An Absurdly Non-Definitive Ranking: Final Fantasy

This is my personal list of what Final Fantasy games are the best. I haven’t played them all, or beaten them all, but I thought it would be fun. I will be excluding remakes as separate entries, but will note them when applicable. I have omitted Kingdom Hearts but included the misnamed SaGa and Mana series games because you can’t tell me not to. Also Bravely Default is included cause you’re not my real dad.

Games I haven’t played are listed afterwards and not rated.

Full list taken from: http://finalfantasy.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Games

(There’s a lot more of these then I thought there were. Also, this list is kind of arbitrary, just a heads up.)

30. King’s Knight -Wrath of the Dark Dragon-

A short lived remake of Square Enix’s King’s Knight game for the NES/Famicom, -Wrath of the Dark Dragon- is a weird vertical shooter that controls like you’re in a plane but you’re just a dude. I didn’t play it much as it was shut down after less than a year, and I didn’t pick it up at launch.

29. Crystal Defenders

Crystal Defenders is a tower defense game in the same vein as Flash classics like Bloons Tower Defense. However, despite the lore tie-in to Ivalice and the backing of the Final Fantasy name, it came off as uninspired and downright boring. The only thing it really had going for it was its price point on mobile–Free.

28. Mobius Final Fantasy

Mobius Final Fantasy is another of the mobile games. It felt very Final Fantasy XIII in how the combat seemed to flow, albeit stripped down for mobile, but I just didn’t get invested in anything going on and quickly fell off.

27. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius

Brave Exvius

This game’s main claim to fame in my opinion is including Ariana Grande as an unlockable event character. I enjoyed the maybe week I spent fiddling with it on my phone more than I did Mobius, but it also didn’t grip me really.

26. Final Fantasy IV -Interlude-

-Interlude- is just that–a strange, short in-between game set after Final Fantasy IV but before The After Years, that consists almost exclusively of areas and encounters that you’ve already had. I guess if you haven’t played FF IV in a while it reintroduces the characters, but The After Years does a better job of that, for all of its faults.

25. Justice Monsters Five

A fun mix of Beyblades and pinball basically, available as both a minigame within Final Fantasy XV and a very short-lived mobile app. I had a decent chunk of fun with it when I played it in game, but I never felt the urge to play it again after that first experience–specially since the mobile app was shut down before I could really try.

24. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

The After Years is a fascinating game, being the only direct narrative sequel in Final Fantasy history that plays almost identically to the game it followed. It’s also just a mess of an RPG. The difficulty spikes in weird ways: multiple characters are miss-able with no indication that that is the case; there are way way way too many playable characters, making most of them feel surplus in the way a Suikoden cast does, with a few even being almost useless in combat. The phases of the moon impacting combat was a cool idea, but since you can just sleep to shift them it does lose its impact over time, when it could have forced you to use some of the way too many characters. I’m in the last sections and should finish it, it’s just kind of a really annoying game to play.

23. Final Fantasy Record Keeper

A battle cutscene in Record Keeper.

I really wanted to love Record Keeper. Being able to mix and match protagonists from the various Final Fantasy titles into weird parties to take on challenges? Sprite art normalizing the art styles of the various games in a fun, back to SNES way? Sign me up.
I played for over a year. And for a while, I put up with the abysmal user interface, graphical glitches and blatant money grubbing that comes with free-to-play titles.
What burned me out was event crunch. There was always multiple events running, and since I wasn’t pouring money into the game, I couldn’t train and equip my heroes to the point where I could complete them anymore. They stopped being fun and new and started being a repetitive, disheartening slog. I still like the art style though.

22. Final Fantasy Advent Children

On the one hand, I don’t remember much of Advent Children, other than a scene of everyone helping Cloud climb a tower.
On the other hand, it gave us this beautiful disaster.

21. Chocobo’s World

Chocobo’s World is a simple little game attached to Final Fantasy VIII, originally to be played on the PocketStation, though its available as a separate program with the PC build of the game. It’s basically just a way to farm items for the main game, but the little pixel chocobo is too cute to not let them shine separately.

20. Final Fantasy X

I hate Tidus. It’s quite possible I think so poorly of FFX mainly on the back of that hatred of a protagonist whose laugh haunts me to this day. Ok, I really don’t think that scene is as impactful to my opinion as I say, but I really just didn’t enjoy most of the characters in this game, which made it hard to care over the long hours an RPG takes to beat.
Also, the ultimate weapon’s quest lines were really unbalanced in terms of difficulty, with some being easy, some being nigh impossible, and doing at least two making the endgame a joke.
The game itself isn’t actually that bad, just a few factors soured it in my mind, I’ll admit that.

19. Dirge of Cerberus -Final Fantasy VII-

The black sheep of the Final Fantasy VII family, Dirge of Cerberus was an interesting attempt to have a game play more like how its main character would fight, rather than restricted by the confines of a turn-based battle system. However, the combat was ultimately lackluster, environments were dull, story was inane and characters uninspired. It gets points for trying, but in the end, is simply a mediocre third person shooter that leans too far into the weirder plot points from its predecessor.

18. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

No one has ever claimed that I have good taste in movies. I would likely list The Spirits Within in my top ten sci-fi movies–not because it is a good movie, but because for me it was the right movie at the right time. I liked the imagery of the spirits and how they pulled people apart like extra dimensional nightmares, and I can’t help but admire the effort that went into all of the visuals, which while being a bit uncanny valley, are really impressive for the time when it came out.

17. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy has some great music. A rhythm game using that music should be a no-brainer, easy win. However, Square Enix made some strange choices, poorly using the paired screens to distract rather than enhance the gameplay in some cutscene based levels, having slightly wonky tap detection and relegating many expected and well known tracks to DLC. All of these kept me from enjoying the game as much as I would have liked. Hopefully Curtain Call resolves some of that, but I haven’t had the chance to try it yet.

16. A King’s Tale: Final Fantasy XV

I enjoy a good side-scrolling beat-em-up, specially when they’re short, and A King’s Tale was that. It wasn’t super deep or challenging sure, but I had fun start to finish and it also cost me $0, so I can’t really complain about it much.

15. Final Fantasy XII

Vaan and Penelo just always felt unnecessary. If FF XII starred Ashe it could have been so much better, but they seemed to think people liked FFX for Tidus, and so we have…Vaan. I will admit to only having played a few hours of this, and a few years back, so it’s very possible my opinions will change when I finally sink my teeth into the remake.
Though, FFXII did let me finally get catharsis for being stuck on the Demon Wall in FFIV for years, so it has that going for it. And I did like the potential of the gambit system, and enjoyed the spectacle of the world and especially the Quickening attacks, so there is good to have here.

14. Final Fantasy II

An early fight in the game.

Final Fantasy II (the one that has Firion, not Cecil) is interesting in that it tried very hard to be a much different game than Final Fantasy, and yet helped to introduce many of the series’s long standing ideas and themes. It suffers from a leveling system that is too easy to screw your characters over using, and an ever swapping fourth character that is as often useless as useful. I’ve been replaying it recently (never beat it the first time) and having a decent time with it, though I do still feel like the SaGa style leveling it developed needed a bit more work to be really viable for games–I can’t imagine trying to beat it without the improvements the GBA version made to the stat growth.

13. Final Fantasy V

A masterful script, this is not.

I’m a sucker for job systems, and Final Fantasy V delivers. The customization is what I can only assume a more realized version of the job system from FFIII, and it certainly gave me hours of enjoyment in building the class/skill combos I wanted to. The story and characters never really hooked me though, as much as the removal of [REDACTED] was an unexpected turn of events.

12. Final Fantasy

The GBA port.

Final Fantasy may have started it all, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stand on its own two feet still. While the story is simple by today’s standards, and the grind is real, it is a charming if simplistic RPG romp. It certainly is worth a play through if you enjoy the genre, but I don’t generally recommend it as a standout within the series.

11. Final Fantasy VII

I have very mixed reactions to Final Fantasy VII. It’s impossible to ignore its cultural relevance, and its soundtrack is one of the best to grace my ears, but the game is kind of hmm.
The graphics did not age well, which mostly becomes a problem with being able to do things like see what’s interact-able on the map. The plot is convoluted almost to the point of incoherence. The final boss has an attack with a three minute long animation.
As a child I got stuck so profoundly at one point I thought my save was ruined and restarted an entire disc in.
A lot of these are nit-picky, and sure, they are, but we’re hitting the top third of the list now so I don’t know what you expected dear reader.

10. Bravely Default

A Final Fantasy in all but name, with a fun job system, unique combat with the ability to spend and bank turns and even a little town builder; there’s a lot to like in Bravely Default. The characters were still just tropes as is basically expected from this list, but it did feel like there was at least potential for growth within them, and while the plot was your typical crystal hunt, the individual areas felt a lot more fleshed out than in something like FF V or other classics.

9. FFX: Blitzball

I only love sports games about fake sports. This is something that has taken me decades to face and comes to term with and now here I stand confidently saying: I liked Blitzball, for whatever reason with, its clunky and convoluted systems, so much more than FFX itself that I plucked it out to rank independently on this list.
Maybe this is from the period of time where it was the only thing I could play while my little siblings were around. Maybe it’s because it often just came down to numbers and becoming unnecessarily invested in my players. Maybe I’m just a sports caterpillar waiting for the right cocoon to become the butterfly I’ve always been meant to be. Maybe it’s Maybelline.

8. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV isn’t extraordinary. It isn’t full of in depth systems or complex characters. It doesn’t defy tropes and give the player new and exciting ways to conquer challenges at every turn. But it was my first Final Fantasy, and I can’t deny its overall workmanship and spirit. It won’t change your life, but it won’t disappoint. I have grown colder on the game over the years due to how it handles its themes, but that’s a subject for a longer piece.

7.  Final Fantasy VIII

Card games. Literally sucking the magic from your enemies. Swords that are also guns. FFVIII has a lot going for it. The visual step up from FFVII is a welcome change, and I honestly found the Guardian Force system to be a nice mixup from the materia system of FFVII. While its plot has some of the same pitfalls as FFVII, at least Squall doesn’t spend most of the game thinking he’s Seifer or something.

6. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Majorly controversial pick number two! I loved Crystal Chronicles. As a multiplayer experience it needed some ironing out, but the atmosphere and the music were just so so so so so good. It was a spinoff that truly felt like something new, and I wish the series had been given the chance to really shine moving forward, instead of several mildly obscure DS and Wii games in the years to follow. It’s now getting a remake on the Switch and I’m hoping that can breathe new life into the subseries cause I need me some good good CC action.

4. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance/Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift

I couldn’t pick which one I liked more. I liked Advance’s story and characters better, but A2 refined many of the mechanics around quests and the like, as well as increasing the complexity of battles. It’s a toss up, but both are solid tactical RPGs on the go, layered with a good level of whimsy.

3. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

Final Fantasy Tactics has some of the best writing in the series. The end. The only things keeping it from being the absolute top are the slog it takes to unlock abilities via the JP system and the sheer length of battles, which prevented me from making much progress when I originally played the game on PlayStation. If you’ve got a little patience though, this is not one to skip.

2. Final Fantasy VI

Purposefully using the worst version of the game’s art because to pre-game your anger.

Final Fantasy VI would have been a marvelous send off for the series. The most memorable setting in the first six games, coupled with some of the best writing, most human characters and quality, innovative and interesting gameplay, I could probably go on and on about the game and the many things it does right, but I think I would rather instead leave you with its most famous piece of music. Play this game if you can.

1. Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV is flawed. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I thought the story was handled well at the end, or that the battles weren’t occasionally confusing, or even that the world felt fleshed out and real.
But Final Fantasy XV gave me the boy band road trip I never knew I needed. I spent easily sixty hours just driving around the world with them, getting to know them and falling in love with them as we hunted bounties and just, shot the shit while music played. Maybe I’m just nostalgic for an experience I’ll likely never have for myself, but there was still something magical at the heart of FF XV that gives it the top ranking in this list.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC Prediction

Current Score: 2/5, 6 Characters Remain

[UPDATE 9/4/19: Now that we know that there WILL be more than 5 total fighters, this list is going to live for a bit longer. I still will not add any new predictions to it however.]

In light of the predicted Nintendo Direct this week and the fact that my PAX East writeups are taking far far longer than expected to complete, I wanted to take the time to put my predictions, made at the time of the reveal of our lord and savior Piranha Plant, for the DLC characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

To make the list, I thought about what IPs in Super Smash Bros. have less representation than their more crowded brethren, and what characters have made a splash in the last few years while remaining absent from the roster, as well as potential upcoming characters that historically have a good shot.

Side note: While I believe Nintendo when they say there are five planned DLC characters that are unique, I am fairly certain in my assumption that Echo Fighters might not be included in that number, but are still being planned. I have zero evidence to support this but my own grit and dreams of playing as more weird characters.

In No Particular Order and Not Restricted to Only the Number of Remaining Slots Because that Would be BORING

Deku Baba from The Legend of Zelda(various): Echo Fighter for Piranha Plant

Glorious, stupid, and basically the stiffer Legend of Zelda cousin to the Piranha Plant, I see no reason why this beloved provider of sticks and nuts wouldn’t be welcome into the fray.

Byleth, Edelgard, Claude, Dimitri from Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Claude is in yellow and looking left, Edelgard is in red, and has long hair in front of her, Dmitri in blue looking right, and Byleth has the male and female variants.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is likely to make quite a splash when it finally lands, and Fire Emblem characters have been taking over the roster of Smash Bros. since Super Smash Bros. Melee, so one of the new protagonists making it as a DLC characters is all but assured. Bonus points if it is all four of them. I don’t know how their moves would differ from their fellows but the game out yet so hopefully I’ll just make outrageous guesses then.

Bowser In His Wedding Tux and Hat from Super Mario Odyssey

Sure, Bowser is already in the game, and Cappy might be a more heroic addition, but let’s be honest: the only thing I loved aesthetically in Super Mario Odyssey more than Bowser’s Tuxedo was the absolute jam that is the Steam Gardens track. Bowser plus his fancy hat would have a nice variant of the basic moveset too–the boxing gloves and ability to throw the hat and control it independently would more than make up for the firepower that the big guy has currently. Just let me be a really sparkly evil guy, ok Nintendo?

Min Min from ARMs

As one of Nintendo’s newest IPs, I fully expected an ARMs character to make the cut, and was as shocked as can be that the best they did was an assist trophy. Min Min makes sense as the eventual entrant, as she got a lot of the initial hype and has a fun, unique design compared to the rest of the cast without being like, slime or a mummy.

Rex from Xenoblade Chronicles 2

While apparently Masahiro Sakurai said Rex didn’t make the cut for the roster due to the game’s release date (I couldn’t find that interview), the game has sold well, and Shulk already being in the series makes more Xenoblade Chronicles characters more likely. Instead of Monato Arts he could probably switch between a couple of Blades for a varied moveset? Unsure, I haven’t played the source materials.

Poochy from Yoshi Games (Various)

Poochy is an unsung hero of multiple Yoshi games (ok, mostly just I loved Yoshi’s Story as a kid) and he finally got a spotlight in the remake of Yoshi’s Wooly World for the 3DS. Seeing as how we now have multiple other dogs in the game, why not add in this one, specially made of yarn with fun yarn grabs and airy jumps?

Funky Kong from Donkey Kong Country

He’s wowed us with his surfboard, sunglasses and bandana and more than deserves a chance to destroy his foes with all three. Bonus points for having such an easy to riff costume–t-shirts of other characters, ahoy!

Gen 8 Starter from Pokemon Sword/Shield

While I doubt that the first forms would make the cut, Nintendo has been rather fond of including starters or other mascot Pokemon in the Smash Bros. series. Like Fire Emblem there may be too many of them already, but with a roster this large, that hardly matters.

Tails from various Sonic games

Sonic is overdue to have a second character in the game considering how many wacky friends he could bring to the party. Knuckles might be more of the fighter character, sure, but Tails could fill that badly needed niche of annoying flying character that we all know Smash needs.

As of 4/16 this is very unlikely as Tails and Knuckles Mii Fighter costumes were announced as DLC.

Tom Nook from Animal Crossing as an Echo of Isabelle

I would love to see Nook have his own moveset, but weaponizing capatalism and the relative prison of rental life doesn’t sound fun, so an echo it is!

Noctis from Final Fantasy XV

Noctis has a good amount of fangirl appeal and a capacity for a hugely varied moveset with how he pulls weapons from the air and teleports around. Bonus points if it’s the silly chibi version from the Pocket Edition of the game.

Professor E. Gadd with the Poltergeist from the Mario series

“But Luigi already has the ghost sucking vacuum, we don’t need E. Gadd.” Shush, it’s ok. We’re all wrong sometimes.

Travis Touchdown from the No More Heroes series

The field is getting pretty laden down with swords, but Travis does seem committed to using his on Nintendo platforms, and it’d make some good cross promotion for the third No More Heroes, provided the series survives the lackluster response to Travis Strikes Again.

A new Character from Metroid Prime 4

There’s gotta be someone more interesting than Dark Samus. I refuse to believe we can’t come up with a better third character Metroid can be known for after twenty years of time to think about it.

The Luminary from Dragon Quest XI – Success!

We’ve got Final Fantasy, why not Dragon Quest? Might not have the sales in America that it does in Japan but…Nintendo is a Japanese company, so your move mythical and imagined free market forces.

Super Unlikely: Shin Megami Tensei V Protagonist

If Shin Megami Tensei is really gonna commit to Nintendo, they should go all the way and give us a really ugly demon protagonist that makes it into Smash. Bonus points if they have to censor the outfit to preserve the game’s rating because Atlus’s character designers haven’t learned that “mature” doesn’t just mean more exposed flesh and phallic symbols.

Who Made It In?

Joker from Persona 5

I was so close.

The Hero from Dragon Quest

Considering I guessed the Luminary, I’m going to take this one as a win!

Banjo-Kazooie

I did not expect that they would manage to make this happen considering who owns the IP. Good on you Nintendo.

Terry Bogard

Confession time: I haven’t played any game Terry’s ever been in. Definitely didn’t see this coming, and it is a pleasant surprise to see more fighting game crossover instead of just other characters adapted.

Byleth

Likely the least surprising pick, though having them wield the weapons of the house leaders rather than have those characters be present wasn’t what I expected but they seem to control vastly differently from the other Fire Emblem characters (No COUNTER!) which is exciting in its own right.