Final Fantasy — a series of games that strikes up a strong feeling of nostalgia for many gamers all around the world, but not this guy. My Final Fantasy origin story is as scuffed as it comes and went through numerous stages of hating the series, but ultimately resulted in it becoming one of my favourite video game franchises of all time, and FFVII becoming my favourite game ever — original, I know.
So I didn’t grow up on these games and I didn’t know anyone who played them either; not until I started college. I remember my brother and me buying Final Fantasy XII on Playstation 2 and absolutely hating everything about the game. This was probably why I was so against trying another Final Fantasy title for so long.
Fast-forward to when I was in college and I remember watching a TotalBiscuit (rest in peace) video of him playing Final Fantasy XIII. I was very deep into my weeb years at this point, so I was in a mindset that was much more accepting towards the weird and wonderful world that anime had to offer. So it was here, Final Fantasy XIII, that my journey with Final Fantasy began. From here I would go on to play most of the games in the series — V, XI, and XII are the only main FF games I haven’t played now.
In this piece, I am going to highlight my favourite thing about each of the Final Fantasy games that I have played. (And I’m going to fill in the gaps! – Ed.) Let’s get started!
The game that supposedly saved Square from going bankrupt back: Final Fantasy. The version of the game that I played was the “Dawn of Souls” re-release that was on the Nintendo Gameboy Advance, not the original NES version. As unfair as it is, comparing this game to the incredibly ambitious Final Fantasy titles of today makes it seem extremely simple. However, my experience with the original Final Fantasy was very positive, and my favourite thing about the game is exactly that — its simplicity.
Final Fantasy II
I must admit, that after playing Final Fantasy I was very excited to get stuck into Final Fantasy II. I enjoyed everything about Final Fantasy, so in my mind, Final Fantasy II was only going to take everything that Final Fantasy did and improve on it and make it better. However, I can’t say I was very impressed by Final Fantasy II, and some of the changes to the way to magic worked, for example, only served to irritate me.
But this game was where the series started to name its characters as opposed to just being the “Warrior of Light”, and as someone who is very character-driven, I really liked this.
Final Fantasy III
This was another game in the franchise that I wasn’t the biggest fan of — not to say that I didn’t like the game, it just wasn’t one I would consider as one of my favourites.
Final Fantasy III did introduce a big change to the series, though: Job classes. Jobs were actually in the original Final Fantasy, but Final Fantasy III allowed the player to freely change their party’s classes, which allowed for a lot of creativity with regards to how your party was set up.
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV is where it felt as though the characters were becoming more fleshed out, and a focus on character stories was taking more of a precedence in the development of the games. This was the earliest entry into the series where I really started to care about individual characters such as Cecil and Kane.
Also, while the Dragoon job was in Final Fantasy III, Final Fantasy IV made it look particularly badass.
Final Fantasy V
(Editor’s Note: Conor didn’t play this one, so I’m stepping in!) It took me a long time to finally get around to playing Final Fantasy V all the way through, but when I finally did I had an absolutely fantastic time. Okay, the story is beyond stupid even by series standards — giant evil space tree! — but the refinement of the Job system first found in Final Fantasy III is one of the finest progression systems ever seen in a role-playing game.
Couple that with a great soundtrack and the hilarious encounters with Gilgamesh — subsequently built on in Final Fantasy XIV — and you have one of the best, albeit most underappreciated entries in the series. The Pixel Remaster version of this one is coming to Steam very soon. You know what to do.
Final Fantasy VI
This was the first Final Fantasy in the series where the story felt like something more than “just a video game”. I think that the feeling towards video games back in the ’90s was that they were for children, but Final Fantasy VI hit some unexpected story beats and had some very thought-provoking moments in the story.
It’s understandable why this game is so many people’s favourite of the series, and I think it’s the game’s well-written story that is the main reason for this.
Final Fantasy VII
Oh God, where do I start… This is my favourite game of all time, and if had to strip it down to a single contributing reason for it being my favourite it has to be the characters. I don’t think that a better cast of characters has ever been created — period.
Each character has their own unique and interesting backstory, their reasons for coming together are great, the relationships formed are magical — I could go on and on, but I think you get it.
If, on the other hand, you’d like to read more about how much we love Final Fantasy VII, enjoy!
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VI and VIII had it rough as they were unfortunately overshadowed by FFVII, but just like FFVI, FFVIII is a great game in itself. I would say that in my time playing Final Fantasy games, it was during FFVIII that the formula of the game really clicked and I started to become hooked on the games.
Real talk though, Triple Triad might be the best mini-game that has featured inside of a Final Fantasy game.
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX — the series that will be getting a fully animated TV series and, a mad prediction that you can quote me on, a game I bet will be getting a remake in the near future.
I remember when I was deep into my Final Fantasy addiction, a friend of mine told me to make sure I play IX because he felt as though the battle system was the most refined of the series up until that point, and I would have to agree. The game steps away from the depth that materia and junctioning provided from the previous titles, but that relative simplicity made everything very easy to understand — and as a result, you learn at a very comfortable pace.
Final Fantasy X
Tidus’ laugh… As special as that scene is — if that’s even the right word to describe it — FFX was the first fully-voiced Final Fantasy game, and even though the English voice acting perhaps wasn’t the best on offer, it still made the game feel very special.
One of the best parts of FFX was the incredibly deep progression system. The Sphere Grid allowed you to take characters in numerous directions, so if you wanted Tidus to focus on the damage you could do that. You could also make him a purely support character — you could really do what you wanted.
Final Fantasy XI
(Me again – Ed.) Final Fantasy XI is hard to get into, because it’s an MMO from the early days of MMOs — and while it has refined itself considerably over its spectacularly long lifespan, it still has quite a learning curve. But take the time to get to grips with it and you’ll find an absolutely incredible game with a compelling story and some fantastic characters. This was unheard of in MMOs at the time, and still makes Final Fantasy XI stand out today. Also its soundtrack is absolutely fire.
Final Fantasy XI is also interesting because it was deliberately designed to be a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy III in many ways — so you have the flexibility of the Job system combined with MMO mechanics, which makes for some interesting cooperative multiplayer. But, rather delightfully, these days you can play through pretty much the whole game solo thanks to the excellent “Trust” system that allows you to recruit NPCs from the story to accompany you on your adventures.
Final Fantasy XII
(And me again! Conor, play Final Fantasy XII, that’s an order – Ed.) Final Fantasy XII was quite understandably treated with great mistrust by longstanding fans of the series, because it effectively took the quasi real-time combat of Final Fantasy XI and transplanted it to a single-player game. For a series that had historically been completely turn-based, this was a huge change, and it made the structure of the game completely different as a result. (It’s not really an order, but you absolutely should try it again – Ed.)
Take the time to get to know Final Fantasy XII’s “offline MMO” gameplay, though, and there’s one of the most satisfying games in the series to explore. Without this game doing something genuinely new in the console RPG sector, we might never have had the Xenoblade Chronicles series. And I don’t want to think about a world without Xenoblade.
Final Fantasy XIII
Ah, my humble Final Fantasy beginnings. Thinking back, I can’t really pin down the exact thing that attracted me to the game, but it was probably Lightning — I do have a thing for strong women.
FFXIII is quite a controversial game, for reasons I don’t really know (People are dumb – Ed.), but what I do know is that the switch up in combat was really refreshing. The paradigm system offered a mix of turn-based combat elements along with the features you would see in an active combat game.
Final Fantasy XIV
Did you know that you can sign-up for the award-winning MMO– forgive me for the meme, but this game is no joke — it’s genuinely fantastic. I grew up playing World of Warcraft around the era of Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King during high school, and when I finally gave that game up I swore to myself not to be consumed by another MMO.
FFXIV got me to break that pact, as the game is so entertaining. It takes the addictive grind of an MMO, mixes in the wacky world of Final Fantasy, and tops it off with a story that’s loved by many and arguably the best soundtrack in the whole series. Plus Yoshi-P is kind of a great guy.
Final Fantasy XV
We arrive at the final game (for now) in the main series of the franchise — Final Fantasy XV. I remember seeing the trailers for Versus XIII, the previous name for FFXV before who knows what happened internally at Square, and after a very long wait, we finally got FFXV.
I have to give credit where it’s due in that the team was incredibly ambitious with their ideas and what they wanted to achieve. Some ideas and implementations were great and some weren’t so great, but the game was genuinely fun. I think the game’s biggest strength was the very authentic-feeling interactions between the main characters. Prompto being an overly excited kid wanting to take pictures, and Ignis’ love of driving and food gave the game a really fun feeling.
So there’s our favourite things about all the mainline Final Fantasy games. What are yours? Let us know down in the comments — or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters page explaining your enduring love for the most obscure spinoffs!
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