Which Final Fantasy is the best?


View the updated list that includes Final Fantasy XIII here! 

Here’s something I have wanted to do for a while now. I am a huge Final Fantasy fan, and I have played every game in the series with an open mind and a clean slate. I have my own favorite game (Final Fantasy Tactics, incase you are wondering) but I am always careful to judge each new game on it’s own merits, instead of comparing it to past games. Sure, comparisons are inevitable, but with each game being so different and requiring so much devotion and commitment, sometimes its hard not to judge games in the Final Fantasy series based on past successes and failures. Now, for the sake of argument, I am going to include all 11 numbered Final Fantasy games, not including any spin offs or part 11 because it is an MMORPG, and should have never been titled Final Fantasy 11 in the first place. Seriously, what was Square thinking? I will be listing them from worst to best, #11 to #1. And having a game rank low on the list does not mean it is a bad game, because surely any one of the 11 games in the Final Fantasy series have more quality content than 90% of video games ever made. That being said, the countdown begins with…

#11 – Final Fantasy II (Famicom)

Now, I gave this game a fair chance. I own it 6 times over (Famicom, WonderSwan, GBA, PlayStation, Reproduction cart, and PSP, and I don’t even own a PlayStation Portable) and I can say without a moments hesitation that this is the weakest entry in the series thus far. The entire game is completely bogged down by the confusing, annoying, and punishing leveling system where by you have to exercise an attribute before you can have it bolstered. There are no levels as in a classic RPG system, where by you gain experience points and reach higher levels, instead your stats increase after each and every battle. This may sound pretty cool, and that’s exactly what I thought before I ever played the game, but the theory put into practice is a lot different, mainly because the game is incredibly difficult and having to level grind is so tedious using the game’s revamped leveling system that the first couple times I played it I got frustrated and lost interest. Overall, the game had a pretty good story and plot compared to it’s contemporaries, but there is a reason they did a major over haul of the game mechanics for part 3.

#10 – Final Fantasy V (SNES)

For a long time Final Fantasy V was an elusive creature to the English speaking west. The only numbered Super Famicom Final Fantasy game to not receive a North American release at the time, many Western gamers had no idea this game even existed because of Square’s renumbering of the localized Super NES titles. Part 5 was one of the earliest rom fan translations and finally saw the light of day in North America, first in 1999 as a part of the Final Fantasy Anthology series, and then as a stand alone re-release for the Gameboy Advance. Perhaps there was method to Square’s madness; the game is without question the weakest of the Super Famicom titles and not much stands out in the game other than the job system, which is an improved variation on the Famicom release Final Fantasy III.

#9 – Final Fantasy (NES)

I have to admit that putting the original Final Fantasy game this low on the list was a tough decision for me. I first played this game around the time of it’s release and I must have begged my parents for it for months. But the memories of strategizing with my friends and leading heroic charges through Warmech territory has succumbed to the simple fact that there are better Final final Fantasy games. When it comes to North American NES games, Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior 4 stand shoulder to shoulder in dominance of the console for plot, game play and graphics, but the one that started it all just isn’t as good as many of the games that followed it.

#8 – Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation)

If you can get past the cheesy, elfish character design (which is my least favorite of the series), then there is a lot of good here. Part 9 was the swan song for Final Fantasy games on the PlayStation and the game was treated as a retrospective tribute to the series to that point. In fact, there were many months of doubt during the games development whether or not it would actually be titled as part 9 or be a gaiden to the Final Fantasy series. The game is littered with tons of references to earlier Final Fantasy games, especially the first title. There is an awful lot to like about this return to the roots of the series, and while the game is the highest ranked title of the series on MetaCritic, it fell sort of expectations for many fans of the series. After the drastic and revolutionary changes made to in Final Fantasy 8, it was assumed that 9 would push the envelope even further. While not a bad game, after the intense drama of 7 and the deep customization of 8, Final Fantasy 9 left us all feeling like it should have been something more to it.

#7 – Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation)

“Is he mad? Are you brain damaged?” If you are one of the Final Fantasy die hards thinking that right now, chances are it is the first Final Fantasy game you played. In fact, part 7 was the first console RPG that millions of people played, and this plays a large part in its legendary status. You must remember that before Final Fantasy 7 came out, the console RPGs of the 16 bit era had a really tough time finding an western audience, and part 7 served as an introduction to not only the Final Fantasy series and console RPGs in general, but also to the Sony PlayStation, one of the most popular platforms in video game history. Now there is nothing wrong with this game; the addition of FMV cut scenes and the transition to 3D were truly revolutionary at the time of the game’s release, but I truly believe that if any one of the three PlayStation Final Fantasy titles were released in it’s place they would have had the same success and be held in the same bulletproof regard as Final Fantasy 7 is today.

#6 – Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

This is another example of a game that I wish I could put higher on the list. This game holds a fair bit on nostalgia for me personally as I can remember playing when I was an impressionable young nerd. The vastness of the game at that time was unreal. Playing one video game for 40 hours before you beat it? It was unheard on a Nintendo console. It is with this misty eyed wonder that I look back on this game. Great characters, plots twists and a huge world to explore. Not to mention that Final Fantasy VI boasts the greatest, most vile villain in video game history. This is the game that new Final Fantasy games are still consistently compared to and is often remembered with the same over-inflated grandeur as Final Fantasy 7. But where as part 7 is often revered as a jump to the next plateau, part 6 is seen as the end an era and the close of the golden age of console RPGs.

#5 – Final Fantasy IV (SNES)

Easily one of the greatest RPGs made in the 16 bit era, Final Fantasy IV is, at it’s core, a story of betrayed loyalties and the bond of relationships. When moving the series to the Super Famicom Square took enormous strides in both plot and character development. The story and especially the score are among the best in the series to date and the game has seen several re-releases, including a complete 3D remake due out for the Nintendo DS this summer. If you have not played this game yet, then I would put the DS remake high on your to-do list.

#4 – Final Fantasy III (Famicom)

After the release of Final Fantasy 2, it would have been easy for Square to go back to basics and reuse the same game play mechanics as the original Final Fantasy, but they instead created one something completely new and reinvented the young series. The addition of the job system in Final Fantasy III paved the way for the sweeping innovation that can be seen still be seen in many of the Final Fantasy games to follow. The job system that got it’s start in part 3, while primitive by today’s standards, created an amount of depth that at that time had not yet seen, and ended up being unequaled on the Famicom. The game is also easily the longest 8 bit console RPG and is the hardest Final Fantasy game to date. The game was never released in North America in it’s 8 bit form due to both the massive localization that would be required and upcoming release of the SNES. It was, however, completely remade for the Nintendo DS and serves as a rare case where a remake is superior to the original.

#3 – Final Fantasy VIII (PlayStation)

I have no idea how this game got such a bad wrap. Maybe because Square didn’t remake Final Fantasy 7 and went in a different direction. While it’s true that much of the hate on Final Fantasy 8 comes from simply the fact that it’s not Final Fantasy 7, I can safely say that it’s completely unjustified. First off all, the graphics, both in game and cinema FMV, are among the best on the PlayStation, and the story is extremely well crafted and methodically paced. Final Fantasy 8 remains the champion of character development in the Final Fantasy series. The game features some cool elements such as switching between two different parties, one in the past and the other in the present. This opens the door for you to trigger events in the past that you can manipulate in the present. The game is truly cinematic and plays out more like a opera than a video game. Never afraid of innovating, Square completely revamped the leveling system by introducing Draw, Junction, and Guardian Forces, where by you learn abilities through your summons creatures. There was some initial backlash against this system because it was so radically different than anything else in the series, but the Draw / Junction system has ultimately proven to provide the game with a level of customization far deeper than that of the Materia system in FF7. If you have stayed away from this entry because of it’s negative stigma, then I suggest you pick yourself a copy, forget what you’ve heard, and let the exciting mission based game play, epic story, and rich characters be the judge.

#2 – Final Fantasy X (PlayStation 2)

Games this beautiful only come a couple times a generation. This best thing about Final Fantasy X is that at it’s heart it is basically a simple love story. two people come together, over whelming odds, etc. The back drop for this epic story is that of a world in ruin struggling to be reborn. Everything about this game is nearly perfect; the graphic, pre-rendered backgrounds, the game play, even the cinema FMW are motion picture quality CGI. The battle system has once again been re-perfected in the form of the Sphere Grid, which is an ingenious way of providing the player with true computer RPG level customization. The game holds a near infinite amount of replay power when you factor in the side quests, the legendary weapons, monster hunts, and hidden Aeons to name a few. I have a file clocked at just short of 140 hours and still don’t have half of the legendary weapons or all the hidden monsters. The game is just that huge. Final Fantasy X was also the first in the series to feature voice acting. The acting has been done incredibly well, however they faced some criticism due to the fact that the character’s lip movements where not re-animated for English localization, so often the English voice actors would have to fit a sentence of dialogue into one-syllable’s worth of mouth movement. This problem has been addressed in all subsequent games in the series, however. The one thing that makes this game stand out in my memory, though, is the story. The epic love story and the tragic beauty and attention detail that comprises the world of Spira made Final Fantasy X truly worthy of the ushering in the next generation of console RPGs.

#1 – Final Fantasy XII (PlayStation 2)

Winner of countless awards, the only Final Fantasy game granted 40/40 by prestigious Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Final Fantasy XII is truly a feat. The developers managed to squeeze every last drop out of the aging PS2 and create a next generation level game on a six year old last gen console. Everything about Final Fantasy XII is first rate. Theater trained voice actors, sweeping orchestral score, a plot wrought with emotional and political intrigue. The depth of the characters, and the size the world combine to make this game on of the all time classic video games, not just of the Final Fantasy series, or of console RPGs, but of all gaming. Gone are the random battles, in their place a fully customizable battle system based on a mechanic referred to as Gambits that not only grant you complete control over every action your character makes, but also gives you total control over your entire party, even if you have them set to the games player-friendly AI. The entire world is laid out in front of you; no longer do you have to go to a map screen or world view, the transition from town to country-side to battle is 100% seamless. The attention to detail in Final Fantasy 12 is almost obsessive compulsive. It almost seems as the world around you is alive, constantly changing and evolving. The game is set in Ivalice, much just like Sqaure’s Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story, and much of the quasi-medieval setting is borrowed and recreated on a grander scale. The main quest will take bear minimum 35 hours, but are so many side quests, hunts, and hidden dungeons to explore that a complete game, if you took your time, would take in the neighborhood of 180 hours. I know, because that’s what my 100% complete Final Fantasy 12 file ended up at. The strength of Final Fantasy 12 is the games ability not just to be one of the biggest console RPGs ever made, but to fill that space with enough depth, beauty, originality and rock solid game play that you keep coming back again and again. The level of quality of Final Fantasy 12 is what is making me excited for 13… which much like Final Fantasy X, will be the only reason I will be buying a new PlayStation.


30 thoughts on “Which Final Fantasy is the best?

  1. I really love Final Fantasy 12 as well, but it took a while for it to grow on me. It was such a huge detraction from what I knew as “Final Fantasy” in terms of gameplay that I found myself getting bored with how easy and unengaging the gambit system made battles. I guess my main beef with modern RPGs is that in order to open them up to broader audiences, they had to be “simplified” by adding maps, removing random battles, etc…I don’t know if I’d agree with you about it being the best in the series since it’s all a matter of opinion, but I will agree that it’s definitely one of the best games I’ve played for PS2!

  2. good show! this is not a definitive list by any means, i have just been a fan of the series from the beginning and have pretty much played them as they cam out (i played the ps games in reverse order however, because i didnt get a ps until after n64). i was just trying to give a prospective that shows no bias towards any particular generation. thanks for the comment, your interest is much appreciated!

  3. i just read this but i think ff10 should be first…i was so into that story i rank it higher than the rest…
    ff12 was weird and i ddnt really enjoy it as much as the others…i had to repeat it 3 times because the battles just got boring(each time forgotting the story)until i beat it…
    my top 3 would be:

  4. yeah, it was a tough call for me as well. ff10 is definitely one of my top 5 favorite games of all time, and 8 is damn close, but in the end I found that the battle system in 12 was the true star of that title, and it truly was the most revolutionary jump in the series since ATB and job classes. But an argument can most certainly be made for 10, which I feel had the best story of any of the 11 main numeral Final Fantasy titles. Thanks for the comment!

  5. […] a clean slate. I have my own favorite game Final Fantasy Tactics, incase you are wondering but I amhttps://iheartyuna.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/which-final-fantasy-is-the-best/We want Final Fantasy VII now!Regardless of what Square Enix is saying with regard to the tech demo […]

  6. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Tear!

  7. i just want to say that ff7 is my favorite of all time and i played 1-6 before it. my first final fantasy was actually 4. just so you know.

  8. final fantasy 2 in last place!?
    what is wrong with u?
    u hav to be the only person confused by the levelling system
    it made the game so much bettr than any other and it was so simple to control and EVERY stat lvled up after each fight so it was almost the same as and other rpg!

  9. […] “Which Final Fantasy is the best?” – May 20th/08 The most popular list-style feature of the year is a little post dating back to May 20th called “Which Final Fantasy is the Best?”. For the article I skimmed all 12 main series Final Fantasy titles and ordered them from worst to best. This post came about because it was always something that I had been searching for online but could never find. This post gets about 10-30 hit per day. although there was not as much outrage as I initially anticipated. […]

  10. I can deal with most of your top 5, but placing FF8 where you did has just lowered my respect for you. shame shame.

  11. It makes me sad to see FFV placed so low on your list, but I suppose I can understand why you’d call it the weakest of the SNES Final Fantasy games.

    And while I agree that FFVIII has some of the best character development in the series, that character development really only applies to Squall, Rinoa, and Laguna. The rest of the cast seemed to be mostly forgotten by the end of the game. The entire game focused everything on Squall at the expense of everyone else, don’t you think?

    As for Final Fantasy XII… hahaha. I won’t go there. But good list overall. I definitely enjoyed reading it and your reasons for placing each game where you did :)

  12. for me, i usually judge my game on how much I can enjoy the storyline. Primary reason why rpg is my favorite genre.
    here’s my list:
    1. FF VI
    2. FF X
    3. FF VIII
    4. FF IV
    5. FF VII
    6. FF XII
    7. FFI X
    9. FF III
    8. FF V
    10. FF II
    11. FF I

    FFXIII is currently collecting dust in on my shelf cause I can’t find the time to play it. Therefore can’t rate it.

    FF Tactics is still one of the best strategy game on my list.

  13. I love Final Fantasy Tactics. The PSP remake is absolutely amazing; in that they didn’t change anything except add those beautiful cut-scenes and clean up the translation.

  14. I had planned to NOT even look at this list as so many Americans (are without taste) don’t dig on XII but what a surprise to see that you have XII pegged as number one, which it is…BY A LONG SHOT.

    The deepest battle system (by far), the best graphics (by far), the longest game and largest world (by far), wonderful music, and for the first time in the series, GOOD VOICE ACTING.

    My girlfriend and I say the best RPG ever is FF XII, my two brothers say it’s Dragon Quest VII (they BOTH are two of the greatest RPGs of all time).

    And while your spelling and punctuation are dog-shit, I dig on all the great games and carts from my childhood… Plus, anyone who has the brains to know that FF XII is the finest in the series is ok with me.

    Oh wait, I just saw that you have X listed as number 2. Never mind, you’re a herb… That game is an abomination. The voice “acting” is unforgivable, the characters suck (Tidus is a whiny little bitch), and it’s incredibly linear. The reason so many Americans dig it is because most Americans have no taste what-so-ever…Ask around the world, baby.

  15. Oh yeah, you’re also a chump because you can’t handle Batman for NES. I beat that shit when I was a 12, sucka…

    The ONLY game I haven’t been able to best for the NES is…Adventure Island. I could get to 8-3 but I just couldn’t fucks wit it.

    Ninja Gaiden I-III? No prob. Batman? Yep. Fester’s Quest? Sure.

    Wait, did I ever finish Wizardry for the NES?….Hmm, maybe there are two games I didn’t beat.

    You’re still a chump for putting FF X as the second greatest FF of all time. That game is dog-shit, through and through.

  16. That’s funny, because I am NOT an american.

    Also, don’t be upset just because my list is right. It’s okay- tomorrow will come and be a bright, sunny day!

  17. I don’t want to be an ass like other people in here but i have to say i really don’t like the list as it is. However everyone has their taste & the free will to express how they feel about certain game franchises. As for FF series goes i can understand how some of these games are being put over other. For an instance i can say that FFVII is my favorite of all time. I know that in many cases people often think that ff7 is over rated but i assure you is not, just because FF8 had better graphics some people liked it better at that time. I don’t really like strategy/tactics games much so i can’t say much about FF tactics one thing i really like about FF tactics was the art work everything looked great. So i guess i am more of a retro guy when it comes to FF. As for my list goes of the franchise is as follow:

    My Top 5

    1) Final Fantasy 7
    2) Final Fantasy 3 or 6
    3) Final Fantasy 12
    4) Final Fantasy 2 or 4
    5) Final Fantasy 8

  18. that’s cool, but this list is not ordered to my taste. i tried to take into account how each game effected the games after it. if you’ll notice, the top games brought the most sweeping changes to the series; which i think is something that is very important when you have a franchise as long running and heavily scrutinized as Final Fantasy is.

    As for 13… I am still thinking about where that fits… I can say that I really, really like 13. Great characters, great battle systems, great story…

  19. I get your point however for me a great game is the game that keeps you wanting to play it over after you finished it. I can say Chrono Triger was another game that just made me want to play it over & over until I get 100% completion & even try to do it in better time completion. With that been said lets go back to FF. That’s what my list represent they were so fun to play them & explore the whole game in your ship or vehicle. That is one thing i didn’t feel in FFX where basically you just hop in your ship & go from coordinate to coordinate instead of exploring, FFX just felt like exploring a dungeon to me.

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