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The Final Fantasy franchise has a massive dedicated following, and gamers all have their favorite installments. The best and worst entries are often debated among friends and fans, with no clear winners. Everybody seems to have an opinion, so here's mine.
I've been playing Final Fantasy since the original's release on the NES, and have played every installment in the series. That doesn't make my opinion more valuable than anyone else's, but it does put me in a position to compare and rank the games based on my experiences. Keep in mind that these are my personal rankings, not some official Game Informer stance on the subject.
Note that this list only covers the 14 core Final Fantasy games. Extensions (Final Fantasy X-2), spin-offs (Final Fantasy Tactics), mash-togethers (Dissidia), and unreleased titles (Final Fantasy Versus XIII) aren't included. Ranking everything bearing the Final Fantasy name during the franchise's nearly 25 years would be a daunting task, so I'll just stick to the main numbered titles. Plus, remembering projects like Dirge of Cerberus just depresses me.
On that note, what better place to start than at the bottom?
14. Final Fantasy XIV
To call Final Fantasy XIV's development and release "troubled" would be charitable. Calling it a "train wreck" is more apt, considering that even Square Enix president Yoichi Wada declared that the game "greatly damaged" the Final Fantasy brand. Normally, I'm against judging a game until I've given it a fair shot, and I haven't played Final Fantasy XIV long enough to level any specific complaints against it. However, of all the games on this list, this is the only one that I have no desire to play under any circumstance. So, by default, it goes in last place.
13. Final Fantasy II
Because it wasn't originally localized and released Stateside, I didn't play Final Fantasy II until it was packaged as part of Final Fantasy Origins on PSone. By that time, I had already finished Final Fantasy, and stepping backwards isn't easy. I don't have anything against playing older titles, but the dumb leveling system and dull story in this entry fail to immerse players in the world or the combat. Nostalgia is a powerful force when it comes to ranked lists like this, and I think Final Fantasy II might have placed higher if I had played it in its proper time and place.
12. Final Fantasy III
Similar to Final Fantasy II, this entry didn't release in North America on its native system. Instead, we got our first official release with the Final Fantasy III remake on DS. As a series enthusiast, this game is interesting because you see early forms of ideas before they were refined and included in later games (like the jobs of FF V), but the storytelling and pacing just aren't up to the standards set by other Final Fantasy titles. I'm pretty sure FF III marks the first appearance of Moogles, though, so that's worth something.
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Completely agree with you on Final Fantasy VI. Not so sure about the rest of the list. I would have put XII at a higher position than XIII.
8/7/6 all first place -4 -10 -... everything else
10 would be higher than 4 if it wasnt for the winy protagonist