It’s hard not to talk about Final Fantasy XV at this point, but then, it’s hard not to talk about the series in general. With the first eponymous title having released in Japan back in 1987, you can expect the year to be full of celebration of Square-Enix’s flagship series, the one that came before hearts and associated kingdoms, before the merged company was questing for dragons, and long before tombs and the raiding thereof.
But here’s the fun part: Even if you’ve already played every numbered installment, you’ve still probably got some titles in the franchise you’ve never played. After all, three decades is a long time, and there are a lot of spin-offs, side stories, and connected titles that you can jump into if you’re new to the franchise or an old friend.
Here, then, are some of the better titles that are also on the more obscure side. There are lots of spinoffs for the series that span mobile phones, handheld consoles, and various re-release formats, but these are the ones you might miss outright if you assume that Final Fantasy XV just had 14 predecessors.
1. Final Fantasy Dimensions
If you’re an old-school fan of the franchise from the days of Final Fantasy VI, you may also be a fan who’s loudly complaining about the fact that we haven’t really gotten a direct sequel to the series’ SNES history. But we have! Final Fantasy Dimensions came out in 2012, and it’s really more or less everything you could want if you’re a fan of the days when games were cartridges, graphics were sprites, and “blow on it and try again” was useful advice.
FFD follows the story of two separate adventuring parties, the Warriors of Light and the Warriors of Darkness, as they seek to understand a magical cataclysm that has hit the crystals (and, by extension, the world). Players can swap between numerous jobs for both parties, equipping secondary abilities learned by leveling jobs; you also unlock additional levels in jobs over time, and both Light Warriors and Dark Warriors earn new (and divergent) job options during play. It’s a nostalgia trip for old-school fans and a fine way to while away time besides.
Acquiring the game: Some of the titles on this list can be a bit hard to pick up, but this one is going to mostly depend on your hardware; Final Fantasy Dimensions is available for iOS and Android mobile devices, but not for any console or PC platforms. It’s probably best played on a tablet, but you can manage with a phone if you don’t have a tab – and it’s well worth the entry price if you can.
2. Final Fantasy Adventure
The Mana series, for most people in North America, seemed to have started and more or less ended with the excellent Secret of Mana on the Super Nintendo. What’s easy to miss is that that game was itself a sequel to an explicit Final Fantasy spinoff, sort of a halfway point between the traditional gameplay of Final Fantasy games and the top-down adventuring of classic Legend of Zelda titles.
As you might expect, the gameplay still holds up remarkably well over the years, although what hasn’t held up terribly well is the branding. Every remake of the game (and there have been several) tends to drop the Final Fantasy connection for one of several titles tying it back into the Mana franchise, which makes a certain amount of sense, but also means that you could easily miss that the game existed in the first place.
Acquiring the game: Despite the wishes of the fans, the original title is still not available on the various Nintendo Virtual Console stores, so you’ll have to settle for the 3D remake Adventures of Mana on Android, iOS, and PlayStation Vita. Or you can hunt down the original Game Boy cartridge, if you feel like making more of a project out of it.
3. Vagrant Story
The answer of whether or not Vagrant Story is a Final Fantasy game changes depending on the day of the week, but the bulk of the evidence indicates that it is. The game never explicitly says where it takes place, but it’s full of evidence that it takes place in Ivalice, and a lot of contextual clues support the idea that it’s a sequel, in ways, to Final Fantasy XII. Considering that both titles are the brainchild of Yasumi Matsuno, this is not entirely surprising.
But even if you aren’t totally sold on the connection, there’s plenty to like within the game itself; it’s a one-man romp through a complex city full of jumping puzzles, magical traps, and weapon customization. Figuring out the game’s in-depth reforging system will take up plenty of time, and it will also be integral to properly dealing with the game’s array of magical beasts. And if you like terse political stories about complex power interplays like Final Fantasy XII… suffice to say you’re in for a treat.
Acquiring the game: This one is nice and easy; it’s on the PlayStation Network, so you can easily download and play on a variety of different consoles and handheld devices. Although it’s still a game meant for prolonged session play, so don’t expect to load it onto a PSP and just pick up and go.
4. The Final Fantasy Legends series
While Final Fantasy Adventure is a title always included in the franchise that has later been excised, The Final Fantasy Legend was never part of the franchise in Japan. It’s part of a wholly different series, the SaGa series which most people remember for going hideously off the rails into unplayable with Unlimited Saga. These three titles, then, are forgotten.
This is a shame, though, as The Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Legend II, and Final Fantasy Legend III are still really interesting games partly because of their weirdness. Even if they got into the franchise via backdoor branding, you can’t really compare to the niftiness of a game that lets you install parts to turn your characters into cyborgs or evolve into new forms based on eating monster meat. They’re far afield from the usual franchise, in other words.
(Full credit to GameFAQs for the screenshot.)
Acquiring the game: Unfortunately, this is going to be difficult. Final Fantasy Legend II had a re-release on the Nintendo DS back in 2009, but only in Japan; Final Fantasy Legend III, which may be the best of the batch, has never had a re-release since 1998. You’ll need to hunt down the original cartridges and a working Game Boy to play through these, or resort to emulation.
5. Final Fantasy Tactics
If the only experience you have with this series involves the subtitle “Advance,” you’re missing out. Final Fantasy Tactics is a marvelous game that was still eminently playable long after its release, and its updated re-release The War of the Lions is an even better game, complete with a translation that hasn’t been mangled beyond all comprehensibility.
Aside from featuring excellent tactical battles that pit players against a variety of terrain features and force you to think about aspects of jobs that you would have never otherwise considered, FFT features a complex, mature plot covering the rise and fall of nations while the player characters move on the periphery of huge events. It’s a game that still has an active fan base and community nearly two decades after it came out in North America, and it’s the sort of game you can lose yourself in for months… even after you’ve beaten it.
Acquiring the game: Fortunately, this one is easy; the remake for the PSP is a few years old, but the game is also available for iOS and Android devices, so you can doubtlessly find some way to play it.
6. Final Fantasy Explorers
Pretty much all of the titles on here are older titles, since many of them came out in a time when the game industry was akin to the Wild West, with no sort of central knowledge about what in the world was coming out for any given system. Final Fantasy Explorers, though, is just a year old, but it seems to have been largely forgotten despite that… which is a shame, as it’s a fun game with lots to recommend it.
While the story is more or less purely an excuse plot, the actual gameplay is something of a fusion between Final Fantasy and the Monster Hunter series, with elements of Final Fantasy XI‘s baroque design. It also has a strong multiplayer focus, which encourages you to spread the game to your friends and farm up weird items together. That’s always fun.
Acquiring the game: Again, this one came out in 2016; it shouldn’t be too difficult to find. It’s only for the 3DS, but since the 3DS is about as common as air molecules, that shouldn’t pose a problem.
7. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
With the Final Fantasy VII remake on the way, it’s a fair bet that Square-Enix has forgotten that the plot of that game was in no small part focused on how Cloud Strife wasn’t a hero. He was some random dude pretending to be a hero for the sake of his ego. Harsh? Yes. But you can play as the hero of Final Fantasy VII; you just have to jump back to the prequel, Crisis Core. Which was released many years later, of course.
Crisis Core is an odd blend of turn-based and real-time combat set in the same world with a number of new systems derived from Final Fantasy VII‘s Materia system, with the story filling in the events before the start of the main entry. So you get all of the fun of swinging a huge sword without a hero who lapses into catatonia partway through. It’s win-win.
Acquiring the game: This one is only a few years old, but you’ll need a PSP to play it, which might actually be more of a chore than finding the game itself. Gaming is weird like that.