Let's Rank The Final Fantasy Games, Best To Worst

For the past two months, we've been running a feature called Pecking Order, in which we rank every game in a series, from best to worst. First up was Halo, then Grand Theft Auto. Now it's Final Fantasy's turn. Which game in Square's crystal-packed behemoth is the best? Which is the worst? Which has the cutest moogles? Which has the best Aeris death?

Before I start ranking Square's flagship series, let's lay down some ground rules.

1) We'll only be covering the singleplayer Final Fantasy games, because throwing in the online Final Fantasys is like comparing apples and chocobos.

2) Only games in the main series. No direct sequels, no spinoffs. That takes us down to a manageable number: 12.

3) Remember, this is my personal opinion. You are more than welcome to post your own rankings and/or get really angry in the comments. But this is just my personal order of favourites. Keep that in mind.

1. Final Fantasy VI

Sometimes I wonder how much different my life would be if I hadn't discovered Final Fantasy VI and realised that hey, holy crap, video games can actually make you feel things. When I think about my favourite gaming moments, my mind always moseys back to the sixth Final Fantasy: from 16-bit bellowing at the Opera House to the reunion between the wildling Gau and his insane father, the individual scenes of FFVI are all brilliantly crafted, combining to make one hell of an overall experience. And the music! The music! RPGs don't get much better than this.

2. Final Fantasy IX

Most people think of the ninth Final Fantasy as one big homage to old-fashioned design, which is true, but it shines because it feels so unequivocally modern. Yes, you've got plenty of genre tropes here — wizards, knights, crystals, dwarves — but how many old-school RPGs tell the story of a person trying to deal with the fact that yes, he is a clone, and yes, he's going to die very soon? Final Fantasy IX has some great dungeons and a really interesting world, but it's the writing — and the impeccable Western localisation — that makes this game stand out. "How do you prove that you exist...? Maybe we don't exist..."

3. Final Fantasy IV

This is one of those "I know this game isn't really that good, but I've played it to completion at least 20 times and it's got sentimental value and also if you want I can recite to you, off the top of my head, an exact play-by-play of everything that happens, which is kind of weird but whatever" picks. FFIV might not hold up so well today, but in the early '90s, there was nothing like it. We were so used to RPGs with shoestring narratives like "go find the ORBS and save the PRINCESS", it was mind-blowing to pick up the Super Nintendo and find a twisty, powerful story about actual human beings and their emotions: love, revenge, jealousy. Also you get to go to the moon.

4. Final Fantasy VII

Much has been written about the charms of FFVII: the eco-terrorism, the terrifying bishounen bad guy, the elegantly simple materia system. But my favourite thing about this game is that it never takes itself too seriously. Even while your characters are suffering identity crises and trying to save the world, there's always room for a slap fight, some cross-dressing, and Red XIII in a sailor suit, which isn't quite as cute as it should be.

5. Final Fantasy V

People generally remember Final Fantasy as a game where four heroes go around the world collecting elemental crystals, and Final Fantasy V epitomises that concept. You go around the world, fight through dungeons, get better equipment, unlock new classes for your characters, and eventually fight a giant demon tree. Even in the late '90s, when FFV first came to US shores as part of a PlayStation 1 collection, this was all typical RPG fare, but there's still something really satisfying about the fifth Final Fantasy's class system and how you can use it to turn your characters into powerhouses of your own making. FFV also produced one of the most iconic Final Fantasy songs out there.

6. Final Fantasy VIII

Like many modern JRPGs, FFVIII starts off with a bang, then kind of fizzles when it turns out everyone had amnesia. But playing around with magic is really rewarding, the card mini-game is one of the best things you can do for fun in any video game, and you can fly a school. YOU CAN FLY A SCHOOL.

7. Final Fantasy X

While it's not quite clear how much involvement Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi had with the tenth instalment in his massive series — he's credited as an executive producer — I suspect that this is the game that made him want to go to Hawaii and surf all day. Filled with beaches and bathing suits, FFX is best known for starring Meg Ryan an aggressively whiny hero named Tidus who plays an underwater sport called Blitzball that's kind of like soccer if soccer was A) underwater B) played with magic and C) actually fun to watch. FFX is quite good in a lot of different ways, even when the journey starts to drag — and even when you want to smash your television while trying to dodge lightning bolts or complete one of the game's other infuriating side quests.

8. Final Fantasy III

Also known as the beta version of Final Fantasy V, FFIII is a really solid RPG marred by an impossibly unforgiving final dungeon, in which you have to battle through a gauntlet of difficult bosses with no save points in sight. Die once and you could have to redo hours of progress. Even the DS remake didn't make that final trial — which is a challenge in the same way that sticking your hand into an oven is a challenge — any more palatable. I recommend playing through the whole thing, then quitting before the last dungeon. Watch the end on YouTube or something.

9. Final Fantasy XII

Remember Vaan? Me neither. FFXII is best described as a single-player MMORPG, which might be why it ripped most of its plot from Star Wars and most of its characters from a Disney movie. (Vaan is Aladdin. Balthier is Jack Sparrow.) Still, the world is sweeping and lovely, and the combat system is brilliant: you can test out your AI programming skills using what the game calls Gambits, or actions that you can assign to your characters based on certain conditions. You could make one hero cast a heal spell as soon as someone loses more than half of their health, for example. The combinations aren't quite endless, but they're a great deal of fun.

10. Final Fantasy

While remakes of the first Final Fantasy have removed some of the antiquated moments — like how in combat, a character would stand around hitting empty space if their original target died, instead of moving onto the next one — the game still feels very old. But hey, if you want to see how this whole train ride began, from light warriors to deus ex machinas, the first Final Fantasy is still quite playable — and quite enjoyable — even today. (Just don't play the NES version.)

11. Final Fantasy II

This is the black sheep of the bunch. The second Final Fantasy discarded RPG conventions in favour of a SaGa-like levelling system where your characters gain stats based on their use in combat. Your heroes gain hit points, for example, after taking lots of damage in battle. Of course, savvy players figured out that they could break the game by just sitting in combat for an hour and making all their characters whack one another for HP gains afterwards. Whoops. Regardless, FFII isn't bad, but it's bad for a Final Fantasy game. Also, when you start, if you walk in the wrong direction, you'll die. Fun!

12. Final Fantasy XIII

Best known as The One Where You Walk In A Straight Line For 25 Hours, Final Fantasy XIII takes some really great components — eye-popping graphics, a killer battle theme, and fascinating combat — and packages them in a mediocre game. FFXIII's biggest problem, as I've written before, isn't that it's too linear: it's that the game discards all illusion or pretence of being an RPG. While games like Final Fantasy VII don't let you veer from the main plot all that much, you can still visit towns, talk to NPCs, and do interesting things that don't involve walking in a straight line, fighting, and watching cut-scenes. Gone are brilliant dungeons like the Ghost Train or the Babel Giant. Say farewell to fun mini-games like blitzball and Triple Triad. FFXIII is a shallow, lifeless experience that might be more forgivable if its writing wasn't so wretched. But hey, mums are tough.

OK, your turn. Post your thoughts — and your own Final Fantasy rankings — below.


    Am I the only person who actually enjoyed the first game? I only played through it recently on my Vita but I really liked it. Anyway I haven't played all the Final Fantasy games (yet, eventually I'll get there) but from what I have played:

    I'll admit that I didn't play much of XII so I'll give it another chance at some point. The only games I haven't really enjoyed so far are 2 and 13.

    I just can't believe that 7 isn't number 1 on everyones list??? then 6... then 10 or 12... here is mine... i only did no like 3 and 9... WHY DO SO MANY PEOPLE LIKE 9!!!!!!!!!!
    tactics (should be included cause it is awesome)
    chronicles (multiplayer but still amazing and worth playing with 3 mates)
    tactics advanced
    13 (battle system fav though... could have been alot better if they involved terrain and obstacle advantages like they first talked about)
    9 (so boring... childish game... progression system lame...)

    I am playing through 8 right now so my opinion may be a little skewed. Best to worst, ignoring the ones I ignored:


    I think 7 and 8 are pretty much interchangeable for me. Both great games that stand out above the rest of the FF series (for me).

    I really enjoy the old SNES classics, VI didn't do a whole lot for me though.

    I adored X, it's up tere with one of my favourite games of all time

    I want a remake of VIII and XII. But hey, I want a lot of things.

    Way, way, way harsh on 13. 13 has the best character development since 9. Maybe since 6. The combat system was a disaster, though, which is why I rate it fairly low despite enjoying the story/characters and not caring about the linear thing.

    I've never played 2, 3 or 4 so can't rate them.

    First: FF6 for the exact reasons Jason gave.
    Second: FF9 for the exact reasons Jason gave.
    Third: FF7 which I loved as much as FF6 until the final disc, at which point the story disappears into gobbeldygook about the life force and Sephiroth mindscrews.
    Fourth: FF10. I loved the subversive anti-organised-religion themes of the game, so sue me. Tidus-Yuna is one of the better Final Fantasy slow burn romances, too. Auron was badass, and the ending was pitch-perfect.
    Fifth: FF12. A bit average for the series but still plenty of fun in it.
    Sixth: FF13. See comment at top.
    Seventh: FF5. I never really liked the job system as much as other people did.
    Eight: FF1, which was decent enough at the time but really didn't stand the test of time
    Ninth: FF8, the draw system was awful, the main character was so bad I spent the entire game hoping he'd get killed off, the amnesia subplot was eyeroll-worthy and the main villian was basically parachuted in at the end without any buildup. Awful. Triple Triad was neat, though, and the music was really good- possibly the best of the series once I listened to it separately from the terrible game.

    VII is so god damn over rated, I don't get it, don't get it at all. VIII and X are pure awesome and still IX is better. I can only think of XII and XIII being worse than VII.

    Also great combat in XIII? What were you smoking, there is nearly no combat in XIII

    Last edited 30/01/13 4:08 pm

    ...Like i could choose my favoutite final fantasy games, and put them in a list.
    Well, if i had to choose, my favoutite main series game would be either 8 or 9 - it depends on which one i played most recently, i find - but my favourite final fantasy game overall would be Tactics: War of the Lions. In fact, War of the Lions is my favourite game ever.

    The least liked Final Fantasy games would be 7 (I really couldnt get over the masive polygons - It was simply too old for me to enjoy on the level that people seem to enjoy it, and i felt that it would just not be respectful to its fans to hate on a game just because it was too old for me), X-2 (Because i didnt like seeing Yuna being replaced with some stripper with guns. Rikku already didnt wear enough clothes, and i couldnt figure out if Paine was a man or a Woman for like, the first hour.)
    But worst of them all, by far, is XIII-2. Not Final Fantasy XIII, but the spin-off.

    And thats for one simple reason;
    In FF13, they tried something new. Which is great - all companies should try something new every now and then. It just turned out that the "Something New" was a pile of S**T.
    I thought "Fine, thats okay, so long as the next one is different again".
    Then they released FF13-2, and i knew then that something was massivley wrong at SquareEnix.

    i haven't played all of the games, but the ones i have, i would order them from best to worst: 9, 8, 10, 7, 13, 10-2, 12. i absolutely love the story, setting and design of 9.

    Best - VII, X, VIII, V, IX, VI, X-2, IV, III, XIII, II, I, XII

    Your list sucks Author.
    The only truth in it are the best (VI) and the worst (XIII)
    XII was actually really good and the first 2 are timeless classics.
    Also, you missed a good 8+ Final Fantasy games..

    If it's 1 - 12 (negating XI) in decending order of best to worst, it should look more like this:

    1 - VI
    2 - VII
    3 - IX
    4 - X
    5 - VIII
    6 - XII
    7 - IV
    8 - V
    9 - I
    10 - II
    11 - III
    12 - XIII

    Also, XIII is a fucking stain on the series.
    I don't care if people think that's harsh. It was a terrible game. I have played every Final Fantasy to date all the way through but i'm still a ways off my platinum in XIII because I can't stand it.
    Terrible voice actors, terrible characters, terrible story, terrible soundtrack. IT SUCKED ASS.
    The whole game I deluded myself thinking it would get better and then it was over. What a waste of time. I at least felt satisfaction at the end of Mystic Quest the first time, and Final Fantasy Legend 1 - 3, Final Fantasy Adventure.. I even like Tactics (though very slow) but XIII was just Square showing off how pretty they can make things without putting effort into the game itself.
    Full health after every battle (that you can retry if you want at any point) Pathetic exp can (Sorry, CP) through the entire game to the point where you have to grind on BehemothXGiant Garm until you can take down Adamantoise. Retarded grind to get any decent equipment or money.


    XIII-2 was a good game though. Almost made up for the first one.. but now XIII-3?!
    It's just obvious that Square aren't listening to their fans or they would stop beating that horse into dead horse soup. >_>

    Also, the term JRPG is incorrect and a stupid trend. A racist one at that.
    The original differentiation of RPG genre's was CRPG (Console RPG) and LRPG (Light RPG)
    With sub categories based on the battle system (Wait, Active and Turn based)

    The only reason the terms WRPGs and JRPGs exist is so people can still like Skyrim while saying JRPGs are shit. WRPG, a category that includes maybe 12 games (mostly from bioware and bethesda) and 'JRPG' which lumps together hundreds, if not thousands of games..

    If you're interested, check out TheRPGFanatic on youtube and find his 'The REAL History of JRPGs part 1 and 2". He lays it out well enough for anyone to get.

    If you cbf, then stop being a moron and get it right. Or just call them RPGs

    How on earth you put X at 7th place is beyond me. That is easily a top 3, and one of the best games of the entire PS2 generation.

    X was my first and still is my favourite of the series. I have tried playing I through IV and I cant seem to have the motivation once i start them to finish them. I wasnt as emotionally involved with them as i was X, X-2,XII,XIII. XII has one of the best plots i have seen in a video game i just hated the battle and Gambit systems and the summon system was flawed. I dont think XIII should be put in the worst entry of the series pile because it was a new direction, The graphics, music, battle system were amazing. The bosses were some of the best designed in a video game Orphan alone is one of my favourite characters in a game and same as Barthandelus.

    Please hurry up and release X HD SQUARE ENIX!!

    I can only rate the ones I have played

    FF7 - This game has real edge. Epic story, cool characters, cool villians, good music and huge world with lots to do. Right from the start I was hooked on the game. I am due for another playthrough soon.
    FF10 - The whole story and interaction between the characters was very emotional for me. Auron was real cool. I liked the music (especially Jecht theme) and loved the atmosphere of Spira. I thought Seymour was a great villian too.
    FF Tactics - (Could be equal or better than 10). Very raw, well delivered, and interesting story, plus the gameplay was awesome. Great music too.
    FF12 - Great battle system and awesome world. The characters and story were not very interesting.
    FF9 - Wasn't a bad game, I just can't remember much of it. It had some good bits from what I remember, but I didn't really identify with the characters much at the time. I want to give it another go some day.
    FF8 - Overall this is a good game, but I remember finding it irritating a lot of the time. But triple triad was fun. Overall I didn't like any of the characters much. The game lacked edge in my opinion. Everything is really polished and perfect and there was no one "tough" in the game, they were all softies or emo's.
    FF13 - Mixed feelings about this game - It had some cool moments but overall this game was a real disappointment. You can do nothing except walk down a corridor and fight repetitive battles. Story was obviously trying to copy elements of FF7, but did it real badly. None of the characters were likeable except Snow and Fang. Music had some good moments. I was waiting for the game to get good, and it did get real good - but only in the last 5-6 hours. I have some strange sort of soft spot for this game, but I also hated it, if that makes sense.
    FF10-2 - Didn't like this at all. Only played a few hours then stopped. The characters were lame.

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