The five best Final Fantasy heroes

Our look back on gaming’s most-massivest RPG franchise continues with a shakedown of the coolest, most capable or selflessly tragic heroes the series has to offer. Yesterday we sorted out which game was at the top – today it’s all about the man who ties it all together.

Above: NOT HIM 

As with yesterday we’re only considering the “true” games – the ones with numbers attached. No spin-offs, no side stories, just the main games and their dashing, troubled or likable saviors.

Includes contributions from Brett Elston and Christian Nutt

Squall Leonhart (Final Fantasy VIII)


No hero in the history of Final Fantasy has divided fans quite as much as Squall. A bitter, cynical and unfriendly young warrior, his number one line throughout the game is "whatever." But as he begins to unravel the mysteries of his past - and thanks to the support and ultimately the love of heroine Rinoa Heartilly - his personality becomes much more rounded and likable.

Above: Don’t you dare smile! Not until the credits, buddy! 

Paradoxically, Final Fantasy VIII is one of the most genuinely amusing games in the series; the lynchpin for this is Squall's defective personality and the way the other characters play off of it. Even though he may be stoic and fairly unpleasant to hang out with for 40 goddamn hours, the other cast members make the most of Squall’s emotional deficiencies and make his eventual change of heart all the more meaningful.

Tidus (Final Fantasy X)


One of the most complex and bizarre heroes yet seen in the series, the insecure Tidus is a mere figment of the imagination - or is he more? A superstar athlete with a childish outlook on life, he's thrown into a world completely outside of his experience, where he's forced to quickly learn how to deal with people who couldn't care less about his achievements in sports. This one acceptance opens the door to true character growth, making Tidus a changed man by the end of the game.

Above: Tidus begins as a naive, careless athlete. Revelations change his entire outlook on life… including what “life” even means 

He becomes determined to live up to his new friends’ expectations, and his transformation from whiny, privileged bitch to spell-slinging badass is one of the most believable character arcs in gaming. Soon, he's found love and learned terrible secrets, but he accepts his grim fate with grace and dignity. It’s easy to hate his grating behavior early on and dismiss both the game and Tidus himself, but anyone who played through knows how far and deep his journey really is.


  • evoxpisces - June 17, 2013 1:39 p.m.

    THANK YOU for showing the love to FFIV! FFIV is my favorite by a very small margin for very many reasons and Cecil is just one of the reasons. Really an incredible journey in FF4 and Cecil and Kain just take the cake on this one. I love dynamic characters in games, books, movies, etc. and the way Cecil goes from Dark Knight, committing all these horrible atrocities to becoming a Paladin and trying to atone for his sins. Cecil is my favorite main character in the entire series and there's just a few reasons why.
  • Vigore5363 - July 25, 2012 1:43 a.m.

    I agree with Locke over Squall as well, but in my honest opinion I don't think people give Cloud enough credit sometimes (aside from his fan base of course)even if he isn't your favorite you can't deny that he is badass and completely deserves all the hype as well as any other character. Cloud's feud with Sephiroth was brilliant! He looked up to him like a hero since he was a child and dreamed of being like him, then watched him snap and become a monster with no regard for human life. After years of idolizing him, he still stood up to him knowing how powerful he was. To top it off i think the most amazing part of Cloud's story is the fact that after his first encounter with Sephiroth he shut people out, was always cold with little emotion but slowly opened up till his breaking point in the life stream with Tifa which in my opinion is probably one of the greatest scenes in the game because it was similar to Vivi's in FFIX but worse in a way. Your not a creation, your an experiment and a failed one at that, your memories are false and you have no potential to achieve your dreams let alone stop Sephiroth from destroying your world, and Clouds reaction to all of this is incredible because he has a breaking point unlike most of the other heroes. He almost gives up you start to realize that his battle with Sephiroth is more than physical, but with Tifa's help Cloud finds himself and his strength. It's just nice to see a hero that relies on his side characters to such an extreme. Still Vincent takes the fucking crown in this game for being such a badass.
  • Knopps - April 20, 2012 10:56 p.m.

    No Terra? Hell actually...No Locke? Good list...but I would of put Locke in Squalls place. Because like it or not in my opinion he is as much as important as Terra as far as main character status in ffVI I can accept Cloud. Probably closer to 5. in the 5 to 1 ordering. But yet again that may be me.
  • funkdafresh - March 2, 2011 5:20 p.m.

    Cloud, boring. Squall, boring and brooding. The best are the ones with a likeable personality. Zidane was awesome and hilarious easily my favorite main character. TIdus was thoroughly entertaining as well. Glad they're featured on the list.
  • tkv - December 2, 2010 5:50 p.m.

    I almost had a heart attack when I saw Vann. However, I thought Ashe was a great character; she was more of a lead character to me than Vann was. That all being said, I am happy with this list. Squall and Zidane are my two favorite heroes. I'm always surprised Cloud has such a fan base because he always seemed to be trying to one-up Sephiroth. I'm sorry, but I like Sephiroth more than Cloud, even though he's a villain. I'm happy with Cicel. He was a good character and I'm always happy to see the older games recognized.
  • rtw85 - July 23, 2010 5:27 p.m.

    if spin offs were allowed zack fair should be #1 coolest character ever also died to protect his friend and the buster sword in crisis core is cool
  • mellypelly - June 24, 2010 10:02 p.m.

    Now these rankings are better than your god-awful FF game ranking. Cecil isn't my first choice, but he deserves to be on the list. Only one I disagree with is Squall. Bartz (or Butz if you're old school) deserves his place. I never cared for anything that happened to Squall during the entirety of VIII. Pretty lousy hero if you ask me.
  • kerikerropi - March 16, 2010 1:59 p.m.

    i really love squall. i was kinda hoping he'd make the #1 spot but cecil being the one is no problem to me. I developed a liking to him since dissidia. I haven't played ff4. And it made me smile that cloud wasn't #1. No offense to Cloud lovers out there.. I just think he is famous enough as it is. And he doesn't need any more publicity. lol. I do hope they make a movie of final fantasy VIII too... I'm sure it will be a blast as well...
  • Conman93 - March 7, 2010 7:07 p.m.

    @RogueRed, I agree, he was like a sophisticated jack sparrow Having only played 7 and 12, cant really say much in any of this weeks articles. btw, can u even call vaan the hero of 12. Ashe and Basch got most of the attention, I noticed.
  • CARNAGEragnarok - March 7, 2010 2:39 a.m.

    F That, whotha F is cecil anyway? some fag...zidane as well, cloud should be #1, not cuz hes one of the most exagerated characters of all time, but because he is maga BAMF and can use a gigantic friggin sword like a toy and kill the eff outa ppl
  • hhbx - March 5, 2010 12:27 a.m.

    I think it's a bit more of the hate for Cloud being more then the over simplification of just being popular. Properly closer to him being almost literally the poster boy for the pretty, angsty amnesiac character that JRPGs just seem to revel in. That, and you have to admit that a good part of his popularity comes from what he is and does rather then anything involving his backstory.
  • Vigore5363 - July 25, 2012 1:55 a.m.

    You have a very solid point there, that's why I cant stand alot of Cloud fans a majority of them know nothing of his story and some only know him from KH1 and KH2 and call themselves fans which is ignorance at it's prime. My favorite FF characters would have to be Vincent and Auron. Vincent mainly because you have to go out of your way to find out what his story is and I loved it.
  • Xplosive59 - March 4, 2010 4:03 p.m.

    cecil is the only protagonist of a final fantasy game i like other than the ones from final fantasy 6
  • BelovedBookworm - March 4, 2010 4:41 a.m.

    Cecil is definitely the man- he's by far my favorite FF protagonist of the series. Good choice for number one, not that I'm surprised.
  • Squander - March 4, 2010 12:32 a.m.

    talking about "Heroes"... Auron is worth called a legend!
  • DavidMacphail - March 4, 2010 12:11 a.m.

    No way is Cecil #1. Tidus should be #1 with Cloud in second place.
  • SumCallMeTalent - March 3, 2010 11:41 p.m.

    guessed them all but Zidane Tribal (never played FFIX) would have to see Vinvent though because he is badass
  • Thantos410 - March 3, 2010 10:35 p.m.

    Cecil is great. I laughed at the Crisis Core picture and following caption though.
  • FalconMbuster - March 3, 2010 9:58 p.m.

    Cecil is by far my favorite main character. I've never played VII or VIII, so my only exposure to Cloud and Squall have been from Kingdom Hearts, Advent Children, and Dissidia. With that background, I hate them both.
  • metalgatesolid - March 3, 2010 8:40 p.m.

    Apart from Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy X has the greatest cast in a game ever. Auron is my all time favourite Final Fantasy character and the support characters are great!!!!

Showing 1-20 of 51 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000