Colorful imagination, gripping storyline, and relatable characters. The Final Fantasy series has become the most popular role-playing series out there.
Final Fantasy released its first game in Japan in 1987, and in the US in 1990. This was the beginning of iconic games that would have an endless following. Every game is unique in its own way. Some are more gripping than others, but that is the beauty of these games.
They range from medieval themes with knights and mages to the modern fantasy with machines and cars. This gives the Final Fantasy series a diverse range of games to capture all audiences. Even the fight system can change from one game to the next.
Keep in mind I have a deep love for ALL of the Final Fantasy games, but I did my best to rank them in some form of order (which is hard for me considering I enjoyed every single one). Check out our list below of the best Final Fantasy games ranked from my favorites down to the ones that could use a little TLC.
17 of the Best Final Fantasy Games
1. Final Fantasy VII (Original)
Arguably the most iconic entry in the series, Final Fantasy VII‘s landed itself on this list. Final Fantasy VII has a brilliant and transgressive story, featuring some of the most deservedly beloved characters, both good and villainous, in series history. We love Final Fantasy VII.
But the nostalgia-blinded memory of Final Fantasy VII, and the endless hype surrounding it ever since, often conceals its blemishes. The battle system was painstakingly slow, the jump to 3D was extraordinarily ugly (those hands!), and gameplay-wise, it didn’t do much to build off of Final Fantasy VI. In short, it wasn’t a graceful move to the 32-bit era.
Still, Final Fantasy VII is probably the most important entry in the series besides Final Fantasy IV, and the action-oriented PS4 remake allows a new generation of fans to experience the wonderful story. If you want to play the original, you can grab it on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, and Android. With some mods on PC, you can actually get the game looking pretty good.
2. Final Fantasy VII (Remake)
I could happily discuss the remake for hours on end. For the sake of this list, I will keep it shorter! However, you can find my full review here.
Final Fantasy VII is a very important game both for gamers individually and for video game culture in general. It’s a cultural touchstone that defined the story dense era of PlayStation 1 JRPGs, solidified Square’s commitment to being at the forefront of graphics technology, and arguably sold the PlayStation to gamers everywhere, helping Sony establish a foothold in the video game industry.
So it’s hard to play a remake of a game so important and not compare it to the original, and Square knows this. They want you to compare Final Fantasy VII Remake to the original. They specifically developed the remake such that its greatest strengths come about explicitly when you compare the two. Does this alienate newer gamers? Yeah, a little. Does it make FF7R any less of an incredible game? No.
The Final Fantasy VII Remake breathes new life into a classic gem in the infamous Final Fantasy series. The character complexity is heightened in the remake causing you to fall in love with the characters and its story all over again. If you haven’t played the remake yet you need to do so.
Related: Check out our review of the Final Fantasy VII Remake.
3. Final Fantasy VI
Far and away the best mainline Final Fantasy game, 1994’s Final Fantasy VI is an absolute triumph in every sense. Originally released in North America as Final Fantasy 3 (yes, it’s confusing), Final Fantasy 6 was the last 16-bit mainline entry.
It featured a stellar cast of more than a dozen characters and ushered in the steampunk-style world design that would carry over to the PlayStation games in the late ’90s. This is where high fantasy became the stuff of legend, and magic was replaced by scientific advances and the burgeoning technology from the Second Industrial Revolution.
Perfectly paced, Final Fantasy VI achieved such high levels of narrative impact because of its setup. The first half introduces the cast, from the compelling starting protagonist, Terra Branford to the rebel treasure hunter Locke Cole, all who want to take down the Empire.
The linearity of the first half allows these characters to grow, to let you build connections with each one — an impressive feat considering there are roughly a dozen major players on your side. But the back half of the game opened things up, allowing you to complete objectives and dungeons in a non-linear order.
This level of freedom was astonishing at the time. Robust customization features, including unique magic spells, a modified summoning system, and a wealth of weapons, made the traditional active time battle system feel like a constant joy.
Everything in Final Fantasy VI, from the story to combat systems to the world made for a nearly flawless Final Fantasy experience. This was Square at their absolute best. This game is really a testament to FFVI’s staggering greatness. It may very well be the best turn-based RPG ever made. You can play it now on PC, Android, and iOS.
4. Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is probably the boldest entry in the series. That’s a big reason why we love it and why it’s slotted so high on this list. Because it’s so weird, VIII never lived up to the legacy set by VII and VI, despite being one of the most unique games in the series. Time brings perspective, though, and that’s true for Final Fantasy VIII. With a remastered version on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC, now’s a perfect time to give it a shot.
We’ll never forget Final Fantasy VIII, which reinvented the active time battle wheel without completely abandoning the series’ roots. The new junction system replaced armor and other accessories for customization, and each main character had a set weapon that drastically affected their combat style. The biggest change, however, was the increased emphasis on summoning.
Throw in a neat collectible card game and a radically different scaled leveling system, and Final Fantasy VIII felt like the first really bold step in a new direction. All of these gameplay changes worked in incredibly interesting ways, allowing players to choose how they wanted to approach the experience.
The planet — a futuristic set of five landmasses based on Europe — had a level of detail we hadn’t seen in a Final Fantasy game thus far. While Final Fantasy VII introduced 3D models, Final Fantasy VIII significantly refined their designs so we could see Squall (one of the best leading protagonists) and friends in better detail.
We’re happy that Square Enix is finally showing VIII some love, too. All of the mainline games above and below it have received ports or remasters for modern consoles. The same is now true for Final Fantasy VIII.
5. Final Fantasy X
Some may think it is strange to have Final Fantasy X so high on the list, but there is a reason. Final Fantasy X is as phenomenal today as it was in 2001. The PlayStation 2 allowed the visuals to move to the next level, making the Asian inspired lands of Spira and character models look more realistic than ever before. A mostly linear experience, Final Fantasy X has spacious and diverse environments along with dungeons featuring some excellent puzzles.
Final Fantasy X also has the greatest relationship in series history. Watching Tidus and Yuna’s bond grow as he accompanies her on a quest to destroy Sin is a constant delight. The cutscenes, which featured full voice acting for the first time, were mightily impressive and still look great today.
Yes, we even love the infamous laughing scene, because Tidus and Yuna are adorable. The narrative, told exclusively through Tidus’ perspective is more focused than most Final Fantasy storylines. Sure, it’s corny at times (that laugh), but the corniness winds up making it more affecting.
Moreover, Final Fantasy X replaced the active time battle system with truly conventional turn-based combat. The sphere grid added depth to the leveling system, giving you far more choices that essentially let you rework a character’s intended class.
And, of course, who could forget Blitzball, the underwater sport that made Tidus famous. A standalone Blitzball game would be great, right? The direct sequel isn’t as impressive, but it’s still worth playing in the HD collection for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, or PC.
6. Final Fantasy XII
Revisiting Final Fantasy XII via the HD remaster for PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch revealed an understated truth about the 2006 PS2 classic: It’s a modern masterpiece. The first mainline, non-MMO to drop random battles in favor of real-time combat, Final Fantasy XII was divisive amongst fans.
Since it played so incredibly different, it was hard to compare Final Fantasy XII to any other Final Fantasy game. More than a decade later, Final Fantasy XII remains incomparable.
The wondrous world of Ivalice is filled with interesting characters and richly detailed environments. The combat, formally known as the Active Dimension Battle system, was incredibly deep thanks to the gambit system and modified Limit Break system called Quickenings. The License Board added further nuance to the leveling system, similar to the Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X.
Admittedly, Final Fantasy XII‘s opening handful of hours don’t excite as much as some other top-tier Final Fantasy games, but once the world opens up and you get used to the radical battle system, the world of Ivalice houses one of the deepest and most rewarding Final Fantasy experiences around.
7. Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX felt like a throwback experience even though it launched near the end of PS1’s lifecycle in 2000. The world of Gaia dropped science fiction in favor of a more medieval vibe seen in early entries.
The return to high fantasy made Final Fantasy IX feel quite novel at the time, especially since the visuals pretty much topped out the power of the PS1’s 32-bit capabilities. In many ways, Final Fantasy IX is the most traditional of the 3D-era Final Fantasy games. The active time battle system is at its best here.
However, it stands out most because it combines the fantasy-infused medieval environments of the early games with the stellar writing of the science fiction-laced romps that would follow. The characters are interesting, the world is compelling, and the gameplay feels positively retro in the best way.
Final Fantasy IX is as pure and joyous today as it was nearly 20 years ago. Final Fantasy IX is readily available on many platforms, including Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS, and PC. Be warned, though: It’s as traditional as it gets when it comes to JRPGs. Final Fantasy IX is grindy, and the vast majority of your time is spent fighting random encounters.
8. Final Fantasy IV
The first entry in the series for the Super Nintendo, Final Fantasy IV is basically the first Final Fantasy that truly made an impact. No offense to the first three games in the series, but Final Fantasy IV turned the franchise into a juggernaut. Final Fantasy IV ushered in the active time battle era, a system that continued uninterrupted until Final Fantasy X.
The class system also received a nice new layer, as each class felt designed to tell a specific aspect of the story. The story primarily follows Cecil, his love interest Rosa, and his longtime friend Kain, but a sizable cast of supporting characters contribute to the wacky story that revolves around the Lunarians, a race who lives on a fake moon near Earth.
The introduction of the active time battle system and the new focus on character-driven narratives made Final Fantasy IV feel a huge cut above its predecessors. Final Fantasy IV is the most important entry in the series, and it remains one of the very best. The 3D remake on DS, PC, and mobile is the best way to play it today.
9. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Let’s be clear: Final Fantasy XIV would be on the very bottom of this list if it wasn’t for A Realm Reborn, the relaunch of the troubled 2010 MMO that was shut down and relaunched all in the span of three years. Final Fantasy XIV was bad.
A Realm Reborn, which reappeared in 2013 on PC, PS3, and PS4 the following year, is wonderful. Featuring a wealth of quests, raids, and engaging PvP battles, A Realm Reborn is the type of MMO that you can easily sink hundreds of hours into.
The planet of Hydaelyn is one of the best Final Fantasy settings ever designed, and the story and lore are up there with the best of the best in terms of MMOs. Three great expansions have been released since launch, including the recent and excellent Shadowbringers.
Final Fantasy XIV is the ultimate communal experience for series fans. Even if you don’t fancy yourself as an MMO fan, Final Fantasy XIV could very well change your mind.
10. Final Fantasy V
Gameplay-wise, Final Fantasy V is exquisite. The last of the strict medieval-themed Final Fantasy games, this SNES classic remains as playable today as it was in 1992. The Job system received a staggering overhaul, which gave fans sheer endless possibilities for approaching the active time battles.
Final Fantasy V would probably be much higher on this list if it wasn’t for the story and characters. Square clearly spent a ton of time crafting an enthralling gameplay experience, and it showed. Unfortunately, the storyline and characters were not as memorable as others.
Fantasy V is worth a replay, and hopefully a better memory of the experience. You can play the remastered version of Final Fantasy V on PC, iOS, and Android.
11. Final Fantasy XI
Like Final Fantasy XIV, it’s hard to compare Final Fantasy XI to other mainline numbered games in the series. The first of two Final Fantasy MMOs, Final Fantasy XI started off as an average MMO experience.
While not particularly surprising, no one could have expected what it would grow to become over the course of the next decade and beyond. First released on PS2 and PC, it eventually landed on Xbox 360 as the first MMO on Microsoft’s console.
Set in the sprawling world of Vana’diel, Final Fantasy XI emphasized playing with friends to complete challenging dungeons and acquire better and better loot. Five expansions, numerous add-ons, and seasonal events would follow, with the final piece of content arriving in 2015. Console servers were turned off in 2016, but you can still play on PC today.
Final Fantasy XI became a great, if fairly traditional, MMO over time, handsomely rewarding those who stuck with it for years.
12. Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy III, the real Final Fantasy III, didn’t reach North America until the 2006 Nintendo DS remake. The 1990 Famicom game was actually the first in the series to really start leaning into some of Final Fantasy’s most well-known systems. Namely the Jobs and summon systems.
The DS remake is interesting to examine because it is rendered in full 3D but largely plays like the NES entries. The story plays out similarly to the first game in the series. Overall, Final Fantasy III is the best of the NES-era games, as it shows a franchise amid welcome change. The easiest way to play Final Fantasy III today is on iOS, Android, and PC.
13. Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII certainly looked the part when it launched on PS3 and Xbox 360 in 2009. The animations were beautiful, the character models were realistic, and the environmental details were fine-tuned. Final Fantasy XIII also brought back the active time battle system, but it felt far more simplified than before.
The result was a series of random battles that could almost quite literally be completed by pressing the same button over and over. You could even set it to auto-battle, which honestly mirrored the mindlessness of what you did most of the time anyway.
The main problem with XIII was how linear it was compared to previous games. That, added on to the rote science fiction story, made for a sort of genre movie-esque Final Fantasy experience. It was nice to return to Final Fantasy’s Japanese roots, but it felt like the safest Final Fantasy game Square Enix had ever made.
It’s still a fun game, and to its credit, the story does get better if you move onto Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII when it’s over. Though Final Fantasy XIII hasn’t been ported to current generation consoles, you can play it on Xbox One via backward compatibility or PC.
14. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
They tried really hard to make Final Fantasy XIII an interesting game. They tried three times, actually, with Lightning Returns being the third. While it echoes a lot of the things that were both right and wrong with the original game, this particular installment included a mechanic that makes things rather difficult. It included a time limit for each save file. Granted it's a part of the story, this IS a Final Fantasy game.
The concept of a time limit lends a sense of urgency to rush through the game, which really goes against the whole Final Fantasy experience in my book.
When I think Final Fantasy, I think big, open worlds, hours of exploration, and puzzling out secrets. Turning the whole thing into a sprint just doesn't seem that fun.
15. Final Fantasy
While some iconic franchises produce memorable classics out of the gate — Mario, Zelda, Mega Man, etc. — others, like Final Fantasy, take a few entries to hit their stride. While Final Fantasy was somewhat revolutionary at the time in 1987, featuring a relatively large overworld, strategic turn-based combat, and an epic story following four Light Warriors, it has languished in relative obscurity ever since.
It’s a grand RPG by NES standards, but there wasn’t enough customization or variety to keep it from devolving into tedium at times. If you’ve never played it before, you might want to check it out to see where the franchise started, but it doesn’t hold up super well and was quickly outshined in the ’90s. The easiest way to play Final Fantasy without using an emulator is to buy it for iOS or Android.
16. Final Fantasy XV
The most recent entry in the mainline series took a lot of risks. We’ll give it that. But it added up to create an experience that felt distinctly un-Final Fantasy-like. The western RPG influence is readily on display. Final Fantasy XV is an open-world action RPG that entirely drops random encounters in favor of a real-time battle system.
It’s more exciting and flashy on the surface, but the action-based battles lack the depth and intricate nuance of earlier Final Fantasy games (and fall way short of a similar system in Final Fantasy XII). The main characters, a group of stylish and arguably insufferable adolescents, speak and act as they belong in a brooding emo band.
Sure, the open world is pretty and interesting, but the story falls flat and the DLC expansions were uneven. Final Fantasy XV isn’t a bad game, but it’s the most underwhelming 3D-era Final Fantasy by a mile. It’s available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
17. Final Fantasy II
Final Fantasy II wasn’t officially localized until 2002, nearly 25 years after its initial launch on Famicom. Now it’s playable on a myriad of platforms including Android and iOS. It’s an interesting piece of gaming history for sure, but Final Fantasy II is quite forgettable. Subbing a traditional leveling system for one that only develops what you use, Final Fantasy II‘s turn-based random battles are competent but lack weight because of a peculiar system.
It tells a conventional story about taking down a villainous empire, but the writing doesn’t match what we’d become accustomed to throughout the SNES and PlayStation eras. It’s a fine experience, but Square hadn’t quite found the right formula for Final Fantasy success. And it showed. But if you’re curious, you can download Final Fantasy II on iOS and Android.
The Final Wrap Up
Regardless of our thoughts on some of the games in the franchise, it is worth playing every single one. Seeing the progression of Final Fantasy is part of the joy of playing!
But don’t just take our word for it, grab a copy and enjoy your new immersive world that is Final Fantasy!
Which game is your favorite?
Scarlett Rose is a professional cosplayer, actress, voice actor, published model, and mother of rabbits. When she is not crafting armor or building costumes, she can be found playing the latest video game or enjoying a retro classic.