Big franchises often take advantage of their fame and appeal with a variety of spin-offs. The RPG juggernaut Final Fantasy is no different and throughout the years it has experimented with many different flavors. Some worked out much better than we ever expected; others were complete disasters. One thing is certain: Final Fantasy spin-offs aren’t going away.

Square Enix just launched Final Fantasy Explorers this week in North America and World of Final Fantasy is currently in development. But we didn’t want a list that just discussed ‘respectable’ games like Crisis Core or Revenant Wings or select average titles like Final Fantasy: Chocobo’s Dungeon and Final Fantasy Dimensions. What good does that do? We wanted to zoom in on the best creations, while also looking at the games that went horribly wrong.

The Best

Kingdom Hearts
When people heard of a Disney/Final Fantasy crossover, they were skeptical. These aren’t properties you’d expect to come together for an action/RPG, but it ended up being one of Square Enix’s best decisions. Kingdom Hearts is now one of its most popular franchises. Visiting Disney worlds is a blast, and while the Final Fantasy characters aren’t integral to the experience, it’s fun to see them in this new universe and weaved into the story. Furthermore, the action gameplay is challenging and thrilling, not handing you anything easy just because it’s a Disney collaboration. Kingdom Hearts also established its own identity by creating new characters, such as Sora, Rikku, and Kairi, in a fight against the Heartless. What starts out as a simple concept, soon spans into an ever-complex story with plenty of twists and new reveals for fans to piece together. If you haven’t checked it out yet, we recommend playing the mainline entries and Birth by Sleep.

Why It’s Among The Best: You get to enter awesome Disney worlds and battle their villains, need I say more? Beyond that, the action combat is complex and fun, and you’re also spending time interacting with cool characters whether they’re from Disney, Final Fantasy, or created for the franchise. The story may be convoluted, but it has enough ‘heart’ to keep fans playing every spin-off and entry just to figure it all out. 

Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics launched in 1998 in North America and quickly earned acclaim while growing a devoted fanbase. The strategy/RPG helped put the genre on the map, combining tense battles that required careful planning with the iconic Final Fantasy job system. Tactics also stood out for its mature and tense storyline following Ramza and his childhood friend, Delita. Both are from different social classes and their ideals and goals change as they grow up, forcing them to take different paths. It’s touching and relatable at the same time, but the most fun comes from building up your recruits and outsmarting the enemy. Final Fantasy Tactics’ legacy has lived on thanks to re-releases and enhanced ports. It even spawned its own spin-offs, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (available today on Wii U virtual console) and Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift. We recommend checking out the enhanced port of the original, War of the Lions, which you can download on your Vita, iPhone, or iPad. It still remains the best of the bunch. 

Why It’s Among The Best: Tactics hands down delivers some of the best strategy/RPG gameplay you can find, and it also has an intriguing political story with memorable plot twists. The progression loop makes it hard to put down and building characters using the class system never gets old. You can even recruit monsters into your party. This helped set a solid foundation for strategy/RPGs, making you feel the thrill of thinking your way through every battle.

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy
Final Fantasy has earned a reputation for its fantastic music over the years, bringing waves of fans to auditoriums for concerts (Distant Worlds, Dear Friends) to celebrate it. In 2012, Square Enix decided to create a rhythm game to give fans just another place to revel in the series’ wonderful tunes. The music game celebrated the franchise’s RPG roots by having characters level up and battle, providing tunes from various situations, from field music to dramatic events. Theatrhythm is easy to grasp – notes hit from left to right and tap, swipe, or hold down the stylus depending on the note. If you want to give the franchise a try, you’re best to go with Curtain Call, as it has new tracks and contains all the music from the first entry.

Why It’s Among The Best: The Final Fantasy music is one of the series’ strongest components, and making a game that celebrates that is smart. It gives fans the feeling like they’re conducting their own Final Fantasy. Obviously, this series doesn’t pack as big of a punch as Kingdom Hearts or Tactics, but we reward a good idea when we see one. If you want to live out all the iconic music, the Theatrhythm games give you enough reason and fun to do so, even if you’ve never been all that great at rhythm games.

Click on the next page for our picks for the worst....