When it comes to RPGs, no other series has come close to influencing, popularizing, and legitimizing the genre like Final Fantasy has. Multiple games, protagonists, and stories have shaped our own personal experiences across multiple generations. Now, amidst the highly awaited release of the 15th main game in the series, is the perfect time for us to put the old argument to rest, once and for all. These are the Top 10 Final Fantasy Games of all time.
10. Final Fantasy
The one that started it all. While not the greatest game in the series (it’s poorly paced and monotonous compared to today’s standards), the very first Final Fantasy on the NES is still considered to be an influential and groundbreaking title that shaped how the RPG genre would move forward. Many people believe that the reason Square named this game Final Fantasy because they believed it would be the final game they’d ever develop as the company was facing bankruptcy. The less interesting version of the story is that Square changed the name of the game from Fighting Fantasy to Final Fantasy as the former name was already taken. That doesn’t make this story any less amazing because Final Fantasy would go on to become a huge success, leading Square to keep making games and developing more games in the franchise, and well, you know the rest.
9. Final Fantasy V
Making its first arrival in the US via Final Fantasy Anthology, Final Fantasy V was originally known for its poor naming of the main character– which lived its legacy as Butz in Japan. When Final Fantasy V finally made its way to America, Butz became Bartz, the traveling adventurer with his Chocobo companion, Boko. Also a main proponent for the Active Time Battle system we see in our games today, Final Fantasy V introduced the job class system. Present in each online Final Fantasy, as well as Lightning Returns and Final Fantasy X-2, the job class system allowed you to change your characters’ stats and abilities based on your job, which you can modify with a job crystal. This intuitive system has evolved into the success that Final Fantasy XIV is today, and it all started with Final Fantasy V.
8. Final Fantasy XII
For almost it’s entirety (minus MMORPG Final Fantasy XI) Final Fantasy games had a blueprint. Each game would present a brand new world with similar themes and populate it with characters that fit into tropes. There is the young hero, the heroine with possible romantic ties to the lead, an ultimate bad guy who does evil things, random encounters and a turned based combat system. Published in 2006 in the twilight years of the PlayStation 2, Final Fantasy XII dared to be different. Featuring a world already visited by players, Ivalice, which was featured in the Final Fantasy Tactics series as well as a spin-off titled Vagrant Story, as well as a combat system more akin to an MMO than any Final Fantasy. Characters strayed from the standard tropes of the series as a surprisingly deep and adult character like Balthier stole the reigns of the story from the young, weak lead, Vaan. A villain like Gabranth brings a sense of humanity to the evil side blurring the line between light and dark that is so common in the hero/villain archetypes of the series and a political narrative ties it all together unlike any of the save the world scenarios so common to be found in Final Fantasy. XII defied the traditions of the series and looked to pave the way for a future. While the entry is under looked by many because of how different it was, it still holds a spot as one of the better entries in the series.
7. Final Fantasy IX
Another game to come out towards the end of PlayStation life cycle, Final Fantasy IX pushed the limits of the original PS console. Releasing in late 2000 just after the PlayStation 2 hit the market, Final Fantasy IX looked to return to the roots of the series that VII and VIII had looked to deviate from. Trading in science fiction and steam punk for a more traditonal fantasy setting, IX featured castles, magic, theives and princesses. While critically acclamied for it’s excellent plot and well constructed combat system, Final Fantasy IX did not sell as well as VII or VIII. This could be contributed to it’s late relase and it’s attempt to return to the series’ roots. The advnetures of Zidane, Garnet, Vivi and the band of heroes still stand as one of the greater entries in the series and earnest in it’s intentions.
6. Final Fantasy VIII
I fell in love with Final Fantasy VII; it was my first game in the series, after all. But Final Fantasy VIII is where my true love lies. Featuring some of the best visuals on the PlayStation console and coupled with the attempt to create innovative new gameplay (the draw and junction systems, for example), Final Fantasy VIII polarized gamers who either loved it or hated it. For me, Final Fantasy VIII succeeded with its narrative undertones and resulting dark atmosphere, as well as its prominent themes (you can’t change the past and must live with the present). Final Fantasy VIII, from a literature perspective, also features some of the strongest characterization and character growth in a Final Fantasy title to date. Oh, Final Fantasy VIII showcases one of Nobuo Uematsu’s greatest soundtracks, too.