I've never played Final Fantasy, where's the best place to start?

Video games have their share of long and storied franchises. But around the seventh or eighth sequel, it can be difficult for newcomers to know where to start. These guides will point you in the right direction. Read on, and maybe you'll find a new favorite.

No two Final Fantasy games are exactly alike. They're like snowflakes, or spiky anime hairdos. Each one mixes up its role-playing roots with new characters and play styles that make it feel distinct. What ties the series together are a handful of recurring themes: rebellion, friendship, and the balance between light and dark. And Chocobos. If you've ever been interested in this high-fantasy world of Moogles and magic, look no further than the high-definition remake of 2001's Final Fantasy X, originally released for the PlayStation 2 and currently available on all modern PlayStation platforms.

Final Fantasy X HD doesn't look like a 14-year-old game. Let's face it, graphics matter. Sound matters. Presentation matters. By modern standards, the classic, 2D Final Fantasy games look like the gaming equivalent of a silent film - and that's going to turn off a lot of people. Thanks to its high-definition update, Final Fantasy X doesn't have this problem, and is supported by a wide range of voice talent to help keep you invested in what's happening.

The focused script emphasizes character over metaphysical nonsense. Other Final Fantasy games get lost in some pretty heady topics, but FFX is relatively grounded. It stars a wide-eyed athlete named Tidus who gets transported across time to a future filled with monsters and forbidden technology. The plot unfolds around an ancient evil called Sin, but at its core, FFX remains focused on Tidus reconciling his feelings about his absent father, and his budding relationship with the young summoner Yuna. It's a personal story, relatable even amid its fantastical backdrop.

Final Fantasy X is a fun, but not especially difficult, game. There are super-tough, super-secret bosses lurking in the latter parts of the game, but if you're just looking to have a good time (and not spend 20 hours grinding) FFX has you covered. The game lets you swap out your party members on the fly during a fight, meaning you get to use the entirety of your team and not have to play favorites. There's even a turn indicator so you can see whose turn is coming up next and strategize accordingly.

Character customization offers some flexibility, but doesn't overwhelm. Final Fantasy games always give you some control over what tactics you use in battle. But while, for example, Final Fantasy III's job system or Final Fantasy VIII's junction system give a wide breadth of options, FFX once again keeps things focused. The sphere grid and weapon customization options give you just enough leeway to make you feel in control, without burying you in a sea of damage ratios and defensive statistics.

This game will prepare you for Final Fantasy games past and present. In the wide pantheon of Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy X isn't the newest or the most popular. It sits right at the center, polished and neat, presenting the heart of Final Fantasy with an HD bow. By playing Final Fantasy X, you will understand the core of what makes this series tick. You will then be able to recognize, and appreciate, how the other games tweak the fundamentals to create something different. You will also have a reference point for Chocobos, Phoenix Downs, and all the other series staples.

Other Final Fantasy games get lost in some pretty heady topics, but FFX is relatively grounded.

Once you finish Final Fantasy X, where should you go next? As previously noted, this game gives you a good idea of the Final Fantasy framework, so you could really attempt any game in the series after this one. If you're still unsure, here are my picks:

Final Fantasy VII If you want to see what all the fuss is about, head to Final Fantasy VII. While dated by today's standards, FFVII is still widely available and regarded as the series' most popular entry. When people talk about Final Fantasy, this game invariably comes up.

Final Fantasy XIII If you preferred the storytelling elements of FFX and want to play another game that focuses on plot, give this one a shot. Its core mechanics are a wild departure from the norm, and make it easier for you to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Maxwell McGee
Maxwell grew up on a sleepy creekbank deep in the South. His love for video games has taken him all the way to the West Coast and beyond.