Ranking the best Final Fantasy games isn't an easy endeavor. It's one of the longest-running and most influential video games series of all-time, and often used to showcase the power of new console generations. Everybody has a different opinion of what makes a great Final Fantasy game as a result – is it the story and setting, the strength of the characters, or driven by the delivery of the battle system? It's difficult to say, but I've tried to keep all of that in mind for this ranking of the best Final Fantasy games of all-time.
This list has been updated following the release of Final Fantasy 16, the PS5 exclusive installment which has ushered in yet another evolution with a focus on real-time combat. I've tried to keep the focus here on mainline Final Fantasy games, which means you won't find any of the excellent spin-offs (sorry, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance) or ports in here. Still, whether you're looking to indulge in a little nostalgia or are looking for your next game to play, there should be something for you in our list of the 10 best Final Fantasy games.
10. Final Fantasy 14
It's funny to think that Final Fantasy 14 was ever at risk of drowning in a rising tide of discontent. Following a botched launch in 2010, Square Enix worked hard to pull this experience back from the brink with the release of A Realm Reborn. Strong foundations which have supported a decade of expansion, with Final Fantasy 14 now standing as one of the best MMORPGs on the market. Whether you're coming in for the intricate storytelling or the forward-thinking approach to social RPG systems, FF14 is a true love letter to the wider Final Fantasy franchise which shows no signs of slowing down. It's massive in scope, offers a flexible player experience, and offers hundreds of hours of adventures.
9. Final Fantasy 12
Final Fantasy 12 was once considered too much of a departure to be as beloved as its most immediate predecessors. With time, however, we can see it for what it truly was: a stunning, smartly-designed expression of why so many fell in love with this franchise to begin with. The more open-ended environments breathed new life into Ivalice (a returning world from the Tactics games), while the cast of characters are among some of the best to date. But Final Fantasy 12's real strength is in its tactical battle system, which blended elements of the classic ATB system with real-time combat sensibilities, and the AI-governing Gambit system – a framework Square Enix would continue to play with into the future.
Related: Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age review: "Finally gets the second chance it always deserves"
8. Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Square Enix may well be calling this a remake, but what the developer has effectively put forward here is a reimagining of one of the best RPGs of all-time. Final Fantasy 7 Remake takes a familiar foundation – Cloud Strife and the Avalanche crew, heading into battle to stop Sephiroth and Shinra from annihilating the lifestream – and contorts it, carving new routes for one of the most storied narratives in video game history to follow. Combine that with one of the most striking visual presentations of the modern era (Midgar is a truly awe-inspiring cityscape) and a tactical real-time combat system which lends more personality to the party, and you've got all the makings of a genre classic.
Related: Final Fantasy 7 Remake review: "A new experience that's wholly its own"
7. Final Fantasy 16
Square Enix has made its boldest bet at modernization yet with Final Fantasy 16. As fun as games like FF13 and FF15 are, it always felt as if they were stuck straddling two worlds – caught between honoring tradition and an appeal to shifting trends. But what we have here is a full embrace of real-time action combat, made in the mold of Devil May Cry, which helps propel the series to new heights. Combine that with an intricately detailed overworld, more considered fantasy story, and brilliantly conceived setting, and what we have here is the best that Final Fantasy has been in two generations. It's certainly different, but then Final Fantasy has never been afraid of changing with the times.
Related: Final Fantasy 16 review: "Stands alongside the series' greats"
6. Final Fantasy 4
Final Fantasy 4 was groundbreaking. It represented a new generation of RPGs in 1991, bringing the franchise into the 16-bit era with its revolutionary Active Time Battle (ATB) combat system and stunning attention to detail. Go back to FF4 today and so many of its biggest ideas will seem quaint, if not cliche – but that's because it set a template that many developers continue to follow to this day. It's one of the most memorable SNES adventures, full of larger than life characters and massive plot twists that are still a delight to experience. Final Fantasy 4 is as important to the evolution of the 16-bit era as Final Fantasy 7 is to the rise of the PS1.
5. Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy 9 closes out the first 3D era of the franchise with style. The ranking of the PS1 trilogy of Final Fantasy games has always been hotly contested, if not impossible to define. Still, FF9 presents a compelling adventure that's full of heart and heroic characters – it's no surprise that the likes of Zidane, Vivi, and Freya are still considered among the series' finest. While the world of Alexandria lacked the scope and distractions of its predecessors, Square took steps to make up for these limitations with an evocative visual design and soaring soundtrack. With its deep combat and thunderous pacing, Final Fantasy 9 still has the capacity to surprise and delight so many years later.
4. Final Fantasy 8
I could make a compelling argument for the Gunblade being the coolest video game weapon ever made. That's not the only reason Final Fantasy 8 deserves such a high position in this ranking, but it's certainly a major consideration. All joking aside, FF8 is one of the wildest rides in the franchise's history – an adventure which plays with our perception of reality as we fight to stop the fabric of time from unraveling. Between its five distinct landmasses, stunning cinematic presentation, and vast array of enigmatic characters, Final Fantasy 8 established itself as a true classic of the genre. As divisive as the Junction system is – eschewing a more traditional approach to elements such as magic, leveling, and gear – there's something truly special about FF8's willingness to experiment.
Related: Come find out if Final Fantasy 8 made the cut for our best PS1 games list.
3. Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 7 is often credited with popularizing this style of role-playing game within the western market. But its monumental impact on the wider video game landscape isn't why FF7 is so deserving of its place on this ranking. As the first in the series to dazzle with 3D graphics and slick FMV cinematics, Squaresoft was able to build a more evocative world and present a more memorable cast of characters; turn-based combat was given a new lease on life, and a truly stunning soundtrack helped tie the entire adventure together. Final Fantasy 7 is iconic, sprawling, and wonderfully paced, making it a must-play for both lapsed fans looking to reconnect with the franchise and for new players trying to get a better idea of what this series is all about.
Related: Learn how Square made one of the most influential RPGs of all time in our making of Final Fantasy 7.
2. Final Fantasy 10
There was this period of time where nothing would sell the promise and potential of a new console generation quite like a Final Fantasy game. The last time that was true was in 2001 with Final Fantasy 10, an RPG experience which sold the PS2 on sight thanks to its truly awe-inspiring visual fidelity, environmental detail, and vivid use of color. FF10 is also something of an enigma. It's not only responsible for shifting the franchise forward, introducing faster combat encounters and a more engaging leveling system (the Sphere Grid remains one of the best representations of expressive character customization and progression) but also acts as a farewell tour of sorts to the traditions which had underpinned the series since the beginning. Laugh at the voice acting all you want, but Final Fantasy 10 is an absolute classic.
Related: See where Final Fantasy 10 ranks on our list of the best PS2 games.
1. Final Fantasy 6
Final Fantasy 6 is considered to be one of the best games of all-time. In many ways, it's a celebration of everything that came before it – a love letter to the story-focused adventure of the original games, and a grand expansion on the depth of systems presented through its most immediate predecessors. With one of the most memorable narratives and cast of characters ever seen in the franchise, and a best-in-class turn-based combat system that retro-inspired developers are still drawing from to this day, Final Fantasy 6 remains a true achievement – a masterpiece which set a new standard for the RPG in 1994, and the game which all that have followed since are ultimately held up against.
Related: See where Final Fantasy 6 ranks on our list of the best SNES games.