Final Fantasy is a series that I’ve lost many great hours to, even with its occasional pitfalls. While I haven’t played every entry in the fifteen official releases so far (excluding spin-offs), I know just five that really stood out to me as some of the finest examples of extraordinary video games. So without further a due, let’s dive into my personal picks of the top 5 best Final Fantasy games.
Side note: I will not include any of the spin-off titles and sadly not Final Fantasy XIV either as I haven’t even begun to grace the surface of that behemoth. Tekken 7 has taken up quite a bit of my time already.
5. Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII did so much right, it’s hard to actually list its achievements. Widely touted as the first taste of an open world Final Fantasy game, when in actuality it was more of a segmented overworld, the sense of exploration and adventure was immense. Some minor tweaks to the combat actually benefited the game in a huge way, including being able to take control of the camera to open up your field of vision in battle. Gone are the random encounters too (God bless you, Square Enix), but turn-based combat still remained prevalent; although it felt much more streamlined and fast-paced than its predecessors. I can’t wait for its remaster, The Zodiac Age, to hit the PS4 soon.
4. Final Fantasy X
This one shouldn’t be much of a shocker as I already included it on my Top 5 PlayStation 2 Games list, but Final Fantasy X represented the huge shift in style and maturity that the series always dabbled in. It was also the first to catch my eye as a huge leap forward for the series, including the more polished graphics and overall sense of epic scale while taking full advantage of the PlayStation 2 hardware. Not to mention Blitzball which pretty much solidified X as the definitive Final Fantasy experience on the PS2… even if it was just an over-the-top sport. Would gladly take it over FIFA, though.
3. Final Fantasy XV
The most controversial entry on the list is also the most recent. After a decade in the making, Final Fantasy XV landed with a pretty big bang, especially steering the series in an entirely new direction absolutely nobody saw coming. Turn-based combat was eradicated completely in favour of a more hack and slash approach, but it fit right into the overall style and tone while remaining a Final Fantasy game at its core – convoluted plot and all. XV was also the first Final Fantasy game ever to make me feel like an overpowered superhero or shounen protagonist (Sasuke joke not included), so good on you for that, Square.
2. Final Fantasy VI
It wouldn’t be right of me to begin this entry by not stating the glory that is Final Fantasy’s most intimidating villain, the clown prince, Kefka Palazzo. Without him, we basically wouldn’t have one of the most despicable but oddly endearing antagonists in video game history. Final Fantasy VI, without spoiling anything, seemed to have grown pretty big balls of steel for doing what it did mid-plot of the game. For something that was almost deemed taboo to do in a narrative about heroes fighting evil, VI proved why you shouldn’t listen to your English lecturers about how to structure conventional stories. VI threw that out the window and also decidedly pissed on its pages leaving the building.
1. Final Fantasy VII
As my second favorite game of all time, this was pretty much expected. Final Fantasy VII is nothing short of a phenomenal, extraordinary, awe-inspiring, breathtaking, ingenious, superb, exhilarating… (checks Google synonyms)… mindblowing, groundbreaking video game. I love literally everything about it. I love the ominous tone, the eye-catching style, the stellar score, the charismatic characters, the tightly woven plot, the sinister villain(s), the grand sense of adventure, Cloud’s Korean boyband hairstyle, Tifa’s huge… personality… you get it, I love it all.