My gaming life has always revolved around the Final Fantasy games. I was eight years old when Final Fantasy 7 came out, and my older brother let me watch him play through the whole thing. Occasionally he would play a few minutes without me present, at which point I would become outraged and demand a full accounting of what had happened. I was obsessed, and I still am. I’ve played all the games released since FF7 (except the online player ones–FF11 and FF14), so here is my extremely opinionated ranking of the Final Fantasy games! Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.
1. Final Fantasy 7
I imprinted on this game like a baby duckling, so there is no way it could stand anywhere but as #1. I think, however, that even with objective standards, FF7 would top most people’s lists. The plot is absolutely phenomenal–I gasped when Aeris died, and I freaked out when Cloud flashbacked to Sephiroth’s destruction of Nibelheim. This game was overloaded with fascinating backstories, believable motivations, and genuinely emotional moments (Dyne and Barrett’s confrontation, OH MY GOSH). I’ve played this one over and over again, and it still manages to catch me off guard with how intensely I love it.
2. Final Fantasy 10
It seems to be popular to hate Tidus, but I don’t care, I love this game! I thought the romance between Tidus and Yuna was one of the sweetest of all the games, and the other supporting characters–Kimari, Lulu, AURON–were amazingly cool. Plus, I sobbed like an embarrassed baby when Tidus went back to his time, and anything that makes me so emotionally invested is obviously doing something right.
3. Final Fantasy 8
I loved the sorceress plot in FF8, but this game ranks as #3 mostly because of the world and the gameplay. I loved exploring each continent, and I adored the Guardian Forces. FF8 had some of the most fun sidequests, especially the card game. Squall is not my favorite main character, but it was really sweet watching him grow into a person who could trust and love people. Rinoa is awesome, and I loved the flashbacks to Laguna and figuring out how they related to the main cast. Plus, the music for FF8 is phenomenal!!
4. Final Fantasy 13-2
Time travel! I wasn’t expecting to like this game (see: FF13 in last place) but I was totally won over by Serah and Noel’s adventures in the time stream. It was crazy fun to visit the same place at different points in time, to run into various FF13 characters, and to solve puzzles throughout. I really liked the end-of-the-world story with Noel, Caius, and Yeul, which was perfectly complicated and tragic. This game was, simply, fun.
5. Final Fantasy 10-2
FF10-2 was all about girl power, and I loved it! Yuna was lovely but a bit bland as a supporting character, but when she got a game of her own, I absolutely loved her. Rikku and Paine were awesome supporting characters, and I really loved the whole sphere-hunting plot device. Finding out about Paine’s past was fascinating and I was desperate for more and more details. I thought the game did a wonderful job of balancing tragic romance and joyful friendships, which are two of my favorite things!
6. Final Fantasy 13-3
While not quite as awesome as FF13-2, Lightning Returns was still incredibly fun. I loved exploring the four distinct landscapes, and the quest boards took up so much of my interest and time. Although the overarching mythology and Lightning’s place in it (throughout all three games) felt a little ridiculous and not quite cohesive, the game was so engaging that I didn’t quite care. The power of all game sequels is running into characters from previous game, and that joy was definitely in play in FF13-3.
7. Final Fantasy 9
Apparently FF9 is a lot more like the first Final Fantasy games, but…I didn’t especially love it? The cartoonishness of the game was fun, but occasionally ridiculous. I liked that Zidane had a monkey tail, and Dagger was a really fun character. The world was alright, and the plot was okay. That is pretty much the entirety of my feelings about FF9–it was okay. Fun to play, but I’ve never really wanted to go through it again. Vivi was adorable, though.
8. Final Fantasy 12
I started this game right after it came out, but grew bored after ten or so hours. I left it alone for years, then gave it another try during a lazy summer. For whatever reason, I liked it a lot more the second time through. Maybe it took awhile for me to get used to the high fantasy medieval tone of the game, but I wound up really liking Ashe and developing a crush on Balthier. Still, I never really loved the world and its landscapes. The plot was okay but a bit slow. I’m glad I tried it again and made it through the game, but it will never rank very high in my affections.
9. Final Fantasy 13
Ugh. FF13 was way too stifling and linear. One of my favorite parts of the Final Fantasy games is the ability to explore new worlds, and there was barely any freedom in this game until I could finally leave Cocoon for Pulse. There was some interesting character dynamics–I especially liked Hope–but overall I was just desperate to get this game finished. My advice to anyone else is to simply read a synopsis of FF13 and jump right into FF13-2.
What was your favorite Final Fantasy game? Least favorite? Let me know in the comments!