Why every Final Fantasy game is the best AND worst in the series

Why it’s the best FF ever: The more story-driven FF games tend to focus primarily on a single lead character, but Final Fantasy VI doesn’t have just one lead… it has a whole cast of them. Its presentation of different character tales, all carefully interwoven with each other, is unusual and unique for the series, and for gaming in general. Plus, every character is a very distinct entity with their own unique skills, personality, and quirks, but you can also customize them as you please with special accessories and techniques and boosts granted through the use of Magicite. The epic presentation matches the story - many games threaten you with the end of the world, but so few games have the cajones to actually carry out global destruction over the course of the narrative. On top of it all – figuratively and literally – is an awesomely insane killer clown of a villain who mocks you at every turn.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: Three words: World of Ruin. What was once an excellently structured, interesting game goes completely off the rails in a more “open” second act. The World of Ruin throws difficulty balancing out the window; its open structure means monsters all over the map wildly vary in level, as there’s no way the devs could know what level your crew will be at when they take on various dungeons, and your own team becomes so powerful near the end that if you can’t annihilate anything in your path you must deliberately be playing it wrong. Hardly as tightly knit as prior games in the series.

Personal Take: Final Fantasy VI was like a revelation back in 1994: a complex, hope-filled story with multiple leads that takes players to Armageddon and back again. It also showed that, despite 32-bit power looming just over the horizon, the SNES was still very capable of delivering a graphically and musically rich experience. It’s a game that had a profound influence on me, and I played it constantly as a teenager. Nowadays, I can look back on it and see a lot of its flaws, but much of its presentation and ambition still holds up amazingly well.

Why it’s the best FF ever: Everyone has played this. Its revolutionary presentation - the cutting-edge visuals, the lengthy, gorgeous CG cutscenes, and the awe-inspiring summoned beasts – set the stage for RPGs in the generations to come and introduced a whole new batch of players to the genre. The mix of technology and fantasy created a fresh new world unlike anything else in the series before it, and the varied cast of characters – drawn by a new character designer Tetsuya Nomura – remain beloved to this day.

Beyond the main game, there are numerous sidequests and mini-games to explore and master (Chocobo Racing!), setting a precedent for installments further down the line. But what’s really important is that FFVII has some of the most memorable story scenes in all of video games. In fact, the death of Aeris may be THE single most memorable videogame sequence of all time, period.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: It’s the FF game everyone has played and remembered… and it’s a clear case of nostalgia goggles. The stunning graphical presentation may have wowed us then, but its visuals have succumbed to time more than any other FF title. It introduced the RPG world to unskippable, lengthy summons and magic spells that look rad the first time and grow progressively more infuriating to sit through. It’s also the first step away from the “Fantasy” part of the “Final Fantasy” title – what’s with all the TVs and cellphones and crap?

The Materia system means characters are practically interchangeable save for their Limit Breaks… which you shouldn’t expect to use much. The main villain is a long-haired pretty-boy with mommy issues - Ooh, what a badass! And an ambiguous ending (which two characters don’t even show up in) leaves plenty of room for spinoffs and cash-milking of fans! But perhaps worst of all, FFVII also introduced us to the character designs of Tetsuya Nomura, whose style has since guided the general JRPG aesthetic. The epidemic of sullen heroes with spiky hair, stupidly huge swords, and zippers? It all began here, friends.

Personal Take: Depending on whom you ask, Final Fantasy VII is either the herald of the best era of FF or the first step towards the series’ precipitous decline. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle – FFVII isn’t a terrible game, but as a longtime RPG fan, I felt it didn’t live up to the crazy hype and promotion it had running in 1997. Of course, other folks had their eyes opened to a new genre they had dismissed entirely, and it’s easy to see why FFVII holds a special place in their hearts. It’s perhaps the most enduring installment in the series, as well – one look at all the numerous spinoffs and cameos it has inspired proves this is one of the most beloved games of not just the series, but of all time.

Why it’s the best FF ever: Final Fantasy VIII took the next-gen conventions that VII established and brought them to new heights. The story focuses more intently on character drama, with sweeping themes of loss, love, resentment and finding yourself with a cast of attractive young heroes. The graphics match the newfound sophistication in character design; gone are the ugly, Popeye-armed character models of VII, replaced with full-sized character models that actually look like the characters they’re based on.

The CG quality has also increased dramatically, making the cutscenes look better than ever. And who can forget some of those great story points? The parade, the dance, the game’s theme song playing with Squall and Rinoa floating through space together… oh, the memories! Plus, the Junction system introduced one of the most complex and interesting character-improvement methods in all of the Final Fantasy titles – you would literally suck spells out of monsters and store them for later use.

Why it’s the worst FF ever: Whatever, Squall, you’re a terrible lead who needs to get the hell over himself. Seriously, it’s obvious you’re leading a pretty comfortable life, but you’re still just wasting your time moping constantly. Actually, considering all of your party members are equally obnoxious, that isn’t terribly surprising. And wait, you actually knew each other when you were kids and you just completely forgot because your Bahamut buddy somehow destroyed those braincells? What? Well, there’s no time to explain that, because we’ve got a crazy lineage of time-warping sorceresses attempting… time compression? That’s the stupidest thing ever!

No, wait, the fact that everything is somehow Squall’s fault in the end is even stupider! Let’s not forget the comedically broken Junction system, either – you can game this thing for all it’s worth very, very early on with just a few hours of grinding, effectively sucking the challenge out of the majority of the fights.

Personal Take: Final Fantasy VIII is one of the series’ more divisive entries – you either love it to bits or you loathe it with the burning fury of a thousand suns. I definitely fall into the latter category – it is easily my least favorite installment of the series. Frankly, I would have preferred the goofy, lovable Laguna as the permanent protagonist over wimpy, whiny Squall, but even that wouldn’t have fixed the what-the-hell-is-going-on-here plot and the busted Junction system. It’s a game that definitely inspired heated arguments on both sides, and may be the most controversial of all FF games… but maybe not so much now that FFXIII is out.


  • thelegendaryX - March 13, 2014 6:54 a.m.

    Hey man, I LIKED the chocobo side quest and mini-game in FF9! I wish they would've kept the card game from 8, though. Other than that, it was a pretty good read. My personal faves are FF6, 7, 8, 9, and 12. Least favorites are FF10 and 13, due to the linearity (in one more than just one aspect of the gameplay) and annoying characters.
  • yacine-abdelwahed - July 12, 2014 8:39 p.m.

    hi i need some advices i really loved final fantasy but i finished all ( most of them ) 7 and 8 and 9 and 10 can you give me recmandation for rpgs that have similar stories to them thank you i would really appreciate it !
  • thelegendaryX - July 13, 2014 6:09 a.m.

    All I know, RPG-wise, is Final Fantasy, to be honest with you. FF12 is a great game. All the FFs have somewhat similar stories, but FF12 has no love interest (no romantic tale) between any of the main characters at all. FF6 is before they went 3D but if you don't mind old-school games, it's a great one. Story is rather good for that era in gaming, and I loved the gameplay in both (probably enjoyed the gameplay a little bit more in 12; it plays like an MMORPG but isn't online). FF13 is pretty cool, too. I'd say it's the closest to having a familiar STORY to the ones you mentioned. There is a romantic ELEMENT to some of the story (it's not a huge part of it), and the gameplay is interesting, not especially bad or good. But of course the graphics are great!
  • mari8 - November 20, 2013 10:31 p.m.

    i never played VIII so its the only one i have no opinion on, but i really feel like after IX the series lost its spunk. Before X, final fantasy was never afraid to be silly. like does anyone remember when cloud got all drag on us in VII? or FF VI's Ultros? A walking talking Octopus? why not! does he belong anywhere in the plot? does it matter? it was fun and spunky, and so it didnt matter. and thats a lost beauty of final fantasy. everything didnt have to be all that plot driven generic fantasy bullshit. there used to be some really powerful moments in the series, like for example Celes's Opera scene in VI ( possibly a reflection of her own lonliness, but whatever, it was FRESH and maybe the most creative scene in any Final Fantasy) Cloud and Tifas childhood friendship in VII or Eiko's dinner in IX and her school girl crush on monkey it seems like Square has really lost its roots with the new generation. on the other hand i do like XII a lot. its an EPIC experience, and it really scores big time with its new active dimension battle system. i mean seriously who else ever felt like breaking their consoles over yet...another....random battle encounter?? well it took Sqaure a decade to discover game technology has outgrown that, and this time they got it right. also XII graphically excels over all its predecessors but it doesnt have any of Final Fantasy's old charms. Im still looking forward to XV but i doubt it will bring back the Final Fantasy most of us grew up with.
  • roosevelto - November 18, 2013 5:25 a.m.

    Lets say another thing. One thing is compare One FF game with all the FF series (which is already an unfear match), but another thing is compare it with any other game (not FF). I read many times: "this game is the worst ever. I played it 60 hours and...". Well, my worst games ever didn't last 1 hour.
  • roosevelto - November 18, 2013 5:17 a.m.

    I played until X. To me they're all beautiful and unique in their way. But to me, when i used to play FF, that was the premise, i never questioned parts of the games, or played them with a critical view; even the glitches were beautiful and a good challenge. The only thing i could say, "this is not a FF title" were the online games. I love single player, being alone with the music.
  • Squall88 - October 9, 2012 2:57 p.m.

    My favorite will always be VIII. Some people like 6 the most and some like 9 the most. It's all opinions really because one person can hate a game and another will love it.
  • Falstad007 - July 18, 2012 12:43 a.m.

    Even after playing Final Fantasy VI through XIII, my favorite is definitely still VIII. It really took it's sweet time setting in, but once it did I found it to be the most memorable and interesting out of all the FFs that I've played. My opinion.
  • hardcorelogo - June 5, 2012 5:27 a.m.

    I stopped playing video games for 10 years simply because FFVIII was so terrible and I swore to myself at the time I would never waste 80 hours like that again. Final Fantasy games are true love/hate relationships and seem to have the ability to be really awesome and trite at the same time. Its funny, I remember games like Final Fantasy VI as clear as a bell even though I played it 20 years ago but there are games I played only two months ago that I cant remember a darn thing. Side note, I tried playing FFVII this week due to all the hype and gave up after ten hours because it has dated so badly.
  • Giltz - June 4, 2011 7:31 a.m.

    I remember watching my brothers play 7. It was the first video game I ever watched when it came out in '97, I was 6 at the time and it was so cool. I've always enjoyed the series as a whole with 7 and 6 closely behind as my favorites. I just got 13 and I didn't enjoy 12. The story was good, but the system just wasn't my cup of tea. I hope 13 is good, and hope that 7 is remade. I would buy a ps3 just for that
  • Robotron2084 - May 12, 2011 9:31 a.m.

    VII will always be my favorite gaming experience.
  • rynmls - May 10, 2011 12:17 p.m.

    nice article but I still love Final Fantasy VIII. now I'm finishing Final fantasy XIII
  • Bluefox - May 10, 2011 11:39 a.m.

    I like them all except FFXIII. If I wanted to be rewarded only after 20 hours I'd play an mmo (which I did - btw, I don't like FFXI either). I think since people has such high expectations of the FF-games, the developers are trying out new ideas when all the fans really want are more of the same (pre-FFX).
  • kluivertus - May 9, 2011 3:42 p.m.

    I haven't played all the FFs, but that said, I think XII gets a bad rap. Few of my friends (even the FF fans!) have played it, but I sunk over 120 hours into it and hadn't gotten sick of it yet (though I utterly bypassed the fishing minigames, and still need to beat the Hell Wyrm and the final hunt). It's got a unique plot, far more interesting than typical save the world crap, and I liked the bounty hunting. Also, FF X was the first one I beat, and I hated it by the end. Dialogue, side quests, mini games, all terrible. Tidus SUCKS.
  • darksongbird - May 9, 2011 3:24 p.m.

    I'm surprised that for FF9, they didnt' say one of the drawbacks was that it was TOO EASY. I beat like 2 discs in less than a week! And I doubt I was being obsessive with the game. It was just EASY!! I never actually got around to finishing the game because I lost interest, but I'm sure I could have.
  • Logan2911 - May 8, 2011 8:12 p.m.

    FFX was my first 3D FF game & my all time favorite FF game.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 8, 2011 2:57 a.m.

    Honestly I think XIII is my favorite. I really loved X though so that might explain it a little bit. XIV. LOL!
  • Relayer71 - May 8, 2011 2:46 a.m.

    But come on, lets stop kidding ourselves. The BEST FF game is Final Fantasy Tactics!
  • Relayer71 - May 8, 2011 2:44 a.m.

    Tough to pick a best game with so many great games in the series and of course as the article illustrates, with so many great yet flawed games. Still, I'd give it to Final Fantasy IV. It's got drama, challenging combat, great characters, and it moves a really nice pace unlike some of the other entries. And the DS remake is the one to play - it STILL holds up. After that I'd say Final Fantasy IX. This one is so underrated but I think it's more that it was underplayed. As pointed out, the DC and PS2 stole its thunder, not to mention that it was too "different" for those newbies that started the FF series with FFVII and FFVIII. Still, it was like FF7 and FF8 were practice for FF9: the cut scenes were even more amazing, the battle system was tight and fun, the music was phenomenal, pacing was perfect and unlike 7 and 8, it has aged well. FFVI is a close 3rd and I loved FF XII and FFX. Worst FFs? That's all too easy: FFVIII and FFXIII. Most underrated? FF V. Why does everyone mention the "weak" story with this one? It STILL has more story than most RPGs of its day. And honestly, the characters are great AND the game has a lot of humor in it. To top it off, it has some of the best gameplay of the series. Most overrated would have to be FF7, easily. At the time it was a revelation. But it is almost unplayable today with a convoluted and bloated story, painfully dull (easy) combat made worse by 2 minute summons animations, a weak combat/leveling system, and the design choice of 3D characters over pre-rendered backgrounds - pretty but not fun to navigate. Still, it had my favorite setting of all the FF games. Midgard was amazing.
  • gfhkj - May 8, 2011 1:38 a.m. Fashion Female attire spring, personality Men's clothing + Shoes, Travel bag that grabs an eye coat + Chao packet Free transport

Showing 1-20 of 130 comments

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