Currently, there are fifteen mainline numbered Final Fantasy games, with even more if you start to include spinoffs, remakes, and pseudo-sequels.
Every Final Fantasy game brings something new to the table, whether it be exciting new worlds to explore, interesting characters to interact with or unique gameplay elements to challenge veteran gamers.
There is a reason this franchise has continued to be a success and continues to push out high-quality games. Every subsequent release expands on the strong foundation of the previous entry while doing everything it can to push the boundaries of what a Final Fantasy game is or can be.
What was supposed to be a last-ditch effort by Square before giving up game development has now turned into one of the most popular and beloved gaming IPs on the planet.
With 15 entries to choose from, dipping one’s toes into the Final Fantasy pool can be daunting. However, we are here today to recommend some of the best Final Fantasy games for newcomers.
These games not only offer easy-to-digest gameplay and storylines but encapsulate everything about what makes a Final Fantasy game a Final Fantasy game.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at which Final Fantasy game you should play first!
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade
Final Fantasy VII is considered by many to not only be the greatest Final Fantasy game ever made but a strong contender for the best video game of all time.
Final Fantasy VII revolutionized the JRPG genre thanks to its exhilarating storyline, lovable characters, and challenging gameplay.
When it came time to remake a Final Fantasy game, there really was no other choice than the fan favorite Final Fantasy VII.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is easily one of the best JRPGs on PS5 and Steam at the moment.
Final Fantasy VII Remake reimagines the world of its source material in glorious HD. Never before have Cloud, Tifa, and Aerith felt so alive and bursting with personality.
The inclusion of voice acting helps to tell the game’s story so effectively, and while many have raised issues with the overindulgence of anime grunts, the good here far outweighs the bad.
It should be stated that Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is not a full remake of the original game. This is more like the first third of the full game.
This does feel at times like the content of the original is being stretched, but it also allows for so much more additional content to be added. Nowhere is this seen more than with Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade’s characters.
Characters like Jessie, who received very little screen time in the PlayStation classic, are now fully realized characters with their own backstory we get to explore.
The overall story is left relatively unchanged aside from an earlier inclusion of a certain character, and the plot feels even more epic now we get to see so many new and revamped characters.
However, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is not a movie, and the game would not be nearly as successful as it is without the gameplay to back up such a gripping narrative.
Luckily, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade’s gameplay is stellar. This game does away with the traditional turn-based combat system found in most other traditional JRPGs.
Here instead, is a real-time action system that has become the standard of the modern Final Fantasy title.
This keeps gameplay exciting and reactive where you must now not only administer damage but dodge incoming attacks as well.
Additionally, magic can still be used in menus giving old-school fans a little something to scratch their turn-based itch.
From the absolutely stunning visuals, the amazing cast of fully voice-acted characters, and the fast-paced action combat, Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade is the best Final Fantasy for newcomers looking to get into the series.
Final Fantasy VII
If you are looking for more of a traditional game for your first adventure into the world of Final Fantasy, why not try out what many consider to be the best game in the entire franchise?
As mentioned, Final Fantasy VII is a fan favorite, with many of the cast members (such as Cloud and Sephiroth) going on to collaborate with other games such as Kingdom Hearts and Super Smash Brothers.
Let’s kick things off with Final Fantasy VII’s storyline. Unlike Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade’s story, things are a little trickier to follow in Final Fantasy VII.
This is partially because the game as a whole is much longer but also because a lot of dedicated reading is required to understand things fully.
Character relationships, motivations, and the end goal are all relatively well explained. However, when it comes time to talk about Sephiroth’s birth, Mako, and the lore of the world, things will often get lost.
Luckily, having a full working comprehension of Final Fantasy VII as a whole is not required to enjoy the game at all.
Final Fantasy VII opts for traditional turn-based combat in which you can cycle through menus to choose attacks and abilities. After executing an action, you will need to wait a short while before you can move again, during which time the enemy will likely attack.
There are so many nuances to this combat system that only deepen the further into the game you progress. Magic, summons, Materia, and gear all play a role in powering up your units, of which you are to choose any three you want from a large cast of party members.
Additionally, there are certain secret characters that can only be found by performing certain actions. This makes Final Fantasy VII that much more replayable, as playing through the entire game with Barett and Tifa is completely different than doing so with Yuffie and Vincent.
With so much going for it, it is clear to see why Final Fantasy VII has touched the hearts of so many gamers across the world. If you are interested in playing through the pinnacle of JRPG goodness, Final Fantasy VII is the game for you.
Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy is often praised for having some of the most impactful and revolutionary storylines in all of gaming.
When it comes to the best narrative overall, complete with a truly threatening yet realistic villain, no game does it better than Final Fantasy VI.
Final Fantasy VI perfectly blends its storytelling into the game world in a way that always makes the more mature themes feel more real.
Without spoiling the story too much, Kefka is one of the greatest villains in video game history. His motivations are a lot deeper than wanting to take over the world, which at the time was the backstory of a lot of JRPG villains.
We couldn’t talk about Final Fantasy VI without talking about the music as well. Final Fantasy VI has some of the most memorable songs in all of gaming, with many still being remixed and repurposed in subsequent Final Fantasy games to this day.
Furthermore, it cannot be stated enough how so many of these amazing songs were created using the technical limitations of the SNES!
All in all, Final Fantasy VI is a great starting point for those looking to experience the pinnacle of storytelling in the Final Fantasy series.
Most Final Fantasy games have a self-contained story. Aside from exceptions such as Final Fantasy XIII-2, no prior knowledge of any previous Final Fantasy games is required to play any subsequent games in the series.
However, if you want to see where this franchise began, and several mechanics which still persist in Final Fantasy as a whole, the first game in the series is a fun place to start.
If you need good graphics to enjoy a game, the original Final Fantasy is not for you. The game was originally released in 1987, and although the pixel graphics come with their own kind of charm, the black backgrounds during fight scenes, static characters, and lack of any distinguishing features do not hold up well.
The gameplay, however, is still solid enough to be enjoyable and is split between the overhead exploration segments and the turn-based battle sections.
Players will control their core party of four characters, including a warrior, a mage, and a healer. Players will quickly see that the original inspirations for the popular Black Mage and White Mage class have stayed relatively untouched since the first game.
The original Final Fantasy is fun as a look back on how far the series has come. Almost everything about the original is very dated, but that doesn’t mean the game is not enjoyable.
That being said, fans of retro JRPGs or Final Fantasy as a whole will likely get the most enjoyment out of this title.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is the newest mainline numbered Final Fantasy. As such, it comes equipped with the highest quality graphics, every quality of life improvement added to the series over the years, and an easy-to-digest yet enjoyable story.
Final Fantasy XV follows the story of Prince Noctis and his friends as he embarks on a journey to reclaim his kingdom that has been invaded by an enemy empire.
Final Fantasy XV has so much charm and comedic writing to display. The game feels like one giant road trip as you travel from location to location in a patented black car.
Listening in on the dialogue and witty banter between the four main leads is very entertaining and gives much-needed levity to the more serious moments of the game.
The combat in Final Fantasy XV is real-time, action-based, where you play as Noctis and can administer various attacks on enemies.
However, your party members will also assist you in the fight with their own skills, both offensively and defensively.
Overall, Final Fantasy XV is not the best Final Fantasy game in terms of gameplay or storyline.
However, what it lacks in perfection, it makes up for in mindless fun. Never before has a Final Fantasy game managed to toe the line between lighthearted fun and seriousness so effortlessly.
Definitely be sure to check out Final Fantasy XV if you have not done so already.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the only Final Fantasy game you will ever need.
When it comes to the overall content, story, music, art, combat, and customization, no Final Fantasy game can compete with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.
Yes, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is an MMORPG with several expansions.
However, the game is still a great introduction to the world of Final Fantasy, and several mainstay elements (such as the Primals) make their appearance here too.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn places you at the center of the story. Not Cloud, not Noctis, but you as the player are a core component of this game’s storyline.
Furthermore, the game allows you to play through this story in any class you choose, with the freedom to switch between jobs whenever you choose.
Because of this, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has so much replayability. It takes a long time to master your chosen class, but once you have done so, there are ten more other jobs for you to learn, each with its own unique abilities and rotations.
If you feel like healing on a certain day, switch to your White Mage. Then, if you get tired of that, why not try tanking with your Paladin?
Combat is fast-paced and highly reactive. Dungeons can be easily cleared by any player, but high-end raids will take time and dedication to conquer.
Speaking of which, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn manages to strike a perfect balance between its end game content and its social aspects.
Ultimate raids are near impossible to beat without a dedicated group all communicating via voice chat.
However, for those uninterested in such things, logging on and hanging out with your guildmates can be just as fun.
There are tons of customization options in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, whether it be constructing the perfect outfit or decorating the interior of your personal house.
Many players continue their subscription to Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn just to log in and chat with their friends in Limsa Lominsa.
Yes, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a subscription-based MMORPG, and if you want to continue playing it, you will have to pay a monthly fee.
Luckily, the game can be played entirely for free through the main story and up through the first expansion Heavensward. If you like the game and wish to continue the story, you are free to pay for it.
However, if you are happy just logging in, staying at a lower level, and speaking with friends, you can play the first two expansions indefinitely!
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn has become the gold standard of pay-to-play MMORPGs.
Where it once stood in the shadow of games like World of Warcraft, thanks to its continued dedication to providing the best user experience, many consider it to have surpassed WoW as the go-to for hardcore MMORPG players.
Final Fantasy Tactics (Honorable Mention)
Let’s get this out of the way. Final Fantasy Tactics is not the best Final Fantasy game to play first if you are interested in experiencing the traditional Final Fantasy combat system.
Whether it be real-time action or turn-based battles, Final Fantasy Tactics will not show you what Final Fantasy is all about in this regard.
That being said, Final Fantasy Tactics still has a very compelling story and includes the various classes and magic types, much like other Final Fantasy games. This title goes to show just how varied and unique games like Final Fantasy can be.
Final Fantasy Tactics operates under a tile-based isometric grid system. Units are placed on tiles and will move around the battlefield, attacking once they are in range.
Combat is now no longer reactive but far more tactical. Careful positioning of characters and resource management becomes far more vital in this chess-like system.
As of now, there are several Final Fantasy Tactics games, all of which provide players with something different. These include Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, and sequel Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift.
Additionally, the mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius: War of the Visions uses the same tile-based mechanics as other Final Fantasy Tactics games.
The original Final Fantasy Tactics and its remake, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, both provide a thoroughly entertaining story.
The narrative in this game is on par with some of the mainline Final Fantasy games and includes characters still popular today, such as Ramza and Orlandeau.
Alternatively, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and its sequel Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, provide a much more enjoyable gameplay experience.
Combat is much speedier in these two games, with players no longer needing to wait a turn to cast magic.
Yes, you could argue that this removes some of the tactical aspects of these two games, as you no longer need to predict if and when an enemy will move.
However, for how much this improves the flow of combat, we choose to see it as an improvement.
There are tons more classes and abilities to try out in these two games and a story more lighthearted and easy to digest.
Final Fantasy Tactics is a cult classic spinoff franchise with a following ready to sing its praises at the drop of a hat.
Definitely be sure to check out these three games for a more unique Final Fantasy experience, but one that is just as enjoyable.