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Final Fantasy Games Ranked From Worst to Best

There’s something ironic about a series called Final Fantasy having so many installments. There are fifteen numbered games in addition to dozens of sequels, spin-offs, remasters, mobile games, movies, mini-series, and various other companion titles. But to be fair, could you stop at just one if you were producing one of the most popular JRPGs of all time?

Every game is set in its own world with its own characters and rules (though there are a few overlapping names, creatures, and themes.) This has allowed the series to remain fresh over the years since each new game being innovative and distinct.

With Final Fantasy XVI announced as part of the upcoming PS5 lineup, we thought this was the perfect time to take a look back at the rest of the series with a list of Final Fantasy games ranked worst to best!

A quick disclaimer before we begin — this list will have the best Final Fantasy games ranked, but it will not include offshoots such as Tactics or Crystal Chronicles. Only the numbered games will be included.

Final Fantasy Games Ranked From Worst to Best

Ready to explore a world of magic? Here’s our list of all Final Fantasy games ranked!

16. Final Fantasy

FF1
  • Platform(s): NES, MSX, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, GBA, PSP, iOS, Android
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: December 18, 1987

Starting off our list of Final Fantasy games ranked is none other than the original Final Fantasy. This game follows four nameless characters called the Light Warriors. Each of them carries a magical orb that has been darkened by the four Elemental Fiends. They journey across the land and sea, seeking to reignite the orbs and save the world.

Final Fantasy was made in reaction to the success of Dragon Quest, but it certainly has its own identity. Critics praised it for its graphics and design — few games had a repertoire of monsters as detailed and diverse as what Final Fantasy offered at the time.

It was somewhat lacking in other areas, however. The story was minimalist, and you spent most of the game traveling around on your ship grinding out levels so that you could face the next challenge.

15. Final Fantasy II

FF2
  • Platform(s): NES, WonderSwan Color, PlayStation, GBA, PSP, Android, iOS
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: December 17, 1988

Final Fantasy II centers on Firion and his companions Maria, Guy, and Leon. All of their parents were killed when the Palamecian Empire invaded their homes and took over the world. Together, they must do what they can to put things right.

This game made some minor technical adjustments to the formula set up by the first game, but the main reason it ranks higher is its story. FFII features the first appearance of Cid and our yellow-feathered friends, the chocobos — elements that would go on to be reused in later iterations of the series.

Unfortunately, it didn’t get a western release for years after its initial debut, so American audiences didn’t get a chance to play it until it was already somewhat outdated.

14. Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy XIII Game
  • Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, Android
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: December 17, 2009

Final Fantasy XIII is set in a floating world called Cocoon. It follows Lightning and a band of allies as they rally against Cocoon’s oppressive government when it brands Lightning’s sister, Serah, an enemy of the state.

The game utilizes an interesting battle system that lets your characters quickly change “Paradigms.” You can shift them from “Ravager” (the DPS fighter option) to “Medic” (the healer) to “Synergist” (the support). It’s one of those battle systems that’s more fun in theory than it is in practice, though. It’s fun for a while, but loses a lot of its charm after a few hours.

The bigger problem is the cutscene overload. Final Fantasy is known for its stunningly cinematic cut scenes, but XIII has a bad habit of overdoing it. There are several instances where you’ll watch a five-minute cinematic before regaining control of your character, only to walk a few feet forward and trigger another cut scene. Trust me; it gets old.

Still, there is something to be said for beautiful graphics and top-notch character design.

13. Final Fantasy XI: Online

Final Fantasy XI Online Game
  • Platform(s): PS2, Xbox 360, PC
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: May 16, 2002

Final Fantasy XI is the first MMORPG in the series. It was also the first MMORPG on the Xbox 360, the first installment to offer PC and PS2 players the ability to game cross-platform, and the first Final Fantasy game that allowed players to customize their avatars (rather than playing a preassigned character).

Battles allowed players to move around the field. Monsters attacked out in the open world, rather than the random encounters that would cut to a separate battle-screen featured in previous titles. This would go on to be the standard for all future Final Fantasy games.

FFXI was certainly innovative, though it lacked the memorable story that other games in the series are known for.

12. Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV Game
  • Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: November 29, 2016

Final Fantasy XV is the most recent game in the series. It follows Noctis and his three buddies, Gladio, Ignis, and Prompto, as they road trip across Eos so that Noctis can defend Lucis against the Niflheim Empire.

The game utilizes a real-time battle system, which makes the action look and feel smooth. The trouble is that this type of combat takes a lot of strategy out of the game. I just held down the X button for a few encounters, and the battle resolved itself.

The other problem is that the story doesn’t make much sense on its own. You need to watch the movie Kingsglave, a five-part anime, and purchase all of the major DLC packs to get the whole picture. It would be fine if these elements added to the story, but a game shouldn’t be contingent on you consuming four different kinds of media for the narrative to make sense.

There’s a pocket edition of the game that’s free on iOS, though! So, that’s neat.

11. Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III
  • Platform(s): NES, Nintendo DS, iOS, Android, PSP, PC
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: April 27, 1990

Final Fantasy III tells the story of four orphaned teenagers who are given power by a magical crystal in order to “bring balance to the world.”

It was the first Final Fantasy game to introduce the “Job” system. This made it so that you could change your characters fighting class, allowing you to curate your team in a much more meaningful way than ever before.

FFIII establishes the style and sets the tone that every game after it would follow.

10. Final Fantasy VII Remake

Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Platform(s): PS4
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: April 10, 2020

Final Fantasy VII Remake is clearly a bit of an odd-man-out on this list, but we feel it deserves a spot. Fans have been demanding its creation ever since Sony first made a trailer of FFVII’s opening scene back in 2005.

FFVII Remake is arguably the best-looking Final Fantasy ever made. It also has some of the best combat, utilizing a real-time battle system that is much more interactive than what was on offer in FFXV.

The game has been criticized for the liberties it took with the original game’s story and for stretching out segments of the narrative in order to make a whole thirty-hour game out of a third of the original game’s plot. These are fair criticisms, and they are a big part of why this game doesn’t rank higher.

But hey! We liked it enough to give it the number four spot on our list of the best JRPGs for the PS4!

9. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn
  • Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, Mac, Xbox One
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: September 30, 2010

Final Fantasy XIV: Online was Square Enix’s second go-around at making an MMORPG, and honestly, it did not go well in the beginning. It was so bad that the servers shut down just two years after the game’s launch.

Then they relaunched in 2013 with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This version of the game revamped everything that was broken, creating a whole new world for players to explore. It has tons of great quests, and each new expansion adds even more content to keep players engaged. The most recent one, Shadowbringers, is particularly good.

If you like Final Fantasy and have been thinking about giving MMORPGs a try, this is the one to get. It may only be number nine here, but it’s ranked number six on our list of the best MMO games for this year!

8. Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy V
  • Platform(s): SNES, PlayStation, GBA, iOS, Android, PC
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: December 6, 1992

Final Fantasy V follows a young gentleman named Bartz, who witnesses a meteor fall to earth. He goes to investigate the phenomena, only to find Princess Lenna lying unconscious. He manages to save her, but later discovers that the four crystals which control the world’s elements are in danger, and they must go on a journey to save them.

Remember how we mentioned the job system in Final Fantasy III being a cool feature? Well, Final Fantasy V went ahead and knocked that out of the park. Players can now swap jobs on the fly, allowing for a versatility previously unseen in any Final Fantasy game. There are twenty-two jobs available, and every character has the potential to master all of them.

The only downside to FFV is that its story lacks depth compared to others in the series.

7. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV
  • Platform(s): SNES, PlayStation, WonderSwan Color, GBA, Nintendo DS, PSP, Android, iOS, PC
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: July 19, 1991

Final Fantasy IV, also known as Final Fantasy II in North America (don’t ask), tells the story of Cecil. The evil sorcerer Golbez is attempting to steal powerful crystals that will allow him to destroy the world. Cecil and his companions must journey together to stop him.

Like Persona 3, Final Fantasy IV is the first game in the series to really set to bar for what it means to be a Final Fantasy game. The graduation to the Super Nintendo console gave it a big boost in graphic capabilities, and its active-time battle system carried on until FFXI. Its story is moody and dark, making it stand out from the optimistic fantasy found in other JRPGs.

It’s a bit linear by modern standards, but the story still stands up today.

6. Final Fantasy IX

Final Fantasy IX
  • Platform(s): PlayStation, PS4, iOS, Andriod, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: July 7, 2000

The protagonist in Final Fantasy IX is a young bandit named Zidane. He kidnaps Garnet, the Princess of Alexandria, and gets pulled into an escalating conflict between rival nations. Together, Zidane and his comrades attempt to overthrow Garnet’s mother, the warmongering Queen of Alexandria, and end the war.

There’s a lot to love about FFIX. It drops the technological themes that were at the forefront of VI, VII, and VIII, returning to the classic fantasy setting of older generations. It also simplified a lot of its design, which didn’t push any boundaries, but better matched the graphic capabilities of the PlayStation.

In a lot of ways, FFXI is the purest version of Final Fantasy. It’s the most refined, editorial, and well-developed rendition of all that the pre-VI games had to offer.

5. Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age

Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age
  • Platform(s): PS2, PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: Square Enix
  • Release Date: March 16, 2006

At number five on our list of Final Fantasy games ranked, we have Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age. Final Fantasy XII tells the story of Vaan, Panelo, Ash, Balthier, Fran, and Basch — an eclectic mix of war orphans, sky pirates, and deposed nobles. The land of Ivalice has been in the throes of a massive war between the empires of Archadia and Dalmasca. Our heroes band together in the hopes of finding the power to avert the war and save the world.

FFXII was ahead of its time in a lot of ways. Like XI, it chose to move away from turn-based battle and use an “Active Dimension Battle” system. This system made it so you could see the enemies roaming on the open world and would engage with them without a “Battle Screen.”

The gambit system was also revolutionary, as it allowed the player to “program” any character that they weren’t actively controlling with a list of commands that were attached to activation conditions. In short, you could set exactly how every AI-controlled character in your party would react to hundreds of scenarios.

These changes took some getting used to for Final Fantasy fans, so reviews were initially mixed. Then the 2017 remaster, Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age, was released and gave the game a second wind. It’s now one of the most beloved titles in the series.

4. Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X
  • Platform(s): PS2, PS3, PS Vita, PS4, PC, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: July 19, 2001

Final Fantasy X is the story of Tidus, a young man who is spirited away to a strange land where technology is forbidden after his own city is attacked by a gigantic monster called Sin. In his quest to find a way home, Tidus joins up with a priestess named Yuna and her guardians as they seek to get rid of Sin.

FFX was the first of the series on the PS2. It also launched just one year before the Disney/Square crossover series Kingdom Hearts was released, which brought a whole new generation of gamers to the series. In fact, Tidus played a minor role in the game’s prologue, along with Wakka and Selphie.

X is one of the most visually appealing Final Fantasy games, featuring beautifully rendered monsters and settings with a vibrant color palette. Its battle system represents the peak of the Active Time Battle system established in FFIV.

There’s a beautiful HD remaster packaged with the games direct-sequel, X-2, that’s available on all modern platforms. We would recommend it as the best way to play the game today.

3. Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII
  • Platform(s): PlayStation, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: February 11, 1999

Final Fantasy VIII is the story of a mercenary named Squall who works for an organization called SEED. Squall is a reluctant hero, but he and a group of other SEED members are ushered on to battle an evil sorceress from the future named Ultimecia.

The battles in FFVIII are work similarly to the ones in VII. Summons and magic are slotted to enhance the characters’ abilities. The one major downside is the draw system. Spells have to be drawn from enemies in battle. Players’ stats (hit points, attack, defense, etc.) are based on the spells you have attached to them. That means you would have to spend a lot of time sitting there, hitting the draw button over and over, in order to accrue enough charges of each spell to power up your stats.

But even with that, Final Fantasy VII still manages to be one of the most iconic titles in the series. It has one of the best stories, complete with one of the best romances. You even get to go to space!

2. Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI
  • Platform(s): SNES, PlayStation, GBA, Android, iOS, PC
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: April 2, 1994

Coming in at number two, we have Final Fantasy VI. Some of you are probably gritting your teeth that this absolute masterpiece didn’t get the number one spot, and you know what? I get it.

Final Fantasy VI follows Terra Branford and a band of thirteen other playable characters. It’s set in a futuristic world where magic and technology are both powerful forces of destruction, and the world is in the midst of an arms race.

VI has the most playable characters of any game in the series. You might think that with that many prominent characters, at least one or two of them would end up being a little flat. Untrue. Each character in the game has their own subplot, allowing you to get to know every one of them and learn what drives them to fight.

Combat mostly follows the path laid down by FFIV, but it did introduce the “Desperation Attack,” a powerful move that sometimes appears when a character has low health. This move is a precursor to the Limit Break and Overdrive style of attack.

FFVI received critical acclaim and remains one of the most successful JRPGs of all time.

1. Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII
  • Platform(s): PlayStation, PS4, PSP, PC, Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
  • Developer: Square
  • Release Date: January 31, 1997

Here it is, folks, the best of the best on our list of Final Fantasy games ranked. I know there are probably just as many of you pulling your hair out as there are people twirling their buster swords in triumph. (You know you just hummed the victory theme.)

Final Fantasy VII follows Cloud, an ex-member of the private military core SOLDIER, as he joins a group of environmental terrorists trying to take down the corporation that once trained him, only things get complicated when an old enemy returns — Sephiroth.

FFVII was the first Final Fantasy game to transition to 3D, utilizing the new technology made available by the PlayStation. Sure, the blocky lego-man aesthetic isn’t for everyone, but you can’t tell me a chill didn’t run down your spine when you first saw a fully rendered Sephiroth disappear into the flames of Nibelheim.

It also has (in my opinion) the best story in the series. It weaves trauma, insecurity, the value of friendship, and the importance of deprioritizing capitalism for the sake of the planet into a seamless tapestry.

You also get to crossdress and gamble.

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Thank you for reading our list of ranked Final Fantasy games. We hope you’re as excited as we are for FFXVI!

Happy gaming!

 

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Jim Cornette 3:16

My final rankings:

O: 11
N: 14
M: 8
L: 2
K: 13
J: 15
I: 12
H: 7
G: 6
F: 10
E: 5
D: 9
C: 1
B: 3
A: 4


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