Editor’s Choice: 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into the Series

editors choice 5 final fantasy games to break into the series 349423

As Final Fantasy turns 35, and with hundreds of games bearing its name, dipping a toe into the series may seem daunting—but here are five great entry points.

With names like Final Fantasy XVI or Crisis Core Final Fantasy VII Reunion, the Final Fantasy series may seem somewhat impenetrable. Newcomers often ask, do I need to play all of the games in order to understand what’s going on? What about all of these other games?

In reality, this cornerstone of Japanese RPGs is actually quite welcoming for the uninitiated. With 35 years of history under its belt, Square Enix’s flagship series has experienced several different eras as creators came and went, as former competitors Square and Enix combined into one entity, and as the gaming industry has drastically evolved around it. Each new game draws in a fresh cohort of fans who are drawn to its unique worlds, dynamic characters, and stimulating gameplay, and you don’t need to have played any of the other games to start enjoying them.

If you’ve ever asked “where do I begin playing Final Fantasy games,” here’s a primer on the 5 best games to get your feet wet.

Editors Choice 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into The Series 898871
Most of Final Fantasy XV‘s biggest criticisms matter less if you play it before its more conventional predecessors.

5. Final Fantasy XV

This might seem a controversial addition to the list for experienced fans, but it’s justified. The story of Final Fantasy XV‘s development and launch is a convoluted and messy one. However, if you’re coming to it with fresh eyes in 2022, the most recent numbered installment is actually an interesting window into the franchise.

The story revolves around Noctis, a prince who’s on a pre-wedding road trip with his best friends/bodyguards when the sins of his ancestors bring his world crashing down around him. Its open-world exploration is palatable for modern sensibilities, and helps ease newcomers into many of the series’ conventions—like epic summons and crystals.

While many long-time fans were turned off by how different Final Fantasy XV was, especially after all the promises made during its long development, it’s proven a welcoming installment, and one of the few games in the franchise to clear ten million sales. Since it’s so uncharacteristically different, it proves less jarring if you play it before its more classic ancestors.

Definitive Edition: As the most recent main series entry, FFXV is available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. Just be sure you’re playing the Royal Edition if you’re on consoles—the game received critical patches, updates, and DLC that complete the experience (as much as it can be complete, without the cancelled DLC or the supplementary multimedia experiences).

Editors Choice 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into The Series 788114

4. Final Fantasy

You don’t have to start playing from the beginning, but there is a certain appeal to going back to square one with the original and retracing the entire journey. Developed as a sort of “Hail Mary” play by Square in 1987, and following in Dragon Quest‘s footsteps, Final Fantasy proved to be such a big hit that it spawned five titles over the next five years, and cemented itself and the genre as a household name on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.

As a Famicom/NES title, this formative classic is somewhat simple by modern standards and heavily leans into conventions established by Advanced Dungeons & Dragons at the time. You pick a party of four at the start of the game, choosing from six classes—Warrior, Thief, Black Belt, White Mage, Black Mage, or Red Mage—and embark on a quest to restore the elemental crystals. It’s not without challenges or twists, however. While some archaic elements might chafe new players, it’s worth the trip down memory lane to examine the sturdy foundation Square built a massive franchise on.

Definitive Edition: The Pixel Remaster series breathed new life into the first 6 Final Fantasy games, and is the most practical way of playing them—however, these remasters are currently (and bafflingly) only available on Steam and mobile at the moment. I highly recommend trying the Steam edition, which can be enjoyed on a Steam Deck or via Remote Play, and can run competently even on outdated PCs. (The mobile has no controller support, which is a real bummer.

Editors Choice 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into The Series 706075

3. Final Fantasy IX

The PlayStation 1 era was good to Squaresoft, but as the PS2 approached, a paradigm shift was clearly about to take effect. Producer and series godfather Hironobu Sakaguchi intended Final Fantasy IX to be a swansong for the hardware, the era, and the entire series so far, and the result is one of the most objectively essential entries in the franchise.

Honouring its eight ancestors while also serving up an excellent story in its own right, FFIX starts off with a somewhat whimsical or fairy tale vibe. Over the course of its four-disc story, this saga will pull your heartstrings in every direction while offering your brain one of the most satisfying feasts of scenarios, character development, and quests the series has to offer. Its playable cast covers the spectrum of unique classes that had appeared to date, from the thief Zidane and summoner Garnet, to dragoon Freya and Black Mage Vivi (the bestest boy, a precious marshmallow who must be protected).

What is Final Fantasy? There’s no easy answer to that, but FFIX might just be the easiest example of the series’ spirit. It’s fitting that this was one of Sakaguchi’s last projects at Square: a digest of its conventions and presentation, or at least a summary of its formative preteen years under his direct guidance.

Definitive Edition: An upscaled HD version is available on PS4, Switch, Steam, and Xbox, and is the most accessible, practical version of the game (for now, anyway—remake rumours continue to swell).

Editors Choice 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into The Series 504256
FINAL FANTASY X/X-2 HD Remaster_20150216170259

2. Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X was the result of that paradigm shift Square saw coming alongside the PS2. Following from the “greatest hits” success of FFIX, FFX broke new ground for the franchise and the medium, as the first entry to utilize voice acting.

The otherworldly narrative of struggling against fate and parental legacies, coupled with the unique and varied world of Spira, was truly stunning in its own time. Protagonist Tidus can be a bit of a brat, but he’s balanced by a roster of well-developed allies who all get a turn to shine. One of the series’ best battle systems ramps up throughout the plot and culminates in major story encounters that are as stimulating as their scenarios are epic.

Over time FFX has remained near and dear to the hearts of a wide swath of fans from myriad backgrounds. The innovations that made it so groundbreaking for the PS2 still make it accessible to newcomers, thanks to a HD Remaster that keeps it near at hand for newcomers and old fans on their twelfth playthrough alike. It’s been a stalwart gateway for countless other fans, and it may make you fall in love with the series too.

Available on: The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster is available on all current platforms, containing the bonus content of the International Versions, and a frankly staggering amount of content in one package. Its sequel is a major tonal shift, but worth it for the lightning-fast battle system alone.

Editors Choice 5 Final Fantasy Games To Break Into The Series 599911

1. Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII may be a cliche choice to top this list. Depending on which fan of the franchise you ask, you may be told it’s the greatest thing to happen to games, or you might be told it’s overrated and ancient. Both perspectives might be right. Its release 25 years was a defining moment not just for Square and the franchise, but for Sony, and the medium of gaming as a whole. It was a proof-of-concept for what the PlayStation could achieve and, alongside Super Mario 64, shaped the entire hardware generation.

As the seventh entry in its series, Final Fantasy VII represented a major paradigm shift. Its world embraced technology in a way no other had, stepping closer to modern or science fiction settings. The previous game’s huge cast was halved, and a brooding mercenary with an impractically large sword was the protagonist. Production values soared, and the game came to life like nothing else before it.

This game is considered iconic and one of the best games ever for good reason—it raised the bar in its time, and it still holds up to this day, even if its graphics aren’t as keen as they once were. An amazing score, stunning set pieces, plenty of side quests, an engrossing battle system… Final Fantasy VII has it all. If nothing else, it’s worth playing once just to see what all the hype is about.

Definitive Edition: The most recent port for major consoles and Steam checks all of the boxes. Once you’ve beaten the original game, be sure to check out the Remake and Crisis Core Reunion to further flesh out the tale.

Of course, if you’ve ever been intrigued by a casual glimpse at another Final Fantasy game, check it out, by all means. These aren’t the only games that can initiate you into the franchise, just a handful that have engrossed countless others before. The great thing about Final Fantasy is that each game is diverse and unique; there are common threads and DNA, but each can stand on its own merits. Square/Squaresoft/Square Enix’s willingness to take chances with its biggest IP since day one has created a captivating lineage, and a broad spectrum of epic tales and battles to be experienced.

Happy 35th anniversary, Final Fantasy, and thanks for all the memories.

<div data-conversation-spotlight></div>

Latest Stories

best tablet 2023 23013001 1

Best Tablet 2023

you hurt my feelings review sundance 2023 23013001 2

You Hurt My Feelings Review – Sundance 2023

best playstation 5 games 2022 23013001

Best PlayStation 5 Game 2022

best audio solution 2023 23013001 1

Best Audio Solution 2023

the pathless nintendo switch review 23013101 1

The Pathless (Nintendo Switch) Review