Final Fantasy is one of the largest JRPG franchises in the history of the genre, with countless spin-off’s, sequels, and remakes making up its robust catalog. These games have brought both laughter and tears to an audience of millions over the years.
With Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age out on shelves, those interested in trying a Final Fantasy game may feel overwhelmed due to the sheer amount of possible entries in the series. Luckily, these five Final Fantasy games are perfect for newcomers.
Final Fantasy XV
The latest game in the mainline series, Final Fantasy XV eschews the Active Time Battle System (ATB) present in most Final Fantasy games and instead wows players with intense, real-time action. While the focus on intense action may turn off lifelong fans, those wary of turn-based combat will have a blast fighting their way through the world of Eos.
Even with the combat changes, Final Fantasy XV is, at heart, a Final Fantasy game. Following Noctis throughout a tale of adventure and war provides the emotional stakes seen in any Final Fantasy game — all with added Blockbuster flair. An open world aids this adventure by imbuing the game with the sense of grandiosity needed for an adventure like this. While it’s the latest entry in the FF series, Final Fantasy XV is perfect for the action-loving newcomer.
Final Fantasy VI
For those who enjoy turn-based combat, the SNES classic Final Fantasy VI will satisfy your tastes in addition to providing a fantastic cast of characters. The ATB combat system shines in its full glory as you fight to achieve peace in a chaotic world. Esper customization increases the strategic depth of FFVI, allowing you to create the perfect battle party.
However, all of the gameplay is overshadowed (in a good way) by the endearing characters as they grow in a fantastical world. From Locke, the protective treasure hunter with a bit of wit, to Shadow, an assassin with a mysterious past, these adventurers must struggle and overcome their personal obstacles to save the world from a maniacal villain.
Final Fantasy VI ties these powerful elements together with a tale full of both lighthearted adventure and dark drama. Final Fantasy VI is one of the best Final Fantasy games of all time and shows newcomers the best of what Final Fantasy has to offer.
Final Fantasy IX
While Final Fantasy VII revolutionized the JRPG genre, its flaws make it a harder introduction to those unfamiliar with Final Fantasy. It has aged harshly and poor translation diminishes the plot. However, Final Fantasy IX serves as a fantastic introduction to the series, even though it wasn’t as groundbreaking as FFVII.
Final Fantasy IX exudes the traditional Final Fantasy charm while providing the extravagance seen on only a handful of PlayStation adventures. Yes, the combat can be slow, but with the ability to plan how your characters learn and grow, each victory brings its own rewards. There is a lightheartedness seen throughout the game that brings joy and adventure in a way not seen in many games today. Characters live through and bring excitement to both the story and the player. Enjoy the world and characters, as you fly through Final Fantasy IX.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Unlike the mainline series, which usually has a consistent level of quality, the Final Fantasy spin-off’s vary wildly. From horrible cash-grabs to amazing titles, there’s a lot of varying quality to be had here. Luckily, Final Fantasy Tactics is a fantastic strategy RPG that rivals the greats. Survive in a world torn apart by war and corruption, with both allies and enemies manipulating and killing each other to pursue their own goals. Watch as close friends become hated enemies, and families turn against each other. While not as overly dark as some games, Final Fantasy Tactics has a harsh world with everyone, both good and evil, struggling and suffering.
This weight is seen in the combat as well, with the possibility of each move being your last. Enemies are challenging and brutal, forcing the player to prioritize and think strategically as they handle each mission. Sadly, grinding is required to unlock classes and gain an edge in combat. Yet that grinding leads to new and interesting strategies as the player customizes their party for battle.
Final Fantasy Tactics rivals the mainline series in terms of quality and gives a darker edge to the standard fantasy world.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac may seem like an odd choice, but with it out on shelves now, it is a fantastic entry point for newcomers. Follow Vaan, a petty thief way over his head, as he aids Princess Ashe in freeing Dalmasca from the Archadian Empire. While Vaan himself seems one dimensional, the people around him are entertaining and interesting. May it be the leading man or the falsely accused, every character in Final Fantasy XII has a story. Engage in epic boss battles with combat that blends the strategy traditional ATB System and the fluidity of MMO combat with the use of Gambits.
The major issues that plagued the original PS2 release of FFXII have been alleviated in the remaster. For example, grinding and backtracking padded out areas and wasted the players time, but with the added ability to speed up game time, long grinding sessions become quick and painless. The Zodiac Job System, an addition seen in the international release, but not in the North American one, gives players structure to their character progression and gives each party member a purpose. With the major flaws of Final Fantasy XII mitigated, it becomes a must-play for both newcomers and fans of Final Fantasy.
Final Fantasy is a fantastic series that has revolutionized both RPG’s and gaming as whole. With Final Fantasy XIV going strong and a remake of Final Fantasy VII in the works, Final Fantasy will touch the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. As long as new entries capture newcomers like the games above can, Final Fantasy will thrive.