Ranking Every Mainline Final Fantasy Game (Best To Worst)

If you enjoy what you read and want to support an independent publication, you can join our Patreon to receive extra benefits and a physical welcome kit filled with official merchandise sent directly to your front door! View our premium benefits here. Thank you.

If you ask any Final Fantasy fan which game from the mainline series is the best, you’re almost guaranteed to get a different answer.

Many fans, myself included, will often cite their first Final Fantasy game as their favourite, and truthfully, there’s no right or wrong answer here, and with a series that has consistently hit it out of the park, ranking these seminal titles is truly a fools’ errand.

Final Fantasy first appeared back in 1987 and the series has since wowed audiences worldwide with its heartfelt storytelling, memorable characters, exceptional music and stunning visuals. Throw in a Moogle or two and you have yourself a recipe for one of the most beloved gaming franchises of all time.

For this list, I’m sticking to the mainline numbered games only. Including spin-offs and subseries within this article would cause it to balloon to over one hundred titles and potentially explode like an agitated Bomb. That means the likes of Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy X-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII won’t be appearing.

One exception to this rule is the inclusion of both parts of the ongoing Final Fantasy VII Remake trilogy. Final Fantasy VII: Remake and Rebirth are epic adventures in their own right and capture the magic of the Final Fantasy series greatest entries, meaning they both deserve a spot on this list.

With that out of the way, here’s my ranking of the mainline Final Fantasy games, from best to worst, and remember, there are no wrong answers here so just enjoy the ride.

1. Final Fantasy X (2002)

Final Fantasy X (2002)

My pick for the best Final Fantasy game of all time is Final Fantasy X.

Taking the series onto the PlayStation 2 after the successful trio of PS1 outings, Final Fantasy X introduced players to the world of Spira. A vibrant land where people fear using machines and technology as a giant, unholy whale-monster known as Sin will destroy civilisations that do.

Players take on the role of Tidus, a superstar Blitzball player (imagine underwater football/rugby and you’re getting there) who is transported to Spira after Sin attacks his home city.

Final Fantasy X gameplay

Final Fantasy X introduced voice acting to the series for the first time and breathed life into iconic characters such as the Summoner Yuna, who dreams of a peaceful world even if it means sacrificing herself, and Auron, a legendary swordsman sworn to defend Yuna at all costs.

The Active Time Battle system from previous games is gone and replaced with the Conditional Time Battle system, allowing players to interrupt and manipulate the order of the turn-based skirmishes.

With a main quest that’s full of beautiful environments, unrivalled characters and exciting moments, not to mention the enormous amount of brilliant side content, Final Fantasy X is a must-play for everyone.

2. Final Fantasy VII (1997)

Final Fantasy VII (1997)
image credit: square-enix/gamesdb

Here’s a title you may have heard of before. Final Fantasy VII helped popularise the JRPG in the West by delivering one of the most expertly told stories in all of gaming history.

Players take control of Cloud Strife, a former SOLDIER-turned mercenary who joins environmental activist group Avalanche to help dismantle the Shinra Electric Power Company, who are draining the planet of its valuable and potent natural resource, Mako.

What starts as a straightforward mission quickly escalates into a world threatening series of events as Cloud’s former mentor and legendary war hero, Sephiroth, enters the fray.

Final Fantasy VII gameplay

Final Fantasy VII’s impact on gaming is hard to argue. It introduced deep and complex storytelling with characters that people immediately fell in love with.

Aerith, the sweet flower girl, Tifa, the badass bar owner, Barrett the grizzled leader of Avalanche with a heart of gold, they all resonated so deeply with gamers that their legacy will never be forgotten.

Final Fantasy VII also brought one of the greatest soundtracks in videogame history to life, with addictive tunes that you’ll be humming for decades to come.

3. Final Fantasy XII (2006)

Final Fantasy XII (2006)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

The Gambit System. If you only need to know one thing about Final Fantasy XII and why it deserves one of the top spot on my list it has to be the Gambit System.

Square-Enix broke new ground with their trademark series by ditching turn-based battles in favour of real-time encounters with party actions controlled by a series of customisable parameters.

Fancy ensuring your mage always casts fire against ice based enemies? There’s a gambit for that. Need your most powerful healer to top up your health whenever it drops below 25%? You can make that happen too. The Gambit System is so versatile that by the end of the game players can create an unflinching, monsters bashing machine of pure efficiency and it’s utterly brilliant.

Final Fantasy XII gameplay

The general discourse around Final Fantasy XII these days seems to focus on whether protagonist Vaan is the real hero of the piece or if that title is better suited to sky pirate Balthier, Captain Bosch or former Princess Ashe. In practice, each and every member of the party can stake a claim to the ‘main protagonist’ title, each for their own compelling reasons.

Special mention should also be made for the antagonistic Archadian Judges, the guardians of law and order of Archadian Empire who rock the most impressive looking armour you’ve ever seen.

4. Final Fantasy IX (2000)

Final Fantasy IX (2000)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

The last Final Fantasy game to appear on the original PlayStation, Final Fantasy IX ditched the contemporary settings of the two previous games and focused on a medieval fantasy world called Gaia.

Set during a war between two rival nations, Final Fantasy IX sees players taking on the role of Zidane, a thief who, along with a cast of loveable party members to dethrone the warmongering Queen Brahne.

Final Fantasy IX gameplay

Just like Final Fantasy VII and VIII before it, Final Fantasy IX employs excellent use of pre-rendered backgrounds to display a rich and detailed world, full of life and character.

The Active Time Battle system returns but this time is impacted by characters agility stats. Random encounters feature some of the most creative creatures in the entire series and the music is top-drawer throughout.

5. Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (2024)

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth (2024)

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is the most recent Final Fantasy game to appear on this list.

Building on the success of Final Fantasy VII: Remake, the ‘untold journey’ continues in this reimaging of one of Square’s most beloved titles.

Having escaped the clutches of Shinra and apparently freeing themselves from fate at the end of the previous game, our heroes enter the next chapter in Square-Enix’s ambitious remake trilogy.

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth gameplay

Absolutely jam-packed with things to see and do, Rebirth feels like Remake team turning everything up to eleven.

The brilliant combat from the first game returns, bolstered by new party members and enhanced by an array of synergy moves that will floor your opponents and dazzle you with their spectacle.

A triumph of game design, Rebirth is stunning to behold and a joy to play, with enough fan service on offer to keep fans of the original grinning from start to finish.

6. Final Fantasy VI (1994)

Final Fantasy VI (1994)

Final Fantasy VI launched on the SNES in 1994 and was the last Final Fantasy game to appear on a Nintendo System before Square developed the follow up, Final Fantasy VII, exclusively for PlayStation.

The sixth entry in the series also marked the final time that 2D sprites would be used, which the eventual shift to 3D characters and pre-rendered backgrounds ushered in with FF7.

Final Fantasy VI is notable for a couple of real world reasons then, but the story within is incredible in its own right.

Final Fantasy VI gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Final Fantasy VI is definitely more mature and darker in tone then many of the other titles on this list, with villain Kefka often challenging Final Fantasy VII’s Sephiroth for the ‘best gaming antagonist’ award.

Gameplay-wise, Final Fantasy VI retains the menu-based combat of its predecessors and once again makes use of the Active Time Battle system. Standard attacks and magic return and a new Desperation Attack allows players to deliver devastating damage when their health runs low.

If all of that doesn’t sell you on Final Fantasy VI then maybe the ability to suplex a train will…

7. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (2013)

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (2013)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

After the disastrous launch of Final Fantasy XIV in 2010, Square-Enix ultimately decided to reboot the game and try again with ‘Version 2.0’.

Version 2.0 would eventually become Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. Directed by Naoki Yoshida, the revived MMORPG finally delivered on the promise of its lofty premise; a living and breathing Final Fantasy world that players could occupy for years.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Yoshida followed the relaunch with a series of critically acclaimed expansions that saw bands of players working together to tackle some of the greatest bosses ever seen in the franchise and with stories that rival and even surpass other Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy XIV has come a long way from its shaky start and is still going strong today. There’s a wealth of content to enjoy for free too so curious players can check out this incredible online adventure without spending any Gil.

8. Final Fantasy VIII (1999)

Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Easily one of the most popular entries in the series, the story of Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Heartilly battling an evil sorceress is as much about love as it is about war.

Following the success of Final Fantasy VII would be no mere feat, with the weight of expectation resting firmly on Square’s shoulders.

Rather than retread Final Fantasy VII though, VIII delivers a progression for the series. The traditionally stylised sprites and chibi-esque characters replaced with realistic looking human players (Squall is the best looking guy here after all) and saw the party travelling together in one extending conga line of adventure.

Final Fantasy VIII gameplay

Final Fantasy VIII also introduced fans to the now iconic Gunblade, a weapon so preposterous but instantly cool, it combined, you guessed it, a gun and a blade.

Perhaps the most divisive addition to Final Fantasy VIII was the Junction System. Players needed to assign summons to each character to unlock additional skills and the ability to cast magic. MP was replaced with spells drawn from the world and added to your inventory. The Junction System was a clear departure from how magic and summons worked in the previous game and forced players to adapt to progress.

Oh and there’s also a little card game called Triple Triad that you may have heard of (it’s really bloomin’ good).

9. Final Fantasy XVI (2023)

Final Fantasy XVI (2023)

Final Fantasy XVI re-ignited the franchise in 2023 with a medieval fantasy story about a man caught in a power struggle between warring nations.

One of the more politically charged Final Fantasy titles, Final Fantasy XVI sees multiple countries vying for control of colossal magical Mothercrystals, which provide energy to the population of the world of Valisthea.

Final Fantasy XVI explores complex themes and is relatable to real world issues such as race and class subjugation, the climate crisis and misinformation.

Final Fantasy XVI gameplay

Players enter Valisthea and take control of Clive Rosfield, a bearer, marked as an inferior class of humans but one that can wield the magical properties of the crystals.

Clive Rosfield is brought to life by the fantastic Ben Starr, who delivers one of the all-time greatest voice over performances. His emotional outpouring during some of the pivotal scenes in Final Fantasy XVI elevate this entry in the series above many other contemporary fantasy RPGs.

With combat designed by the man responsible for the frenetic brutality of Devil May Cry 5 and gigantic boss battles between towering Eikons, Final Fantasy XVI’s electric action marks a fresh, real-time start for the series.

10. Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade (2021)

Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade (2021)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Fans waited over two decades to see Cloud, Tifa and co. reinvented with modern graphics. After that PS3 tech demo that teased Sephiroth’s arrival on the Cell Processor went nowhere and the 2015 Remake announcement at Sony’s E3 conference, anticipation and expectation couldn’t be higher.

Then, in 2020, and against all odds, Square-Enix released Final Fantasy Remake for the PlayStation 4. Rather than tackle the entirety of Cloud’s adventure, Remake focused purely on the Midgar section of the original game.

Iconic characters are introduced, stages set and gameplay segments are expanded to craft a fully fledged RPG based in Final Fantasy VII’s unforgettable opening section.

Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade gameplay

A year later, Square-Enix released Final Fantasy VII: Remake Intergrade for the PlayStation 5. The overhauled battle system which features a beautiful and seamless mix or real-time hack and slash and traditional menu management returned, now bolstered by the powerful grunt of Sony’s latest home console.

It’s beautiful and silly, with melodrama meshed with humourous moments throughout and a brand new DLC story starring everybody’s favourite Wutaiin Ninja, Yuffie, Intergrade isn’t just an excellent Final Fantasy game, it’s one of the best titles on PS5.

11. Final Fantasy XIII (2009)

Final Fantasy XIII (2009)

Final Fantasy XIII brought the franchise to the seventh console generation in 2009 when it launched on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

The jump in processing power over the PlayStation 2 saw Final Fantasy XIII arrive with stunning visuals and graphics that rivalled those of CG animated film, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children.

Square-Enix opted to reinvent the combat system again, parting with the Gambit System of Final Fantasy XII and instead veering into the realms of real-time strategy, with protagonists able to stagger opponents to deal increased damage.

Final Fantasy XIII gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Final Fantasy XIII received a mixed reception upon launch with many critics and fans taking aim at the linear first half of the game.

While the opening section of the game is indeed linear, with hero Lightning battling through long and winding corridors that connected each story beat, the narrative is so well paced and engaging that I feel the structure works in its favour.

12. Final Fantasy V (1992)

Final Fantasy V (1992)

Final Fantasy V continued Square’s RPG dominance on the SNES and offered a huge wealth of customisation for a role playing game from the early 90s.

The excellent Job system returned with players able to mix and match party members with various abilities to create their own unique party dynamics.

Final Fantasy V also marked the sophomore outing for the Active Time Battle system from Final Fantasy IV, although this time it was refined and actually displayed something of a running order for upcoming actions.

Final Fantasy V gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Final Fantasy V’s plot once again centres around magic and crystals with the powerful stones now used to imprison the evil sorcerer Exdeath.

While the story doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises, Final Fantasy V sees the series hit its stride and confident step forward into the series we know and love today.

13. Final Fantasy XV (2016)

Final Fantasy XV (2016)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Wizards, mages, dragons, Chocobos and Moogles are all staples of the Final Fantasy series, but what nobody expected from Final Fantasy XV was a boys-only, open world road trip in a car that could fly.

As series departures go, Final Fantasy XV is a striking one. Initially unveiled as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis series alongside Final Fantasy XIII, XV ultimately shed its ties while maintaining its action orientated direction.

Players assume the role of Noctis Lucis Caelum, the prince of Lucis who flees his kingdom following the death of his father and the nations invasion by Niflheim.

Final Fantasy XV gameplay

Noctis isn’t alone in his journey though as he’s accompanied by his three BFFs; Gladio, Prompto and Ignis. Together the four travel across the beautifully realised world of Eos, completing quests, felling beasts and devouring delicious looking food.

The open-world nature of Final Fantasy XV does mean it suffers from some pacing issues, with the final act of the game feeling jarring, rushed and oppressive because of it.

Thankfully, the real-time combat is a joy to behold with Noctis capable of flying around and summoning the weapons of his ancestors to help him destroy his enemies.

14. Final Fantasy XI (2002)

Final Fantasy XI (2002)
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Released in the same year as Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XI took the series online for the very first time. This MMORPG takes place in Vana’diel and was supported with new content until 2015.

Much like its successor, Final Fantasy XIV, Final Fantasy XI allowed players to create their own avatars with unique appearances and a smattering of different jobs to choose from.

Final Fantasy XI gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

Vana’diel provides an ample playground for role players to explore with various biomes consisting of snowy mountains, sandy desserts and magical dimensions.

There’s an epic story to discover involving warring Gods and copious amounts of time travel and it’s made even more fun with a party of friends by your side.

15. Final Fantasy IV (1991)

Final Fantasy IV (1991)

Final Fantasy IV is a pivotal game in the series history. It introduced players to the Active Time Battle system and a much improved story over its predecessors.

Our hero, Cecil, is one of the first great JRPG protagonists. The Captain of the Red Wings is tricked into unleashing horrific monsters onto the Village of Mist before setting off on a quest of redemption that sees him battling his way onto the actual Moon.

Final Fantasy IV gameplay
image credit: square-enix/gamesdb

Cecil’s quest is brilliantly realised on the SNES, with brilliant and detailed sprites bringing characters, monsters and environments to life.

The combination of the new battle system along with the deeper, richer story, makes Final Fantasy IV an essential trip for players keen to explore the series history.

16. Final Fantasy (1987)

Final Fantasy (1987)

As misleading titles go, Final Fantasy has to be up there. This fantasy proved to be anything but final, the original Final Fantasy spawned one of the greatest and well-loved franchises in gaming and entertainment in general.

Considered basic and straightforward by many, Final Fantasy is a refreshingly breezy game to play in 2024, with plenty of games offering countless hours of exploring and questing.

By contrast, Final Fantasy on the NES can be finished in around 15 hours, allowing for players to get a little stuck on one or two of the challenging boss fights.

Final Fantasy gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

A precursor to the Job systems that would take centre stage in later entries, the Class system in Final Fantasy allowed players to specialise in different party roles, cementing its place as one of the most influential titles of all time.

The 2022, Souls-like, Stranger Of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin, acts as an alternative universe prequel to the events of Final Fantasy and is an entertaining and thrilling battle where players must defeat the evil Chaos.

17. Final Fantasy III (1990)

Final Fantasy III (1990)

For gamers outside of Japan, Final Fantasy III was something of a legend. In fact, Final Fantasy III didn’t officially make it to the West until the 2006 remake on the Nintendo DS.

It’s a shame then that gamers had to wait so long to play Final Fantasy III as it’s one of the purest and most important games in the series.

Final Fantasy III gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

The turn-based combat of the prior games remained but the new Job system spiced things up a notch.

Final Fantasy III introduced the Job system for the first time, allowing players to build their parties however they saw fit by expending Capacity Points. Creating a well balanced party is a fine balancing act with each Job owner able to equip unique armour, weapons and magic spells.

Perhaps the most noteworthy addition, in my eyes at least, is the introduction of those loveable little Moogles, those cute flying cat/bear things that have popped up in nearly every Final Fantasy game ever since, Kupo!

18. Final Fantasy II (1988)

Final Fantasy II (1988)

There’s no shame in being at the bottom of a list this stacked full of brilliant and influential titles. Final Fantasy II sits as the awkward second album, a game that, while an improvement on its predecessor in many ways, isn’t as influential and is subsequently overshadowed by its successors.

It’s another story about orphaned heroes out to save the world and it does usher in some of the series mainstays, namely a character called Cid and the ever reliable Chocobos.

Final Fantasy II gameplay
image credit: square-enix/moby games

While it sits at the bottom of this list of the best mainline Final Fantasy games, Final Fantasy II is still worth a look, especially as it’s easy than ever to access, thanks to the Pixel Remaster version on PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you use these links to purchase an item we may earn a commission.

retro dodo team 2024

Like our content?

Join our Patreon Community.