Which Is The Best Final Fantasy? All Of Them!

When people talk Japanese roleplaying games, there's one question that comes up quite a bit: Which is the best Final Fantasy?

Plenty of JRPG fans have wasted hours debating this question, each making his or her own case for which of Square Enix's ubiquitous role-playing games is the cream of the crop. It's a stale conversation that always comes down to a matter of personal opinion. No matter how reasoned or passionate your argument, you're never going to convince people to change their minds about their favourite games. And what would even be the point? There's no objective answer, and there doesn't need to be.

Plus, there's already plenty of negativity in the video game community. We should all try being a little more positive.

So in this week's issue of Random Encounters, we're going to do something a little unique. We're going to make a case for all the Final Fantasys. Need a quick argument? Want to stir the pot a little? Just take one of these ready-made bullet points:

Final Fantasy

Why it's the best: Because it started this whole damned genre. Without Final Fantasy, we might have never seen the ensuing eras of wonderful Japanese roleplaying games like Chrono Trigger, Xenogears, Suikoden, Illusion of Gaia, Lunar, the rest of the Final Fantasy brigade and many, many more. The first Final Fantasy set the framework for an entire era of excellent experiences.

Final Fantasy II

Why it's the best: Because it had some really cool mechanics. When talking to NPCs, you'd learn various keywords. You could use those keywords to start conversations with other NPCs, almost like a primitive version of the dialogue trees we'd later see in point-and-click adventures like The Secret of Monkey Island. I don't know why Square has never revisited this system. It had a lot of potential.

Final Fantasy III

Why it's the best: Because it mastered the job system. While the idea of bringing classes like Fighter, Ninja and Black Mage to role-playing games was hardly new, Final Fantasy III added a whole new twist to the genre by forcing you to use certain classes to bypass certain areas and enemies. It's a system that would go on to be an integral part of more advanced, more beloved games like Final Fantasy Tactics.

Final Fantasy IV

Why it's the best: Because it brought drama to video games. Before the fourth Final Fantasy, stories in video games were more like rudimentary ideas. Go save the princess. Watch out for the black knight. Go get this key. With its twisty, intricate, long plot-line, Final Fantasy IV threw a serious emotional punch before that sort of thing was the norm.

Final Fantasy V

Why it's the best: Because it was a hell of an adventure. More than any other game in the series, the fifth Final Fantasy felt like a childhood fairy tale brought to life, a single hero's journey against near-impossible odds. It's classic and fresh. Like really minty toothpaste.

Final Fantasy VI

Why it's the best: Because it has the best characters. If you've played Final Fantasy VI, it's tough to forget the stories of Celes and Locke and Edgar and Terra and all of the rest. Even today, few games come this close to making its characters feel human.

Final Fantasy VII

Why it's the best: Because it made you cry. Don't lie. If you played the game unspoiled, you sniffled up a little bit when Sephiroth stabbed Aeris in the chest. And that song played. That song!

Final Fantasy VIII

Why it's the best: Because you got to fly a school. To this day, I have not played any other games that allow you to pilot a school.

Final Fantasy IX

Why it's the best: Because it was a total throwback. From its Shakespearean dialogue to its random references to older games in the series, Final Fantasy IX exuded pure nostalgia.

Final Fantasy X

Why it's the best: Because it nailed battle mechanics. You could swap characters at any time, play around with turn orders, prepare for tough boss fights ahead of time by charging up your summon beasts and tailor your characters with a higher level of customisation than any game in the series, thanks to the level-free Sphere Grid that let you give pretty much any skill to any character.

Final Fantasy XI

Why it's the best: Because it... umm. Well, I never actually played this one. It's all online and junk. Let's move on.

Final Fantasy XII

Why it's the best: Because its scope is incomparable. Its cities and landscapes are absolutely gigantic, and exploring them all is an absolute pleasure.

Final Fantasy XIII

Why it's the best: Because it has some rocking music. Final Fantasy XIII has the best combat theme of the series and a whole bunch of other bouncy, addictive tracks.

So what's the verdict, you ask? Which is the best Final Fantasy? All of them.

This Week in JRPG News

  • Andriasang has some details on jobs and characters in the upcoming MMO Dragon Quest X, which seems like it will boast a gorgeous world. Too bad it's an MMO.
  • Japan is getting a new RPG called Sol Trigger. Its scenario will be designed by Kazushige Nojima, who also wrote Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy VII. In other words, it'll be super confusing.
  • New Legend of Heroes on Vita!

What To Play This Weekend

Something new: Check out Adventure Bar Story, a neat little iPhone game that's part JRPG, part restaurant simulation.

Something old: How about the best Final Fantasy game?

Your Questions Answered

Every week, I post several reader questions about JRPGs.

Reader Rehan Bolat writes:

I got into the RPG game late in my childhood and at that point I feel like JRPGs have shifted more to the handheld consoles and me being a console guy have been enamoured by the WRPGs. Now I want to expand my gaming palette and seeing that you seem to be a knowledgeable source how do you recommend I get into them? Which are some core titles I should play? Thanks a lot for the help.

I recommend you pick up a Nintendo DS and start working your way through the expansive (and fantastic) library of Japanese RPGs that system has to offer. Radiant Historia, Dragon Quest IX, and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light are all really good genre entry points.

If you want to stick with consoles, the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii both have excellent libraries of old JRPGs that you can purchase and download. A good starting point: Final Fantasy VI, Secret of Mana, Super Mario RPG, Phantasy Star IV, Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy IX, and Suikoden.

Reader Joseph Fenton writes:

Do you plan on covering old games as well? One game I can think of, that happens to be my favourite oldschool JRPG is Legend of Legaia. I believe you could really bring the true positives and negatives of this title to light. If you were to ask me what words come to mind when thinking of this game... I'd have to say: obscure, unappreciated and underrated. Perhaps you could change what Kotaku readers think about this!

Those are some good words. I'd also throw "frustratingly difficult" into the mix. I never finished Legend of Legaia, but I really enjoyed the time I spent with it. I don't know how it's aged, as I haven't touched the game in over a decade, but it was very solid for its time. What do you think, dear readers? Have you played Legend of Legaia recently? How does it hold up?

Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG. It runs every Saturday.


    Wow....too harsh on FF9...Was the best out there imo

    I played FF7 unspoiled and I honestly didn't feel anything when Aeris/Aerith was killed. The only emotion I felt that actually related to her character was frustration, due to the fact that I was a Tifa man and the game kept shoving this other annoying 'love-interest' at me...

    But then I also liked FF8 so that probably places me in the minority regardless. :-P (though, even then I didn't really go for the 'romance' in that game either... I'm just a weirdo all around.)

      There's a whole bunch of Kotaku AU regulars who also love FFVIII, you're definitely not in the minority around here. :)

      Why wouldn't it let me you use a phoenix down? Problem solved

        Phoenix down's only revived KO characters! not death.

    So were pretending 14 didnt happen then?, and what about Lost Odessey?I know its not an offical FF but it had Cid in an airship for petes sake.

      Final Fantasy XIV makes this whole list moot, so let's not even include it! Sound good to you guys?!?

    I come to Kotaku to laugh at how stupid it is, but this just gave me cancer.

    FFXI maybe an online game, but the storyline, especially Promathia's storyline, is really fantastic.

    I agree they're not comparable, but damn some of the new ones have been meh recently. FF13 was fine, and the story was decent, but the pacing was off and while combat was great for boss battles, you could just spam auto attack 90% of the time. And FF13-2 is fucking evil.

    FFX wasn't perfect either. Some of the cutscenes (See the laughing scene) really really really really really dragged on for ages, but combat was fucking awesome though,

    Final Fantasy VII is the best because of Materia.

    X for me, but it was only so good because of all those that came before it.

    Can I answer all of them? To bad if I can't though because I will.

    All of them are the best!!!

    You can really tell which ones the author didn't like as much as the others. He waxes lyrical about all the early ones and then others have a simple one-sentence, kind of clutching-at-straws answer. He was really reaching with his FFVIII one especially. Flying a school makes it the best? How about, oh I don't know...Triple Triad?

      I think I spent as much time playing triple triad as I did playing through the actual story.

    VI, IX and X are the best I think. And the series has seriously gone downhill since X which has made me mighty sad.

      Its all because they made that stupid movie that flopped so they had to sell themselves off to Enix. After that every game they made has been a bucket of average.

      Its no coincidence that 10 was the last good one.

    X definitely. No other game has come close to make me bawl my eyes out during the ending. Also the battle system rocks! Without it I wouldn't know what to do with Seymour Flux... xD

    "Final Fantasy zzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

    I liked FFIII a lot. The combat system was great in my opinion.

    I only wish that i'd complete it but i lost the game along with my DS :(

    Yeah honestly, I loved 1 all the way to 10, after that the series kind of dropped for me, I just don't get that indepth feeling playing 12 or 13, just they lacked interesting characters and worlds to me.

    If I had to say one was the best I'd be trapped between 7,8 and 10, mainly cause 7 was what I started on (I went back and loved those too), 8's world felt very gritty and 10 really had me shouting at my tv while I played.

    This is a tough one. It's between IV, VII and X for me. Love all of them.

    FFVIII and FFVII are my favorite FF games

    I love 7 the best. It gave the gay community it's first videogame icon.

    See what I did there.

    I like a few of them but I would say X over the others because i loved it soo much. but I also freakin love XIII and VII and VIII

    so where is tactics?

      or chocobo racing? you know how long it took to unlock the highwind in that game!

    My personal favourite has always been VI. It's extremely difficult to have a narrative with 13(?) main characters all with a fleshed out backstory. X slots in next for me followed by VII and V.

    7/8/9 > * :D

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