Top 5 Best Final Fantasy games

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Written By Antoine Clerc-Renaud

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Introduction to the Final Fantasy Legacy

The Final Fantasy series, created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and developed by Square Enix (formerly Square), is one of the most iconic and enduring names in video game history. Debuting in 1987, the franchise has captivated players with its intricate stories, memorable characters, and revolutionary gameplay mechanics. Marking its presence on various gaming platforms over the years, Final Fantasy continues to define and redefine the role-playing game (RPG) genre. However, among dozens of titles, expansions, and spin-offs, a few entries in the series stand out as exceptional. This article will explore what many consider to be the top five best Final Fantasy games, based on their impact, critical acclaim, and enduring popularity.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997 for the original PlayStation, is arguably the most celebrated game in the series. It introduced 3D graphics and pre-rendered backgrounds to the franchise, which, combined with its captivating storyline and deep characters, left a lasting impression on the gaming community. As the first game to feature anti-hero protagonist Cloud Strife and his battle against the megacorporation Shinra and the enigmatic villain Sephiroth, FFVII has enjoyed enduring popularity, leading to a successful remake launched in 2020. Its innovative materia system for character abilities and upgrades, as well as its emotionally charged narrative, ensured that Final Fantasy VII would forever hold a beloved place in gaming history.

Final Fantasy X

Moving into the sixth console generation, Final Fantasy X made a splash on the PlayStation 2 in 2001. It was the first in the series to offer fully voiced characters, a leap in storytelling that allowed players to connect with the cast on a deeper level. The story follows Tidus, a star blitzball player who finds himself in the world of Spira, where he journeys with summoner Yuna to defeat the colossal menace known as Sin. The game’s innovative turn-based battle system, called the Conditional Turn-Based Battle (CTB), ditches the established Active Time Battle (ATB) system of previous games, adding a new layer of strategy. Alongside the intricate Sphere Grid system for character progression, Final Fantasy X is often remembered for its emotionally resonant story and stunning musical score.

Final Fantasy VI

Before the advent of 3D graphics in gaming, Final Fantasy VI—originally released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System—was showcasing the storytelling and emotional potential of 16-bit RPGs. Known for its expansive ensemble cast, with no designated main character, FFVI allows players to delve into the lives and struggles of each of its characters. A compelling narrative featuring the infamous antagonist Kefka Palazzo and the use of Magitek technology distinguished this game from its predecessors. The title’s active-time battle system was enhanced by the introduction of character-specific abilities, known as “Desperation Attacks,” adding a unique identity to every battle. The innovative gameplay, combined with its moving plot and exceptional soundtrack by composer Nobuo Uematsu, has cemented Final Fantasy VI’s position among the franchise’s best.

Final Fantasy IX

A love letter to the series’ roots, Final Fantasy IX was released in 2000 for the original PlayStation, intent on recapturing the magic of the franchise’s earlier, medieval-themed entries. Set in the captivating world of Gaia, it follows the endearing thief Zidane Tribal, Princess Garnet, and a diverse cast on a classic adventure that harkens back to the series’ origins. With its traditional turn-based battle system, memorable Active Time Events for character development, and the unique skill learning system tied to equipment, FFIX offers a rich and engaging RPG experience. Many fans and critics alike praise the game for its nostalgic appeal, beautifully stylized art direction, and a storyline that seamlessly combines lighthearted adventure with emotional depth.

Final Fantasy XIV

While most celebrated Final Fantasy titles are single-player experiences, Final Fantasy XIV stands as a testament to the series’ successful venture into the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) space. Initially released in 2010 and then relaunched as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013, the game has undergone a significant transformation that has led to critical acclaim and a massive, dedicated fanbase. Set in the world of Eorzea, players can explore the land, embark on quests, and experience an ever-growing storyline together with thousands of other players. Its compelling narrative, engaging gameplay, and dedication to community content supported by regular, significant updates (such as the lauded expansion “Shadowbringers”) have elevated FFXIV to a prominent place within the franchise and the MMORPG genre as a whole.

Conclusion

With each title offering a unique tale and gameplay innovations, the Final Fantasy series has presented a variety of experiences that appeal to different types of gamers. From the groundbreaking storytelling of Final Fantasy VII to the massive online world of Final Fantasy XIV, this franchise has managed to stay relevant and beloved over decades. While discussions on which Final Fantasy games are the greatest can be subjective and often filled with nostalgia, these five titles demonstrate the franchise’s wide-ranging appeal and the developers’ relentless pursuit of excellence. As the series continues to grow, these top Final Fantasy games will remain benchmarks against which all future entries are measured, and their legacies will undoubtedly continue to influence the RPG genre for years to come.