The Top Five Final Fantasies

In lieu of my usual attempts to wrest theological insights from video games, I thought that this time around I’d post a top five list of my favourite Final Fantasy titles, and use it to showcase some of my bad fan art. It’s a series I’ve been a big fan of since since my early days as a gamer, and which I’ve already written about in some past articles. There’s a good chance I wouldn’t be writing for this site today if Final Fantasy hadn’t given me a push down the rabbit hole of Japanese role playing games. And, given that this year marks its 30th anniversary, it seems particularly fitting to celebrate it with some good old fashioned list-making.


5. Final Fantasy V

Although the original Final Fantasy has been ported and remade many times over, if you were looking to experience what the big deal was all about, I’d actually point you in the direction of FFV. Both the third and fifth installments deliberately reached back to the core premise of the original: four characters go on a Dungeons & Dragons inspired adventure with four magic crystals – just pick the character classes and go. FFIII introduced the job system which allowed players to change those character classes on the fly, and FFV honed it to near perfection. The result is a game which feels to me like the definitive “classic” Final Fantasy. It may be a little light on the storytelling side of things, but it’s one of the most fun entries in the series.

Freya, sans hat

4. Final Fantasy IX

For all intents and purposes, the Final Fantasy series proper ended with the ninth installment. Sure, there are still chocobos and moogles and bahamuts in the double-digit games, but the series has since spun off in a variety of different directions that barely even fall into the same genre, let alone series.

And so, FFIX is the nostalgic glance backward at what the series had been before plunging ahead into the unknown. It’s a heartfelt, melancholy journey filled with some of the series’ most memorable characters and some of the most stunning art to appear on the original Playstation. It’d be even higher on this list, were it not for the fact that it also is a very slow game, which makes replays less frequent for me.

Cindy and Prompto

3. Final Fantasy XV

As has been documented elsewhere here, I did not expect to like the most recent entry as much as I did. Making the game an open world action RPG seemed like a questionable choice, and its long, troubled development cycle didn’t give me much hope that it would be executed well. The use of a tie-in movie and anime OAV suggested a story that would buckle under the weight of its own complexity. Sure enough, FFXV is a hot mess, but it’s a very fun mess to play around in. Re-imagining the typical JRPG adventure as a road trip turned out to be a very inspired design choice, and the story turned out to have a refreshing “back to basics” simplicity to it that I think the series has long needed.

Cloud and Cait Sith

2. Final Fantasy VII

The game that changed everything. While I had been acquainted with the series for some time before I played FFVII, this was the one that made me into a true believer and a die hard RPG enthusiast.

1. Final Fantasy VI

Although I’ve been playing the sixth entry ever since the late 90s, it was only quite recently that its true brilliance struck me. Almost all of the elements (soundtrack excepted) have been bettered by other entries, but they’ve never quite tied together the way they do here. It may look a little quaint by today’s standards, but that SNES cartridge packed quite a punch.

Agree/disagree with my picks? Let me know.

7 thoughts on “The Top Five Final Fantasies

  1. Final Fantasy IX is still my favorite game in all the world. While I realize there is a lot wrong with it, it might be a long while before any game comes even close. There are a lot of different reasons for this, not the least of which is that Kuja was probably only the second or third “Mar” I ever ran into. (And by far the most complex and interesting of the original three). And because you can’t really duplicate the experience of playing your first Final Fantasy game alone, and as a child. So half of it is pure nostalgia.

    But the other half is that the game is damn good. To begin with, no game other than FFX after it has told nearly as tightly woven an FF story. It may not be perfectly paced, but the game’s meandering nature forces you to care about the characters— And learn and grow with them. Two, while FFVIII was actually my first FF game period, it can’t tell a romance story worth a damn. FFIX demonstrated, on the other hand, *exactly* how to do it. By the end of the game, you absolutely believe Zidane and Garnet are meant to be together. Third, Steiner and Beatrice together, as two sides of the same coin in the game’s long rant about loyalty and doing the right thing, are easily some of the best written characters in the game.

    Fourth…The entire game to a certain extent is about choices, and how one’s birth doesn’t define who they are. Kuja becomes the game’s villain because he’s *obsessed* with his “fate,” while Zidane shares it but nonetheless becomes his own person through his actions. Garnet feels “fated” to be something she doesn’t want to be, and reacts that way throughout the game. Frey’s desired “fate” is thwarted utterly, and we get to watch the sorrowful fallout of this. Meanwhile Vivi is “fated” to be a monster and to die, and wrestles with what this means throughout the entire game. If FFVII is about how your delusions about yourself don’t stop your “real identity” from ultimately coming back to bite you in the butt, and FFX is about distorted ideology and how religion can be mislaid by greed and profit, FFIX is about how FFVII’s assertions are wrong. And I *love it* for this.

    1. Also, if you’re into traditionally made Final Fantasy games, this is going to sound crazy but…try FFXIV. The MMO has one of the best told FF stories I’ve seen in years, and that makes no sense at all, but there it is.

      1. I’ve heard a lot of good things about FFXIV. I don’t really play MMOs, but if I were to start, that one’s at the top of my list.

        Bravely Default was also a pretty good spiritual successor to FFV.

  2. FF IX is definitely the classic. I have never played it again though, but I have fond memories. I rarely have replyaed an RPG because of the fact that I have to sit through all those battles. This may sound like I am being lazy but I would rather just watch some gameplay footage on Youtube to refresh my memory. I am never short on games to play, so it’s hard to go back to one I beat already 🙁

    FF X was amazing and I think my favorite. I liked FF13 a little bit, but I didn’t enjoy the characters or story, so it was more for graphics and battle system.

    1. FFX is definitely one of the popular ones. Never been able to get into it to the extent that everyone else has.

      1. Yeah it is a long game, and has some fun post game content like bosses and other items to find 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have the HD remake and have never turned it on….gotta rectify that.

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