The Final Fantasy series from Square Enix is one of the longest-running franchises in gaming history, starting off in the 80s and continuing all the way till today. Ranking the series would be a massive undertaking if you were to include the numerous spin-offs, remakes and sequels so we’re instead looking at the main series for this list. Here’s every mainline Final Fantasy game ranked from worst to best ahead of the release of Final Fantasy XVI.
Before we begin, this list was compiled from a combination of polls, message boards, user ratings and a bit of our opinion. To keep the list from droning on, we’re also limiting the amount of entries to the main, numbered titles so you won’t see Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy Type-0 or the Dissidia games here.
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Every Main Final Fantasy Game Ranked (From Worst to Best)
15. Final Fantasy II
Retro gamers might find a lot to like about Final Fantasy II. It’s by no means a bad game but it was certainly a tough act to follow. Square attempted to innovate with this ambitious follow-up but ended up kind of breaking the game in many aspects. The story, characters and writing were a step up but the ability-based levelling system, though a staple for a lot of RPGs today, did away with traditional XP levelling that only divided players.
14. Final Fantasy XI
Square’s first attempt to take the franchise into MMO territory sadly didn’t realise its full potential. Final Fantasy XI, the often forgotten black sheep in the series’ history, was released a little too soon to latch onto most players beyond the die-hard MMO crowd with decent internet in the early 2000s. It has a lot of the makings of a good Final Fantasy game, just neatly repackaged with its own unique spin. Players today will likely gravitate towards XIV for their online fix, though XI is certainly not without its merits.
13. Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III tried to right the wrongs of its predecessor, bringing back the experience point system and introducing the series’ staple Job system. It also boasts a fantastic story that experimented with new ideas and mostly succeeded. The Pixel remaster version is the best way to experience the game today but it’s a tough sell for casual RPG players who might be turned away by its retro charm.
12. Final Fantasy XIII
It’s not a surprise that Final Fantasy XIII ranked so low on this list, though we don’t think it’s nearly as bad as most fans claim. In fact, it’s pretty good in a lot of areas. The addictive hybrid combat system, endearing characters and superb visuals do all the heavy-lifting here. The game’s linear design and questionable writing – having the need to dump exposition and lore terminology every opportunity it gets – is not easy to digest but it’s not a waste of time either. The attentive might be rewarded if you have the patience.
11. Final Fantasy
The game that started it all. The original Final Fantasy is a relic of the past, sure, though you simply can’t overlook its monumental impact on the RPG genre. Needless to say, without it, the RPG genre would look a lot different today. Thanks to its shorter yet sweet play time and endless ways to customise your party, it’s a remarkably enjoyable and captivating classic that has (mostly) stood the test of time.
10. Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV will either be higher or lower on most people’s lists but it’s a personal favourite for some. The Royal Edition fixed a bit of its narrative problems where the plot never truly felt like it left the ground until the last few whiplash chapters but it’s in the finer details that makes this one special. The road trip story, the brotherly bonding, the open world adventure and the journey it takes these well-rounded characters on is enough to leave a tear or two in your eyes.
9. Final Fantasy IV
Apart from introducing the awesome ATB system to the series, Final Fantasy IV made a lot of big narrative leaps that caught players by surprise in the 90s. The storytelling breaks convention and paints a far more complex picture than your typical “good versus evil” plots of the previous games. Instead, there’s excellent, nuanced character writing here that’s aged like fine wine. The Pixel remaster version is ideal if it’s your first playthrough.
8. Final Fantasy VIII
Imagine trying to follow up something as groundbreaking as Final Fantasy VII. Against all odds, Final Fantasy VIII turned out to be a great game in its own right – albeit with a protagonist not nearly as likeable as Cloud Strife. Nonetheless, it presented a charming cast of colourful characters, some great emotional high points and a legendary soundtrack second only to its predecessor. It’s absolutely worth picking up the remaster today.
7. Final Fantasy V
While lacking in the story department, Final Fantasy V made a number of refinements to the Job system introduced in Final Fantasy III. Players could now choose from and master 22 jobs in a variety of combinations. With this freedom and variety came a more in-depth role-playing experience that gave players all the tools they needed to make some incredible builds. Due to its flexible gameplay, the fifth entry sits comfortably as the best of the older titles.
6. Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII is a bit of a slow burner but it’s also one of the most rewarding and immersive games in the series. Ivalice is an incredibly well-developed setting that was even used in Tactics, though its world-building is just one of the many things it does masterfully. Melding classic gameplay elements from the franchise while delivering the new gambit system that was a game-changer for AI, you shouldn’t overlook this gem and its beefier version, The Zodiac Age.
5. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX arguably contains some of the best characters in the series (not you, Zidane) but beyond that, it’s also a rock-solid return to the franchise’s medieval fantasy roots after three straight science fiction-inspired entries. The gameplay is extremely accessible and the writing is pretty great, though it’s the charming ensemble that keeps you coming back. Hopefully this is on the list of Square Enix’s next remakes because it deserves that treatment.
4. Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XI walked so that Final Fantasy XIV could run – more specifically, A Realm Reborn. Square’s second crack at the MMO scene was a mess, to say the least, but thankfully XIV bounced back with a phenomenal revamp and an assortment of incredible expansions that are still running strong today. When taken as a whole, this is not only the quintessential Final Fantasy MMO but arguably the best MMO of the last decade.
3. Final Fantasy X
Memes about Blitzball and Tidus aside, Final Fantasy X managed to strike a fine balance between catering to newcomers while keeping veterans happy. In hindsight, it was the last game in the series to feature traditional Final Fantasy mechanics while also giving the experience this epic cinematic quality – more importantly, its striking presentation spoke to new players in addition to its lovable cast and gripping tragedy at its core. It’s no surprise that it aged this well and still holds up amazingly today.
2. Final Fantasy VII
We bounced the two top spots around a lot but finally landed on Final Fantasy VII taking the runner-up placement. There’s not much that hasn’t already been said about this landmark release in gaming history. Final Fantasy VII‘s memorable story, characters and emotional twists culminated in the franchise’s biggest leap, not just mechanically but also in its boldness. Furthermore, it single-handedly catapulted the franchise into mainstream popularity. Square Enix rightfully gave it the full remake treatment, though the original is still infinitely replayable.
1. Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI is the pinnacle of the series. Sure, it doesn’t have the dazzling visuals or fast combat of newer entries but its story is an unequivocal masterpiece in every sense of the word. Kefka is arguably Final Fantasy‘s greatest villain while its multi-layered cast grips you with their touching stories and plights. Most of all, it remains one of the darkest games in the series known for its daring apocalyptic twist that fictional storytelling, as a whole, has yet to successfully replicate this well.
Final Fantasy XVI lauches on 22 June 2023 exclusively for PS5.