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Ahead On Our Way - The Top 21 Numbered Final Fantasies Countdown


Round and round I go
Staff member
You are powerless in the face of our not really caring that much about other people's opinions!


Summon for hire
Also, like most games, FF games are Good, actually. Tremble before our power of not being a bunch of cynical jerkwads.


Evil Overlord

It is OK, this is not even my final form. There were 21 LISTS, that is all the energy I need. I will consume them and then consume it all....


Evil Overlord
Yes, I am growing stronger! Your All Games Are Good philosophy will not sae you from My power. You'll need more than that for...

Wait, what is this? I do not have enough power?!?!?!


I probably would have put this game up top if I had voted.

No, no, no....

I will try to put something together but the plate before me.

No. Nonononono.... Not everybody voted. And... and there are only 20 lists!

I... I do not have enough power... I am... shutting down.


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
No. Nonononono.... Not everybody voted. And... and there are only 20 lists!

I... I do not have enough power... I am... shutting down.
So I guess we found yet another way to defeat Omega but I'm not sure how to translate this into game mechanics.

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
Uh, hi guys. What's up? I don't remember anything of the past few weeks. I just remember that they asked for ideas for a small Top List and I was thinking what to post and then... everything's kinda blurry since then?

Yeah, that does it. I bet this is what happens when I listen to my dietist and watch what I eat, I get drunk in healthiness. I knew this kale stuff could not be good. Let me grab a few chocolate donuts while I catch up with what's been going on.

Boy, I hope I didn't change my passwords.

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
OK, so apparently I did a FInal Fantasy list? That's great, I always wanted to do one. Good for me!

I also notice I have two entries unposted in my memory, so let's get those out of the way.

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
Let’s mosey.

Final Fantasy VII

...and then Caith Sith hit the fan.

a.k.a. The one with the dude with the spiky hairdo and the big sword.

599 points • 20 mentions • Highest rank: #1 (Alex)​

Released on January 31, 1997 (Japan)
Producer: Hornobu Sakaguchi
Director: Yoshinori Kitase
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu

Every new FInal Fantasy in a generation is a game changer - IV, X, XIII. But none changed the game half as much as VII - there’s a marked before and after.

It’s not just because of the polygonal graphics. The series would never go back into the 2D realm, but it would still look amazing. With the use of pre-rendered backgrounds to make up for the PSX’s limitations, Square was able to present vast worlds with a level of spectacle that made jaws drop.

VII’s impressive graphical muscle was the thing that made the game noticed in the West, sure, but what made the series finally be noticed outside Japan and start selling in big numbers worldwide was that people stayed and actually liked the game in spite of RPGs lack of popularity in the West. So behind all those pretty graphics was a really, really good game.

VII uses the ATB system and adds some new systems on the top - the Materia system for abilities and Limit breaks, for example. Even though the battle engine is the same, the use of polygons makes battles feel different, with sweeping cameras and dazzling effects. And from time to time, huge enemies that dwarf your characters in a scale that could not have been pictured in a 2D console.

It is all punctuated by Uematsu flexing his muscles - not only technologically, but also artistically. VII’s soundtrack is a solid gem, and One-Winged Angel, with its energetic orchestra while a chorus chants in latin - with real vocals, not samples! - has become the main example people think of when they think of “final boss music in a RPG”.

It also has great characters. A cold mercenary hired by a eco-terror... er, I mean, eco-freedom-fighters should not have the mileage Square gets out of Cloud Strife - the whole game is a deconstruction of the gruff, stoic soldier archetype. Cloud and his band of friends are very enjoyable characters trapped in a conflict that should be way above their capabilities, but they power through. VII takes turns with different characters at the lead of your party, even retiring Cloud and Tifa for a while so you can get to know everybody without the shadow of the protagonist.

And then there’s the twist at the end of Disc 1. While VII is not a stranger to death, or to killing a playable character mid-game, VII tears the heart out of your chest by mixing both good writing (you spend half of the first game getting to know Aeris) with new-to-the-series artistic direction. There’s a reason why everybody remembers Aerith’s death, even if they can’t agree to how to spell her name,

There’s a before and an after for the series with VII. Final Fantasy feels different afterward - it managed to become a household game the world over, a menu driven jRPG joining the club of big games with insane production values. And yet…. It managed somehow to not lose its heart.

Something Old

VII got a lot of mileage translating the bestiary of FF into polygonal form. It was really memorable to see all our favorite monsters and summons in 3D for the first time. And it managed to translate the series into a more futuristic setting without losing its staples - you still have an airship, and magic, and a dude wielding a sword.

Something New

You mean, besides the presentation being a lot more spectacular? VII’s mix of action and drama would permeate the rest of the series from this moment on. It would also become a synonym of guaranteed top-of-the-line CGI animation even before most of us knew what CGI was.

Oh, this was also the first Final Fantasy to have more than three save slots. Long live memory cards!

Something Blew

Have you noticed that no other Final Fantasy final boss has an attack as long as Sephirot’s Super Nova? Not only it was ridiculous, it took years to resolve for what was basically a percentage-based offensive spell. It was incredible the first time, but when the solar system gets destroyed a third time in the same battle, it becomes tiresome. It’s a good thing that Square learned to dial back the spectacle during attacks, although they would still have to calibrate this for a couple more games.


1 /1 winged angels

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
You all sound like chapters of a self-help booklet!

Final Fantasy VI

I was going to make a pun here but it was Terrable!

a.k.a. The one with the opera floozy.

600 points • 19 mentions • Highest rank: #1 (Johnny Unusual, Purple, Torzelbaum)​

Released on April 2, 1994 (Japan)
Producer: Hornobu Sakaguchi
Director: Yoshinori Kitase and Hiroyuki Ito
Composer: Nobuo Uematsu

VI is the crowning jewel of the SNES Final Fantasies, in ambition if nothing else. It is a huge game, and one that really pushed the SNES to the max,

Graphically the game was a powerhouse. I’m not talking about the mode 7 map or the huge enemy sprites, which yes, were great, but this is as good as the character sprite work would ever get for the series, with every character being so finely detailed they could even wiggle their finger at the screen. The art of the game is mind-blowing.

Story-wise, it was a game with an assemble cast. While Terra and Celes are the big stars, the game’s 16 playable characters all have the spotlight in one way or another. This assemble approach to the story was reflected by its development - different team members contributed with different characters and basic story ideas for them, and it was up to Hiroyuki Ito to make all those pieces fit into a coherent narrative by giving them a common goal: defeat that genocidal son of a submariner Kefka.

And each character had something different to offer in battle. Jobs were once again pre-determined, like in IV, so each character had a different skill in battle. But then there were Relics - each character could equip up to two accessories, and some of them would grant new skills. And then there was the Esper system, which allowed characters to gain specific stats and use and/or learn magic spells. So while jobs were “set”, you had a lot of freedom on how you wanted to specialize each character.

And then there was the music. It’s a mystery how Uematsu managed to squeeze this much out of the SNES - lots of wonderful melodies with great sampling, including the world’s first 16-bit opera. But from the opening of the game to the very final battle (which includes the opening theme!) the music is top-notch.

VI is a triumph. It’s the series’s last 2D entry, and Square brought every single trick they had learnt in the past entries to this - and even managed to add plenty of new stuff. It was the end of an era, and it ended with a bang and a manic clown laugh.

Something Old

VI took a traditional element of the series - the summoned monsters - and weaved them into the core of the story. IV had done something similar, but they were side-characters; in VI they are a living McGuffin.

Something New

VI is when the series shifted and they stopped talking about the elemental crystals. Sure, crystals would become part of the references expected of a Final Fantasy, but starting with VI the series would reach out and try narratives that would not be tied around bad guys wanting to complete their crystal collection.

Gameplay wise, VI had two great innovations. The first one, and a really important, is that turns are skippable now. This widens your available strategies in battle, and, really, is the only way to make Cyan a viable character, with him charging while everybody else does their thing.

The second one? Limit breaks. Sure, they were RNG based, and they only had a chance to happen when a character attacked while in critical health, so some players never witnessed this desperation attacks. But they were there, and Square would keep playing with them and iterating the system with every entry.

Oh, they also introduced the idea of skills being tied to equipped items, something future Final Fantasies would run wild with.

Man, plenty of new stuff was introduced with VI, right?

Something Blew

Final Fantasy would never again have a cast this big. It was an ambitious undertaking, and honestly some days I’m surprised they managed to pull off something this big. But the choral approach would never have this many voices.


16 / 16 self-help book chapters protagonists

Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
And that's it. I'm tired and I have no idea if I still have pets. So I'll go and see if the cat didn't eat the dogs in my abscence and then take a nap; expect the full list of votes tomorrow.
This was fun! Just because the top 2 were foregone conclusions doesn't lessen the wonderful trip down memory lane. Plus it was a neat surprise seeing VIII rank higher than it has in any other list for which it's been eligible.


Eternal Skies
(he / his / him)
I...helped beat Omega?

In all seriousness I don't have any strong connections with Final Fantasy, so I didn't feel it was appropriate to participate. Especially because I have tried multiple times and find myself deflected somehow.

That being said, this was a very fun list to read and kudos to PB for pulling it all together!


So I'm really drawing a blank on whether I've broken this down here before but it's always amazed me how FF6, thematically and structurally, manages to be super consistent with giving every character not only a decent plot arc but keeping them all thematically linked.

Literally every character (at least the ones properly around for Balance stuff) is introduced with some grief and personal regret that they aren't really dealing with very well. Just dead parents and love interests and children all over, blood on people's hands, and we've just got kind of a grand tour of coping mechanisms from hedonism to just kinda running off into the woods to debilitating depression to Locke's weird savior complex thing.

Then, there's a full on apocalypse.

Then in the wake of that, every single one of these characters (or damn near anyway) revisits their personal issues in the wake of the world just getting utterly trashed, gets it together, and really properly finds a way to move on from their personal trauma.

And like... this is a cart-based JRPG. The writing space available for each of these characters to have these personal sentences comes down to like... maybe 20 sentences per character on average over the entire game, and I'm probably being generous with that?

It's a really remarkable achievement. Even moreso in contrast to the game's peers. In a typical RPG, including the rest of this series, and even games in it yet to come, what we usually have is "here's this new character, they have this one big issue when you first meet them, it gets resolved by you showing up and fighting a boss. They maybe have a little personal expression quirk we keep seeing going forward, or a power-up sidequest later, but by and large, they're just gonna move to the back of the line and just follow along now with no more real character work. And that's almost always with a cast in the single digits.

And that's not even getting into the amazing use of personal character theme music here.

Johnny Unusual

I really liked VII (though was never really that into Cloud or Sephiroth as pro/antagonists) but VI is the game in the series I've felt the closest emotional ties to. All of them are epics but to me, this game felt ridiculously huge and I loved that not only where there a ton of character arcs that landed but even in terms of just playability, every character felt like a fun, unique toy. This game really did have everything; a perfectly hissable villain, a wacky recurring villain, an opera, a guy who learns bad guy powers (I don't like grinding but I do like throwing a jungle boy at monsters and collecting their whole deals), a ghost train and just so much I can't remember. It's a wild game with a lot going on and it's the game I would probably be the most excited about revisiting. And again... I'm not sure if I ever beat it (I know I lost at the final battle a few times, then got too distracted to finish. I feel it's possible I booted up an old game much later, finished it and then lack the immediate emotional connection to appreciate it.

But really, there's only one reason VI may be considered the best.


Positronic Brain

Out Of Warranty
This was fun! Just because the top 2 were foregone conclusions doesn't lessen the wonderful trip down memory lane.
Actually the top three switches places during the voting. And look at those point totals among the top entries - it was really close.
I...helped beat Omega?
Yes, you did. Yay!

I didn't make a list, but VI and VII would've been in my top 3 for sure.

*hugs* My heroes! =') Never underestimate the power of lurking!
FF6 is an amazing game, FF7 is likely the reason we have all the Final Fantasy games in America. I flip back and forth between which is my favorite. I actually played FF7 relatively recently and the story is actually pretty tight, and the fixed camera angles and pre-rendered backgrounds allow for some really cool shots, like dutch angles in the Shinra Mansion flashback.



1. Final Fantasy 4
2. Final Fantasy 6
3. Final Fantasy 14
4. Final Fantasy 7 Remake


5. Final Fantasy 3
6. Final Fantasy 8
7. Final Fantasy 7
8. Final Fantasy 10
9. Final Fantasy 10-2


10. Final Fantasy 5
11. Final Fantasy 13
12. Final Fantasy 15
13. Final Fantasy 12 / Zodiac Age
14. Final Fantasy
15. Final Fantasy 2
16. Final Fantasy 4 DS

Let's Just Not:

17. Final Fantasy 3 DS
18. Final Fantasy 4: The After Years
19. Final Fantasy 9
20. Final Fantasy 11


Thanks for the list. Here is mine.

1) FF IX
4) FF V
5) FF II
6) FF X
7) FF I
9) FF X-2
10) FF VI
11) FF IV
12) FF XII

I put V at fourth place? Weird. But as mentioned, the first four are basically interchangable. Places 5 to 11 are also more vaguely ordered than anything, but there, it should be fitting to how soon I would like to replay the games. XII and XIII are just there, because I haven't played them in forever, and couldn't really judge them like the others. Just playing the first part of XII already changed how I felt about that game - or rather, cemented that I liked it, and just gave me more context. In the end, these are all great games, I love this series. What a great bunch of games.

More on VII and VI later.


????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Here's my list:
  1. Final Fantasy 6
  2. Final Fantasy 1
  3. Final Fantasy 4
  4. Final Fantasy 5
  5. Final Fantasy 8
  6. Final Fantasy 9
  7. Final Fantasy 7
  8. Final Fantasy 2
this was a very fun list to read and kudos to PB for pulling it all together!

Johnny Unusual

My list

1. Final Fantasy VI
2. Final Fantasy X
3. Final Fantasy IV
4. Final Fantasy
5. Final Fantasy VII
6. Final Fantasy XI
7. Final Fantasy X-II
8. Final Fantasy III
9. Final Fantasy II


Summon for hire
As a NES- and SNES-era kid, I spent a long time feeling like FFVII was wildly overexposed, because, I mean, just look at it - it immediately took over the discussion and became the face of Final Fantasy. And then One-Winged Angel was just on *every* single remix album. But none of that changes the fact that it's a good game, and good final boss music. It was no accident that they struck a lot of nerves and changed the face of console RPGs, especially in the west, forever. And now that I'm no longer a slightly grumpy post-teen who's sore about the loss of cool sprite art (it helps that indie games and other retro projects galore have long since brought it back anyway) I can appreciate it more.

The Materia system is pretty fantastic in being easy-to-grasp customization that you can do really wild things with if you dig into it. The characters, though they initially seem drawn with broad strokes, have some good growth - even if spin-off material often seem stuck retreading the exact same personal arcs over again. Over the top super attacks aside, battles are actually pretty snappy by early polygonal standards. And the music has a lot of great stuff as well - even when it's sometimes obvious it's still getting a handle on the new instrumentation possibilities of being on CD, it goes for the fences, and not just with the OWA vocals.

Buuuuut then there's FFVI, which of course is the one I was saying is really my co-#1 along with XII. Just, the pinnacle of 16-bit artistry. Those characters. Those leitmotifs. Those enemy sprite designs. It's all just *chefkiss*. But really, it's preaching to the choir to go on about it 'round these parts.


Summon for hire
Meanwhile here's my whole list:

1. FFXII - New era fave, gambit system clicked for me, love the characters and world
2. FFVI - Old era fave, the most fun characters, amazing score, 16 bit excellence
3. FFIX - New era does old era, a last hurrah for a lot of traditional gameplay elements
4. FFXV - This game has issues, but the road trip vibe and combat both grew on me
5. FFX - Sphere grid and unusually tactical battle system are this one's standouts
6. FFX-2 - Fast-paced job system that's just a blast to play
7. FFIV - Pure nostalgia, my first RPG love
8. FFVII - Felt overexposed for a long time, rough around the edges, but good stuff in there
9. FFXIII - Kind of a mess, but a very pretty mess with characters I grew to like
10. FFI - The OG is still fun to mess around with... well, with a few tweaks anyway
11. FFXIII-2 - The plot is hot nonsense, but the XIII battle system finally clicked for me here
12. FFVIII - I want to like this one, it has great ideas, but my play through didn't go so well
13. FFV - Look, it's a great game, I just haven't played it enough to have feelings
14. FFXII-RW - Eh, it's fine
15. FFII - Kind of a SaGa system, but points for introducing real characters to the series
16. FFIII - First real jobs system has a lot of rough edges, but the series owes it lots