30 years. Multiple games and spin-offs that involved a mesh of fantasy and sci-fi, classic-yet-derivative hero archetypes, and the impending apocalypse initiated by demigods and evil men. Oh, and loads of leveling up, grinding, giant weapons, and chocobos!
That’s the gist of Final Fantasy, and we’re going to celebrate the release of the 15th mothership game with the second half of GameStart Asia’s roundup of all Final Fantasy games in existence.
Again, just some ground rules: we are only including the mothership games and subseries like Crystal Chronicles and Dissidia. Also, the ratings are given based on practicality; if there’s a better version of an older entry, the older entry may get a bad rating.
(Note: This is part 2. Check out Part 1 here if you haven’t already.)
2006 To 2010
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge Of Cerberus (PS2)
And we begin this second-part with a valiant attempt at a Final Fantasy spin-off that’s not an RPG. Capitalizing off the PS2 era of action games inspired by Capcom’s Devil May Cry series, Square Enix released this stunning-looking side story where you play as FFVII’s silent badass Vincent Valentine in a series of post-Shinra and Sephiroth events.
The actual game itself? Not very good. The controls feel clunky, the camera is a fickle beast, and the actual fighting is populated with boring and dumb enemies. The story too, which is usually the strong part of the FFVII series, is not inspiring and feels like a rehashed plot with switched names. Makes you wonder if Dirge of Cerberus did more harm than good for Vincent’s image.
Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
How does one make Final Fantasy fresh yet still retain its Active Time Battle mechanic? Simple. Mimick Mass Multiplayer RPG fighting. In FFXII, you can set up auto-commands called Gambits or manually decide their actions on the fly while the fighting goes on in real-time.
Coupled with a License Board leveling system that tracks your character progression and epic battles with gargantuan Espers and other draconic monstrosities, and you have a recipe for fun in the vast lands of Ivalice. You also get a grand-spanning politically-charged plot similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, but with a touch more whimsy and optimism. We just wish we could ditch the lame-ass protagonists Va’an and Penelo who were obviously shoehorned to cater to the younger demographic. Party members Balthier, Ashe, and Basch are clearly the main stars.
This entry was the kick-in-the-pants kind of change Square Enix needed to freshen up the series back then.
Final Fantasy V Advance (Game Boy Advance)
As we stated in the previous feature, Final Fantasy V is a masterclass in traditional Final Fantasy RPGing action. However, the best version for global audiences isn’t on the SNES and the PS1; it’s on the Game Boy Advance. True, the music can get a mite tiny due to the portable system itself, but everything else from the enriched sprite art to the mostly-untouched gameplay and story makes this the definitive version.
Final Fantasy VI Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Yes, we adored the SNES version of Final Fantasy VI/III, but if you managed to stumble upon expensive versions of the cartridge version, you can’t go wrong with the Game Boy Advance one. The slight audio downgrade isn’t enough to tarnish this version too, which comes with a reworked English script and additional features like new monsters from other FF games to fight in the Colosseum.
Final Fantasy III (Nintendo DS)
Best. Remake. Ever. This revision of a classic game did such a good job that it makes the NES/Famicom original obsolete. While still soul-crushingly hard, at least it’s more intuitive to switch jobs and to wade through the menus.
Everything that was archaic was fine-tuned, and yet the tough boss fights and complexity of the series’ patented Job System were preserved. This is so that newer generations can experience what the big deal about the game was. A must-try!
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings (Nintendo DS)
Have you ever tried playing StarCraft on a screen as small as a DS? Well, how about you play Revenant Wings? It gives you that sort of experience with all the units and heroes you’d expect from the Final Fantasy Tactics Advance games.
It’s an interesting footnote in FFXII’s story and almost redeems Vaan and Penelo for being throwaway characters. Still, it’s not one we can recommend because of how aggravating it can be to play an RTS on a smaller screen.
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP)
Clearly capitalizing on the “Ivalice” brand following FFXII’s release, this re-release of a classic adds in ad-hoc multiplayer, lovely CG-stylized cutscenes that strengthens key scenes in the already-perfect story, and better localization.
The core gameplay remains; great strategy RPG battles and level design coupled with a flexible and in-depth Job System. Why mess with a surefire feature when it’s already perfect, right?
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Rings of Fate (Nintendo DS)
FF Crystal Chronicles was a great multiplayer game, but it was a hassle to set up. Thankfully, the Nintendo DS’ multiplayer feature made for a good iteration of the Crystal Chronicles brand. On-the-go multiplayer where you and three other friends fight hordes of FF enemies and get sweet loot?
There’s a story in there, but it’s all icing for the gameplay-stacked cake. This one’s better with like-minded action RPG-craving friends.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII (PSP)
Trivia time: Final Fantasy XV director Hajime Tabata did a lot of mobile games to make his mark in the FF series, including Before Crisis: FF. This PSP prequel cemented his rise to creative stardom and for a good reason: it’s a damn good spin-off that expands upon the FF VII lore and comes with great gameplay.
The combat is the precursor to Type-0 and the upcoming FFXV’s systems due to its action-oriented battle system, and it’s more exhilarating for it. Most importantly, Zack Faire is a much more charismatic and interesting lead character, and seeing him go from “hero” to “dead” in this journey gave many FFVII fans major feels.
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift (Nintendo DS)
That awesome gameplay in the Game Boy Advance version of Final Fantasy Tactics gets a bit of an upgrade on the Nintendo DS.
The plot’s simple, but it gets the job done – boy from real world gets sucked into Ivalice, goes to tons of adventures & learns the meaning of life. The strategy gameplay and class system gets amped up with more variables and content, and the patented Judge system makes for interesting mission-based scenarios that change on the fly.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Year (Wii, PSP)
Square Enix thought we would be idiots to fall for an obvious rehash of an existing Final Fantasy entry with new characters and descendants of past heroes. We can blame them for trying. FFIV: The After Year was released as an episodic content, which is probably the only innovation it had since that’s the model Square Enix is now doing for their game releases these days.
The rest of this FFIV sequel is rote. Cecil’s son Theodore is your main hero and somehow he has his parents tag along for most of the adventure. And through sheer coincidence, they are fighting enemies and bosses similar to the ones in the previous adventure. Don’t waste your time and just stick to the original recipe.
FF Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A King (Wii)
Want a little SimCity city-building action in your Final Fantasy games? Then do try out this Wii title.
This castle-building strategy game is quite charming but can get repetitive; you send would-be adventurers out for quests while you build bakeries and amenities to increase morale and attract more heroes.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (PSP)
Who knew that a Final Fantasy offshoot would make for a great one-on-one fighting experience? Players pick one of their favorite FF heroes and villains, then square off in a battle to empty an opponent’s HP with special moves and defensive maneuvers.
That said, Dissidia is a great spin-off worthy of the FF name but the sequel is superior in every way, so just skip right ahead to that version.
FF Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (Nintendo DS, Wii)
FFCC: Rings of Fate is pretty much the same old, same old action RPGing loot-hoarding multiplayer fandango. But now you’re able to seamlessly play with others on the Wii while you’re on your DSes. Sometimes, that’s more than enough, especially if you can’t find copies of Rings of Fate at this very moment and want to have some convenient local dungeon-romping.
FF Crystal Chronicles: My Life As A Dark Lord (Wii)
Missed Sim Tower? Then you’ll love this Final Fantasy-laden spin on a classic game. You play a villain who must make the best traps and monsters-filled giant tower ever.
While a bit similar to My Life As A King, this one has a lot more charm and action going on in it because you’re dealing with Final Fantasy’s menagerie of beasts and monsters. Seeing the inside of your towers all busy with heroes attempting to get past your traps and spectacularly failing is a reward.
It may be good to be the king, but it’s better to be a Dark Lord in this 2D vertical take on the Dungeon Keeper series.
FF Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers (Wii)
Square Enix’s next attempt at an action game right after the disaster that is Dirge of Cerberus is admirable and surprisingly competent. FFCC: The Crystal Bearers is more “Legend of Zelda” action adventure than a “Devil May Cry” knock-off, so the key aspects of an FF game are there and designed well.
Free-roaming gameplay, multitudes of sidequests, awesome unspoken telekinesis powers from our main hero; this adventure also comes with minigames where you push girls in bikinis off water floats and even some skydiving. It’s not your typical FF RPG experience, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
FF Fables: Chocobo’s Tales (DS)
For those who want something a little more fluffy and light-hearted, this FF spin-off is for you. It’s a collection of minigames and card battle duels all wrapped in an Aesop’s Fables-type story arc. The minigames don’t wear out their welcome, the card duels are engaging and should be its own spin-off like that Triple Triad game, and the overall story is whimsical in a good way
FF Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon (Wii)
Roguelike action in my Final Fantasy? Sure, why not? Here, you control a Chocobo as he wanders in dungeons turn-based style and fight enemies for loot and gold. He can change classes anytime thanks to the Job System, so that you can sling spells for certain situations or even go melee in others.
The enemies can get tougher with each step and progression, and you lose all your items and restart at the beginning of the dungeon when you die. Not exactly as hardcore as other games of its genre, but it’s still fun and charming to warrant a few hours of playthrough.
Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, Xbox 360)
This new chapter in the Final Fantasy series for the PS3 and Xbox 360 was incredibly underwhelming. The developer’s intentions were benevolent – take the Active Time Battle System and make it seamless & action-like. But it takes about 20 hours or so until the full meat of the game gets expanded and becomes open world.
It’s tedious to run through pretty corridors with a female Cloud archetype and having a tutorial telling you mechanics & features you already knew about an hour or two ago. By the time you reach the bits where you can truly customize your characters and go off adventuring, it’s a little too late.
Final Fantasy XIV (PC)
Talk about a spectacular failure at launch. The successor to Final Fantasy XI was broken and shoddily-made; as if a bunch of amateurs were given just a few months to cobble up something resembling a triple-A MMORPG.
With maps that were a bit similar to FFXI, a lot of cut-and-paste assets, and not-so-fun combat and gameplay, it’s no wonder Square Enix publicly apologized for this travesty and rebooted it to something bigger and better in 2013.
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes Of Light (Nintendo DS)
Square Enix felt that its recent FF games at the time were too new and less old-school, so it released this DS wonder to placate its older fanbase. Addictive turn-based combat, a Job System that’s determined by your character’s headgear, chibi-sized heroes waltzing on the overworld while a chiptune hybrid soundtrack played in the background – this was the kind of game RPG fans wanted instead of FFXIII.
As a side note, this was a precursor to the highly acclaimed Bravely Default series for the 3DS.
Dissidia 012 Duodecim Final Fantasy (PSP)
Part 2 of the Dissidia fighting games made much improvements over its predecessor. The core fighting is still retained, but now you have a bigger roster, meatier tweaks to the fighting system such as calling in assists and new counterattack measures, and a beefed-up campaign mode. That last bit is expanded and made more true to the classic overworld system, complete with bonus monsters and loads of booty to pimp your characters.
It also holds the distinction for having the stupidest nonsensical title in a Final Fantasy game (and that’s saying something), but don’t let that get in the way of its fun gameplay and value for money.
-2011 And Beyond-
Final Fantasy Type-0 (PSP, later for Xbox One/PS4 as an HD remaster)
Who knew that the PSP side game that isn’t part of the mothership lineup is a far superior and challenging game than the one with “XIII” in the title? From the same director and team who did Crisis Core: FFVII, this action RPG focused on the eclectic Class Zero, a bunch of magically-powered students tasked to protect the country of Rubrum from invading empires. Its story is a mix between the Harry Potter universe and Battle Royale, but with its own FF flair.
With 14 different characters to mix and match into squads with, oodles of sidequests and missions, and fantastical combat where you can sacrifice your squad member to summon a giant Eidolon to wreck shop, this one comes highly recommended.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 (PS3, Xbox 360)
What went wrong with Final Fantasy XIII? Quite a lot, really. Which is why the sequel fixed everything. Though it lacks some cohesion in its story, at least you get into the action and monster-collecting mechanics straight away right after an epic intro.
You also get to tackle whichever missions and timelines you want in any order. There’s also that end-of-game Colosseum feature where you can fight bigger and badder enemies that aren’t in the main storyline, because that’s been a staple since Shinryu and Omega made their appearance in the older SNES entries.
Overall, it’s a good step forward soured by a cliffhanger ending.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy (3DS)
Whatever possessed Square Enix to take so long to release a music rhythm game for its series known for its score is beyond us. But better late than never. Theatrhythm: FF is a breath of fresh air, where instead of selecting commands to attack enemies and cast spells, you just hit cues and bumpers in accordance to the tune that’s playing to kill enemies and get a high chain of a score.
While it’s fun, this is also another entry where its successor makes this one obsolete.
Final Fantasy Dimensions (iOS, Android)
Take the game mechanics and art style of Final Fantasy IV: The After Year, add in the Job System from FFV, and make up a new story about crystals and such like in past titles. You get the mobile exclusive Final Fantasy Dimensions. A precursor to the later mobile titles in late 2015, this turn-based offering is tailor-made for phones and is jam-packed with hours of content.
Final Fantasy Artniks (iOS, Android)
A free-to-play GREE mobile exclusive title, this oddity of a title features card-based combat and deck building. It’s already discontinued, so you can’t exactly play it now. But you are not really missing much since it’s your typical free-to-play schlock that attracts you with freebies and there’s little staying power to it.
Final Fantasy Airborne Brigade (iOS, Android)
Another one of those free-to-play social RPGs. It has a unique art style that’s used in Theatrhythm, but beyond that, there’s nothing substantial about it. Square Enix sure churn out a lot of these; you wonder if the company would mess up the free-to-play formula.
Final Fantasy All The Bravest (iOS, Android)
And here’s that said free-to-play formula mess Square Enix wrought upon itself. This game was met with a lot of hatred due to its money-grabbing free-to-play but very blatant pay-to-win mechanics.
Just within 10 minutes, you’re asked to pay for resources that are critical to the game. All the 16-bit style sprites of Cloud, Lightning, and so forth is not enough to justify its existence as a cash-grabbing and fan exploitation app.
Still, we appreciate the funny flavor text the game had for its characters and monsters; that sort of self-referential humor only surfaced recently in the most recent Final Fantasy title.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, PS4)
Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Square Enix made a comeback in the online MMO space in the biggest way possible. The game’s content is knee-deep in a mixture of classic Final Fantasy tropes and new lore exclusive to the game. The combat and Job System is engaging and makes for more multiclassing shenanigans, and the extra missions and expansions like Heavensward help keep this game rich with more stuff to do and more Raids to loot exclusive treasure from.
If you missed FFXI, this is the go-to gateway drug to hook up to.
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, Xbox 360)
Rather than stick to a party system, Square Enix decided to just give their fanbase what they wanted: more Lightning until you are sick of her face. The FFXIII protagonist now headlines her own game in a new world of Pulse. She has also been given god-like powers to prevent the extinction of the universe.
This means she’ll be roaming around open worlds doing a bunch of ‘fetch’ quests and loosely-connected story points. She will also be fighting enemies in a real-time action-like combat where she can switch between classes via fashion outfits. It’s a mixed unfocused bag of gameplay parlour tricks that can also get unnecessarily difficult, and feels more like a tech demo for future FF series. A+ for effort though.
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call (3DS)
All the awesomeness of the first Theatrhythm game is now expanded in this 3DS sequel. With over 221 songs to play through, new modes of play like Medley Quests, and Versus mode to battle people online with, this definitive version of an FF music rhythm game is filled to the brim with so much to do and complete. The nostalgic itch from completing tunes like “One-Winged Angel” and “Theme of Love” while with your chibi party of FF heroes will surely be scratched repeatedly thanks to the game’s variety of quests.
Final Fantasy Agito (iOS, Android)
Final Fantasy Type-0 was super fun, right? So how did Square Enix create a follow-up that’s tailored for mobile devices? By removing the one big element that made it fun: the real-time squad based combat. Yes, the squad mechanic is sort of in there in FF Agito, but this Type-0 spin-off is not fun to play at all. There is way too much grinding to do, unreasonably long loading times for a mobile game, and everything about it is just recycled from a far superior game.
Final Fantasy Record Keeper (iOS, Android)
On one hand, its string of unrelated battles set in different Final Fantasy timelines make for some brainless yet surprisingly fun time-wasting turn-based combat gameplay.
On the other, recent events such as its game operators not being transparent about its drop rates system (or “gacha” in the mobile gaming circle) tainted the game’s long-term value with its customer base. Its sprite work, while appealing to some with rose-tinted nostalgic glasses, isn’t the best and makes the game look like a souped-up doujin college project. If there isn’t much of a narrative to go along, there’s no reason to continue and pay for this free-to-play offering.
Final Fantasy Legends: Toki no Suishō (iOS, Android)
The sequel to Final Fantasy Dimensions, this one’s the free-to-play equivalent, and comes with a few minor changes to the turn-based combat and rewards system. It’s the same old, same old, but with a slapdash of in-game micro-transactions, which thankfully don’t break the game down to a “pay to win” free for all. Until the English version comes out, there’s no harm in trying this sucker out.
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius (iOS, Android)
This mobile title blends in new and old Final Fantasy elements and gameplay better than FF Record Keeper. The turn-based combat has shades of Valkyrie Profile’s excellent fighting system. Also, the prospects of recruiting heroes like Terra, Edgar, and Tidus into your party teaming up against bad guys is great on its own merit, especially with the game’s gorgeous sprite artwork that’s part nostalgic and part new.
Yet somehow global operator Gumi is doing its best to screw over its customer base with blatant money-grubbing tactics and not-so-hot global events. It IS a free-to-play game after all; greed will always take centerstage and find some way to mess up an already-good concept.
Give FFBE a shot, but tread carefully and maybe consider investing in the generous and content-filled Japanese version instead.
Final Fantasy Explorers (3DS)
If you loved the action of FFCC: Echoes of Time but wished it had some painstakingly slow collecting bits of the Monster Hunter series, then this 3DS game is for you. Unlike that complex Capcom series, this one’s a bit more on the basic side. True, there are tons of Jobs and classes you can switch to for different play styles, but unless you want to fight FF monsters in a gimped-down Monster Hunter clone, you might as well go for the real thing.
Mobius Final Fantasy (iOS, Android)
Amnesiac half-naked pretty boy fights in a temporal universe in turn-based combat that looks like Final Fantasy XIII, but with cards. The big question here, apart from why it’s so clunky to wade around in-game, is this: why get a half-hearted RPG console game experience on your mobile devices when you might as well just get one of the older PS3 games like FFXIII-2?
Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V, Final Fantasy VI (iOS, Android)
What if we told you that there’s a way to fudge up a bunch of classic Final Fantasy titles? Square Enix did, when they decided to remake their lovely 16-bit sprites with “painstakingly recreated” graphics to fit the modern era. Well, they did get the “pain” part correct, because it looks godawful and almost like a badly-done Korean MMO in the early 2000s. In all seriousness, you are better off with the original versions which you can get on your consoles easily.
Final Fantasy Portal (iOS, Android)
Yes, you can get your latest Final Fantasy news and insights in this mobile exclusive app. But the REAL reason you want to install this in your phone is Triple Triad; the amazingly addictive collectible card game that spun out of FFVIII. True, there’s a free-to-play stamina system in place, but it isn’t enough to downplay the fact that you can play Triple Triad with the AI and your friends on your mobile device.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (Arcade)
Dissidia was such a good fighting game that used the Final Fantasy brand well. So why on earth hasn’t it been ported onto consoles yet? Well, Square Enix may be taking their sweet time with the arcade release of a new Dissidia game.
Call it trolling, but the sad thing is that this Japan exclusive game is great for short bursts of team deathmatch fun in a 3v3 format. With characters now divided into four categories for combat (Heavy, Speed, Shoot, Unique) and fan favorite additions like FF Tactics’ Ramza and FFXIV’s Y’shtola, we hope this next-gen update of a favored fighting game gets onto the PS4 and Xbox One soon.
World of Final Fantasy (PS4, PS Vita)
Now THIS is how you pander to the FF crowd in the best way possible: take all the heroes and creatures of past Final Fantasy game, cute them up, and then throw them into an all-new fanservice story with a simple-yet-addictive combat. You can also collect different FF monsters called Mirages, Pokemon style. But with a twist: your captured creatures can be stacked vertically with heroes. Doing this allows your heroes to become tougher in combat and able to cast bigger spells.
While the overall game can get a tad easy, it makes up for it with its unique gameplay and correct way of mashing up nostalgia with new and memorable story moments, especially the Intervene moments. Who wouldn’t want to use a chibified Lightning and Cloud reliving their specific Final Fantasy battles?
Well, that’s all the over 60 Final Fantasy titles we’ve covered. Tell us which ones of these games on this list (and on Part 1) are your favorites, either on the bottom comments box or on Facebook/Twitter.