I have, unashamedly, played through each and every one of the Final Fantasy series, the brainchild of Hironobu Sakaguchi, and enjoyed every one of them to varying degrees. Yet, before disagreeing with this list (every list I’ve ever read on the topic has been different), it should be noted that the games ranked here are done so based solely on my opinion.
I’m sure many of you have different ideas of which games rank where and, if so, please let me know in the comment section! That being said, read on to find out which title tops this list as the best Final Fantasy game.
Related: Final Fantasy 7 (original) review
5. Final Fantasy XII
This may be an unpopular choice among FF aficionados, but Final Fantasy XII comes in at number 5 in this list. This game has a unique style among previous games in the franchise, while still maintaining loyalty to the core themes and sentiments that all FF games have.
Released in 2006, this game is set in the world of Ivalice and the story is principally told through the eyes of Vaan, an orphan from the city of Rabanastre who has aspirations to become a sky pirate. The game features six playable characters in total, each with distinct personalities and captivating back stories. One of these characters, Ashe, is responsible for creating a resistance movement against the Archadian Empire, who have recently annexed the small kingdom of Dalmasca. It is through this resistance that Ashe and Vaan cross paths and, along with a group of allies, endeavor to fight back against the Empire.
The story itself is one that becomes easy to immerse yourself in, with help from a variety of interesting characters and a beautiful Mediterranean-style world. From Balthier’s charming wit and jocularity to Fran’s mystical wisdom and elegance, the personalities in this game help drive the story forward in a captivating manner. It could be said, however, that a lot of the great character development in the first half of the game is wasted in the latter, where some elements of side plots tail off and are almost brushed aside. It’s also true that there aren’t enough conversations between the secondary characters – I can’t remember one meaningful interaction between Basch and Fran.
Perhaps the main difference in this instalment to previous ones is its combat system. There are no random encounters in this game and all enemies are visible to the player, who can decide whether or not to engage in combat with them. Players can also swap freely between any of the three active members of the party, forcing players to be tactical about how they can approach different enemies with the combat abilities best suited for the opponent. This system allows for free-flowing combat and is, for me, a welcome change from the random encounter experiences in previous games.
The dialogue in this game is another winning feature, and the localization team did a great job of using antiquated English to add a sense of power and realism to the world, without it becoming trite and overdone. This is largely due to the relative freedom that the translators were given for this game in relation to the others, allowing them to alter the dialogues from their respective Japanese translations in order to make it flow freely.
All in all, this game is easily a contender for the best Final Fantasy game ever made. It took the game in a brave new direction with its combat system and features some very likable characters. This is a game certainly worth checking out for those not familiar with it.
To find out more and to see why many think that FFXII is the best Final Fantasy game around, watch the video below.
4. Final Fantasy VI
Released in 1994 for the SNES, Final Fantasy VI was the last game in the main series to feature 2D graphics. Yet, it still holds up today as one of the greatest games of all time and is pioneering in the RPG genre. In fact, in 2017 it was ranked as the second-best RPG of all time by IGN.
This game moves away from the medieval settings of the previous Final Fantasy titles and, instead, is set in a world akin to that of one going through a Second Industrial Revolution, with heavy steampunk influences throughout. The world – which is traversable by foot, airship, and chocobo (of course) – is initially split into three continents, all of which contain distinct environments. Following a mid-game apocalyptic event, these continents are split into an array of fractured islands which surround a large continent – this becomes known as the World of Ruin.
Final Fantasy VI features the same basic elements as the previous FF games – town and dungeon maps, an overworld map, a menu screen, and a battle screen – and the story develops as players make their way through various locations, finding out relevant and helpful information from some of the world’s residents along the way.
This game might feel a little dated if you are not acquainted with RPGs from the 16-bit era, but that shouldn’t take away from depth and detail that this game offers. Battling through the many enemies that you encounter with up to 24 playable characters with unique abilities, you will soon forget about the antiquated graphics system. All of the characters in this game have something different to offer and are great fun to get to know, but the standout personality in the game is that of the main villain, Kefka. This guy is truly insane, in an endearingly unpredictable and terrifying way. You just have to experience him to know what he’s all about. When it comes to story and character development, this game offers so much more than most modern-day RPG titles and proves that with a good story, this genre can be a thoroughly engaging experience.
It is impossible to talk about this game without mentioning the soundtrack, one of the game’s winning features. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, the musical score has a way of appropriately fitting every aspect of the game. From the battle music to the overworld theme, it is undoubtedly one of the masterpieces in gaming history.
Final Fantasy VI is a must play for lovers of the series and it can provide you with well over 40 hours to complete it. It is now also available for mobile devices, allowing you to play on the move. We strongly advise that you don’t miss out on this game, many would choose it as the best Final Fantasy game around.
For more information, check out the link and the video below.
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3. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII often sits atop lists of the ‘best Final Fantasy games’, and it’s not difficult to see why. Released for the PlayStation in 1997, it is the first in the series to utilize 3D graphics and full motion video, and has received numerous game of the year accolades since its introduction.
The game follows the story of Cloud Strife, who becomes part of the eco-terrorist organization Avalanche and is joined by his allies to attempt to bring down a megacorporation, the Shinra Electric Power Company, and Sephiroth – the main villain of the game who is intent on destroying the planet by draining its life force (Mako) for use as an energy source. Cloud is separated from his partners – Tifa and Barret – during a failed Avalanche mission. Whilst separated he encounters Aeris, who cloud agrees to protect as she is coveted by Shinra agents. From here, the storyline goes in a complex and engaging direction, exploring some mature themes along the way and going into to some profound details of the characters backgrounds.
Final Fantasy VII offers some of the most impressive visuals that a video game can provide, especially considering its era. From the opening title scene, you get a sense of the scale of the post-industrial city of Midgar and a feel for the inventive panning camera techniques the game employs, which were considered advanced at the time. The pre-rendered background artwork in each scene adds a dark element to the alternative world and a strange sense of realism. Couple this with another masterful soundtrack – courtesy of Uematsu – and the game really comes to life as the creatively dynamic camera angles synchronize with the music.
The battle system simplifies that of previous instalments, in the sense that you can equip only one weapon, one accessory, and one piece of armor per character – something which I consider to be one of the game’s strengths. Due to the time and energy placed in engaging in the intense storyline, for me it would feel too much to strategize the combat system in meticulous detail, though this is not a widespread consensus among fans of the series.
Final Fantasy VII becomes a great example of how to successfully combine the current possibilities of storytelling, gameplay, and visuals into one small disc of awesomeness. Yes, it’s true that the game will feel old when played now, but not in a bad way. It simply is one of the defining titles of the series, and you MUST play it if you haven’t. Do you think this is the best Final Fantasy game like so many others do? If so, let us know why below.
For more information, check out video below and asky yourself – is this the best Final Fantasy game ever made?
2. Final Fantasy VIII
The second best Final Fantasy game in our list is Final Fantasy VIII. This game was released in 1999 for the PlayStation and had some pretty big boots to fill following its predecessor. And fill them it did.
Final Fantasy VIII follows the story of Squall Leonhart, a talented student of Balamb Garden who aspires to be inducted into an elite combat unit called SeeD. It opens with players embarking on one of Squall’s final exam missions, which leads to a graduation ceremony where he meets one of the other protagonists and love interest, Rinoa. The way the story plays out is pioneering in the series, as players switch between the narratives of Squall and Laguna. The pacing of the story is quite quick when compared to previous instalments, but this does not come at the detriment of its telling. It explores some mature themes throughout, from Squall’s personal anxieties to Rinoa’s recognition of her own power, Final Fantasy VIII moves at a pace that is both fluid and digestible.
Within the game’s battle system, players can summon Guardian Forces through the use of the junctioning system. This system can be frustrating at times, as it can discourage the use of magic and forgoes the use of magic points (MP), which are prevalent throughout the previous games. It seems that physical attacks are designed to be the most powerful in the game and it is possible to drop enemies aside with the use of one simple attack. The junctioning system enables players to almost choose the difficulty of the gameplay themselves, which is great if you are just here for the story element, but I can understand how frustrating this could be if you are used to the more complete combat systems of previous games.
One of the game’s best features is its side content. The optional card game, Triple Triad, is a highly strategic game that differs depending on what part of the world you are playing in, yielding some nice rewards depending on how far you progress. The game feels similar to the Gwent card game used in The Witcher III.
The musical score, composed again by Uematsu, is another winning feature. Perhaps I’m biased here, as many reviews indicate the contrary. Yet, for me, the soundtrack makes me feel hugged by nostalgia and enables players to emotionally connect with the game’s characters in a powerful way.
Final Fantasy VIII is the 2nd best final fantasy game in the franchise, in my opinion. Players have a strong connection to the lead characters, and the musical score makes the whole journey an emotional roller coaster. If you want to find out more about this game, please check out the link and video below.
5. Final Fantasy X
In my opinion, FFX is not only the best Final Fantasy game within the series, it is one of the best games of all time. It will always be within my favorite 3 games of all time, at least. The game was originally released in 2001 for the PlayStation 2, but has had subsequent releases and remasters for more recent consoles.
The game is set in the South Pacific influenced world of Spira, and follows the story of Tidus, a famous blitzball player from Zanarkand. In an awesome opening scene, the city of Zanarkand is destroyed by Sin, and Tidus finds himself washed ashore in Spira, some 1000 years later. As he journeys through this world he encounters the rest of main protagonists – Wakka, Lulu, Rikku, Kimahri, and Auron – who unify together to aid Yuna on her pilgrimage to defeat Sin with the use of the Final Aeon. It is difficult to go into the storyline without giving too much away, but the journey is one with emotional depth and thoroughly engaging character progressions. The developers encouraged players to make their own interpretations of the deeper meanings and morals behind the story, and this helps to evoke a profound personal attachment and unique interpretation of the game’s themes.
One of the most noticeable aspects of Final Fantasy X gameplay is the use of dynamic 3D environments that are rendered in real time and give an impression of massiveness to the world. This provides some of the most breath-taking visuals that the series has ever seen, even still. Some argue that it comes at the cost of an inhibiting linear map, but for me the trade of is well worth it. The slightly linear world enhances the storyline and allows for a greater focus to be placed on developing the narrative as opposed to time spent exploring.
Related: The best Blitzball players in FFX
The battle system in Final Fantasy X is one of the best to date in the series. Battles allow for the in-game changing of ALL of your characters, with a maximum of three on the field of combat at any given moment. This interchange system means that you can chop and change and strategize your attacks to find the best way to defeat foes. Character progression is done via a sphere system, in which players level up by using spheres won in combat to upgrade various abilities in different areas of the sphere system. This works well and allows characters to eventually be trained in multiple combat disciplines.
The musical score for the game is the most beautiful composition across all of the games in the franchise. Uematsu returns to complete the score, but this time is aided by two chosen helpers, and their input works in stunning fashion. Every time I hear ‘To Zanarkand’, I get chills. It is a wonderfully composed piece of music that evokes strong emotion and makes you miss Tidus’s hometown as if it was your own.
This game is the one that has, overall, had the greatest impact on me, both personally and in terms of gaming enjoyment. I could play this game over and over and take great pleasure in others’ enjoyment of the game, too. If you haven’t yet experienced Final Fantasy X, you simply must. This is the best Final Fantasy game ever made.
To find out more, check out the link and the video below.
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