5. Final Fantasy IV
Perhaps the only reason Final Fantasy IV (II on SNES) made our top 10 is because of its excellent narrative. Featuring Cecil and Kain, a Paladin/Dark Knight and a Dragoon, as they battle with betrayal, loyalties, and each other, Final Fantasy IV and its subsequent re-issue(s) featured one of the first iterations of the active time battle system that is so prevalent in Final Fantasy of the present day. Final Fantasy IV took the largest steps in narrative for the series, offering plenty of twists and turns to leave the player constantly guessing. Final Fantasy IV tested my concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, as I couldn’t help but cheer on the villain, who presented himself as the most interesting character in the game.
4. Final Fantasy X
The PlayStation 2 changed many aspects of the gaming industry. It introduced gamers to new worlds and brought to life games in ways many never thought were possible on a gaming console. Final Fantasy was looked towards as the series made the jump to a stronger system and many wanted to see how the series would evolve. Final Fantasy X was the answer and it made leaps and bounds over where the series had come from. In the first fully voiced entry, players were presented with Tidus and the world of Spira. Traveling with Yuna as one of her guardians, along with a unique cast brought to life through their character designs and voice acting, Tidus brought the player along on a heart wrenching and deep adventure. The combat and leveling system were met with a large overhaul as the battle system was tweaked for faster battles and the ability to swap characters on the fly mid-combat. Squaresoft set out to make this entry a memorable one and show what they could really do when provided with more powerful tools.
3. Final Fantasy XIV
Of all the entries on this list, Final Fantasy XIV sticks out the most. Originally released in 2010 as a main entry and follow up to the first Final Fantasy MMORPG, XI, XIV was given to the public in horrible form. The game suffered horrendous bugs, poor gameplay and numerous other issues. Despite running for almost 2 years after launch, Square Enix decided to pull the plug on the game and suspend all play. The only positive response to the game was in it’s graphical prowess. It looked like the 14th entry was dead before it ever got to flourish. After a public apology for the game, Square Enix did not give up. They returned to the drawing board and scrapped almost the entirety of the game.
In 2013 Final Fantasy XIV returned as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Set in the same universe but 5 years later after a massive cataclysm nearly destroyed the world, players were treated to something truly special. What awaited players was a completely redesigned game with a deep story, excellent gameplay and a growing community that to this day is the second largest MMORPG on the market. With new content coming out regularly and massive expansions coming out, Square Enix turned what would have been one of the worst entries in the series to one of the most engrossing that offers more content than all of the games in the series combined.
2. Final Fantasy VII
Here’s a bit of trivia for you: Final Fantasy VII is my favorite game of all time. Ever since I picked up an NES controller for the first time, I’ve never had an experience as moving and as complete as it felt when I played this game back in 1997 so obviously this is a very personal entry for me. However, everyone should know that this doesn’t have to be your favorite game for you to understand the impact that Final Fantasy VII had not only on the PlayStation or even RPG’s in the west, but on this industry as a whole. RPGs are one of the biggest and most successful genres in the world, and there’s a lot of credit that FF7 can take for that. This was a turning point in the history of the series, going from 2D to 3D, and adding a more cinematic experience to the genre. Cloud, Sephiroth, Aeris, you know the names. It’s the most popular of all Final Fantasy games and that’s because it was an entire generation’s first ever RPG that now love the genre. Add to that a villain that everyone can name, phenomenal graphics for the time, and probably the most shocking moment in video games, and you start to get the idea.