When it comes to one of the greatest Japanese role-playing franchises of all time, Final Fantasy, one of the most essential elements of these games is the villains. Sure, the heroes going on a journey to save the world are awesome and all, but their journey wouldn’t be complete without a foe to face at the end.
If there is one thing Final Fantasy has done quite well, it is presenting some of the best video game villains of all time. Below, you’ll find all the major Final Fantasy villains ranked from the first game to the most recent, Final Fantasy XVI. Note that there will be some major spoilers ahead for all games.
1 – Emet-Selch (Final Fantasy XIV)
Emet-Selch is the cream of the crop for villains in this series. He is a mix of everyone while also excelling in every part. He is unstable like Kefka, memorable in design like Sephiroth, and on a near-deity level simultaneously.
But more importantly, he is the most tragic villain of them all. Unlike others, he spends much of his time in the Shadowbringers expansion as a companion, traveling with the main characters and guiding and tormenting them. His lovable and charming persona is so unique, which only makes having to defeat him all the more depressing and impressive.
2 – Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
Nothing needs to be said about one of the greatest video game villains ever. Sephiroth is the poster child for how to make a menacing (and handsome) final boss. His constant torment of Cloud and that inevitable mid-game fatality puts him leagues above the rest.
3 – Kefka Palazzo (Final Fantasy VI)
There are few villains in any video game who succeed in their goals, but Kefka is the exception. He wishes to become a god and destroy everything, as the madman he is, and he succeeds. This leads to an against-all-odds race to take down this deity that is the most bonkers jester you’ll ever see.
4 – Zenos (Final Fantasy XIV)
Otherwise known as Diet Sephiroth but with a dash of Kefka, Zenos is one of the more compelling villains in the series. His disturbing love for the player character in this MMO carries him through multiple expansions and even death itself. He only falls short of his inspiration.
5 – Hermes/Fandaniel/Meteion (Final Fantasy XIV)
The complicated plot twists in the Endwalker expansion of Final Fantasy XIV are wild. Still, Hermes, his alter ego Fandaniel, and his creation Meteion are some of the best villains in the series. They are complex characters you can’t help but care about.
Unfortunately, this rushed expansion means they don’t get quite the attention they deserve as the true and horrifying mastermind behind everything.
6 – Ultimecia (Final Fantasy VIII)
One of the only female villains in the series, Ultimecia is a memorable and notably evil antagonist. The game does just enough to tease her throughout the story, letting you know she is likely the true enemy and building up to a fantastic conclusion.
7 – Golbez/Zemus (Final Fantasy IV)
The brother of Cecil is one of the more compelling villains in the series. He was the first to be written well; the same could be said for this game in general. He is only slightly held back by the mastermind behind him, Zemus, whose motivations somewhat leave something to be desired.
8 – Ardyn (Final Fantasy XV)
One of the more tragic villains, Ardyn, is a character who could have been so much more. His writing, personality, and even acting are incredible. Well, for a short time, he’s around, at least.
Even with the Episode Ardyn DLC, he is the prime example of a missed opportunity for one of the best villains in the series.
9 – Hugo Kupka (Final Fantasy XVI)
The star villain of this game, Hugo Kupka, feels like that enemy you can’t get rid of. This Dominant of Titan initially seems like a villain that would be taken out quickly, but he sticks around for much longer than expected. Enough so to do some horrible deeds to avenge the woman he loves.
10 – Anabella Rosfield (Final Fantasy XVI)
While she is a copycat of Cersei from Game of Thrones, Anabella is a villain you can love to hate. Her betrayal at the beginning of the game is one of the better parts of the story, leading hero Clive down a dark and tortured path.
11 – Garland/Chaos (Final Fantasy I)
The first core villain in the franchise set the stage for what would come. A little wacky and a whole lot of evil, Garland starts as a simple traitor but eventually evolves into the demon king when he merges with the Four Fiends to become Chaos.
12 – Benedikta Harman (Final Fantasy XVI)
One of the first villains you encounter in this game, Benedikta, represents the complicated villain side of the series. Her motivations are understandable as someone willing to do whatever it takes to survive. The Dominant of Garuda is a villain you can feel sorry for, which is unique.
13 – Kuja/Necron (Final Fantasy IX)
Seemingly the older brother of the main character, Zidane, Kuja, is one of the villains who lands on the unstable side of the series. Unfortunately, he feels like a watered-down version of Kefka but does enough to feel somewhat intriguing and sadistic.
14 – Vayne Solidor (Final Fantasy XII)
Vayne is much like Ardyn in that there is a lot to like about the guy. He has a decent personality and design but doesn’t feel menacing or as evil as others on this list. In addition, he doesn’t work as a final boss character, either, when there are better evil characters in this game.
15 – Exdeath (Final Fantasy V)
Exdeath falls into the category of villains who wish to create the Void and destroy everything in it. To his credit, he gets far and even merges two worlds to try and destroy them in the process.
16 – Barnabas Tharmr (Final Fantasy XVI)
King Barnabas Tharmr of Waloed is seen as one of the final antagonists in this game, especially on the human side. Despite his important stature and occasional appearances as the Dominant of Odin, he is incredibly dull and not given enough time to flourish.
17 – Xande/Cloud of Darkness (Final Fantasy III)
Xande is already a rather unlikeable villain, but he at least has some personality and motivations, wishing for immortality. Ultimately, he is just the pawn for Cloud of Darkness, the true villain in this game who wishes to destroy everything. Not the most original, to say the least.
18 – Sin/YU Yevon (Final Fantasy X)
While you could argue Jecht is the better antagonist of this game, it is hard to say that he’s a true villain in the first place. Instead, Sin, with a bit of Seymour Guado thrown in there, is this game's true villain. Unfortunately, they lack enough personality to carry the story on their own without the help of someone like Jecht.
19 – Barthandelus (Final Fantasy XIII)
Up there for the most underdone main villain in a Final Fantasy game, this ruler/fal’Cie is as forgettable as they come. His motivations aren’t fully explained, and everything about the conclusion of this game feels rushed, considering how many linear pathways it took to get there.
20 – Emperor Mateus (Final Fantasy II)
Emperor Mateus is not nearly as cool as he wishes he was. Though he comes back to life and rules over the afterlife, he is the epitome of the bland Emperor main villain that started wars and all of the conflict in this game.
21 – Cloud of Darkness (Final Fantasy XI)
With an ongoing MMO like the first one in the franchise, it is tough to wrap up all of the storylines and characters with a final boss fight. Cloud of Darkness’ return as the core villain here again feels rushed and lackluster with its simple mantra of destroying all life.
22 – Ultima (Final Fantasy XVI)
When it comes to the 16th mainline entry in the long-running series, there are so many fantastic villains but its final bad guy, Ultima, isn’t one of them. Though Ultima taunts and toys with Clive from near the beginning of the game, its motivations and weird design are the most lacking out of any villain in the series.
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Experience: Cody Perez started his career as a journalist and creative writer in the tech and gaming spaces in 2011 while in the middle of high school. Since then, he has produced thousands of high-quality, researched articles for some of the largest entertainment websites in the world, including IGN, Destructoid, Siliconera, Digital Trends, DotEsports, and many more. He also was the lead editor at GameRevolution, growing the site to reach its consistent, historical peak of 8 million MUV the entire time he worked there. Cody also helped launch various successful sites, such as VGR (2 million MUV in a year), POKUniverse, and RPGInformer.
Cody brings together his passion for tech and gaming to his work life, so he can enjoy his hobbies nearly 24/7. He has now taken his expertise and experience with subjects like gaming and Pokémon to Wealth of Geeks, where he is often found creating new lists and reviews, or editing older content to bring it up to the company standard.