Final Fantasy remains one of the most-loved game series of all time and a personal favourite of the Retro Dodo team, but which are the best Final Fantasy games in the canon?
I have a strong feeling that you’re about to find out!
Sometimes we try to take on mammoth tasks here at Retro Dodo, because we’re not afraid to go where others dare not dwell. But I’ve got to admit; picking the 10 best Final Fantasy games of all time stretched our brains to the limit.
Putting some of our favourite games of all time in order is without a doubt one of the best jobs ever, but it took a lot of thinking, rejigging, and deliberation before we finally agreed on a top 10.
But hey, at least you know that we’ve taken this article seriously!
So, after a lot of discussions, some tears, and a lot of going back over these games in great detail, we’ve concocted the ultimate Final Fantasy compendium.
Here are 10 games that you need in your collection, 10 of the greatest adventures of all time, and 10 titles that helped to shape the world of gaming.
10. Final Fantasy III (1990)
Final Fantasy III kickstarts our list of the best Final Fantasy games, and it just so happens to be one of the best SNES games ever made!
Kickstarting this list with FF3 is like starting a story with the main twist. It’s a bold move, but there are so many great Final Fantasy titles that the 10th entry was always going to be a classic!
This game is oozing in magic and fantasy vibes that it could have fallen out of Rincewind’s pocket as he left Unseen University. It sold 1.4 million copies in its time in Japan alone, which makes it a bona fide success story for the SNES.
Every good fantasy tale should have a crystal in it, right? I mean, my favourite of them all is The Dark Crystal, so I guess I’m pretty biased.
Follow four orphans with magical powers gifted to them by the Crystal of Light. It talks too (obviously), and asks the orphans to leave their floating world and to save the universe.
So, it’s not like it’s asking them to do much eh?
The graphics, while now obviously dated, provide a sense of nostalgic wonder whenever I turn this game on. And the character interaction never gets old; this is a game with a superb storyline and one for fans of fantasy novels to definitely check out.
9. Final Fantasy IV (2008)
I promise I’m not going to go through these game in number order from here on out … but Final Fantasy IV is up next.
If you’re a little bit confused as to where this game fits into the series over here in the West, then this is technically Final Fantasy 2. Yes, we could have just called it Final Fantasy 4, but that’s too much for our tiny minds to comprehend for some reason.
This was the first game where ATB skirmishes made an appearance. Real time fighting in a FF game, mixing up the turn-based fights. That’s the stuff that dreams were made of back when this game first dropped in 1991.
This was also the first time we saw specified classes drop into proceedings too. Unfortunately it meant that you couldn’t customise your characters as much, but that’s not always a bad thing.
I mean, my mate Josh spent six hours making his character on Elden ring. It took so long that we all logged off and went to do something else instead!
And, when you pick a character that is already made and ready to roll, it kind of feels more like you’re stepping into a ready made story which is something I really like!
8. Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Final Fantasy VIII takes the 8th spot in our list of the best Final Fantasy games, another absolute classic and one of the many Square titles that made our extensive list of the best PS1 games of all time.
Seriously, these guys owned that console when it came to top titles. The people just can’t get enough of Final Fantasy!
If you need a little brush up with your Roman Numerals, then VIII is the 8th title in the series. And, like all the other games in our list, the storyline feels like something Tolkien conjured up while chilling in the bath.
This is an FF title, so expect mammoth monsters, romantic endeavours, magical action, and turn-based battles that will make you grip your controller so hard your hands will turn white.
And let’s talk about the graphics for a second – they don’t look like they’re from a game that’s native to the PS1. This thing wouldn’t look out of place on the PS2, which is one of the highest compliments we can give it!
7. Final Fantasy Tactics (1997)
One of the best PS1 RPGs of all time takes the 7th spot our FF compendium, a tactical title with a unique battle system that wowed fans both old and new.
That wasn’t the only exciting thing about it, however. It seem a little less impressive now, but the 3D rotating playing field blew our minds back in 1997, and weirdly the retro sprites worked on a console that was trying to impress ‘the new generation of gamers’.
Plus, any game that features a confrontation known as ‘The Lion War’ is more than worth paying attention to. Your mission is to discover the crooked reasons behind why this war was started in the first place.
It won’t surprise you yet again to know that this game has a spectacular storyline. It’s a given with all of the best Final Fantasy games that they’re going to win us over in the plot department.
And, many of you might have played the incredible Final fantasy Tactics Advance after reading our list of the best Gameboy Advance games! The ‘Tactics’ games might not get as much widespread love, but we’re huge fans here at Retro Dodo.
It beats doing sums on Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training any day!
6. Final Fantasy (1987)
The very first Final Fantasy takes the 6th spot in our list of the best Final Fantasy games!
It might seem a little cruel to put the game that started it all in 6th place, but these games have advanced so much since 1987 that we don’t think the NES cartridge would mind…
If it could talk, that is. I’m picturing a Harry Potter Sorting Hat kind of vibe.
Anyway, let’s move on.
I guess it was always a little bit hit and miss for Square back in the day as to whether this game series would take off. I mean, the gameplay style wasn’t revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination and owed a lot of its format to a lot of other text-based games that were out at the time.
Still, as I sit and write this article today, the Final Fantasy canon has amassed over 173 million sales, and that’s because the stories in these games are just so good!
Developing characters, going on adventures, defeating monsters – it’s the stuff every kid craved, and the narrative that runs throughout this very first game still grips us today, even though we know what’s going to happen next.
I guess it’s fair to say that this is a slice of RPG history right here and one of the finest early examples of the genre, as well as being one of the best NES games of all time!
Pair your old console with one of the best NES HDMI cables and play on your HD TVs without making your eyes pop out!
5. Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core (2007)
Let’s get back to some portable Final Fantasy action with Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core. Whenever I pick up a PSP around Retro Dodo Towers, it seems to have this game in it.
And to be honest, that doesn’t surprise me. I was 17 when this game came out and it’s still one of my go-to titles (along with all the best Zelda games) when I want to switch off and play something that feels familiar.
And the power of the PSP makes this game an absolute tour de force whether you’re playing on your sofa, on the bus, or on the toilet.
Come on, we all know you do it!
Crisis Core brought so many RPG-licious features to the table that it almost felt too good to be true. We’re talking real time battles out in the world massive monsters, weapons far too big to carry in real life, and a character with a seriously cool name.
Get ready to play as Zack Fair as you help the Shinra war effort while searching for a missing friend.
If you’re wondering why this is also called FF7, then here’s a little bit of info as to where it fits in. It’s actually set seven years before Final Fantasy 7 (which is pretty convenient) and runs right up till the actual start of the main game.
So if you’re playing the Final Fantasy VII Remake, then definitely slot Crisis Core in before it!
And with 3 million copies sold, its success story is pretty firmly written in the annals of history!
4. Final Fantasy IX (2000)
Final Fantasy IX (that’s 9 to everyone who doesn’t know their numerals) takes the 4th spot in our list of the best Final Fantasy games.
You’ll also find this title in our list of the greatest PS1 RPGs around too. Does everything Square touch instantly turn to gold?
Well, the 10 titles in this list certainly did, and the war for Gaia featuring a princess kidnapped by a bandit is the makings of one of the best gaming stories of all time.
Final Fantasy IX ditched the new ideas that the previous games had introduced and went old school.
It took gamers back to the days of turn-based gameplay, highlighting the mechanics that made this series to great and giving both older gamers a chance to relive the glory days and newer gamers chance to see how things used to be.
And you know what, it worked brilliantly. If anything, this switcheroo really made a new game feel fresh by using old ideas.
I know, that hurt my head too.
3. Final Fantasy XII (2006)
We’ve hit the final three, the podium titles who will be taking home the coveted Bronze, Silver, and Gold Dodo medals. And taking Bronze is Final Fantasy XII, a title that has remained pivotal in the series since its release in 2006.
Forget the fact that it’s on the PS2 and not the PS5 (the PS2 is still the highest-selling console in the world for a reason, however) – the graphics are phenomenal, and the bold move to get rid of random battles by ushering in real-time fights could have easily sent FF into a downward spiral.
Some fans loved it, others took a while to get used to it. But the fact remains, it’s an absolute jaw-dropper of a game and one that needs to be in your collection.
FF XII had a lot of new tricks up its sleeve. The gambit system that allowed players to make preset actions for characters to pull out when specific criteria were met was pretty revolutionary and added a whole new element to the battles.
Then there’s the world of Ivalice itself, a vibrant land filled with mystery and some of the most lusciously textured backgrounds on a PS2 game.
One thing I will say is that FF XII is a game you need to stick with. Im not saying that it takes a long time to get into, but it’s one of those titles that gradually picks up pace rather than diving headfirst into the deep end.
Give it time, immerse yourself in the world, and enjoy every second!
2. Final Fantasy X (2002)
One thing that I shouldn’t admit about Final Fantasy X is the fact that I loved it so much I died my hair the same colour as the main character. I also told all of my friends that I was ill instead of going out to the park to play football with them while playing it.
I mean, who wants to play football when you’ve got Blitzball to play, am I right?
Final Fantasy X is a game that, for better or for worse, shaped my life. I’m just glad I’m bald now and don’t have to relive the taunts I got for that hairstyle.
The detail in this game was immense, and if sub-quests are your thing then you really can’t go wrong here. I mean, just look at the still below and tell me I wasn’t right to ditch my mates for this epic adventure!
I’ve said it eight different ways so far, but the narrative arcing through this game is phenomenal. Tidus and his adventures to defeat the evil entity that destroyed his homeland capture the hearts and minds of millions.
The world of Spira (yes, I still know the name from back in the day) was a joy to explore, with so many exciting twists, turns, and cliffhangers along the way.
Be careful though; if this game had the ability to make me die my hair and basically ditch all my friends, then there’s no telling what it could do to you!
1. Final Fantasy VII Remake (2020)
The results are in, and it’s time for the final entry in our Final Fantasy compendium. The greatest Final Fantasy game of all time is the Final Fantasy VII Remake!
Back on the PS1, it was up there with the likes of Resident Evil 3, Metal Gear Solid, and all of the other classics that we still covet today.
I love that old game, but when you compare it to the majesty of the remake, it just looks so old and dated. The remake has given this game such a new lease of life, however, and I’m not talking about the same way as the Spyro Re-Ignited Trilogy gave us better graphics.
I mean it has literally made it feel like a new game and added so much more depth that, if you didn’t know the story, you’d hardly recognise it!
Cloud Strife could well be one of the greatest names for any hero in any game too. Add the fact that he’s an eco-terrorist, and he becomes even cooler! Anyone wanting to stop corporations from destroying their planet gets the thumbs up from us!
Those old 3D characters in a 2D world have been replaced by 4K graphics and a world that looks so amazing you’d be forgiven for trying to climb into your TV to experience it properly.
If you loved the battles back in the day, then be prepared to enjoy them all over again in the best way possible. I’ve called games ‘a work of art’ in the past, and this is definitely the crowning jewel, the Mona Lisa of the FF canon.
Yes, Final Fantasy VII Remake is the best Final Fantasy game of all time, and I can’t see it being topped any time soon!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.