With the release of Final Fantasy XV and my first few hours with the game, I predictably began drawing comparisons between this Final Fantasy and its predecessors, and this naturally drove me to order them in terms of my preference, be it in their gameplay, presentation or sometimes much more importantly, the story.
Overall, I love most of the Final Fantasy games, with only a couple I don’t agree with, but having said so, there are five in the series that hold a very special place in my heart. So, here are my Top 5 Final Fantasy games (with their PS-era remastered intro sequences because they’re really cool):
5 – Final Fantasy: The recent honest trailer for Final Fantasy X mentioned that the longer the series goes, the more oxymoronic the name becomes, and so this game is perhaps the only one that is the true Final Fantasy.
This one is the progenitor, the big daddy, the one that set up all the recurring elements in the series, from complex plots and changing character names to crystals and fiends guarding them. In fact, the influence has gone well beyond the Final Fantasy series with even Bravely Default sharing some basic features.
It still has one of the best paradox plots in gaming, with only The Legacy of Kain surpassing it.
4 – Final Fantasy VII: Shocker, right? The game people most talk about, the one that spawned films and other media, yet for me this is a generally subpar Final Fantasy in terms of plot and characterisation. It’s a game of style over substance and if you take away the coolness of Sephiroth’s look, there’s very little depth to the character, not just as a villain. I give it points for killing off a major character and doing so permanently—considering I levelled her up to level 75 on the first disc, I can tell you she deserved to die, too damn powerful.
Having said so, it’s the first Final Fantasy I ever played, it’s the game that made me fall in love with many of the recurring elements of JRPGs, even more so than Super Mario RPG, which I adored and played a year before Final Fantasy VII.
Also, it has some amazing music and I’m not talking about One Winged Angel, in fact I’ve heard that song a bit too much. But the town music is tremendous, particularly the percussion heavy Cosmo Canyon.
And of course, there’s Chocobo (In) Breeding!
3 – Final Fantasy VIII: I love this game and I may be one of the very few to like the main character, the brooding Squall Leonheart. I like the relationship between Squall and Rinoa, how awkward it is for the longest time and I absolutely adore the story of Laguna, how you have those flashbacks about Squall’s daddy.
It was also, at the time, in the minority of Final Fantasy titles that integrated mechanics with the story, with the Guardian Forces having a storytelling part, their use and abuse causing amnesia in the characters. It’s so bad they don’t remember each other from their childhood.
It doesn’t have the best paradox plot, and you shift focus a bit too much before you get to the final boss, but Ultimecia’s castle is outstanding and a wonderful end stage.
I also like the fact that levelling up is so easy and how the bosses and most challenges scale to your level. It makes it possible to do Level 1 runs, which let’s face it, is unique and sets the game apart from all the others.
Lastly, that opening, Liberi Fatali, it’s intense, perhaps one of the most intense opening sequences in Final Fantasy history.
2 – Final Fantasy IV: My second favourite title in the series and the subject of my next Let’s Play—I must confess I had already recorded something but had to delete it mid edit. Final Fantasy IV has outstanding characters with a surprising amount of depth, from the monk Yang to our protagonist Cecil and the bad guy Golbez.
If you played the DS version, which is the same as the one on Steam, you some extended scenes that enhance the storytelling.
Also, now that I’m a Wrestling fan, I can appreciate the constant Kain heel and face turns much more than I did once upon a time.
I still remember the first time I played Final Fantasy IV and had just become a Paladin, how the game tricks you in that fight against yourself, how it forces you to think in order to overcome the challenge of fighting your inner darkness. It’s one of the cleverest moments in any Final Fantasy game, and one that always makes me want to do a Role-playing Campaign and maybe use that with my players.
1 – Final Fantasy VI: This is it, my all-time favourite, the holy grail of Final Fantasy, the game that has it all. There’s depth of character and storytelling, there is a likeable and expansive cast, a ton of abilities to unlock.
It was the first title in the Final Fantasy series to integrate mechanics and plot, to make the Espers, the summoned spirits, not only a mechanical resource for the characters but also part of the world and the story, with ties to not only the villain but the protagonist, Terra.
Speaking of the villain, Kefka is still the best villain to ever grace our lives, at least in the Final Fantasy series. He’s wicked, he’s cruel and while he may act the part of the buffoon, he’s no fool and he won’t suffer one either. He’s so effective as a villain he spends most of the game winning, making his dreams come true and leaving you to pick up the pieces.
The coolness factor in Final Fantasy VI is astounding, and let’s face it, none of us will ever forget Interceptor, the most vicious yet loyal dog in the world, so powerful he often out-damaged the entire party. There are very things that match that feeling when on the verge of defeat Interceptor arrives and saves the day.
You gotta love that doggy!
So those are my picks. Do you disagree on Final Fantasy VII, maybe? Let me know in the comments!
Also, I really need to make a longer list!