Very few franchises hit the 10-year mark, and very few had stood the test of time the way Final Fantasy has. The first game was released by Square in 1987, and thirty years later, we have reached Final Fantasy XV, three films, and countless spin-offs. I can honestly say I’ve played all the main titles as a “completionist.” Maxed our characters, all side quests, ridiculous trophies, achievements, new game pluses… I could go on. So, I’m going to give you a run down on my top three Final Fantasy games, drawing from the fifteen principle titles only, – otherwise, we’d be here till the launch of Cyberpunk 2020 – whenever that is.
This was tough to narrow down because the main titles are all rock-solid games that range from Good to Fantastic. I went in the end, focusing on the story first, character second, world third, and lastly gameplay and mechanics last. Without any further ado, here are my top three Final Fantasy games.
3. Final Fantasy X & Final Fantasy X-2
I put these two together because if you’ve played one, odds are you will play the second. When it was first released by Square, it had mind-boggling visuals, some great voice acting and the way the game just plays and feels. From the protagonist driven narrated story through to its mismatched world of Asian, European and otherworldly locations, it just feels different from the other titles in the franchise.
Two for the price of one
The story is linear but has so many different locations to visit. Every place has something to explore, see, fight and just plain do. This is an RPG that did a great job of not only telling its story of war, time travel, revenge, and heartbreak. You care about this mismatched group of individuals and what is essentially your story, not theirs. That’s how cohesive and engaging the story is and its major plot twists? You will never see them coming.
Sphere Grids and Blitzball
If you’re looking at gameplay and mechanics, I need only say two things: – The Sphere Grid and Blitzball. The Sphere Grid let you level your character however you want, and if you were prepared to spend the time and invest, you could create unstoppable multi-classing juggernauts. That second thing is Blitzball. Mini-games in Final Fantasy and other RPG and Action -RPGs will have a serious run for their money. You have to learn how to play it, but you can find yourself playing entire seasons of just this mini-game. It’s as absorbing as Gwent in the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
2. Final Fantasy XV
The newest entry to the franchise, Square’s FF XV doesn’t really need much of an introduction. This is a story that starts out almost Gears of War-esque in its testosterone but quickly becomes one of compassion, and camaraderie between four brothers that hits way to close to home in the latter half.
The New Century: – Food and Selfies
The food, and photography feature somehow make the game more immersive, and relatable all at the same time, helping to make the game more earnest, and appealing to your heart and soul. The game gets that feeling of traveling, camping, and fighting in a part, with friends because the party is on-screen and interacting with you and each other all the time.
This is a game that Square Enix made because they need to figure out what the next generation of players wants in a Final Fantasy game. It has the bits of relatable technology (zeitgeist) for that younger generation of gamers and will move the franchise on to par with Witcher 3, where the open world, non-linear progression seems to be the way.
1. Final Fantasy VIII
My favorite, and a guilty pleasure
The first Final Fantasy I ever played by Square, way back in 1999 and replayed endlessly until 2001. I was a teenager, in high school and the game just spoke to me. The school setting was flawlessly executed. I found myself humming the Balamb Garden theme as I wander my real-world high school between classes. Squall comes across as whiny and emotional to adults, but to teenagers, his struggles, and emotional angst was real and relatable – especially when you make a teenager a Commander of a multi-nation army to save the world. The love story is good – definitely better than Twilight – because it was a central pillar of the story and the game. It was well done by any standards.
The world is the most modern and unique world, except maybe FF XV. It has everything from small-town rural country life to urban high-tech metropolis. Varying world governments. Robots. Magic. Wars. Massed armies going head to head. The World felt real, and relatable to those growing up in the 1990s.
Squall grew up. So did I
Replaying the game as an adult, (last month, in preparation for this feature), I now have a better insight and understanding of Squall as he grows from whinny teenager with a crush into a confident commander with a woman who loves him as much standing at his side. Many fans feel the same as me and still dream of owning a Lionheart Gunblade.
What’s your favorite Fantasy?
Uh, no, not THAT kind of Fantasy. Final Fantasy. Try not to summon a Guardian Force because you don’t agree with my opinion. Just let me know in the comments whether you agree or disagree and how you would rate the main titles of this franchise.