We’re taking a retrospective look at some of the highlights of this iconic gaming franchise from the past few decades — the Final Fantasy protagonists, characters and games. So, sit back, and enjoy our trip down memory lane, filled with plenty of Moogles, Espers, Chocobos, and Cids.
In any of the Final Fantasy games, you’re liable to spend tens of hours getting all the way from scrappy-young-chosen-one-on-their-first-adventure to slaying the godlike final boss. You’ll also spend all that time with a rag-tag bunch of party members, usually including teenagers, aged warriors, and strange talkative beasts. Most importantly, you’ll usually be in control of one leading protagonist, whether it’s on the field map, the world map, or in dungeons.
Some Final Fantasy characters and protagonists have been more memorable than others, with some cementing their place in gaming culture forever. It’s hard to say what makes a good Final Fantasy protagonist or game, and we will all have our favourites, but this list is based upon a few loose criteria: how memorable they are, how enjoyable the playable character was, and how good their main character arc is.
As always, results may vary. But without any further ado, let’s jump right in — starting with our favourite Final Fantasy protagonists…
Final Fantasy Protagonists & Characters Ranked
15. Warrior of Light (FFI)
The OG Warrior of Light from the very first Final Fantasy game is placed here because of the sheer lack of anything substantial as a character.
In the first game, you formed a party of four warriors out of various classes, and there really wasn’t much to their characters at all. They went out, they fought bad guys, and saved the world, the end, without any dialogue or backstories that would form part of the later franchise instalments.
It was only in later releases like Final FantasyDissidia that this game even had a protagonist defined formally as the Warrior of Light, along with a unique appearance, but even then, due to his origins, there was nothing much that could be done with this generically adventurous person.
14. Luneth (FFIII)
Luneth was in much the same boat as the Warrior of Light in the previous entry, as a generic, random adventurer without any personality. However, he only just edges out into second last place because of the few updates provided in the DS release.
Until that point, Luneth was just a generic Onion Knight, but a few extra scenes and character moments in the Final Fantasy III re-release, while not much, help make this plucky young kid feel more like an actual person.
13. Firion (FFII)
Firion was the first protagonist and character in a Final Fantasy game to actually have a bit of a personality or backstory, which was already an improvement. He has family, friends, and motivations (to some extent).
However, it’s clear that the series writers were still finding their feet at this point. Looking back at Firion, he is a comparatively flat character, whose motivations are pretty much the same as those of his party as a whole, without anything really differentiating him meaningful as an individual. Impressive for his time, Firion finds his low place on this list as a result of being the first steppingstone that many more complex characters developed from.
12. Bartz Klauser (FFV)
Bartz is set up to be one of the all-time most-generic hero characters right from the start.
An orphan, he wanders the world as a generic..um…wanderer, with minimal ambitions aside from just helping out and earning some Gil. However, he shows a surprising level of complexity compared to some earlier entries in the series.
He turns down the initial heroic call-to-adventure, and it takes him a bit more time before he even commits to saving the world. His personality is more rounded, with a range of emotions for different situations, and in many ways he feels like an actual person, facing enormous odds and challenges, but maintaining his easy-going personality, albeit with a developing sense of maturity as the game progresses.
He also has an adorable Chocobo sidekick, Boko, which can only add to his appeal. However, Bartz falls short when compared to the depth of Final Fantasy IV’s protagonist, and it can feel like a bit of a step back to engage in this rather simpler adventure in Final Fantasy V (excellent job system notwithstanding).
11. Vaan (FFXII)
Much has been said of Vaan, and he is in many ways one of the more divisive protagonists in the series. Even to use that word courts controversy, as it is definitely arguable that Vaan is not the protagonist but is actually just a viewpoint character for the player to control.
Originally, badass Captain Basch was intended to be this instalment’s protagonist and main character, and indeed most of the plot revolves around him and Ashe. Vaan, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have much going for him beyond his constantly stated desire to become a sky pirate, and his ability to stand in the background of cutscenes while more important people speak.
But for me, I think the issue is more one of execution than of purpose. Vaan is important to the plot, and in many significant ways, the main party’s cause would have failed without him – it is Vaan that convinces Ashe not to give in to despair and to stop dreaming of living with her dead husband. As a result, Ashe does not follow the directions of the god-like Occuria and instead charts her own path for the destiny of Ivalice.
Ashe and Vaan were meant to be counterpoints, both having experienced great loss but having handled it in different ways. However, because this doesn’t always come out in dialogue as well as it should, Vaan, unfortunately, finds his place towards the bottom of this list. At least he’s still more important than Penelo…
10. Lightning (FFXIII)
Lightning is another character where I can really see what they were trying to get across with her, but I just don’t enjoy spending that much time with her in practice. She gets her position here rather than lower much as the result of her having three games, meaning that we spend a bit more time with her and get to know her a bit better.
Final Fantasy XIII begins in medias res, with events already in the middle of unfolding, and we meet Lightning as an extremely cold, emotionally distant character. While we later learn what family drama led her to become this way, she remains very difficult to deal with for her party members. Over time, she eventually warms up ever so slightly, showing genuine emotions for some of the people around her.
The biggest problem with Final Fantasy XIII is the way in which the party spent most of the game just following the orders of beings greater than themselves for reasons they don’t fully understand, leading to a huge lack of agency in Lightning as the protagonist. By the time her story concludes in Lightning Returns, she has challenged those same forces that sought to control her and has found a measure of peace, meaning that we can at least lay Lightning to rest with some element of closure.
9. The Adventurer (FFXI)
What will be said in this section will be true of many MMO protagonists, and indeed applies to both Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XIV, the two online instalments in this franchise. We spend so much time playing an MMO like Final Fantasy XI that we tend to get quite attached to our character to a greater extent than in many other video games, meaning that our fondness for them as the protagonist of a story is developed in rather a different way to the offline games in the franchise.
The biggest problem with Final Fantasy XI‘s protagonist is a lack of agency – while we do go to fantastic places and achieve fantastic things during the hundreds of hours spent playing an MMO, there is always the lurking sense of “but thou must” when it comes to quests. We find a quest and our player character happily accepts it and sets out to slay five boars or an ancient dark god or what have you. There is very rarely the sense that our character would say no to a request because of something they find personally repellant about it. This means that MMO protagonists can rarely have the range of emotions or depth that offline protagonists can and suffer very little internal conflict or growth.
Ultimately, your adventurer from Final Fantasy XI is placed here because of the personal adventures you had with them, which are highly variable for each player.
8. Warrior of Light (FFXIV)
Everything I said in the previous section about the MMO protagonist of Final Fantasy XI applies here to the MMO protagonist of Final Fantasy XIV.
But what gives this one the edge over the former is two main reasons: firstly, the march of technology means that the storytelling mechanisms and cutscenes are more advanced in Final Fantasy XIV than in Final Fantasy XI, allowing a greater range of events to occur to your character, making what happens to them slightly more interesting.
Secondly, with the release of the Shadowbringers expansion, which I maintain is one of the best MMO expansions ever, Square Enix actually got playful with your generically amazing hero character. At this point in the plot, you had spent hundreds of hours as the most amazing hero of the world, with good guys flocking to you and bad guys fearing you.
In Shadowbringers however, you are thrust into a world that either dismisses you or fears you, and the very notion of what it means to be a hero (and a Warrior of Light) as you previously understood it is challenged. This kind of subversion of expectation works excellently in the plot and is a fantastic piece of character development for every player in the game, and a great development on what it means to be a generic MMO hero.
7. Terra Branford (FFVI)
Final Fantasy VI is a remarkable game, and the main one people bring up in fights with Final Fantasy VII fans over which was the best FF game. It also has a huge list of party members and characters, most of whom get outshone by the series villain, Kefka. This means that Terra, while an impressive protagonist, is less memorable to the overall proceedings than some other title’s protagonists.
Beginning the game as a slave, this half-Esper heroine is freed by good fortune and then sets out to destroy the evil empire that enslaved her. The main interesting element of Terra’s character is her outsider status: she is feared by many people for her magical abilities and is not even fully human.
While she does achieve a lot in stopping Kefka, Final Fantasy VI is much more the sum of many different memorable moments than it is Terra’s story alone, placing her here on this list, but she will always have a place in our hearts as the series’ first female protagonist (and one of our favourite female characters in the franchise).
6. Squall Leonhart (FFVIII)
Squall was designed to be a rock-star-ish, melancholic young bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold, but what many people instead saw was a mopey, monosyllabic source of mockery. And while that is a fair assessment, it is also too much of a simplification of who Squall is.
Squall has more or less grown up in a school for mercenaries, and as a teenager has deep issues about abandonment, leading to him pushing people away and not having any close friends. When we have control of him, he mostly articulates his feelings only inside his own head, for the benefit of the player, but doing little else for those around him. However, events conspire to thrust him into contact with more people, and eventually to take command of an entire military. The biggest shift in his character is his romance with Rinoa, who eventually breaks through Squall’s icy exterior and gets him to feel something again.
There are some interesting angles to explore here – Squall makes it fairly clear that he would do almost anything to keep Rinoa safe, up to and including going evil. However, that side of things doesn’t get much detail fleshed out into it, and the whole thing does come across as very high-school melodrama.
As these kinds of romances don’t appeal to everyone, Squall has earned his place near the middle of this list, but he most certainly maintains his die-hard audience of early 2000s scene kids fans. He certainly screams good character design.
5. Noctis Lucis Caelum (FFXV)
The plot of Final Fantasy XV is a bit of a shambles, especially in the second half, but what really makes it a playable experience is the interaction between Noctis and his three friends.
Noctis himself is not terribly distinctive: a prince, unsure if he even wants the throne and trying to measure up to his father, is thrust into a war where his entire nation and the world itself are threatened, and he must step up and take responsibility for saving it. And that generic description is more or less what we need to know about Noctis from start to finish.
However, throughout the course of your multi-hour adventure, you will spend so much time with Noctis and his friends, and realise that they just have so much personality between them, that only deepens over time as their bonds of brotherhood grow.
Final Fantasy XV is unique in that it’s not really about the big plot, although that certainly reaches a great climax, but really much more about all the moments in the middle, and it can feel like one of the best camping and adventuring simulators at times. This means that Noctis, while superficially having much less depth than other people on this list, earns a special place in a player’s heart if they stick with his admittedly flawed title.
4. Cecil Harvey (FFIV)
Cecil, the original edgelord of Final Fantasy, was also its first protagonist to have a genuinely decent character plot and development, which incidentally also intersected with the main antagonist’s plot for the first time in a meaningful way.
Cecil begins the game as a Dark Knight, serving the king of Baron. With a strong belief in right and wrong, Cecil hates the evil orders he has to follow, which is expressed physically in the depressing Dark Knight persona and appearance he takes on. Cecil continually struggles with his own self-hatred, until he finally overcomes it at the midpoint of the game and takes on the mantle of a holy knight, a Paladin, signifying his growth as a character narratively, physically, and game-play wise. It’s a great intersection of gameplay and story beats.
Throughout the plot, Cecil is also struggling to understand and accept his nature as a Lunarian and comes into conflict with his brother Golbez. Cecil’s strongly defined character and well-presented arc make him a firm favourite of many Final Fantasy fans to this day.
3. Tidus (FFX)
Let’s address the elephant in the room: when people think of Tidus (who also appeared in the Kingdom Hearts series), they mostly think of that abysmal, meme-worthy laugh scene, the one populating the internet before the word “meme” even existed in its current form. However, as many people forget, that scene makes complete sense in context and, in many ways, the weirdness of it comes from the voice acting still being fairly amateurish for the Final Fantasy franchise at this time.
Taken holistically, Tidus has one of the most interesting character arcs of any series protagonists, and one which ties excellently into the themes of the game as a whole. Final Fantasy X is all about what seems like the inevitable spiral of death, and what that does to society. The heroes of this story exist to give hope to this world and to break out of that spiral.
Tidus begins the plot as a pro athlete, with few concerns in his life beyond his inferiority complex about his missing father. However, he is soon thrust into a strange new world, and while looking for a way home, not only falls in love but discovers that he himself is a magical construct and therefore not even real. A fish out of water archetype, Tidus has many delightful scenes where he challenges the rigid hierarchy of the world or humorously misunderstands the ways in which things work in Spira. His eventual acceptance of his own “death” for the sake of the world, giving up the woman he loves, is one of the most heartwarming moments in the franchise, and goes a long way to show how far Tidus has evolved over the course of the game.
Tidus feels realistic and human, while still being heroic and engaging as a protagonist, earning him the third-highest spot on this list. Only in Final Fantasy could a ghost with daddy issues about his father who became a giant monster whale generate any sort of realistic human reaction from the player.
2. Cloud Strife (FFVII)
More than any other Final Fantasy protagonist, Cloud as a character is emblematic of the series as a whole, and of JRPGs in the west. He is the archetypal spikey-haired-big-sword protagonist. But there’s so much more to him too, and even Final Fantasy VII’s own expanded media doesn’t always quite capture Cloud’s depth, turning him into far more of a stereotypical edgelord than he was in the original title.
As far as Final Fantasy protagonists go, Cloud is one of our favourites and one of the best characters in the franchise. He is presented to us first as a badass, uncaring mercenary that might secretly have a heart of gold, somewhere deep, deep under there. He has a personal vendetta against the Shinra Corporation and against series badguy, Sephiroth. If that had been where he had ended, then Cloud would have been fairly generic and forgettable (Don Corneo comedic-side-plot aside).
However, we learn that everything we had known about him was actually a lie: Cloud was actually a failed soldier that, after demonstrating a moment of heroism during a tragedy, was captured, tortured, and experimented upon until he had a mental breakdown and took on elements of his best friend’s much cooler personality. The way this is presented to us as players is exceptional, as clues throughout the game indicate this without giving it away, and we learn that the Cloud we know at this point is someone entirely different.
Cloud himself must come to terms with who he is, and he pieces together his personality in the later sections of the game to finally understand who he is as a person and to accept himself for who he is. When he leads the party at the end of the game, he is a confident, powerful warrior that has been through hell and back and become stronger for it, and it is this element of Cloud that gets ignored in most other media, focusing instead of the tortured side of his personality. But in reality, Cloud overcame those difficulties, and in so doing, created a reimagined version of the stoic, generically good hero character we had become so familiar with in other titles up until this point.
1. Zidane Tribal (FFIX)
Every party member in Final Fantasy IX has a statement that sums up who they are as a person. Zidane’s is “Virtue – You don’t need a reason to help people.” This, above anything else, indicates why he is such a delightful protagonist to play with.
Zidane (the main protagonist of Final Fantasy IX) is a thief, drawn into a simple enough plot to kidnap a princess that turns into a globe-spanning effort to save the world. Zidane, at least initially, joins in because it is the right thing to do, and it is only later that the story takes on much more significance for him personally. And while Zidane is heroic, he is never generically so, displaying a wide range of witty banter and a few personal flaws (his womanizing habit being the worst of them).
One of the most interesting and likeable characters in the franchise, Zidane is not what people expect a hero to be, and he certainly never sees himself as a hero, preferring to play the dashing rogue, and yet a hero is what he becomes. He experiences emotionally traumatic moments, such as when he thinks his beloved Dagger is lost to him, or when he believes himself to have been made as a soulless puppet, but he always bounces back and emerges stronger for those moments. He has positivity for days, and always cares about those less fortunate or more victimized in society, but he does so without being sanctimonious. He always struck me as the kind of guy that anyone could be friends with, sooner or later, as his infectious personality inevitably grabs a hold of you sooner or later.
Tellingly, at the end of the game, Zidane almost sacrifices his life to go back and try and save the villain, who now lies defeated, but that’s just the kind of guy Zidane is. When you play as him, you want him to succeed, and you love seeing what antics he will get up to next.
Zidane may not have the most dramatic, complicated, or extensive character arc out of everyone on this list, but what he does have is heap-loads of charm and passion that position him perfectly in this game that already runs primarily on those two qualities. He is definitely a great character and our favourite of the Final Fantasy protagonists.
Some of our Other Favourite Final Fantasy Characters
You can’t have a list of Final Fantasy characters and the world of Final Fantasy without mentioning Aerith Gainsborough, Tifa Lockhart, Vincent Valentine, Ramza Beoulve (Ramza Lugria), Zack Fair, Celes Chere, Kimahri Ronso, Relm Arrowny, Freya Crescent, and Garnet Til Alexandros XVII.
Final Fantasy Games: Reasons To Play Each One
Why should you play the Final Fantasy games? We have the answers.
In a world filled with endless negativity, and frankly, enough real-life problems for us to worry about instead, it’s good to focus on the positive for once. Although the Final Fantasy series has had its ups and downs over the decades, the distinctive character of each release means that there are plenty of different reasons why you might enjoy diving into one over the other. So, in this feature, we’ll take a look at what reasons you might have for playing each one of the mainline FF releases.
Of course, you’ll have your own personal favourite Final Fantasy games, and this is by no means a ranking, but rather just a look at the unique positive qualities of each title.
Final Fantasy I
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The challenge; the creativity available to each run.
Final Fantasy I, especially in its earliest formats, has by far the most difficulty of any mainline Final Fantasy title, not always aided by a plethora of predictable bugs. The original game also has the feature where you can select any combination of different jobs for your four-person party, meaning that if you want to complete the entire game with four white mages, hey, that’s on you buddy. This freedom in party selection and the added challenge of the game make this title hugely enjoyable for experienced players, challenge runners, and speedrunners.
Final Fantasy II
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The unique levelling system
Final Fantasy II has a unique levelling system that is difficult and obtuse to understand at the best of times, but in short, the more you use a stat, the more powerful it becomes. Hit things with a sword a lot? The more powerful your strikes become. Use healing spells a lot? The better you become at healing.
What was meant to create a more organic levelling experience turned a lot of players off when this title was first released, but if you go into this game with a full understanding of what you will be facing, there are plenty of opportunities to play around and experiment with the mechanics to create a very unique single-player experience. Not suitable for entry-level players, in my opinion, Final Fantasy II is a wonderful playground for those who have come to grips with the programming under the hood here.
Final Fantasy III
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The introduction to the famous job system
The job system would become a long-standing feature of many instalments in the franchise, and it all started here in Final Fantasy III. Essentially a way of switching roles and classes over time between your set party members, the job system offers a level of variety in combat that just wasn’t found in Final Fantasy I and II. Although Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy Tactics expanded upon this formula, and Bravely Default and Final Fantasy X-2 did their own unique thing with it, Final Fantasy III’s job system remains an innovative feature for the franchise and a great place to start getting to grips with it in a simplified form, before moving on to other titles.
Final Fantasy IV
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The first decent story in the franchise; the ATB system
Although FF would become synonymous with epic storytelling in years to come, it all started with Final Fantasy IV, in my opinion, the first title in the franchise to have an actually compelling story and a meaningful cast of characters. Still rated by many Final Fantasy die-hards and a lot of people as their favourite in the entire series, the story of Dark Knight Cecil’s redemption towards the light sticks with people for a variety of reasons.
Final Fantasy IV is still, by some measures, the most popular FF title in Japan. This title also introduced something we took for granted in years to come but which was hugely innovative at the time: the Active Time Battle system, or ATB system, where turn-based battles had the element of real-time and reaction timing added to it. While this is simplistic by today’s standards, it is the first link in the chain to the real-time combat systems of Final Fantasy XV and Final Fantasy 7 Remake.
Final Fantasy V
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The improved job system
Although I feel the job system reached its pinnacle in Final Fantasy Tactics, for mainline releases, it was at its best in Final Fantasy V. Taking what worked in Final Fantasy III, the class switching, and advancing upon that idea, made it even better in Final Fantasy V. Now you could switch between jobs without penalty, and could carry over certain mastered unique skills from one job to another, creating an even more customizable hero. Final Fantasy V also added a range of new jobs and unique series spells, such as double magic and mimic. The cherry on top was the addition of a better story, which while not being as good as Final Fantasy IV’s, was miles ahead of the simplistic quest of Final Fantasy III.
Final Fantasy VI
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The huge cast of characters; the late-game plot twist; the peak of old-school FF
Final Fantasy VI was the last 2D-sprite based FF in the main series and acts as the culmination and swan-song of everything that had come before. It had complex themes that were interwoven into the story in ways that had never been seen before in earlier FF titles. It looked as gorgeous as any SNES title could. The villain, Kefka, remains hugely memorable even today. Unlike previous titles, which had a standard “four heroes save the world” vibe, Final Fantasy VI went for a huge ensemble party system, with tons of memorable characters of all different types.
The game is also split into two distinct sections, with the second arising at a point in the plot where any other game might normally have ended, but instead, here everything you knew is turned on its head for the final segment of the game. There will always be a fight between FF fans over whether 2D or 3D was better, and Final Fantasy VI was the perfect way to bid farewell to an era that influenced so much to come later.
Final Fantasy VII
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: To see what all the fuss was about
For many people, particularly in the West, Final Fantasy IIwasFF; the benchmark against which any other title in the series (past and future) would be compared. It’s hard to remember now, but the release of Final Fantasy VII was an event like few others in gaming, and the title would go on to cement its place in gaming- and pop-culture up until the present day.
So many things that became tropes in JRPGs were popularized by Final Fantasy VII, so even if they have been done to death since then, it’s worth exploring where these hallmark moments in gaming were first seen by many people. Although, by any definitive measure, Final Fantasy VII is probably overrated, that speaks more to how highly it was praised rather than it being a bad game. Aside from the ugly character models in the field, which were substandard by even the game’s original era, the rest of it holds up pretty damn well at this stage, and it remains extremely replayable.
Final Fantasy VII brings together an interesting and dynamic cast of characters, an extremely memorable villain, a dense and layered plot that builds on several of FF’s most popular themes, and hours upon hours of content to engage with. Final Fantasy VII’s enduring popularity is, after all, why it is receiving a multi-episode remake on the scale of which we have never seen before in the franchise.
Final Fantasy VIII
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The junction system: Triple Triad
When Final Fantasy VIII was first released, it was extremely divisive for a fanbase that was hoping for more of Final Fantasy VII and didn’t expect such a distinctive shift in art style and gameplay. Final Fantasy VIII’s main gameplay feature was the junction system, whereby magic would be drawn from enemies or created through other mechanics and then attached to player stats, affecting their abilities. The junction system is poorly explained in the game itself, and the way in which levelling affects monsters is similarly badly presented, but once you understand the system, it provides plenty of opportunities for challenge runs and creative approaches to the game that are not possible in other, more fixed system Final Fantasys.
Added to that is the other main feature of the game: The Triple Triad card game. Nominally a side-activity, this game is not only extremely fun, the cards you win can be used to create magic in a variety of ways, removing the need to endlessly grind for magic to junction with. Understanding the card game is essential for getting the most out of Final Fantasy VIII, and side quests would rarely be this important to the core gameplay loop of an FF title ever again. I’m sure even now as you read this, plenty of FF fans can hear the familiar card game music start in their head…
Final Fantasy IX
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: To experience this love letter to all past titles.
Final Fantasy IX, launched right at the tail-end of the PS1 era, was designed to spiritually hearken back to the approach of past 2D FFs, while adding in the best features possible of the new 3D era. For example, your party members have relatively fixed classes and roles, you have four on screen in a single battle, Limit Breaks are present but no longer as game-breaking as in Final Fantasy VII or Final Fantasy VIII, and so on. In the plot, bits and pieces are taken from other titles but brought together in new ways: There is a conflict between technology and magic; there is a plot involving a second world hidden from the first, and the four elemental fiends, etc. Names, places, and people in this game nearly always speak to or reference some other element from a different FF game, but it does so in a way that avoids being just a laundry list of fandom references.
Final Fantasy IX stands on its own, even if you’ve never played any of the other FFs, as a remarkably fun PS1 JRPG, but if you are a long-time fan, you will get so much more out of this title than you might otherwise have. Add to that one of my all-time favourite group of party members, and you have a truly memorable classic of a game.
Final Fantasy X
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The Sphere Grid; the approach to themes
Final Fantasy X, the series’ first instalment on the PS2, brought a whole new level of cinematic quality to the franchise. Although the graphics are dated at this stage, and the voice acting is often quite awful, Final Fantasy X still has a lot to offer to JRPG fans today. The first point is, once again, drawn from the game’s unique levelling system. Party members do not have levels as such, but rather earn points that they can use to move around a huge, interconnected map of different nodes and abilities which can be activated over time.
Although each character has a default path, there is nothing stopping you from taking your character wherever you please to create a truly unique experience for your specific run. Want delicate little Yuna to become your heavy physical attacker? Go for it. Added to that was the fact that the game allows you to choose either a basic or advanced grid at the start of your game, and you will have plenty of opportunities to experiment with unique challenges of your own.
The second reason why I find Final Fantasy X appealing is its approach to its themes. Final Fantasy X, despite being set in such a colourful world, is centred around death as a never-ending cycle, and what it would mean to break that cycle. Death is interwoven into every aspect of the world and game in ways that make complete sense for this society, creating a world that feels distinctive believable and possible, even when the PS2 processing power capacity means you can’t see as much detail as you might have hoped.
Final Fantasy XI
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: If you want to play an FF MMO that is challenging in different ways than WoW; the community
It might be hard to imagine that there ever was such a time, but there were indeed MMOs released before World of Warcraft, which would explore their approach to the MMO genre in different ways, rather than just trying to follow the big leader. Final Fantasy XI still to this day has a devoted following of fans who like it for its distinctive play style. For instance, there are very few random fetch quests, in comparison to other MMOs, and you have the ability to theoretically have all classes on one character, through the Job System.
Another feature that many fans prefer is the lack of a duty finder – if you want to find a party, you need to engage with people yourself and bring them to a dungeon or quest area. While this made things more time-consuming, many people still speak of the long-term friendships they made by having to engage with other players in this way. Although its servers have been closed on consoles, Final Fantasy XI is still playable on PC, for anyone aiming to dive into this content-rich, distinctive MMORPG. Don’t expect it to have all the quality-of-life features that other more modern titles do, but you will find a community eager to help and assist you in getting started.
Final Fantasy XII
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The License Board; the Zodiac Job System; the gambit system; the hours and hours of additional content
FFXII is certainly one of the most distinctive FFs, gameplaywise, with its blend of real-time and turn-based combat.
Basically, Final Fantasy XII takes place in an open world with all enemies and allies visible, where you can set up your party members to take certain actions automatically through what are essential macro commands, which are titled “gambits” here. This allows for a high level of creativity about how you set up your party and requires you to really think about how you go into battles. Although you can get through the base game easily enough with a limited understanding of the system, a higher level of thought can create truly game-breaking combinations of gambit set-ups for any of the harder optional content.
Speaking of optional content, Final Fantasy XII has tons of it, from a series of hunt quests to weapon crafting, to minigames, to optional bosses and Esper quests. The post-game can last easily as long as the main quest itself. And if that was not all, Final Fantasy XII also has a very interesting system for acquiring skills and abilities – the License Board. This is a board of different tiles, where you unlock your ability to use certain magic spells, abilities, weapons, and armour by activating a certain square on the board as you travel around.
In the original release, this was the same board for all characters, but in the re-released Zodiac Age version, now each character can select up to two “Jobs,” each of which provides a different area of the License Board for them to use. Much of this is quite dense if you’re starting a game for the first time, but all these levels and depth of character customization means that Final Fantasy XII has exceptional depth to its replayability and gameplay.
Final Fantasy XIII
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The dense lore and worldbuilding
FFXIII was intended to be part of a multi-game universe, including three different games, and while that didn’t quite pan out as intended, it meant that the developers had a dense and developed mythos that they could include in Final Fantasy XIII (and its later two direct sequels).
It can seem quite daunting when you first jump into it, with tons of terminology and codex entries to read through, as well as many unique JRPG-ish terms invented for this title. But if you stick with it, there develops in this game a very distinct feeling that there is so much more to this world than you are directly aware of, creating a feeling of mystery and wonder. Many of these mysterious plot points get fleshed out in Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns, so if Final Fantasy XIII catches your eye, you have two more titles to engage with for even more details of this world, its gods, and its demons.
Final Fantasy XIV
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The hundreds of hours of content; the easy-to-access MMO gameplay; the compelling story
Final Fantasy XIV, despite its dishonourable origins, has become a juggernaut of an MMO, with hours upon hours of quality content for any MMO or JRPG fan to enjoy. The Realm Reborn base version currently has three expansions released for it, and altogether you could easily spend a couple hundred hours from start to current patch. Final Fantasy XIV has adapted some of the quality-of-life features of more recent MMOs, making it easier to find parties and do public content, and it also has a range of social features to help you make friends in-game.
As far as MMOs go, it is comparatively easy, and therefore more accessible to all audiences. This is not to say that there isn’t challenging raids and content, just that the general main questline of the game is possible to complete with public groups. It also maintains the one noticeable benefit of Final Fantasy XI, which is that all jobs can be unlocked on one character, if you so wish. What has always appealed to me about Final Fantasy XIV most of all is how it handles its story, which blends the classic adventuring of many FF titles with deep and complex riffs on themes and tropes that have come before.
The most recent expansion, Shadowbringers, has one of the most compelling villains I have come across in any game whatsoever. A word of warning: the content takes a bit of a dive in quality between Version 2.1 and the start of Version 3, but if you can stick it out (or buy a skip) you will be enthralled by everything else that comes.
Final Fantasy XV
Why you should play this Final Fantasy game: The open-world; the experience of brotherhood between party members
Final Fantasy XV was an ambitious title, perhaps too ambitious for its own good, but the end result has given us two very good reasons to play this title. The first is the true open world, a first for the series, which is gorgeous to explore and filled with all kinds of wonderful details and elements of wildlife. Final Fantasy XV is one of the best games to go and use the in-game photo mode for hours, just soaking in everything the world has to offer. The second main reason to play this title is the interactions between the main party members: unlike other FF titles, Final Fantasy XV only has four main party members, all present in most instances of the game.
Each Final Fantasy protagonist here has a unique and distinctive personality which is conveyed effectively to the player through everything you do, in battles, sidequests, and just hanging out. Much of the game feels like one extended camping trip with your best friends, and it’s very easy to grow attached to at least one of them, if not all of them and they’re dynamic together. The DLC packs for this game also offer each party member a moment in the sun and are well worth playing. The party interactions elevate much of this game beyond what it would have been otherwise
What are your favourite Final Fantasy games? Who is your favourite Final Fantasy protagonists?