The Final Fantasy Series Ranked from Worst to First

Updated on April 27, 2016

A little over a year ago, I reminisced and reviewed the twelve mainline, offline Final Fantasy games that have been released thus far, from Final Fantasy I all the way up to Final Fantasy XIII (XI and XIV, both online games, were excluded from review as I haven't played them). Has my opinion on these games changed in the year since? A little bit, to be sure, but generally I still have the same opinions of these twelve games.

To clarify which Final Fantasy games I'm reviewing, here are the guidelines:

  1. Each game must be a "mainline" Final Fantasy, i.e. a numbered entry in the series. Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy Type-0, for example, do not qualify here. Games such as Final Fantasy Legend II (which was actually a SaGa game, but that's a story for another time) also do not qualify.
  2. Sequel games to specific Final Fantasies are not listed. Final Fantasy X-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII do not qualify. Prequel games such as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII do not qualify, either.
  3. This list only considers single-player Final Fantasy games. Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV are both online only and are not considered here.
  4. As of this writing, Final Fantasy XV is still in the eternity that is its development. If you're reading this in a time when Final Fantasy XV has since been released, please note that I have not played something that had not been released.

I will link my review to each Final Fantasy as I go along. We start with the 12th best Final Fantasy of the twelve that are eligible.

Note: "Playable on" refers only to international releases of the game. Japanese-only releases are not listed. Virtual Console and PS Store rereleases are also not included, chances are (though not guarenteed) that NES/SNES Final Fantasies are available on Nintendo's eShop on Wii (probably not Wii U), and Final Fantasies VII-IX are on PSN.

The Low Tier

12) Final Fantasy II
"A New Narrative for Final Fantasy"
This Final Fantasy was the first to give its playable characters an attempt at development, and its plot a semblance of depth. Unfortunately, the game has a very counter-intuitive battle system and features many other frustrations to make this, really, the only Final Fantasy of the twelve I do not enjoy.
Playable on: PlayStation, Game Boy Advance, PSP, Mobile (all of which are the remade version)

Final Fantasy IV Japanese Boxart
Final Fantasy IV Japanese Boxart | Source

The Mid Tier

11) Final Fantasy IV
"The Most Beloved Final Fantasy"
Yes, this Final Fantasy, one beloved by many, many people, is one of my least favorite mainline Final Fantasy games. The reasons for this are twofold: the gameplay is very basic and has no level of customization at all (and, subsequently, no replayability, something later ports and remakes try desperately to amend), and the plot, considered revolutionary and groundbreaking for its time, is very cliche nowadays. No, I don't think Kain betraying the party time and time again holds up 25 years later, sorry.
Playable on: SNES, PlayStation, GBA, PSP (original or updated 2D version), DS, Mobile, Steam (3D version)

10) Final Fantasy
"Literally, a Final Fantasy"
The original Final Fantasy 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 yet ridiculous as well and there are times 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
"The Final Fantasy That Derailed the Series"
Like I said in my review of this game, its 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 and battle sets itself up to want to auto-battle everything, and the plot leaves a lot to be desired, but overall the package makes the game more enjoyable than the three below it. That's right, I'm saying I enjoy Final Fantasy XIII more than I do Final Fantasy IV. It's more so IV's problems than anything XIII does well, mind you.
Playable on: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Steam

Final Fantasy IX Boxart
Final Fantasy IX Boxart | Source

Of these twelve, which is your favorite Final Fantasy?

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The High Tier

From this point on, the games listed are games I definitely have a good amount of fun with and are games I can say I legitimately enjoyed.

8) Final Fantasy III
"The Forgotten Final Fantasy"
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
"The Controversial Final Fantasy"
This game is really hit or miss with most people. 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 Final Fantasy That Plays Like a MMORPG"
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 experience. If you're able, try playing the Zodiac Job System version of the game, though its not available in all regions.
Playable on: PlayStation 2

5) Final Fantasy VII
"The Final Fantasy That Changed It All"
While I believe Final Fantasy IV is now the big game for nostalgia-goggle people, mainly because they can still get away with it, Final Fantasy VII was, undoubtedly, the first Final Fantasy for many people. Even with its dated, early 3D graphics, time-consuming animations, and a somewhat convoluted plot, lots of people still love this game, myself included. Still, I have a feeling not nearly as many people are going to like the upcoming Final Fantasy VII remake.
Playable on: PlayStation, PC (both Steam and non-Steam)

4) Final Fantasy IX
"The Nostalgic's Final Fantasy"
This game, basically a love letter to fans of the older games, has a good leveling system and a pretty decent plot. The only things holding this game back are its now nearly unbearable loading times, its odd card minigame and how the plot kind of derails near the end.
Playable on: PlayStation, PC via Steam

Final Fantasy V Japanese Boxart
Final Fantasy V Japanese Boxart | Source

The Top Tier

3) Final Fantasy X
"Forging a New Path for Final Fantasy"
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.
Playable on: PlayStation 2 (original), PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita (HD Remaster)

2) Final Fantasy V
"The Under-Rated Final Fantasy"
Not a lot of people are fans of V, then again not many people have played V, as 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, Final Fantasy V is a game that deserves more love.
Playable on: PlayStation, GBA, Mobile, PC via Steam (mobile port)

1) Final Fantasy VI
"The Definitive Final Fantasy"
A massive cast of 14 playable characters, a major plot twist most of the way through, and a leveling system, though not perfect, allows for a fair amount of customization. A lot of people consider Final Fantasy VI their favorite Final Fantasy, and looking at how the game presents itself, its fairly clear why they do. Its one of the best games of its era, and one of the best Final Fantasy games in the series.
Playable on: SNES, PlayStation, GBA, Mobile, PC via Steam (mobile port)

Questions & Answers

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      • AlexisG profile image

        Alexis 

        11 months ago

        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!

      • profile image

        Tom Irwin 

        21 months ago

        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...

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