Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary: Top 10 Final Fantasy Games

By Az Elias 18.12.2017 15

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If you like Japanese roleplaying games, you've most likely played a Final Fantasy title. For many, this was the franchise that started their passion for the genre. Such is the impact of nearly every mainline title, each generation is a new starting point for a different group of gamers. The old-timers among us may have begun with the original title on the NES or FFIV on SNES, whilst slightly younger fans have jumped in at various other points, as later entries become reasons to save up for a single console to play them on. It is testament to the history of the series, the passion of the fans, and still Square's talented designers as a whole that Final Fantasy is spoken of in such high regard today.

Thirty years on since Final Fantasy I's release, just how does a group of fans decide which are the best games in the series? There is no definitive answer, but the Cubed3 team has picked out our favourites and reveals our top 10 Final Fantasy games to celebrate this landmark birthday for the beloved RPG franchise.

 

10. Final Fantasy V

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Final Fantasy V is a masterpiece; a triumph of game design. The mark of a great RPG is one in which it allows players to devise their own methods for success. There are an unbelievable number of methods for handling every situation, making for an adventure where there really isn't a wrong decision; it's all a matter of following through with it.

Taking advantage of all these unique mechanics gives every playthrough its own flair. Traditionalists that prefer swords and spells will have an enjoyable time. Someone who has an appreciation for experimentation might take on the role of a beastmaster, who captures powerful monsters so that they can be unleashed on bosses. In any case, the player's ingenuity is always respected and rewarded.
- Gabriel


 

9. Final Fantasy X-2

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Final Fantasy X-2 was not only a very robust adventure that manages to explore both sides of conflicting factions, but it also gives Yuna a huge amount of growth as a character. Most people wrongfully assume that this game was pure fan service (it did have its share), but giving it a fair look will find that this entry has some of the more nuanced character writing for a protagonist.

With an enhanced return of the strategic job system, the actual balancing and amount of planning users have to put into the battles in this game are some of the best the entire franchise has ever had. Since the party was now able to switch job classes on the fly, encounters would become more varied, and gameplay was just much smoother than what was seen before in other Final Fantasy games with job class systems. Combat was so much more flexible than it had ever been.

Sadly, most fans skipped this one due to its girly exterior. The fact is the timing was bad and most gamers were just not ready for an RPG like Final Fantasy X-2. Anyone who is interested in an open-ended, non-linear RPG with deep character customization and a ton of replay value will find that Yuna's journey is more than cute outfits and pop songs... It is a profound quest for self-realization.
- Albert


 

8. Final Fantasy Tactics

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Final Fantasy Tactics achieves the greatest compliment that a strategy RPG from 1998 can achieve: the story and characters are still as engrossing as they were, and the gameplay is still unbelievably addictive.

Explaining Final Fantasy Tactics just won't do it justice. This is one of the few games that treats the player like an adult and respects their intelligence in both its narrative and gameplay. Anybody who seeks a substantial story with real drama really must play Final Fantasy Tactics.
- Albert


 

7. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

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While Final Fantasy Tactics Advance was hardly the sequel fans of the original Tactics wanted, it does stand out as one of Square's more ambitious follow-ups. Instead of focusing on feudal warfare and historical documentation like its predecessor, Tactics Advance took an almost existential approach to its story, criticizing the nature of escapism often found in the act of playing video games.

The narrative, while initially simple, slowly grew with its main character, Marche. By the end of the story, Marche is actively working to destroy the superficially idyllic, fantastical Ivalice in order to return to his blander and sadder, yet realer, world. Much of the same gameplay mechanics return from Tactics, but it's Advance's surprisingly thought-provoking narrative that sets it apart from the rest of Square's ever-growing library.
- Renan


 

6. Final Fantasy VIII

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When retrospective looks are made when seeing how far graphical technology has come, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the many examples of just how bad it really used to be. Under those sprites, though, was a purely magical game that had an enthralling story that was just as dark and twisted as it was funny and joyous.

Final Fantasy VIII is also best known for its extremely lengthy game that spanned four discs - a rarity for PS1 titles. Then, as the story got rolling and the characters and their motives became known, the first disc ended with what has to be the greatest in-game cliff-hanger of the generation.

The game focused on Squall, a moody teenager who was in the final stages of his graduation from his sword-fighting, SeeD-inducting school called Balamb Garden. Joining him was the Mike Tyson-like, tattoo-wielding martial artist called Zell, while the blue magic wonder Quistis, the upbeat and always-happy Selphie, and the gun-toting Irvine rounded out the main playable cast. The mysterious but charming Rinoa was the main love interest who played an interesting role that to this day is still debated as to how pivotal she actually is.

While most Final Fantasy titles up to this point had monster summons, the twist regarding the in-game Guardian Forces and the effect they had on the party members was an interesting dynamic that changed the scope of how often they were used, due to the extreme repercussions.
- Josh D

Final Fantasy VIII takes some tremendous risks, and because of that, and following the wildly praised Final Fantasy VII, it's never gotten the love it deserves. By turning magic into a consumable item, and making summons into party members whose well-being is just as important as everyone else's, Final Fantasy VIII became one of the series' deepest entries. Players had to really invest when it came to stacking magic to buff stats, and there's plenty of additional content outside the game's vast story. Final Fantasy VIII is a triumphant risk, and it pulls it off spectacularly. Plus, at the time at least, those character models outside of cutscenes were pretty nice.
- Thom


 

5. Final Fantasy VI

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Final Fantasy VI was one of the last that still had nuanced plotlines and elements that required reading between the lines. It added an element of "meta" to the plot of players trying to piece together things like Shadow and Realm's connection, Locke's motivation, and more. From a written point of view, it was superior to many later games simply by virtue of not ham-fisting plots down players' throats.
- Eric

It's hard to point out what makes this game so great, because everything about it is so good. That's a rarity in this series. The characters are consistent, play well off of each other, and they're all linked thematically. Even the baddie is linked to them in a way. The pacing is also marvellous, with each character getting their time to shine in moments to take a breather. Who knew dungeons could actually be fun to traverse again, because the light on the other end is plain to see? Even the gameplay, while not innovative, fixes old issues and is expertly balanced. That's what this game is: it's consistent, balanced, and emotional. What is love? Final Fantasy VI is.
- Leo


 

4. Final Fantasy IV

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The step up from the previous entry in the series was so potent that it was never rivalled again in the entire franchise. Many elements of the story still hold up well today in Final Fantasy IV. Cecil's awakening as a Paladin, Rydia living and coming back to save the crew, and Kain finally joining the party are all things any fan will still remember from the first in the series released on Super NES.
- Eric

Not for many years and the release of Final Fantasy VII would role-playing games take such huge leaps forward like those taken by Cecil and his friends, and the core game evolved beautifully to keep up with the times. There's no reason today to revisit the original releases on the Super Nintendo, and RPG plots progressed enough that Final Fantasy IV's is quaint in comparison, which landed the remake in strange territory. It holds up well and is tremendously enjoyable, but there's nothing in the story or mechanics that will truly astound a modern audience. As a standalone game, Final Fantasy IV is great. As a symbol of how RPGs have evolved over the decades, it is phenomenal.
- Aria


 

3. Final Fantasy IX

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It's a little known secret, but for many, this was the best Final Fantasy title, bar none. The environments were beyond gorgeous. The story was beyond harrowing. The jump rope mini-game was... Eh, let's forget that. Every inch of Zidane's story feels familiar, and yet foreign. Returning to the series' fantasy settings, and relegating party members to certain roles, Final Fantasy IX was the summation of what made every other game before it and since great. If you had to summarize what makes each title in the canon great, you could do much worse than Final Fantasy IX
- Thom

Final Fantasy IX can best be described as the most "complete" entry in the series to date; it is as whimsical as it is dark, and as nostalgic as it is its own identity, telling many individual stories full of humour and that pull on the heartstrings. The sheer love that has been poured into FFIX as a whole is on show for all to see, and is still evident to this very day. It is no wonder fans have been calling for Hiroyuki Ito to craft another entry in the series again, but whatever the future holds, there may never be a Final Fantasy title that will ever match up to the greatness of Final Fantasy IX.
- Az


 

2. Final Fantasy X

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A campfire is encircled by a group who is obviously broken. Soon, we learn there's a good reason for that. However, no matter how broken, they are not defeated. Final Fantasy X is one part turn-based RPG, one part Jim Henson fever dream, and one part soap opera - yet all of this works. From the intimidating Sphere Grid's beautiful tracking of progression, to the ridiculously moving story, Final Fantasy X was also a turning point for the series, as voice acting was introduced. Square handled this all splendidly, and left us with a game that rivals every other entry fans insist is the "best."
- Thom

Final Fantasy X remains one of the staple games of the highly-acclaimed franchise. From the opening scenes that begin to play out to a score of "Zanarkand," this game was going to be something special. It had a rich and vibrant world that had such high moments of beauty, which juxtaposed the extremely sad and brutal world that the characters lived in.

While the Final Fantasy series has had its fair share of dark and brooding protagonists who haven't had much to smile about, Final Fantasy X is headed by Tidus, who is as cheerful as they come. The star blitzball player has a lot to be upset about, but rarely lets it show as he encounters many other characters that form the party of heroes.

Yuna, Wakka, Lulu, Auron, Rikku and Kimahri round out a pretty awesome cast list where each character gets their moments to shine in the sun. Narratively, they all serve important purposes, while their unique abilities each have their gameplay uses in unique ways.

To top it all off, once Sin is out of the equation, the world of Spira is one of the greatest in-game worlds that has magic around every corner. From the beautiful beachside view of Besaid, to the wondrous and phenomenal Luca, to the gorgeous and magical forest of Macalania, and the tree-intertwined town of Guadosalam, the tricks never stop coming. Spira is such a liveable place, and the world has rarely been topped by future Final Fantasy titles.
- Josh


 

1. Final Fantasy VII

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Somewhere, right now, as you read these words, someone is trying to convince their non-RPG playing friend that Final Fantasy VII is easily the best game ever made. Okay, that's not realistic, but it is plausible. Final Fantasy VII wasn't just the first 3D title, or the first one to grace the PlayStation. It was, however, a defining experience for the medium. From the grimy tents and makeshift houses of Corel, to the terrifying depths of the ocean, to the jovial eccentricity of the Gold Saucer, Final Fantasy VII not only had one of the best worlds in gaming, it had one of the best casts.

Along with a brilliant combat system, a simple yet deeply intuitive weapon and Materia system, and one of the best twists the world of gaming has ever seen, Final Fantasy VII crosses the emotional gambit time and time again. It's one of the best titles in the series, and it deserves every ounce of love it has received.
- Thom

A steadily-paced story, sterling soundtrack and unmatched character building system keep this title still relevant in the packed world of role-playing games.
- Shane

A fantastic, well-presented story, with an awesome cast that's hard not to fall in love with, and an engrossing world that grabs and never lets go.
- Ofisil

Final Fantasy VII has aged, but with the proper understanding of historical context, anyone should be able to appreciate it. The story, characters and setting are among some of the finest ever created in the entire medium of video games. Something special was in the air at Square's studios in the 90s. They made some of the greatest games of their catalogue in that time, and with Final Fantasy VII setting the stage, they changed a genre forever.
- Albert

Agree with any of our picks? Everyone's list will be different, so share your own favourite games from the expansive Final Fantasy series below.

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Comments

I think some older fans will be surprised to see FFTA above FFT! As for the SNES games, I'd personally say VI -> V -> IV, so the order here is also quite a shock for me. That's the fun of staff lists like these, though Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

I think it depends on the age of the gamer and if they were exposed to Final Fantasy before VII. 

I've only played 5 FF games (VII, VIII, VIX, Crystal Chronicles and Final Fantasy Adventure on Gameboy, which isn't a FF game!)

I haven't really felt like I have missed the series to be honest. While I respect Final Fantasy and find it intriguing there have been better JRPG's to get through these days, however credit to FF as they really popularised the genre in the west. 

Also, I am too dumb to understand the numbering system before Final Fantasy VII , I get totally confused trying to know what game is what in which region!

That's all it really is - age. Ages of the contributors generally dictates the list. In another ten or twenty years, that gen of writers will probably put more modern FFs in their lists above NES, SNES, PS1 and 2 titles, likely having missed out on them or don't find their worth due to how dated many of them can be. FF7 Remake could well replace the original for some people.

As for the numbering, it's been simple for a long time - everything uses the proper original and intended JP and EU numbers. Only the US releases messed things up, and that's been rectified in re-releases. Always best to not use the old US numbering unless you purposely intend to confuse people.

( Edited 18.12.2017 22:53 by Azuardo )

...but...but... FFIII is still my favourite! It feels weird calling it FFVI, to be honest Smilie

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

Genuinely thought of the real FF3. Dooonnn't! lol

Proudly sat on my shelf:

Image for
Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

NTSC SNES? Or used a region device on PAL?

I must have some wobbly adapter somewhere. No idea where now, though.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

It is interesting to see none of the newer, single player titles on here. I was surprised XII didn't make it (pleasantly, mind you, but still).  The older games definitely have the charm, it would seem.  I really have to go back and play V and VI, as they're really the only two I've never played any of.

I think this list is pretty varied tbh. People might disagree with the order, but like Al said when we were finishing it up, if you take out the rankings, this list encompasses some of the best the franchise has to offer.

I think the thing with some of them is that they have some excellent features, but lack elsewhere, such as Lightning Returns for me. One of the best battle systems, but its story is weak (and evidently a low budget title to finish up the trilogy plot). Suppose you can say that about a game like FF8 too tho - that one usually has very mixed feelings, yet ranks high for us.

FF12 I quite enjoyed, and think it deserves a spot too.

I defo wanna replay 6 properly again. I want to take more time with it and appreciate the story more. The remake might take a long time to come yet, so probably no point holding out for it any time soon.

( Edited 18.12.2017 23:39 by Azuardo )

Oh I love the list; honestly I never played Tactics either and it's another reminder I really need to.

I do appreciate some of the newer titles, like XV and too a lesser extent XIII 2 ( haven't played Lightning Returns). I was just surprised we didn't end up getting any on here, especially considering how many people like XII.

Tactics is one of the few I haven't played properly - I really need to make time for that.

12 was fairly mixed in general by fans, I thought. Pretty low on the votes on our poll too. Same for the 13 games (I was one of the few that gave them any votes lol).

Comes down to how many people have played them all too. Very few I would gather have played all the sequels and spinoffs, as well as the MMOs.

14 really deserves a mention. It is some of the most FF stuff in many years for the series. Incredible lore and world building.

( Edited 18.12.2017 23:59 by Azuardo )

after putting decent time into the HD ver of FFX with the new advanced sphere grid, i am able to see a new side the game. for the longest time the way how the original game was balanced and how the old sphere grid was layed out really limited the gameplay and turned me off.

i really wish this was my first experience with FFX because this updated version is great stuff.

i dont wana say 'too little too late' because the effort put here is commendable... and yet, newcomers will at least get the oppertunity i never had.

I was confused for a sec, till I remembered you guys never got the Expert Sphere Grid and other International version stuff we got back then. Releasing late in Europe was actually to our benefit for that game lol.

Yeah its really night and day with the Expert grid.  Honestly, I always liked X, but it really comes together with the Expert Grid.  Now if only there were an expert Chocobo who didn't control like a spazz, we'd be in business.

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