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MajorMitch

New blog: I have now ranked every game I played from 2022!

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My Ranking of Final Fantasies

This list is exactly as it sounds: my personal ranking of the games in the Final Fantasy franchise. It's one of the few long-running franchises where I've played basically every game, and thus feel qualified to rank. Note that I'm only including what I consider to be the core, numbered Final Fantasy games here. So basically the ones that have a single number behind them and aren't an MMO. This ranking is based on my personal, subjective preferences alone, and I will amend it over time as new Final Fantasy games come out. Hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading!

Last updated on June 26, 2020 (for minor ordering tweaks)

See my other rankings of: Metroids | Marios | Zeldas | Final Fantasies | 2D Castlevanias | Fire Emblems | Gaming Years | Consoles and Handhelds | From Software Games

List items

  • For a long time I could never decide between Final Fantasies VI and VII, but time has only made my preference clear. Everything Final Fantasy VI did was perfectly executed and ambitious as hell. I loved the music. I loved the steampunk nature of the world. I loved the game’s pacing, both narratively and mechanically. I loved every member of its ensemble cast, and how real their struggles felt. Most of all, I loved Kefka's rise from being a nobody to toppling absolutely everyone and destroying the world. FFVI was a mature and dynamic game that constantly posed questions about how normal people deal with adversity, and taking part in that was something special. I have no doubt in my mind that FFVI is the definitive FF experience.

  • It’s kind of hard to have a measured conversation about Final Fantasy VII anymore, but at the time it was a sight to behold. From a presentation standpoint, it was heads and shoulders above anything else I had seen, and its story was full of the kind of hard-hitting, memorable moments that most games (including most FF games) could only dream of pulling off. It did it regularly though, like it was nothing, and the result was a captivating rollercoaster ride I never wanted to stop. That’s not to say FFVII had no substance either, as its combat and materia systems played out very well.

  • Final Fantasy VIII was a great character study that hit me pretty hard at the time. I know he’s divisive, but I found Squall to be interesting, and the entire game served to explore his personality and his substantial growth. The world around him in particular was just the right setting to place him in all sorts of ridiculous situations, and see how he'd handle it. I also really loved the game’s art, music, side quests, combat and customization, even if the latter was a little more easily breakable than other games in the series (because let’s be honest, ALL of these games were very breakable).

  • Final Fantasy IX had a big heart. It wasn’t the deepest or toughest FF game, but there was a lot to love in the details that made it more than it initially seemed. It had easily one of my favorite soundtracks in the series, the pacing and progression felt just about perfect, and there were some genuinely touching (and sometimes horrifying) story beats surrounding some of the game’s wonderful cast of characters. Toss in all sorts of weird throwbacks to past FF games, and execute the basics very well, and you have a solid game all-around.

  • Now *this* was a job system. Final Fantasy V expanded the groundwork laid by FFIII considerably, giving the player a lot more customization options, and reasons for leveling up multiple jobs for each character. I got really into the whole system, and while the story wasn’t that great in the grand scheme of things, we still got Gilgamesh and Clash on the Big Bridge out of this game. Fun times.

  • Final Fantasy XII did something that no other JRPG I’ve played has done: it made controlling a party of multiple characters in real time combat not a complete nightmare. The gambit system smartly and effectively allowed you to micromanage your party’s tactics, and there were a lot of additional feedback and design touches in the game’s structure that made the combat and customization feel meaningful. The story could have been better. Except Balthier. He’s perfect.

  • Final Fantasy IV is the game I think of as really codifying the FF template, and it’s where story began to play a much bigger role in the series. It told a good story too, with plenty of memorable characters and moments (the moon!). I don’t think that the combat or customization were as interesting as many of the later games in the series, but they got the job done. It’s a cool game that simply got outclassed as time went on.

  • The original Final Fantasy was of course a landmark game, and I think it has held up admirably over time as well. I played it well after the fact, but still had a fun time picking my classes and grinding through a pretty well-paced adventure (more so than the other NES era ones). In fact, I bet it would be fun to try again with different classes. Sure, it’s pretty simple by today’s standards, but I think it worked.

  • Final Fantasy X was, to me, a very solid Final Fantasy game without being exceptional. It performed the basics well enough, but it also didn’t stand out in any meaningful way. I always wished it had found something more unique or interesting to add, and it also felt smaller in scope in the way it was more guided and didn’t have a world map; it set the stage for FFXIII's dull corridor crawls. I didn't end up liking much of the story or characters either.

  • Older JRPGs often had this issue for me where they became a big grind down the homestretch, and that was my biggest problem with Final Fantasy III. It felt worse than most too, as I remember beating my head against the last few dungeons for hours. I did like the game’s first attempt at a job system, even if it was greatly refined in later games. It did bum me out when they made jobs I had leveled up useless in certain sections though...

  • Look. Final Fantasy II was not a great game, and it had its share of problems, from story to pacing to difficulty balance. But it also had one of the more unique customization systems in the series, where character stats and abilities got better only as they used them. That made the slog a little more interesting to me than some other RPGs from this era. Also, Guy speaks freaking beaver, people. Come on!

  • Final Fantasy XIII has gotten a lot of crap. I... think most of it was warranted. I did not connect with this game’s characters at all, which made plodding through bland environments to see its lengthy, poorly conveyed story a tedious slog at best. What I *do* give it, is that once its combat system fully opened up I thought it was very good. Too bad it took longer than the length of most games to get there. FFXIII’s combat theme was legit amazing though, so I give it props for that.

  • This is going to sound harsh, but I have a hard time thinking of much that Final Fantasy XV executed well other than the visuals. I think the story was a jumbled mess, the pacing was all over the place, and the quest design was extremely rote. But most damning was the combat, which put style well before substance. It had poor feedback that made it difficult to tell what was happening on screen, yet I still breezed through the entire game by blindly spamming basic attacks and healing potions. That left a pretty sour taste in my mouth.