Jeremy enjoys gaming when not working as a manager at the same college he graduated from.
Final Fantasy Girls
While women have long assisted our teams in the Final Fantasy video games, they were traditionally assigned supporting roles as healers or mages. Luckily, later games help edge them into all classes, giving the girls the variety they deserve, with some even taking the leading role in their game's story.
From noble mages Rosa and Rydia in FF4 to evil Ultimecia in FF8 and even mechanic Cindy in FF15, we've seen powerful female heroes, villains, and NPCs alike. But with dozens of awesome characters, which women reign supreme? Factoring in character development, gameplay prowess, and maybe a bit of cuteness, these are the ten most iconic Final Fantasy girls! Spoilers ahead.
Appears in: Final Fantasy 13
Although Terra is often considered the main character of the critically-acclaimed FF6, it wasn't until Lightning that we received an undeniable female lead protagonist. Lightning's much grittier than most bubbly female supports, offering a "strong" fighter for women to identify with. In addition to sharing a bit of an attitude, Lightning also borrows a similar gunblade to FF8 main character, Squall Leonhart. In her debut game, Lightning's signature roles are as a Commando, Ravager, and Medic, and her balanced stats let her nicely fulfill any of them.
Lightning's sister Serah seizes the reigns in Final Fantasy 13-2, but Lightning once again takes point in the final entry Final Fantasy Lightning Returns, and she also appears in the fighting game Final Fantasy Dissidia 012.
Appears in: Final Fantasy 12
Full name Ashelia B'nargin Dalmasca, this royal leader stars in both FF12 and its DS sequel, Revenant Wings. Although Vaan is technically the main character, Ashe serves a much greater plot role, and unlike several princesses, she's not delegated to a support unit in combat, helping prove Final Fantasy ladies aren't just white mages.
Wielding a modified version of the job system, FF12 is one of the franchise's games where party members can essentially serve any role that you desire, but Ashe bears impressive strength and magic stats, providing great offensive capabilities as either a warrior or black mage. Her HP is low, but that's a small price for her awesome powers. Later, in the more-tactical Revenant Wings, Ashe serves as a time mage, wielding several fierce spells to hasten allies or slow enemies.
Appears in: Final Fantasy 9
Of Final Fantasy 9's main characters, you could argue back and forth whether Eiko or Garnet serves as better support. Both combine the ever-useful healing of white magic with the various abilities of summoned Eidolons. Overall, Eiko exceeds Garnet's healing capabilities while the princess can learn to cast more Eidolons.
Still, Eiko takes the prize for her superior healing and for having the highest magic stat in the game. Not only that, but she can also eventually devastate enemies on offense with the Holy spell. Eiko's greatest boon (for those with the knowledge and desire to exploit it) stems from the infamous "Marcus/Eiko" glitch. Basically, some of Eiko's beginning stats—but not her level—are influenced by temporary party member Marcus's when he leaves. If you take the time (or use a cheat) to level Marcus to 99, Eiko will join with severely boosted base stats, turning her from useful to lethal.
7. Terra Branford
Appears in: Final Fantasy 6
Although the developers have stated FF6 doesn't have a lead, many consider Terra the main character, and she represented the hero portion of the game in Dissidia's unique blending of all Final Fantasy worlds. Terra suffers from amnesia (this was before it was an overused trope) and is one of only two party members to naturally learn magic while leveling, revealing her latent powers.
Not only did Terra carve a path for the girls to lead, but she's also capable in battle. Her impressive magic stats and ability to equip female-exclusive armor make her a fierce black mage, but (unlike most mages) she's surprisingly decent with swords, so she's able to fight well on multiple fronts. Her unique ability Trance doubles her power, and her desperation attack (similar to the FF7 limit breaks) Riot Blade inflicts heavy magical damage against a single enemy. Terra's hair color amusingly shifts from green to blond and back again throughout her various appearances and re-releases.
6. Yuffie Kisaragi
Appears in: Final Fantasy 7
Ninja-like Yuffie adds to the world-building of FF7 by offering a glimpse at the Wutai culture. She's a bubbly but devious trickster, and unless you provide a sequence of correct responses when encountering her, she'll steal items instead of joining your team. Fortunately, Yuffie's arguably the best party member in the game. Her overall stats are low, but she wields the highest luck, and her weapons are long-range, letting her occupy the back row (which receives less damage) in combat. Not only that, Yuffie wields fantastic limit breaks that often nuke all foes, and her ultimate weapon "Conformer" reliably scales in power as you face stronger enemies.
When compared with fellow optional party member Vincent Valentine, Yuffie's clearly the superior option, as Vincent's risky limit break forfeits control over him. While Cloud, Sephiroth, and Tifa (in 012) were picked for Dissidia, Yuffie takes part in both FF7's Dirge of Cerberus sequel (as a support for Vincent) and the Kingdom Hearts series, further increasing her popularity.
5. Celes Chere
Appears in: Final Fantasy 6
Although Terra's often accredited as the Final Fantasy 6 main character, the game features many leads with arguably the best character growth in the series. This includes Locke and Celes, who incidentally kindle a relationship. Locke's a man grieving over the loss of his former love while Celes regrets her servitude to the malicious Empire.
With a genetically enhanced body, Celes fights as a Magitek Knight who can learn mystic arts without magicite. Contrasting Terra's fire affinity and offensive magic, Celes emphasizes ice and defensive spells, although she's also capable in physical combat. Additionally, her handy Runic ability both negates enemy magic and restores Celes's MP. Both a strong character in terms of story and gameplay, Celes remains a remarkable heroine with a surprisingly complex tale (especially for that era of gaming).
Appears in: Final Fantasy Type-0
I suppose with her hilarious first name, Deuce has no need of a second, but regardless she serves as an excellent assist in Type 0. A kindly girl with a warm nature, Deuce wields the supreme weapon of all—a flute. Sounds silly, sure, but the instrument offers incredible support. Her unique music bestows allies with impressive bonuses, and she wields surprisingly effective offensive techniques. These allow her to distance herself as she plays, letting her dodge and attack at once.
True to her theme of the number two, Deuce also works well in the online Final Fantasy Awakening, where she trades out her offense for even better defensive buffs and healing, making her one of the most crucial companions in the game.
3. Relm Arrowny
Appears in: Final Fantasy 6
Relm's not as integral to 6's story as Terra or Celes, but her artistic abilities (she bears the unique Pictomancer class) let her use the Sketch and Control commands to mimic or even dictate enemy attacks. To unlock Control, equip Relm with the Fake Mustache (yes, I'm serious) relic.
While Relm doesn't bear the physical adaptability of her mage peers, she's got the strongest magic stat in the game, sticking with what she does best. A variety of rods, maces, and staves further boost her spellcasting, and she's also fairly agile. Finally, rather than inflicting high damage, her Star Prism desperation attack automatically kills an enemy not immune to instant death, which is handy against regular foes if not bosses.
2. Rem Tokimiya
Appears in: Final Fantasy Type-0
A new recruit to the Class Zero unit, Rem is surprisingly fierce in battle. Her regular attacks consist of fast slashes with her twin daggers, but she really excels as a mage. With the best MP and magic stats, Rem hits hard and rarely runs out of resources. Additionally, her Magic Cancel abilities further increase spellcasting, often replenishing MP to indefinitely assault with magic.
While lower HP and defense can make her a bit of a glass cannon, this can be alleviated with equipment and good reflexes. Rem's arguably the best character in the game if not quite the strongest Final Fantasy heroine . . .
Appears in: Final Fantasy 10
Not only did Yuna captivate us with her compassion, determination, and colorful eyes (one green and one blue), she serves a huge role in FF10 despite Tidus being the main hero. Yuna quests to become a summoner capable of defeating Sin, a monster terrorizing the land of Spira. As Yuna travels the world with her guardians, she gradually allies with more Aeons, becoming stronger in both plot and gameplay.
Speaking of which, Yuna's easily one of the best characters. Like most white mages, her physical stats aren't great, but she's by far the best healer available. Not only that, but her summons (which only she can use) also provide unparalleled combat assistance, temporarily nestling your party safely away as your legendary beasts take an active combat role. Unlike summons in most other titles or Guardian Forces in FF8, you actually get to control the Aeon, an awesome trait that really cements Yuna as the game's best character.
She officially takes the protagonist title in FF10-2, which uses a more job-like system to assign her to whichever role you wish, and she also appeared as a playable fighter in Dissidia 012.
Future Female Final Fantasy Main Characters
Although women still often receive the sorcerous roles, they've thankfully branched out to more physical aspects, and even the mages often wield helpful other boons to break out of their molds. Girls can't have all the fun, as male Noctis takes center stage in Final Fantasy 15, but they've thankfully increased in presence and diversity in one of gaming's most renowned RPG series.
As Final Fantasy struggles to reclaim its notoriety from decades past, we'll undoubtedly see more awesome women in upcoming games. But for now, as we await Square's next role-playing game, vote for your favorite character and I'll see you at our next Final Fantasy countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on September 13, 2018:
Hell yeah, Yuna is number 1! I’m naming my daughter after her :)