Is FF14 The Most Adult Final Fantasy Yet?

Rape, gruesome murders, and sexual innuendo galore, is this Final Fantasy at its most adult?

Spoiler Alert: Spoilers about very minor plot details

Brightly coloured scenery and elaborately dressed characters make “adult” the last thing you’d associate with Square Enix’s popular series. But those playing with their latest installment, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (FF14), will no doubt have noticed that suddenly it’s not all as sweetness and light, apart from the expected minor titillation of the avatars' aesthetics.

The first moment that it hit me about just how adult the storyline has gotten, was moment at Little Ala Mhigo were a character gets raped. That’s right, raped! Of course, you don’t actually see it happen, and the word “rape” isn’t outrightly mentioned; all these things are still rather veiled. But the suggestion is unequivocal; the Garleans have taken to raping refugees displaced by its conquest. And it doesn’t stop there.

Adults Only

Here in the scarred lands of Eorzea, adult issues and themes run riot. It might initially seem that Square Enix are outright trying to shock their players, leaving somebody else to think of the children. Along with rape, there’s plenty of bad language (shite, bitch, piss, bastard, whore), and more sexual innuendo than you can shake a sex-toy at; especially the trio of NPCs at Highbridge.

Parts of the storyline that are plain lewd, or frighteningly morbid. For example, at one point you have to clear out some, er, “lively” peeping toms spying on scantily clad bathing female Miqo'te. And then, at Camp Drybone, you have to collect cadavers and bury them. You’re also sent out to investigate a string of murders where young women are found dead with their faces mutilated beyond recognition. The list goes on.

A blond-haired knights stands in a city-square.

Behind the bright lights lies something darker.

All Grown Up?

But when you think about it, Final Fantasy, consistently praised for its deep storylines, have always covered grim or complex issues. There’s the collateral loss of life from the acts of terrorism that Cloud Strife and AVALANCHE commit at the beginning of Final Fantasy VII. Also, there’s genocide at the opening of Final Fantasy IV. Not to mention a whole host of merciless killings at the hands of many of Square Enix’s antagonists and their pawns.

So, has Square Enix really suddenly developed a penchant for narrative nasties? Ultimately, maybe the answer is both "yes" and "no". Part of what may be the reason is that we, as a fan-base, have grown up. Back when we were teenagers, some of the more severe themes were something we probably didn’t think too deeply about. Now, older, wiser, and perhaps more jaded, things like non-consensual sex and gruesome killings just trouble us a bit more.

But on the other hand, maybe Square Enix acknowledges we're older. With a survey by Pixwoo finding that the average age of gamers is no less than 35 years-old, it could be that they’re more open in creating a game with more overt adult themes, especially when graphically violent games such as Saints Row, Grand Theft Auto, and Hotline Miami dominate the sales charts.

It does seem that there is more grown-up content than before: lecherous guild masters, rank racism, and the rest. Whereas in earlier installments, although we had a bit of violence and unnerving scenarios, it's usually been more about the usual existential crises and rites of passage etc. that became familiar hallmarks for the series.

Even if it makes people a little uncomfortable, or startled at how risqué things have gotten, it all adds to one of the most complex and involving stories that the series has seen so far. I for one, applaud it. It might be dark and adult, but it just makes even the more absorbing in a genre that’s either too emotive or too shallow.

Featured Columnist

Bearded British game-bear. Likes his JRPGs accompanied with a G&T. Lives in London, UK. Also writes a lot about theatre and film. *jazz hands*

Published Jun. 30th 2021
  • jacob_2743
    i think its awesome there making a good adult game there are so few good mmos out there that are targeted for adults
  • Konrad Curze
    You have a point with your reference to FFVII But there is no genocide in the intro for FFIV. Every NPC that it shows them defeating is not killed. Just wanted to point that out since IV is one of my three favorite FF games.
  • amp_4588
    Yes there are a few things in this game. . . THere are probably many that I have not realised, I only really first noticed it when in one quest a guy entions that "he and his mother and sister were captured by the garleans: he was forced to work for them and they were forced to do far worse". I don't always read the quest line but I glimpsed that, and then it slapped me in the face. The references are there, but you wont always notice them.
  • [[Deleted]]
    I think its a more realistic approach to the games storyline myself.

    With audiences getting older, or more adult-minded, it would be a slap to our proverbial face's to say "Oh.. we conquered you and kicked you out of your homes, goodbye and good luck"..

    ... no most likely they would rape and pillage, murder and maim, that's just the grim truth. It's something we don't like to admit but its unfortunately one of those things that's in our nature as human beings. I was fortunate enough to have a very blunt and outgoing history teacher in school that talked about that stuff, as I know alot of teachers tip-toe and try to ignore those issues.

    Its not that my teacher, or Square Enix is trying to make us jaded,cynical and insensitive, but on the other hand their not ignoring that this sort of thing that inevitably is going to happen, especially in a world on the brink or in a state of war, and I say good on em.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    Great read. Thanks!
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    Excellent points; older audiences are curiously more suited to, and often more sensitive to, disturbing plot devices. Square will need to strike the right balance to stay serious without ostracizing players.

    Hopefully parents with 12 year olds asking to play FFXIV see your article before giving the okay. Do you think the T - Teen ESRB rating is appropriate or would some of these be too explicit for 13-14 year olds?
  • Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
    Featured Columnist
    I think SE has the balance just right at the moment, in my opinion; although, it is a bit of a shocker when you first realise how dark and risqué they're being. There has been some scaling back, though. For example, the icon for the dead body(s) you're carrying around in your inventory (!) changed from a rotting head in the beta, to a nice inoffensive white lilly for the actual release. So it seems that they're aware of the boundaries and listening to players.

    As far as the ESRB rating, I think the adult themes are veiled enough for only more aware grown ups to really notice and be affected by. It'll most likely go straight over the heads of younger teenagers, I'd wager. As much as I wax lyrical about its adult content, whilst parents should always be aware of game content and ESRBs (or PEGI in EU), I don't think FFXIV poses too much of a threat of child trauma!

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