As Final Fantasy XI approaches its twentieth anniversary, we take a look back at the nine best FF games in the series.
Final Fantasy is arguably Square Enix’s flagship RPG. Over 30 years old, Final Fantasy games have appeared on nearly every major platform, and the sixteenth entry is in development as we speak. Even the original game saw a remake of sorts in the form of Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.
In May 2022, Final Fantasy reaches another important milestone as Final Fantasy XI turns 20. This is significant because FFXI was the first MMO in the series, going on to spawn the celebrated follow-up, Final Fantasy XIV.
With that in mind, we delve back into the past of the series, ranking the best Final Fantasy games – and the best platform to experience them on.
Final Fantasy IV (DS Remake)
This fully 3D remake of FFIV on the Nintendo DS blew us away at the time, and it’s still the best version of the entry to date. It would also go on to inspire the Bravely Default series.
In truth, Square-Enix remade Final Fantasy III on the DS first, but they really nailed the formula with IV.
This is likely because of the game’s intricate job system, superb storytelling, and memorable cast of characters, including the menacing, yet sympathetic antagonist, Golbez.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII gets a bad rep sometimes; mainly because the story was darker than before and protagonist Vaan was an awful dullard.
Final Fantasy XII got a lot right too. The game made the bold decision to abandon turn-based combat, instead opting for a more free-flowing style that would eventually become series standard. While FFXIII would go back to basics, games like XIV and XV would look to borrow more from XII, which says it all really.
FFXII also featured Hunting quests that were inspired by Monster Hunter. These have returned in subsequent entries and were thrilling to complete. The Zodiac Age update helps streamline Final Fantasy XII, cutting out a lot of the grinding from the original.
Final Fantasy V (iOS remake)
Time hasn’t been kind to the original Final Fantasy V, but the game’s iOS remake has seen it transformed with a new updated art style that really helps bring the story to life.
Bartz quest for the crystals has never been one of the best Final Fantasy tales ever told, but those looking to play a modernized version of classic Final Fantasy on their iPhones will love this version of FFV.
While the 2021 pixel remaster is a more faithful recreation of the original, we still love the iOS remake a little bit more.
Final Fantasy XI
While the game has been largely replaced by the fourteenth entry as Final Fantasy’s leading MMO, FFXI did it first.
Square-Enix’s original online Final Fantasy game was a bold move. The series was riding high after the success of FFX and could have quite easily stuck to this format, but instead, FFXI opened up the Final Fantasy universe and invited adventures the opportunity to play together for the first time.
As it approaches its twentieth anniversary, we should acknowledge FFXI, because, without it, there would be no FFXIV.
Final Fantasy VI (Pixel Remaster)
Final Fantasy VI felt like a forgotten chapter in the Final Fantasy multiverse before its 2021 Pixel Remaster. The game never received an iOS or Nintendo DS remake, however, it did get ported to the Game Boy Advance.
FFVI is special because it was the first game in the series to abandon the vibrant world of traditional fantasy, instead opting for a gritty steampunk-themed sci-fi adventure.
It was also the first game to feature a female protagonist in Terra, whose battle against the manic clown villain Kefka is still among Final Fantasy’s best.
Final Fantasy X HD
Final Fantasy made the jump to PS2 with FFX and had never looked so good. While the game had some, shall we say; laughable moments, it was still a solid and memorable Final Fantasy adventure – it was also the first to feature proper voice acting (although, this wasn’t always a good thing.)
The game contained some stunning vistas, giving the player the freedom to explore a series of tropical islands at their leisure. However, this picturesque beauty was often undercut by the constant threat of death, should ‘Sin,’ a colossal monster, swim too close to the island.
FFX was also a love story, one that saw the time-traveling Tidus fight to save heroine Yuna from sacrificing herself to rid the world of Sin. The player also had to unravel the mystery of Sin’s nature and origin, as well as what had caused Tidus to be plucked from his own time.
The game’s twist ending provides one of the biggest gut punches in the entire series. So much so, that FFX spawned a sequel just to deal with the fallout caused by it. Both games have since been remastered and ported to PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
While original players of FFXIV will remember it got off to a shaky start, the game in its current form is an absolute triumph. FFXIV proved that MMOs could be successful on consoles, and today, FFXIV is one of the most celebrated online RPGs available.
It’s also going from strength to strength, as its community grows, and more expansions arrive. FFXIV takes the best elements of the series and throws them into a digital playground for players to share. We honestly can’t wait to see where it goes next.
Final Fantasy IX Remastered
FFIX was the culmination of everything that made the PS1 era of Final Fantasy so iconic. It drew from the best parts of FFVII and FFVIII, telling a more light-hearted story with an adorable cast of characters and art style.
The tried and tested good overcoming evil in a magical fantasy world story felt like a return to Final Fantasy’s pre-PlayStation roots – and the time was right. FFVIII’s coming of age story hadn’t appealed to everyone, and FFIX gave us Moogles, Chocobos, and crystals aplenty.
It’s HD remaster on modern platforms should be experienced by every Final Fantasy fan, from any era.
Final Fantasy VII Remastered
To be clear, we’re talking about the 2018/2019 HD remaster of the original Final Fantasy VII, not the remake on PS4 from 2020. We love the remake of Final Fantasy VII, but seeing the original ported to modern platforms not only tickled our nostalgia, it also breathed new life into this absolute legend of gaming.
Cloud Strife’s battle against Shinra, while trying to piece together his own past, is one of the greatest stories ever told in interactive form. FFVII proved that gaming could be an effective medium to tell a compelling story, and since then, other developers have also taken this baton and ran with it.
So there you have it, the nine best Final Fantasy games to celebrate the anniversary of Final Fantasy XI.
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