When it comes to the Final Fantasy franchise, one question that is brought up on all corners of the internet is “Which games are the best?" It is an incredibly subjective topic of discussion, and everyone has their own opinion on what stands out the most and why. Each game has its own merits, and even the most flawed games in the franchise have reasons to stand out.
For example, Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is easy and linear, but it has one of the greatest soundtracks in the franchise’s history. FFXIII may also be incredibly linear and filled with unlikable characters, but the combat/class change system is extraordinarily fun to use. There is always going to be an argument on which games are the best and why, and this is just one writer’s opinion.
What Final Fantasy games stand out the most among the mainline entries?
The best Final Fantasy games that stand out on this list made the cut for a variety of reasons. I considered how fun they were, what they brought to the franchise, and the overall gameplay of the various titles listed below. Many other games that could have made the list, and in fact changed several times over the course of the morning.
But I stand by this list as the best games in the mainline entries of all time. This could change in the future, with the release of FFXVI, but as of now, this is the working list.
Best Final Fantasy games of all time
- FFXIV: A Realm Reborn
5) Final Fantasy VII/REMAKE
I’ve listed these both together, because it was impossible to pick between the two. On a personal level, FFVII REMAKE is the better game. It fleshes out the original story, tells it in a fresh way, and has the ability to tell a wide variety of stories. The background characters get more depth and detail, and it becomes easier to emotionally invest in them.
While yes, I prefer the ATB/turn-based system more, I appreciate what FFVII REMAKE did to improve the original. I do prefer the remake, but over the years, I’ve come to respect and appreciate what Final Fantasy VII did for the franchise. While it’s far from my favorite story, the first 3D entry into the franchise helped catapult the series into the mainstream in America.
It is a classic game with unforgettable characters, a fun combat system, and some truly wild summons. The story is one wild ride, and while it is not my personal favorite, it did a huge service to the RPG genre in America and deserves its laurels.
4) Final Fantasy X
The first PlayStation 2 Final Fantasy was such a mind-blowing experience at the time. Compared to FFIX, it was such a massive step up in every way. It had gorgeous cutscenes, a vast story with interesting lore, a wild twist at the end, and perhaps best of all, the Sphere Grid System.
Every character has something that makes them unique, but they can also learn every other generic skill and spell in the game, with enough time. It featured powerful superbosses, sidequests, and overwhelmingly powerful weapons to unlock.
Final Fantasy X to this day gets me emotional every time I play it. It represents the next step in the evolution of the franchise.
From skill systems to side quests, everything was a step forward. Even the turn-based system evolved, where players can swap characters out at will, and could easily see the next several turns ahead to plan what they did. It’s a classic and is absolutely worth a play-through.
3) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Not only is FFXIV one of the best games in the entire franchise, but it is also the best MMO on the market right now. Despite having a game that started off awfully, Yoshi-P took it, fixed it, and created one of the most memorable experiences and stories in Final Fantasy history.
The original game was a slightly prettier FFXI, but fans have something exceptional now.
There are hundreds, thousands of hours worth of content and references to virtually every game in the franchise, and it is free to play through the first full expansion of the game.
With tons of classes, mounts, and amazing cosmetics that are unlockable in the game, FFXIV is far and away one of the best games in the franchise.
You can play however you want and take the story at a pace that suits you. The first part of the main story drags a little, but the longer it has gone on, the better things have gotten.
Endwalker, the final portion of the current story arc, was particularly remarkable. There were so many emotionally satisfying moments throughout the expansion. If you are not already playing Final Fantasy XIV, go give it a try.
2) Final Fantasy IV
To be frank, FFIV and FFVI were on such a thin line between each other. Though I do have a bit of nostalgia here, as it is the first game in the series I played, it also did a lot to push the franchise forward. The first SNES game of the series introduced the ATB system that was used for years after. Now, instead of the game being purely turn-based, it’s real-time with turns.
It also gave each character its own unique character class, adding depth and flavor to each of the party members. The game had more depth in its story compared to previous versions.
There are love stories, jealousy, betrayal, characters “die.” The cast of characters do not stay the same. Cecil goes from being a dour, depressed man stuck in his lot in life, to undergoing a life-changing trial, forsaking the sword of darkness.
FFIV is also the first game in the series to head to other realms. Players traveled to the Moon and went to a completely different underworld with its own deeper areas to explore. FFIV changed what it meant to be a JRPG, and though it has been remade repeatedly, it continues to be beloved by fans.
1) Final Fantasy VI
While my favorite changes from moment to moment, Final Fantasy VI is a timeless classic and one of the greatest games of all time. Not just in the world of RPGs, it is one of the greatest video games, period. The first Final Fantasy game to feature a female protagonist, most of the cast could arguably be the main character. too.
Like FFIV, each character has a special talent or ability that makes them unique, but the difference is anyone can use magic. By equipping Espers, players can customize the team by increasing specific stats or teaching certain spells.
Another first for the franchise, it’s the first game where the last boss succeeds in their goal! Kefka manages to completely devastate the world and is an unrepentant madman.
The characters met have to deal with some truly bleak moments. Celes thinks she is the only person left in the world, Locke’s girlfriend dies, and Cyan’s entire castle is murdered by Kefka’s poison.
Each of the characters finds a reason to live and go on, even in the darkest times. It is a story masterfully told, combined with excellent gameplay and more memorable lines than I could write here.
It is the best Final Fantasy game of all time. While I was torn between this and FFIV, FFVI pushes the franchise forward in so many ways and has far more memorable moments, characters and battles.
While many Final Fantasy games have their reasons why they could be the best, this is one writer’s definitive list. There’s a difference between “best” and “favorite,” and everyone has a particular favorite in the franchise, for one reason or another. These games have all done something to further the franchise and change it for the better in the years to come.