Not many women are the main protagonists of the various Final Fantasy games. That being said, there are so many powerful, engaging women in the series who stand out, tell an incredible story, and are remembered for one reason or another over the years.
While there have been a few leading ladies, the best of the best when it comes to Final Fantasy female characters aren’t always the top stars. Some of them can come out of nowhere and emotionally invest the players for years to come.
What criteria are being used to rank the best women in Final Fantasy?
When it comes to women in Final Fantasy, this list focuses on the mainline titles of the franchise. So no sequels, prequels, side games, et cetera. There is also a list of criteria that determine who stands out on this list.
Basis for female Final Fantasy characters
- Must be in a mainline Final Fantasy game
- In-game power and mechanics
- Importance to the story
- Impact on the audience
There are several side characters and antagonists that almost made this list, however. A few honorable mentions go to Ultimecia (FFVIII), Freya Crescent (FFIX), and Celes (FFVI).
Top 5 female mainline Final Fantasy characters
- Lightning Farron (FFXIII)
- Rydia (FFIV)
- Terra Branford (FFVI)
- Tifa Lockhart (FFVII)
- Yuna (FFX)
5) Lightning Farron (Final Fantasy XIII)
Lightning Farron is the first true mainline Final Fantasy female protagonist. Terra Branford was close, but the developers stated that no one in that game was truly the main character; that all comes down to how someone views the story, though. Lightning Farron was a fascinating character, from her personality down to her willingness to get into combat. Lightning being a stoic, tomboyish, take-charge character really struck a chord with fans of the franchise, no matter how they felt about Final Fantasy XIII in general.
The game is often divisive, but Lightning herself succeeded as the main character of FFXIII. As someone whose homeworld was in danger, she still puts her sister Serah first and foremost in her mind. A skilled knight, she’s cool, collected, and independent. She didn’t need anyone to come and save her.
She grows throughout the game, maturing and realizing how she treated her sister, Serah, thanks to traveling with Hope Estheim. While some argue about whether or not she’s the first true female protagonist in Final Fantasy, she is definitely one of the best.
4) Rydia (Final Fantasy IV)
Rydia of Mist is a young girl from a village known for its powerful summoning magic. She can only call a Chocobo Eidolon at first, and the first time the party meets her, it’s a moment of tragedy and horror. Cecil and Kain slew the Mist Dragon, the Eidolon that her mother controls. Thus, Rydia’s mother was killed by the heroes, and then they burned her village down.
Cecil Harvey does protect her against the Baron soldiers who want to capture her, and as a result, she joins his quest. Terrified of fire, she overcomes this to help Cecil and Rosa push forward in their quest.
After being swallowed by Leviathan, she undergoes a major change and a bit of growth throughout the game. Time moves faster down there, and when she meets the party again, she’s significantly older and more powerful.
Even as a young child, Rydia is no-nonsense and often serves as a moral compass for the party. She puts her past behind her, ultimately learning the lesson that it’s someone’s inner character that matters, not what’s on the outside. Rydia is incredibly powerful and stands by Cecil Harvey to save the world.
3) Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI)
A girl who starts with no name, and only a Slave Crown in her possession, she slaughtered people in the name of the Imperial Army of Vector. Terra Branford, half-Esper and half-Human, is caught between two worlds and isn’t quite sure where she belongs or what her purpose is in life.
She is in the party for much of the game, though she does split off after encountering the Esper Valigarmanda/Tritoch in the mountains of Narshe. Losing control of her powers, she transforms and shrieks off into the distance. She ultimately learned more about her background and her Esper father and human mother.
She had to make her own memories and find her own way in the world, finding a reason to live in the broken town of Mobliz. The children there needed a mother figure, and thus, Terra stayed there to protect them. That is, until the arrival of Phunbaba. Terra would then bring her incredible magic power to bear against Kefka.
Terra’s theme of loneliness and needing to find love/a place in the world has struck a chord with many gamers over the years. She went from rejecting her power to using it to defending those she loved and is a wonderful protagonist.
2) Tifa Lockhart (Final Fantasy VII)
Naturally, Tifa Lockhart would make it to this Final Fantasy list. Inhumanly strong, she has a sense of duty and is fighting for what’s right. She joined the AVALANCHE resistance group, fighting to save the planet from the greed of the Shinra Electric Power Company. Her hatred of the Shinra group is evident, considering they destroyed her hometown.
Often seen as empathetic and reserved, she’s also an incredible martial artist, trained by Zangan himself. She works hard to make a life for herself, and she also helps take care of Barret’s daughter, Marlene. She is quick to protect others and defend the weak.
She deals with self-esteem issues and a wealth of grief and loss throughout her childhood, such as losing her mother at 8 and then her father as a teenager. As she grows and matures past it, she’s both supportive and troubled in her own way. Tifa is easily one of the most 3-dimensional characters in Final Fantasy VII, if not the franchise as a whole. But despite all of this, she’s incredible in battle, battering everyone with her potent martial arts style.
1) Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
It wasn't easy to choose between Tifa and Yuna for the #1 spot, but Yuna’s willingness to do anything to see The Calm return to Spira pushed her ahead. A pure, warm character, Yuna is introduced to the players as a little scatterbrained but well-meaning and devoted to her task.
She is all too willing to live in her father’s footsteps and make the Summoner’s Pilgrimage. It was not made clear what this meant for her in the early game, but there are hints to it. No summoner who completed the pilgrimage is still around, after all. The player learns that it is Yuna’s fate to die at the same time Tidus does.
Throughout her relationship with Tidus and others, she agrees that there simply has to be another way. Working with her friends, she does find it, breaking the cycle of death and despair that Spira has been trapped in.
Yuna is also a part of one of Final Fantasy’s most heartwrenching cutscenes. When they first arrived in Kilika, she sent the fallen who perished in the attack by Sin. She danced on the water's surface, performing funeral rites for so many people. It was one of many immensely sad moments for Yuna.
Her drive to do anything to keep the peace in Spira, whether it was almost marrying Seymour or sacrificing her life, and her incredibly powerful Aeons make her the best female protagonist in Final Fantasy’s long history.
This does not mean these are the only great characters, far from it. There are so many excellent women in the franchise, and each brings something unique to the story they are a part of.
Note: The article reflects the writer's own views.