The Best Final Fantasy Games, Ranked - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, October 1, 2021

The Best Final Fantasy Games, Ranked

When Hironobu Sakaguchi began working on the first Final Fantasy in the mid-1980s, he had a team of seven people, an uncertain product, and the belief that if this game didn’t make it, he was bowing out. Talking to Famitsu back in 2007, Sakaguchi said; “The name ‘Final Fantasy’ was a display of my feeling that if this didn’t sell, I was going to quit the games industry and go back to university...it really was a ‘final’ situation.” Another explanation for the “final” name choice was concerning Square’s precarious financial situation at the time —confirmed by series music composer, Nobuo Uematsu, in an interview with Wired back in 2009.

It seems unfathomable that we came so close to never having Final Fantasy as the iconic franchise it has become. Whittling down dozens of games into a list of nine is a brutal exercise, allowing no way forward that doesn’t leave excellent entries on the cutting room floor. A cavalcade of spoilers follows, as well, so please be warned. All of that said, once more unto the breach! Here are the nine best Final Fantasy games of all time.

9. Final Fantasy VII Remake

Including Final Fantasy VII Remake here feels a little redundant, as its namesake will, as you might expect, be on this list, too, but the life that was breathed into Midgar allowed for an excellent blend of nostalgia and new, unexplored, depth. That doesn’t mean every change that was implemented was positive —I am still not sure about the scene in President Shinra’s office— but the final product was an eye-popping revelation of Shinra’s dystopian metropolis. Remake is also a placeholder for the more action-oriented Final Fantasy titles that have dominated the series’ most recent decade of games, of which Remake is pretty securely the best one (the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, Final Fantasy XV, Final Fantasy Type-O).

8. Final Fantasy

As the origin story for all of these beloved games, the series’ first entry is both franchise-defining, as well as franchise-black-sheep. The lack of specific characterization —you name your characters, who are otherwise known simply as the “Warriors of Light”— is something rarely present in the series, and creates a sort of vanilla feeling to this entry. However, sitting right alongside are the familiar ability trees, excellent music from Uematsu, and dungeons that are arguably as difficult as any in the franchise. And the class change that is available late in the game is still one of my favorite Final Fantasy moments, as a party change of that magnitude is as surprising as it is rare.

7. Final Fantasy VIII

On the heels of the massive success that was Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII was always going to have an uphill climb. But featuring arguably the most exhilarating opening in the series, VIII immediately seemed up to the task. VIII is a beneficiary, as well as a victim, of its own ambitions. The ideas that run this entry are among the best, but the execution of those ideas is sometimes less dynamic. The Junction System is one of the most creative magic systems of the franchise, but drawing magic from enemies created a constant hesitancy that short-circuited the magic side of battle (junction effectiveness decreases as you use your drawn magic).

Where VIII shines brightest is in its plot moments: Squall’s first dance with Rinoa, the assassination attempt on Edea in Deling City, the revelations at the Orphanage. These sorts of moments transcend some of the lesser-executed design elements, and give us a narrative that is a little less fantastical, and thus a little more real, than some of its forebears. Well, until Ultimecia started time-compressing worlds, but, you know, whatever.

Oh, and VIII featured the launch of Triple Triad. That alone is enough to get this game on the list.

6. Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy had tinkered with the job system before (Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy V), but here in Final Fantasy Tactics we get such a system placed into a whole different style of tactical gameplay, while backed by a complex political drama, where everyone is related, plots to kill each other, and then kills each other. Here is the description of Tactics from Final Fantasy Fandom:

The game is set in Ivalice, a unified kingdom of seven territories, which is caught in the middle of the War of the Lions fought between two opposing factions vying for rule of the kingdom. The story focuses on Ramza Beoulve, a member of the respected House Beoulve, who finds himself caught amid the war and later uncovers the truth behind a sinister plot behind it.

Sounds like Game of Thrones to me. The end result is a convoluted bloodbath full of overpowered characters (Orlandu), old friend cameos (Cloud Strife), and a highly customizable job system that makes good on its core of gridded, tactical gameplay. And I don’t care what anyone says, the stupid battle (Finath River) with the all the red chocobos, casting "Choco Meteor" all over the place, was the hardest part of the whole game.

5. Final Fantasy X

The opening salvo for the franchise on the Playstation 2, Final Fantasy X features one of the series’ strongest storylines, and graphics that still hold their ground twenty years later. While Square Enix added unnecessary (regrettable?) extensions to Tidus and Yuna’s story, the original story’s ending was one of the most satisfying, where we get the team of heroes successfully bringing about the Eternal Calm, but also lose Tidus in a beautiful farewell moment with Yuna.

Blitzball is possibly the most fleshed-out minigame of the entire series. Perhaps even more fun than playing Blitzball was wandering Spira in search of better players, signing them to contracts, and then seeing your hard-earned footwork pay off on the, um, “field.” Once I poached Nimrook from the Al Bhed Psyches, I don’t think I ever gave up another goal.

4. Final Fantasy IV

We are now at the point in the list where every game feels like it should be higher. More than any other title, Final Fantasy IV remains the quintessential Final Fantasy experience: A full cast of developed, class-oriented, characters, the first entry to use the ATB system, and the first truly great soundtrack of the series, Like X, IV has been the recipient of story extensions (Final Fantasy IV: Interlude; Final Fantasy IV: The After Years) that may or may not be necessary, but their existence speaks to how much this group of characters sparked fans' imagination. I also like to think IV taught me no shortage of life lessons.

3. Final Fantasy VI

I agonized over whether to put Final Fantasy VI above Final Fantasy IV because I believe both games to be masterpieces. I ultimately decided to give VI the edge because it, like VIII, has a wonderful ability to cash in on moments. Whether it’s the opera house, or the coin toss between Edgar and Sabin, or even Terra’s snow crossing at the outset (complete with one of the all-time great Final Fantasy music pieces —"Terra's Theme"), VI excels on precision narrative execution that seems beyond the current capabilities of the franchise —trying to decode the convoluted jargon parades of the Fabula Nova Crystallis storyline has taken years off of my life. As the final entry on the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy VI perfected the design that IV had started, offering a large, engaging cast of characters, the fantastic Esper system, and a super villain who actually destroys the world.

2. Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX does basically everything right. Developed as a return-to-form for the series, IX is a beautiful conglomerate of everything great about the series’ first six entries —diverse set of class-centric characters set against a mythical/medieval backdrop— combined with the unavoidable push towards the new and innovative the industry often demands. As I wrote in my request for a Final Fantasy IX remake, the result is that every aspect of the game is a strange hybrid, comprised of many of the best metaphorical limbs left behind by the series’ previous games.

Add in the magnificent soundtrack that I submit as the best one of the entire series, and a world filled to the brim with myth (Mist Continent), historical events, (the “Airship Revolution,” Burmecian genocides), and wonderful chocobo search-and-finds (Chocographs), IX has no real chinks in the armor. I could probably complain about Necron appearing out of nowhere at the end as some sort of a god-villain, but I can let it slide.

1. Final Fantasy VII

I have a deeply personal relationship with Final Fantasy VII, but my personal feelings don't obscure that an actual meteor couldn’t have impacted the gaming world more than VII did. All you have to do is browse the “Impact” section of the game’s Wikipedia page to understand the vast reach of this game.

VII has the same precision narrative ability that I described Final Fantasy VI having —here we are talking about things like Sephiroth’s iconic destruction of Nibelheim, Aeris’ death, or Cloud and Tifa in the Lifestream. Like IX, VII’s world is rich and detailed, both in its size as well as its depth. Almost every location in the game has something significant happen there that makes it integral to the plot.

VII also has permeated far beyond its core entry, which makes it all the more significant. Excellent side entries like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII, questionable ones like Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, movies (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children), the aforementioned Remake, and others have plastered the legacy all over everything. And for what it’s worth, I’m not sure I have ever wanted to visit a Final Fantasy town more than I wanted to visit Cosmo Canyon.



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