I’ve seen a lot of tweets on Twitter recently about Final Fantasy, either about your favourite characters, games or music. Now, I’ve already written about my favourite Final Fantasy moments (you can read that here), so I thought I would tackle another one of these questions…
Specifically, I thought I would put together a list of my top 7 Final Fantasy games so far. I have a bit of an odd opinion about the series and which games I enjoy the most, so hopefully, this list may surprise you a little bit. But either way, let’s get started. Here are my picks for the top 7 Final Fantasy games!
7. Final Fantasy IV
We’ll start off with the oldest of the Final Fantasy games on the list; Final Fantasy IV. This was the first game that truly ditched the Job System in favour of each character having a Job (or class) that is dictated by the story. As such, it also felt like the first in the series to have a really deep, well-written storyline. At least, that’s my opinion.
The redemption arc of Cecil, the main character, is a very powerful story (especially for the time) that kept me hooked throughout. As storyline eloquence is a big thing for me, to become that engrossed in the tale of a game from that time was very surprising for me. The characters, despite being in such a high fantasy setting, were surprisingly relatable in their thoughts, reactions and actions. The dungeons are also enjoyable, not overstaying their welcome whilst also offering some semblance of a challenge too.
6. Final Fantasy IX
In at number 6, we have the game that was basically a love letter to the Final Fantasy games on the NES and SNES; Final Fantasy IX. This was the last of the numbered games to appear on the original PlayStation, and you can tell. The game still looked absolutely gorgeous to this day, looking almost as good as some early PS2 launch titles! Especially the PS4 release.
Final Fantasy IX to the idea of a high fantasy epic and turned the dial to 100. It has some really hard hitting moments, with some amazing characters that you can just fall in love with. Vivi, especially, is just a wonderful character that you really come to care about and sympathise with. The events of the game tell a wonderful storyline as well, both paying homage to the heritage of the series whilst also feeling unique in its own right.
The final boss fight is a bit a letdown, coming completely out of nowhere. But everything that you get to experience from the start of the game up until that point is astounding. Also, the idea of having to equip abilities, and only having a limited amount that you can equip at any one time, gave a tactical and strategic element to party planning. I really appreciated that.
5. Final Fantasy XIV
There have been two MMORPGs in the Final Fantasy series so far; Final Fantasy XI and XIV. I have spent a huge amount of hours in both of them, but Final Fantasy XIV takes the cake for being my favourite MMORPG I have ever played. I started with the game during the Beta phase of the A Realm Reborn release, skipping the original version of the game that completely failed. As such, I came into it after it was brought back from death, instantly being blown away by the gameplay and storyline.
Prior to Final Fantasy XIV, my MMORPG experience was limited to FFXI, Guild Wars and the Legend of Myr. As such, I didn’t have much to compare Final Fantasy XIV with, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the game. Even when it came to grinding for levels, I had a lot of fun. For example, in Final Fantasy XIV you are able to switch class or Job at any time, levelling all of the classes on one character. I mainly played as an Archer (and then Bard when I unlocked the Job), but when Rogue/Ninja was released, I thought I would give it a try.
I managed to grind from a level 1 Rogue to a level 50 Ninja with my armour being at item level 125 (almost max at the time) within just 24 hours. The grind never felt dull, which is a testament to the developers of A Realm Reborn.
4. Final Fantasy VII
Yes, you read that right. Final Fantasy VII, the game that is typically called the “best” of the series, is only in the number 4 position. I know it has become rather trendy to hate on Final Fantasy VII, but that’s not what I am going to do here. The seventh game in the main Final Fantasy series is a really great game. It was completely revolutionary at the time, whilst also being the game that really brought J-RPGs into popularity outside of Japan. For that alone, it deserves respect.
The mini-games within Final Fantasy VII are very entertaining. It features a decent amount of comedic moments without seemingly childish. And the storyline is very enjoyable. However, the reason that it doesn’t get a higher position is because of the few flaws that it has.
Specifically, I found the Materia system to be very basic compared to other customisation systems in other Final Fantasy games (we’ll get to that), and the plot wasn’t quite as top notch as others, in my opinion. Sephiroth, as well, wasn’t quite as interesting as an antagonist as others. For example, he wasn’t a conflicted and relatable character, such as Edea or Delita. Instead, he was simply a “big bad” with a thinly-veiled reason for being “evil”. This works in the game, for certain, but I feel that Sephiroth just didn’t reach the same level of, say, Kefka in that sense.
Nonetheless, Final Fantasy VII is still a great game, and I’m really hoping that the remake does actually see a release this decade.
3. Final Fantasy VI
In third place is one that probably won’t come as a surprise. After all, Final Fantasy VI is one of the most beloved in the series (behind Final Fantasy VII normally). The game, being the last one on the Super Nintendo, made full use of the console’s power by pushing hard on the Mode 7, featuring a huge storyline and one of the best villains in the series; Kefka. Whilst other antagonists may have wanted to destroy the world or become a god, Kefka actually manages to do both!
Because of this, Final Fantasy VI actually features two different world maps; the World of Balance and the World of Ruin. Whilst they are, technically the same planet, the two maps are so vastly different from each other that you’ll feel like you are getting two games in one. But it’s not just Kefka and the two world maps that make Final Fantasy VI so great.
Considering how much each character goes through, as well as surviving the end of the world, they all have very realistic reactions to the events of the game. Final Fantasy VI is a game will make you truly care for the characters, only to tear your emotions apart and leave you to rebuild them once again as you play. For any game to manage such a feat is incredible, but Final Fantasy VI does it with a sheer brilliance of execution.
2. Final Fantasy VIII
Now, if Final Fantasy VII only being in the fourth position didn’t shock you, this one might. My second favourite Final Fantasy game to date is Final Fantasy VIII; a game that (to this day) gets a lot of flack. However, I truly believe that the hate for Final Fantasy VIII is unjustified. The problem that this actually amazing game faced was that it came after Final Fantasy VII, the game that introduced so many people to the series whilst also blowing their minds at the time.
Because FFVII was so revolutionary, whereas FFVIII was a continuation of the series, people may have felt disappointed that it didn’t completely reinvent the series again. However, it did feature some very interesting changes to the typical Final Fantasy formula. For one, the enemies levelled with you. I know a number of people who didn’t like that, as it meant that you couldn’t just power level and then walk all over them. However, when you combine this with the second major change, the Junction system, it works so well.
The Junction system allows you to “equip” magic to your stats, boosting them and giving you the ability to customise your characters. However, it can be rather confusing and complicated, taking both concentration and patience to fully learn and understand. But once you have understood how to use the Junction system properly, you are rewarded massively. For example, you can use the Card ability to “kill” enemies, turning them into cards that you can then refine into magic. That magic can then be Junctioned, without you getting levels up (you don’t gain EXP for using the Card ability). Doing this means that both your party and the enemies stay at very low levels, whilst your stats go up and up. So, for those who like to “steamroll” through a game, by using the Junction system correctly, your party can effectively become gods!
1. Final Fantasy Tactics
And so we come to my all-time favourite game in the Final Fantasy series. I would argue that Final Fantasy Tactics is the best Final Fantasy game by far, due to the sheer amount of game design that the developers got right with it. For starters, the storyline is beyond incredible; the best way to describe it in one phrase would be “the Game of Thrones of the Final Fantasy series”. If you’ve only ever played the main, numbered Final Fantasy games, then Final Fantasy Tactics’ storyline is going to be a huge surprise for you.
Most of the games in the series feature heavy storylines mixed with spats of comedy throughout. This is to break the tension and lighten the mood. Final Fantasy Tactics takes that idea and shoves a Dragoon’s spear straight through it. There is not one moment that the storyline lets up. Instead, it keeps getting heavy and darker with every scene. Dealing with politics, war, religion and class structure, the game features very mature themes that would have probably gone over your head as a child. But even if that was the case, the events in the game will leave a lasting impression on you. I don’t want to spoil anything about this amazing game, but there is one specific part that hit me harder than Aerith’s fate ever did!
Oh, and as we have touched on the Materia and Junction systems, and how they enable you to customise your characters, we cannot forget the Job system in Final Fantasy Tactics. In my opinion, this is the best implementation of the Job system to date, offering an insane amount of customisation for your party. I mean, it is just so deep in its implementation that you can actually get lost, spending hours trying to customise your party to your specific tastes!
If you haven’t played Final Fantasy Tactics, and haven’t experienced the storyline, then do yourself a favour; pick up either the original PSX release or the PSP re-release. You will not be disappointed.
And That’s All Folks
There you have it. Those were my 7 picks for the best Final Fantasy games so far. This may, of course, change in the future if Square Enix can get their act together and recapture the magic of the series that has been missing from recent titles. However, until that happens, I will still keep buying and playing this series. I just love the series so much, like so many other people out there do too.
What are your top picks for the best Final Fantasy games? Are there any that you think don’t get enough attention or love? If so, why not let me know in the comments!