Which Final Fantasy Is the Best of All Time?
This article includes twelve mainline and offline Final Fantasy (FF) games—from I all the way up to XIII. (As they are online games, XI and XIV were excluded from my review). Has my opinion on these games changed over the years? A little bit. But generally, I still feel the same about my decisions.
To clarify which games I'm reviewing, here are the guidelines:
- Each game must be a "mainline" Final Fantasy, i.e., a numbered entry in the series. FF Tactics and FF Type–0, for example, do not qualify here. Games such as FF Legend II (which was actually a SaGa game, but that's a story for another time) also do not qualify.
- Sequel games to specific titles are not listed. X–2 and Lightning Returns: FF XIII do not qualify. Prequel games such as Crisis Core: FF VII also do not qualify.
- This list only considers single-player games. XI and XIV are both online only and are not considered here.
- As of writing this, XV has yet to be developed. If you're reading this in a time that it has since been released, please note that I hadn't played it yet.
We shall now start with the 12th-best game of those that are eligible.
12. Final Fantasy II
This game was the first to develop its playable characters and have a complex plot. Unfortunately, the game has a very counter-intuitive battle system and features that can cause frustration. It's the only one on this list that I do not enjoy.
Playable on: PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PSP, Mobile (all of which are the remade version)
11. Final Fantasy IV
This is one beloved by many, many people ... but it is one of my least favorite mainline FF games. The reasons for this are: the gameplay is very basic, and there is no option for customization. (Subsequently, there is no replayability, something later ports and remakes try desperately to amend.) The plot, while it was considered revolutionary and groundbreaking at the time, is very cliche nowadays. So no, I don't think Kain betraying the party time and time again holds up decades later, sorry.
Playable on: SNES, PlayStation, GBA, PSP (original or updated 2D version), DS, Mobile, Steam (3D version)
10. Final Fantasy
The original title is a pretty decent game overall—with a basic but serviceable job system and decent, though somewhat dated, combat. However, the game's plot is both lacking and ridiculous, and there are times when it feels like the game can be a chore to grind through.
Playable on: NES (original), PlayStation, GBA, PSP, Mobile (2D remade version)
9. Final Fantasy XIII
This game derailed the series. It's unfair to lump what's happened to the series since XIII's release, including the two sequels to XIII, to the quality of this game by itself. The gameplay set itself up to make you want to auto-battle everything, and the plot leaves a lot to be desired. But overall, the positive features make the game more enjoyable than the three above it. That's right, I'm saying that I enjoy XIII more than IV. It's more IV's problems than anything XIII does well, mind you.
Playable on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Steam
8. Final Fantasy III
The biggest barrier preventing this classic from being enjoyed by more people is its difficulty, both in the NES and 3D versions. It also doesn't help that the game hadn't been localized for over 15 years after its release, and only its 3D version can be played overseas.
Playable on: DS, PSP, Mobile, Steam (mobile port)
7. Final Fantasy VIII
This game is really hit or miss with most people—it's known to be quite controversial. I enjoy playing through the game from time to time, but the game's plot twists are fairly awful, and the game's junction system seems tedious to some but easily breakable to veterans of the game.
Playable on: PlayStation, PC (both Steam and non-Steam)
6. Final Fantasy XII
The game can get pretty boring at times, and the extremely dry plot doesn't help a single shred with that. Those willing to invest in the gameplay, though, will find a rich and hopefully rewarding MMORPG experience. If you're able, try playing the Zodiac Job System version of the game (though it's not available in all regions).
5. Final Fantasy VII
While I believe IV is the big game for nostalgia-goggle people, VII was, undoubtedly, the first FF for many. Even with its dated 3D graphics, time-consuming animations, and somewhat convoluted plot, lots of people still love this game—myself included. Still, I have a feeling not nearly as many people like the VII remake.
Playable on: PlayStation, PC (both Steam and non-Steam)
4. Final Fantasy IX
This game is basically a love letter to fans of the older games. It has a good leveling system and a pretty decent plot. The only things holding this game back are its nearly unbearable loading times, odd card minigame, and how the plot kind of derails near the end.
Playable on: PlayStation and PC via Steam
The cutscenes are unbearable. That's pretty much the game's biggest flaw ... that and its linearity. From a gameplay perspective, though, the battles are among the best in the series, and the game's soundtrack is nearly unmatched. It forged a new path for the series.
Playable on: PlayStation 2 (original), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (HD Remaster)
2. Final Fantasy V
Not a lot of people are fans of V, but then again, not many people have played V. The original SNES game was never localized, and the PlayStation version was localized poorly. The GBA version remedies that problem, but the audio is bad. The mobile version remedies that problem, but that version's sprites look terrible. Even so, with its lighthearted story and deep job system, V is a game that deserves more love.
Playable on: PlayStation, GBA, Mobile, PC via Steam (mobile port)
1. Final Fantasy VI
With a massive cast of 14 playable characters, a major plot twist, and a leveling system, there is a fair amount of customization available. A lot of people consider VI to be their favorite title of the series, and looking at how the game presents itself, it's fairly clear why they do. It's one of the best games of its era and one of the best FF games in the series.
Playable on: SNES, PlayStation, GBA, Mobile, PC via Steam (mobile port)
Your Fantasy Awaits
The Final Fantasy series tells an epic tale of good vs. evil. While each title includes different gameplay and graphics, the heart of the series remains the same. Which of these 12 games is your favorite? Is there another title that you think should have made the cut? Let me know in the comments below!
Alexis on August 31, 2017:
Oh cutscenes of Final Fantasy X. When I replayed it as part of the HD remaster, I remembered how painful (and simplistic) some of the dialogue is. Despite that, it's still my favorite game in the series. I also probably make up a minority of Final Fantasy fans who really enjoyed FFII. Really, I loved the battle system!
Tom Irwin on October 30, 2016:
Not bad. I mostly agree with your ratings, though FF12 (either version) was a real chore.
I know your scope was strictly limited to the main series titles sans sequels, but FF4's Kane's constant betrayal is actually, imho, redeemed by his storyline in FF4: The After Years. He goes to the shrine for overcoming one's darkness and his darkness goes on a rampage. *Delightful*
The rest of that game was lamentably crap though...