Most gamers consider the Final Fantasy series to be the peak of JRPG perfection. Even if you haven’t played a Final Fantasy game, you’ve likely heard of the series. Over its long and varied history over the last thirty-plus years, there have been fifteen main entries into the series and just as many spin-offs. The series has created worlds brimming with fantasy, magical creatures, spells, and even explorations into space.
Final Fantasy has stuck with players in part for enthralling gameplay that hooks you in but also because of their stories and characters. The series has explored themes like environmentalism, existentialism, and love and loss. We’ve watched characters grow, find success, find love, and sometimes even die.
While some entries are better than others, each game in the series has both its fans and naysayers.
For the purpose of this list, we will take into consideration all releases of that game – remakes, remasters, and ports. Here’s our list of the main Final Fantasy games ranked.
The game where it all began. Just because it falls at the bottom of the list doesn’t mean it’s a bad game. It was just the starting point of a much grander series. This game was the first to introduce occupations. This gameplay element would be further developed in several main entries as well as spin-offs.
The story is fairly basic and straightforward, especially when compared to more recent entries. It follows four nameless youths referred to as Light Warriors on their quest to rekindle the darkened crystals each holds. Over the years, it has received a number of rereleases with the most recent being the Pixel Remaster on Steam.
Final Fantasy 2
Final Fantasy 2’s legacy is its introduction of series staples. From a character named Cid to Chocobos, a number of elements that are essentially Final Fantasy are in the series’ second entry. The game, quite untraditionally, did away with the leveling system. Instead, characters grow based on what skills players use.
Like its successor, it took a long time for Final Fantasy 2 to find its way to North America. It was released on the PlayStation alongside the first in the series in the compilation Final Fantasy: Origins.
Final Fantasy 3
Final Fantasy 3 is a bit of an anomaly. It came out in 1990 in Japan for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Square released it on Nintendo DS in 2006 marking the game’s first appearance in North America.
Jobs, turn-based battles, and the experience leveling system all make a return to the series. It’s also the first game to feature job-specific skills like Steal and Jump. Its remake fleshed out the story from the original and developed its characters further. Developers also retooled and balances the job-class system.
Final Fantasy 5
Originally just released in Japan, Final Fantasy 5 eventually found its way to North America on the PlayStation and Game Boy Advance. Both ports feature updated graphics and other features like additional jobs, dungeons, and bosses.
Critics praised the game for its highly customizable job system, but many noted its weaker story. They regarded many of the characters as fairly weak and the story rife with cliches. Despite this, the game offered side quests and discoverables which made the game a little more bearable.
Final Fantasy 13
Despite mostly positive reviews, Final Fantasy 13 is very divisive among fans. Many take issue with the game’s forced linearity in its first ten chapters. Many harken it to walking down a long hallway with a boss fight, cutscene, or both at the end. Regardless of its reception, the game sold well.
The game follows Lightning and friends as they race against time to try and prevent themselves from turning into monsters after being marked by the world’s God-like figure. The story offered some truly touching moments and the character relationships helped counterbalance some of the gameplay issues. Perhaps the most surprising part of the game is that it had not one but two sequels.
Final Fantasy 11
While not as hugely popular as Final Fantasy 14, the series’s first entry into the MMORPG arena was a success. To this day, the game is still playable on PCs. It was released in 2002 on PlayStation 2, PC, and Xbox 360 to positive reviews and allowed cross-platform play.
It had players choose a race and class before exploring the world. Since its release, its received several expansion packs that have implemented new gameplay elements and furthered the game’s ever-expanding narrative. It also features one of the hardest bosses in gaming history.
Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy 15 had a bit of development trouble, and once it came out, it didn’t land quite as well as one would hope with critics or fans. In subsequent years, the game has received a lot of updates. With the release of the Royal Edition, the game gets as close to what Square Enix originally wanted with features that weren’t initially added.
In an effort to keep the game under a single entry, its creators developed it with the idea to supplement some of the narratives in other forms of media. Both Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV and the original animation Brotherhood: Final Fantasy XV help flesh out the story more fully.
Final Fantasy 8
After the success and popularity of Final Fantasy 7, Square had a lot of pressure to release a worthy follow-up. While it didn’t reach the heights of Final Fantasy 7, it still found its own success and popularity and grossed $151 million dollars in Japan on its first day of release.
After the 3D cartoonish models of the previous entry, the characters in Final Fantasy 8 feature the first time the series used realistically proportioned characters. It also featured a new take on the battle system. Players can draw magic from enemies and then equip it to boost their stats. The game would go on to receive a remaster in recent years with several quality of life changes including improved graphics and high definition graphics.
Final Fantasy 4
Four is important to the series for a number of reasons. First, it was the first to use the Active Time Battle system that became a staple of the series for a long time. Second, it locked each character into a job class. Finally, its story delved deeper than any previous entry. This shone the way forward for more RPGs to feature stories that were deeper and more satisfying.
The game would eventually receive a full 3D remake on the Nintendo DS. After the success of it, Square released a sequel titled Final Fantasy 4: The After Years. Both games received good reviews and brought a new audience to the game.
Final Fantasy 12
Final Fantasy 12 was both a commercial and critical success. The story takes place in Ivalice, a world explored in previous Final Fantasy spin-offs. Much of the gameplay seems to take some inspiration from MMOs: how characters attack, control of the camera, non-random encounters, an aggression system, and more.
It also featured a new growth system with its license board. In order to use specific weapons, spells, and skills, a license must be purchased on the license board, and then it can be equipped. Similar to Final Fantasy 10, 12 allows for all characters to learn all Licenses but each character’s board is laid out differently. It deserves its rather high placement on our list of the best Final Fantasy games.
Final Fantasy 14
After an initially disastrous release, Final Fantasy 14 has continued to improve and offer one of the best MMORPG experiences in recent history. Besides completely revitalizing the game after its initial release that bombed, Square has released numerous expansions that continue to improve upon the entries before it. It is now widely considered to be the best MMORPG you can currently play.
In true MMORPG fashion, you’re able to select a class or, in this case, a job, to learn and grow in as you explore the world. Much of the game has references to past entries with boss battles, creatures to slay, or characters.
Final Fantasy 10
Final Fantasy 10 was the series’ first entry on the PlayStation 2, and the first time a Final Fantasy was fully voice acted. The game follows Tidus after he gets transported hundreds of years in the future and is struggling to get back. Along the way, he meets a memorable cast of characters each with distinct personalities and roles in battles.
The game steps back from the Active Time Battle system and instead goes completely turn-based. The game, like many before it, also features summons. This time, however, the summons (or Aeons) are central to the main plot of the game.
Over the course of the game, you’ll strengthen your characters using the Sphere Grid which replaced the traditional leveling system. This allowed for more distinct character builds and freedom.
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 7 brought the series into glorious 3D, and while the game’s graphics haven’t held up (those hands, those bodies, those faces!), its legacy has kept it afloat all the way until now as Square Enix continues the series with the Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
The original still has a lot to love in it with the broody Cloud, warm and kind Aerith, and foul-mouthed pilot, Cid in its cast. Plus it has one of gaming’s saddest moments. The game’s battle system isn’t super-evolved from previous entries and still uses the Active Time Battle system. The inclusion of materia, though, brought some much-needed strategy to the game.
While it only covers a portion of the game, Final Fantasy 7 Remake completely revamps everything about the original game, and it is one of the best JRPGs you should be playing. It puts some 2020 polish and pizzaz on it with a fully voice-acted and motion-captured cast, action-oriented battles, and a twist on a story we all know.
Final Fantasy 6
Final Fantasy 6 features one of the largest playable, permanent parties in the series with fourteen members. The story follows Terra in a world where magic was once everywhere and over the years has disappeared and become a myth. Now the world relies on technology and science. Its narrative explores more mature themes than previous entries, and it’s often lauded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
Since its original release in 1994, Square re-released Final Fantasy 6 on various platforms including iOS, Game Boy Advance, and PlayStation. When looking at the best Final Fantasy game it offers worthwhile competition for our current top choice…
Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy 9 is the most Final Fantasy of Final Fantasy games. It was the last Final Fantasy game on the PlayStation and is the best-reviewed in the series. It is a celebration of the games that came before it with so much wonder and joy packed in every moment.
The world and its inhabitants feel lively and wholesome, the towns and cities you visit are filled to the brim with exciting things to do and see, and the battle system merges the best parts of its previous entries.
Recently there have been whispers of a remake, and we can only hope to be blessed with a revamped take on the adventures of Zidane, Vivi, Garnet, Steiner, and friends.
Our list of the best Final Fantasy games hopefully showcases the evolution, missteps, and triumphs of the series. Here’s to hoping for many more years of amazing stories, gameplay, and the continued evolution of the beloved MMORPG.