Ranking of Final Fantasy games because Polygon did it so I can do it, too.

Now, I can only rank ones I actually played. I'm also including ones I didn't complete because I think by not completing them I played them enough to get the gist and create an opinion. Final Fantasy XIV 1.0 doesn't have a separate entry in Giant Bomb's database, so just assume I ranked it really low. I also listed the DS releases of III and IV separately because I think they're pretty distinct.

Anything not on this list is probably something I didn't actually play or didn't play enough of to have any strong opinions of.

List items

  • This is still my favorite Final Fantasy Game. I feel like when I've replayed it, it's stood up to the test of time. The only thing I really dislike about it is the Blitzball minigame, which I loathe, and the Chocobo riding minigame, which is RNG bullshit.

  • Not a numbered Final Fantasy game, but this is my list so I can do what I want. I specifically like the PS1 release. I can't get over the retranslation or the lower FPS in battle of the PSP release to get very far in it. I put hundreds of hours into this game and it's really easy for me to go back to it and replay it. I love the job system and I love the ability to create broken and overpowered combos. I love stealing. I love grinding. I love the story. I love the terrible translations. All of it.

  • I didn't really get that into FFIV until after I played the GBA version. I had beaten it before in the mid 90s but didn't really appreciate it then for whatever reason. The story is very simple and direct. Because you can't swap classes or characters, the encounters are designed around overcoming challenges specific to your party make-up. It feels very purposefully designed. It feels crafted. Characters' spells and abilities become a part of the story instead of just a game-y thing you equip to kill bosses.

  • I kind of begrudgingly like this game. The music is so good. A lot of the characters are so good. The pixel art is so good. If not for two things that give me a really bad impression, this could easily have been #1 or #2.

    The first problem I have is that the first time I played it, when you enter the World of Ruin, after you spent like 20 hrs or whatever assembling your huge party, which is a trope these games usually follow, suddenly you're down to one character. Not just for a chapter or a few chapters. You have to go through the entire process of assembling your party all over again. I understand and appreciate it as a way to communicate how devastated the world is and how what you built up got torn down and all that, but it just feels like too much of a gameplay gut punch. It's just frustrating and annoying. I've never gotten over that initial out-of-storyline frustration from the first time it happened to really appreciate it.

    The second big problem I have is the Magicite stat growth system, and the fact that it only triggers at the point of level-up, which makes me either feel like I have to micromanage it to an insane degree, watching characters' XP levels like a hawk and swapping magicite out just before level up to ensure proper stat growth, or I ignore it and feel like I'm failing at min/maxing.

    Those two problems, and how some characters' special skills are grossly better or worse than others, and how other than those special skills the characters become basically interchangeable with magicite.

    Now don't let me fool you. I still really like this game. It's just that so many other people think of this as their #1 of all time that I feel like I have to explain why I don't put it there.

    Oh, and by the way, the opera scene is super overrated.

  • This is just a really solid MMO with a lot of good fan service. If I weren't so deep into WoW I'd probably be playing this. Also I wish the interaction between GCD (global cooldown - what happens when you cast a spell/ability and it puts a ~2 second timer on all your other spells/abilities so you can't just use them all at once) and non-GCD spells was better. There's basically a "hidden" GCD on abilities because there's animation priority (even if the GCD has completed, if the animation has not yet completed you still can't click your other spells) something which does not exist in WoW.

    But stuff like the way ground effect attacks are telegraphed, how threat matters, how the UI communicates threat and creates a combat target list for you, are all really good. Some of them WoW hasn't even managed to steal yet!

  • At first I didn't like this game. At the start the characters seem obnoxious, and nothing makes any sense, and it's throwing all this jargon at you that's terrible, and your combat options are so constricted you feel like you're auto-battling through everything including boss fights. But when it finally starts to open up and give you combat options, and when you finally figure out what the fuck a Fal'Cie and a L'Cie are, around that same time the characters' histories get revealed more, and they're challenged in ways that make them grow, and you actually start to like them. Except Snow. Fuck that guy.

    Also, this game probably has some of the best music in the entire series.

  • I still really like this game. I still feel like I can go back to it and have fun, once I get out of Midgar at least. I like the Materia system, I like the boss fights, I like Gold Saucer, I like the story, I like the characters, I love the music, I like how brokenly overpowered you can eventually become, I like all the side quests and secrets and extra stuff and the super bosses. I like that Cloud is a piece of shit who finally admits to being a piece of shit and decides to just be himself instead of pretending to be Zack. I like that there's not some bullshit side quest to bring Aerith back to life.

    Also we're calling her Aerith now. Deal with it.

  • (DS Release)

    I like this game. I like the voice acting, even if they call him "Sessil" instead of "Seecil." I like a lot of the class command exchange stuff and end-game stuff they added. It's a good remake. But it's not the original, which is why it's down here. Can't have it bumping down the other games that aren't remakes!

  • (DS release)

    This one is a much more significant overhaul than the IV DS remake, and for the most part does a really good job of modernizing the 8-bit game, which had become incredibly dated. I like the characters they created for the main cast (who were basically 4 nameless/faceless protagonists in the original) and that they got rid of the annoying job point system from FF3, where it cost a grindable resource just to change jobs. It's a really solid game, overall. But it's also just faithful enough to the original to carry some of its baggage, and in the transition to being a FF7-style 3D game they messed up the pacing.

    Basically, the random encounter rate is too high, and each battle takes too long to transition into and out of.

    Think about what happens when you go into a random encounter in a 2D Final Fantasy game. There's a quick animation, then your characters and the enemy are on the screen, and immediately the command dialog pops up. You hold down the A button and your dudes do a tiny sword swipe animation, and then the enemies die, some boxes pop up telling you you got XP and gil and an item, but because you're holding the A button they're instantly dismissed and you only see them for like a frame. The whole thing can take like 10 seconds if you're in a low level area and one-shotting everything.

    Now think about what happens in Final Fantasy VII. There's a flash, a transition, and then a slow, unskippable camera pan over the battle field before the camera assumes its fixed position. You hold A, mostly the same thing with the attack animations happens, but because it's 3D and your character has to move up to the enemy to hit them, the animations are all longer. Only a few frames longer, but these frames add up. Now you win the fight, and there's an unskippable "victory" animation showing your party, and there's a fade out, and a fade in to a "rewards" screen. It tallies up your rewards, and then fades back out. For the exact same low level fight you did in the 8-bit version, you've now spent over 30 seconds.

    It doesn't sound like much on its own, but over the course of the entire game, and with the encounter rate as high as it is (it often feels like you're into a fight every 3 or 4 steps), this really starts to wear on you. Especially near the end when you're starting to fight much more difficult enemies that you can't just auto-battle through.

    If not for that big flaw, I think this could potentially have been much higher on the list.

  • This game is alright. I liked it. I haven't really gone back to it since beating it. I don't like learning skills from weapons. I don't like that classes are limited by races. I thought the kids teleporting to Ivalice through a book was kind of a lame framing device.

    I also think that the Judge cards shift the game too heavily. At the start of the game, the Judge restrictions feel like interesting puzzles to figure out. But later in the game you gain the ability to control the Judge restrictions, and at that point you just pick ones that will heavily restrict your enemy and benefit you, and the entire puzzle element is lost for a huge tactical advantage, and it doesn't feel like the rest of the gameplay elements ever adjust to compensate. So you just kind of become overpowered. Which is usually fine in these types of games, but this one just felt so binary and so sudden. And I had enjoyed working around the Judge rules before so I felt like I was losing a fun part of the game.

    Still enjoyed it. It managed to keep the majority of what made the original FFT fun. Also the snowball fight tutorial at the start is a cute/fun thing.

  • If I had made this list 15 years ago, this would have been much higher, and not just because some of the other games didn't exist at the time. I liked the story and I liked the job system. But when I've tried to go back to this game it just hasn't aged well. The beginning section just feels so slow and so limiting, and getting all the AP to unlock the job skills I want feels so grindy and time consuming, that I just can't really get into it.

  • This suffers a lot from being an 8-bit game. It was the first Final Fantasy with a job change system, and I enjoyed it enough to beat it on an emulator with a hacked translation ROM, but it's definitely "of its time."

  • When I place this here on this list, I feel like I have to caveat that it's only at this placing due to the strength of some of the remakes in getting rid of a lot of the really bad interface issues and fixing some of the bugs in the original. That's all I really have to say about that. You know what this game is.

  • The reason this one gets the ranking that it does is also partially due to remakes, like for FF1, but also partially because it was just so fucking innovative for its time. The problem was just that the experiments it tried didn't work out in practice, or were too limited by the platform.

    In addition to the primitive dialog system, which took elements from adventure games, it also had a degree of open-world-ness, where you could just go anywhere you wanted, sort of, and were more limited by the fact that the monsters were just 30 levels higher than you and smashed your face in. The famous stat growth system was innovative and interesting, but just terribly tuned and basically required exploitation to progress properly. I liked that it actually tried to tell an interesting story. I mean, it starts out with the evil empire killing your party!

  • These last three are ones I just couldn't get very far in because I really disliked something about their core combat mechanics or growth systems.

    For X-2, I just didn't like the return to ATB combat vs. the turn-based combat of X, and I didn't like the sort-of open world "mission" structure when I wanted a more linear story. I didn't get far enough into the dress sphere system to really understand or appreciate it, although in hindsight it seems like a proto-FF13 combat system, which I might have liked if I'd gotten into it.

    I just fell off of it super fast.

  • Something about this game just put me off from the start. The marketing for it hyped it up too much as a "return to classic Final Fantasy", but it all felt very superficial in that regard. "Look! It's set in fantasy medieval Europe again! Look, there's a black mage and a princess and a knight and a thief!" And then it had the card game, and I hated the card game in VIII, and this one felt worse. I never felt like I understood it. And the way you learned skills was from equipping specific items and having those items teach you the skill, and I really did not like that system. I just couldn't make it more than a few hours in.

  • I don't like the character designs. I don't like the characters. I hate hate hate the Draw/Junction system. I hate that you can just grind the very start of the game and become so powerful you can beat the rest of the game. I hate how your spells are essentially a grindable resource that you also increase your stats with and all that other weirdness. I hate the card game. A lot. I hate that you can fish for Limit Breaks or whatever they call them in this one by just hitting Triangle over and over. I haven't really heard any songs from this game that really stand out that I really like.

    Again, I didn't get more than a few hours into this one because so much of it turned me off.