty damn high. Also a note on FF XIII for the purpose of this list I’ll be including it as the Final Fantasy XIII Saga comprised of all three games. Anyways hope you enjoy it and argue with me in the comments these lists are designed for it anyways.
12) Final Fantasy II: Honestly this was a really easy choice and is quite frankly Square’s biggest misstep in the series. After the success of the traditional RPG Final Fantasy the company decided to experiment a little bit and FF II was born. However sometimes tradition works for a reason as the leveling system of the game is a total mess being an very primitive and similar system used in the Elder Scrolls games you got experience for the type of action used such as using a sword to get sword XP. However this encouraged the most effective form of grinding to be literally hitting yourself repeatedly. Seriously when a level system is reminiscent of the “stop hitting yourself” “game” that has been employed by big brothers everywhere you know you have a problem. Also probably it’s cardinal sin was the game just wasn’t that fun. For all those reasons and more Final Fantasy II is the WORST Final Fantasy.
11) Final Fantasy: To be honest there is nothing really wrong with this game its just that is has aged so poorly. Even with remake after remake ironing out the kinks and giving it a new RPG maker shine fundamentally its age still comes through. Really it’s so low on this list not because its a bad game but because so many other games were just a little (or a lot) better.
10) The Final Fantasy XIII Saga: Ah I debated where I should put these games just due to the fact they’re so damn divisive however in the end despite the fact I personally like them they can’t be that high. Really they’re only above the original games as the sequels really refined the gameplay and took a lot of fan feedback to heart. In the end these aren’t terrible games as people would have you believe however they’re not really great. For example I don’t have a driving urge to go and replay any of them like I do a lot of games on this list. However when I was playing them the first time I did have a lot of fun and completed almost all the content available. Really what more is there to say about these games that hasn’t already been said.
9) Final Fantasy III: This game is basically the I personally liked it but I can barely remember it. Really other then the jobs system (Geomancer FTW) I don’t remember much about it. I also didn’t have any gripes with it either its just your standard issue Final Fantasy. Really the game seems to be where the Final Fantasy we all know really started to come into its own as looking back at these early versions III really has the most modern feel to it. Also it deserves special mentioning the remakes for the DS and the iOS ports are really a lot of fun. I’d argue the DS is the definitive version of this game.
8) Final Fantasy V: Ah... poor Final Fantasy V you’re bunched in between two masterpieces seriously how could any game really be memorable with a position like that? Well V isn’t at least for me and that is why it’s right next to Final Fantasy III. This is because if Final Fantasy III started the formula for four heroes adventuring Final Fantasy V perfected it. Varied and interesting job systems, large expansive worlds, all together a very solid Final Fantasy. Just a shame about its positioning in the franchise.
7) Final Fantasy XII: Lets get this out of the way of the modern Final Fantasy’s Vaan is the god damn worst protagonist, so damn bad. Luckily Bash and Balthier more then make up for him. The battle system is also a little wonky, however the gambit system once you learn it can be so insanely fun. I’d argue not since Materia has breaking a Final Fantasy system been so rewarding. That said everything else wasn’t great. Even though I had a huge time doing all the hunts and exploring the world at times the game felt empty as really the story didn’t have the urgency it could have had. That said it did have the best Super Boss ever in Yiazmat at 55,000,000 HP this guy was a beast. I was going for a time to actually put this above Final Fantasy X to troll a little bit but as I was writing it I couldn’t do it XII may be a technically superior game but for all its flaws X is the more memorable one all around.
6) Final Fantasy X: Speaking of X... However yup Final Fantasy X is here for a reason. Really once you peel away all the nostalgia and give this game a nice hard look its not all that great it terms of gameplay and story. Generic amnesiac leading man, Sephiroth clone villain, as linear as XIII, love story seemingly out of bad twilight fan fiction, really there is just a lot to go on about this. However it does have one of the best battle systems in the entire series it’s too damn bad it doesn’t really have any of the challenges of the previous games to really face you to break it. Fundamentally it’s a fine game it’s just a flawed one and I’d argue its flaws coupled with its popularity has led Final Fantasy down the path its been going in recent years. That being said its impossible to deny its memorability which is something only a few Final Fantasy games really have achieved in my opinion.
5) Final Fantasy IX: Were at the top five and we’ve finally got to what could be considered the big ones. Starting off with our first PSX entry onto the list with Final Fantasy IX. Really the game feels so fresh and unique from the more modern entries. Being a game that was designed as a return to the roots of Final Fantasy being an actual fantasy IX had a unique feel that has yet to actually be replicated by any game in the series since I’d argue and one of the more engaging narratives. Really it could have gone up higher or lower depending on when I wrote this but it’s at five for now.
4) Final Fantasy VIII: If you go through Final Fantasy games you often find games that stand out just for how they play and feel in relation to the rest of the series. VIII is one of those games where after the advancement graphically of Final Fantasy VII VIII seemed to be the first game to truly reach the potential. No more blocky characters and what not but a very detailed world awaits you. Also while many people criticize the game as too angst ridden and what not I felt the story was quite compelling in driving you forward. Furthermore the characters actually felt real although not the pinnacle of the series it showcased the increasing ability of the games writers. Furthermore the draw system was so ridiculously overpowered and another example of being a really fun way to break a game.
3) Final Fantasy VII: These are where you could consider the masterpieces to begin appearing and really all placements up top here are fluid. I’ll be quick as there has been so much written on this games place in history and the series there isn’t very much new to say. Final Fantasy VII is important and fun to play two key components of masterworked game. Really in many ways Final Fantasy VII is to JRPGS what Terminator II, Die Hard, and Aliens are Action movies an example almost everyone points to. Due to that is has attracted a lot of detractors but fundamentally one cannot overstate its importance. Finally it is fun one of the better villains in the series, a compelling and deep narrative with a lot of twists and turns, entertaining and memorable characters. Final Fantasy VII touched a lot of people. It’s great.
2) Final Fantasy IV: Before this game Final Fantasy was basically all about the action, the quest, the goal. Final Fantasy IV made it about the characters are the journey. The journey of redemption for Cecil the Dark Knight and all his friends changed the series for the better. IV showed a game and digital characters can make you feel something; in the great argument are video games art Final Fantasty IV is one of your most potent weapons. Honestly when Cecil emerged from the trial of ordeals literally a changed man or the return of Rydia if you didn’t just smile something is wrong with you. If you want Final Fantasy distilled to its purest form IV is it. Just stay away from the god awful sequel...
1) Final Fantasy VI: Beating out VII and IV is a tough job and really only VI could do it. Being that the “best” is such a subjective thing but VI deserves it. It has the emotional resonance of IV, the best villain in Kefka (sorry Sephiroth), a compelling and memorable cast, a beautiful and dying world, it literally has so much greatness stuffed into it it is as close to a perfect JRPG as you’re to find. Once I tried to do a thought experiment and find something wrong or bad with Final Fantasy VI and I couldn’t. Honestly it’s just that good. The complete and best Final Fantasy experience.