The Best Final Fantasy games revealed - as ranked by thousands of fans

In December 2022, the Final Fantasy series celebrated its 35th anniversary - a major milestone for any series, but a particularly poignant one for a series with such a huge array of games spanning a wide range of visual styles, narrative tones, and even gameplay genres.

Every Final Fantasy game is unique, and one of the best things about the series is that every FF is somebody's favorite FF. However, we wanted to reivisit a simple idea: what is, statistically speaking, the world's favorite Final Fantasy?

We decided to ask the broader RPG Site audience - so we set up and invited you all to vote on a detailed poll to reveal some of your predilections and tastes around the historic series. We asked you all to vote, but also saw the poll promoted by a range of friends of the site including FF and RPG influencers, YouTube channels, and other media outlets. Basically, we tried to cast a broad net. 

Polls like this are common in Japan, where outlets like Famitsu run them regularly, but such a vote is rarer for fans of these games in the West. So we decided to step in. The poll ran for a whole month - and now we're ready to reveal the results.

Once again many thousands of you turned out to vote - five figures - and the results are interesting. How did your favorites place? Let's take a look at them all:

We asked you to choose the Best Final Fantasy games - and you responded en masse.

The Best Final Fantasy Titles - Ranked by You

We polled you, asking thousands of you what your single favorite Final Fantasy game was. You responded, and we've tallied the results. Drum roll please - here they are:

  1. Final Fantasy VII (17.2%)
  2. Final Fantasy IX (17%)
  3. Final Fantasy XIV (15.5%)
  4. Final Fantasy VI (14.7%)
  5. Final Fantasy X (11.4%)
  6. Final Fantasy VIII (6.5%)
  7. Final Fantasy XII (5.1%)
  8. Final Fantasy IV (3.6%)
  9. Final Fantasy XV (3.3%)
  10. Final Fantasy V (1.9%)
  11. Final Fantasy XIII (1.8%)
  12. Final Fantasy XI (1.1%)
  13. Final Fantasy (0.5%)
  14. Final Fantasy III (0.4%)
  15. Final Fantasy II (0.2%)

In-Depth Results

The last time we ran one of these polls for FF's 30th anniversary in 2018, three clear leaders emerged immediately - but in the five years since, one of those games has been swept out of the top three. In 2018, FF7, FF9 and FF6 dominated with 49% of the vote between them - but in 2022/3, FF14 has surged, rising from seventh please up to third this time around. That's what strong support and brilliant award-winning expansions will do for you.

The vote shares for those top three remain fairly stable, however. FF7 posted 18.1% of the vote in 2018 - down just under a percent to 17.2% this time. FF9 actually makes a slight gain, rising from 16.8% to 17%. And FF6's share is also almost identical - 14.4% in 2018 vs 14.7% this time. What this shows is that FF14's rise hasn't come at the 'cost' of last time's top three. FF6 does slip to fourth, however.

So, what FFs have suffered? Well, FF15, which was new when the last poll took place, appears to have lost some of its recency sheen, resulting in a drop from fifth with 11.4% of the vote down to 9th with just 3.3% of the vote. FF13's share of the vote almost halved between 2018 and 2023, too. In general, time and distance has not been kind to the newer era of FF games in these results.

Meanwhile, the remastered release of FF8 that happened between the two polls appears to have modestly helped that game, which posted a moderately higher vote share in this newest poll, albeit still the lowest vote share of the PS1 era.

In both the 2018 and 2023 polls, fans appear to have the least appreciation for the oldest entries in the series - FF1, FF2, and FF3 were the bottom three games on both occasions. This time, FF1 was top of that trio, however - previously it was second. Perhaps helped by the recent Pixel Remasters.

If the slightly more obtuse nature of the earlier games is holding you back from them, our minimalist walkthroughs will help you to get the most out of them, by the way - we've got them for FF1, FF2, and FF3 - and continue the tradition in the rest of our Pixel Remaster guides.

The game that started it all, but the first Final Fantasy isn't the entry point for most people.

FF Firsts - Your first Final Fantasy

  1. Final Fantasy VII (29.2%)
  2. Final Fantasy X (11.2%)
  3. Final Fantasy (10.8%)
  4. Final Fantasy VIII (10.7%)
  5. Final Fantasy IV (9.3%)
  6. Final Fantasy VI (8.1%)
  7. Final Fantasy IX (6.1%)
  8. Final Fantasy XV (3.1%)
  9. Final Fantasy XIII (2.9%)
  10. Final Fantasy III (2.8%)
  11. Final Fantasy XII (2.1%)
  12. Final Fantasy XIV (1.7%)
  13. Final Fantasy V (1.3%)
  14. Final Fantasy II (0.6%)
  15. Final Fantasy XI (0.1%)

An interesting question among the FF fanbase is 'what was your first?' There's no emotion in this question - but it is enlightening of a few things.

Firstly, it's clear that during the 'golden age' of Final Fantasy across PS1 and PS2, a lot of people came to the series for the first time; FF7, FF8, and FF10 account for over 50% of the polling of first Final Fantasy. We can also see that the first FF of any given console generation appears to attract a larger audience. 

It also paints an interesting picture of recent years, with the last three numbered FF titles only contributing 7.7% of the vote together. The best of these was FF15, which polled at 3.1% - mid-table, but still perhaps lower than the 'a Final Fantasy for fans and first-timers' messaging the game carried would suggest. There are many FF hardcore among the audience polled, but as a general genre site, there's also plenty of fans of Western RPGs or different styles of Japanese RPG who have been coaxed to try FF over the years.

Secondly, with a lot of franchises the wisdom suggests that your first is likely to be your favorite. People say this about your first James Bond or Doctor Who, and in games about franchises like Elder Scrolls and Street Fighter. But with these results, we can examine this claim within Final Fantasy specifically:

26.8% of respondents named their first Final Fantasy as their favorite Final Fantasy. However, some games performed better than others. Most notably:

  • 56.5% of users who named FF7 as their favorite FF also told us that FF7 was their first.
  • The hardcore old-school had the next-highest levels of dedication, with 54.5% of those who said FF1 was their favorite FF also having revealed it was their first. Part of this is due to how few favorite votes FF1 was able to garner, however. There's a similar story for FF3, where the correlation sits at 47.6%. 
  • Surprisingly, despite how beloved it is, FF6 was clearly mostly discovered late - only 21.69% of people who said it was their favorite also noted it as their first. 
  • Those who came to the more recent single-player FFs as newcomers did find they make an impression - around 25% of those who said FF13 and FF15 were their favorites also said the same game as their first.
  • However, it seems the MMOs mostly attract existing FF fans - as for FF14 the correlation is only 8.2%.
Unsurprisingly, Cloud Strife topped the vote of the best Final Fantasy characters.

The Best FF Protagonists, according to you

This one speaks for itself - the leads, ranked. We didn't include the MMOs in this, due to the nebulous nature of their protagonists.

  1. Cloud Strife (23.9%)
  2. Terra Branford (14.9%)
  3. Zidane Tribal (13.1%)
  4. Squall Leonheart (10%)
  5. Cecil Harvey (9%)
  6. Lightning (8.6%)
  7. Noctis Lucis Caelum (7.5%)
  8. Tidus (7.4%)
  9. Bartz Klauser (2%)
  10. Warrior of Light (1.6%)
  11. Vaan (1%)
  12. Onion Knight / Luneth (0.6%)
  13. Firion (0.5%)

And a few notes on the correlations between this and favorite FF:

  • 61% of those who said FF7 was their favorite also predictably called Cloud their favorite lead in the series. 
  • The most loyal fanbase by far is that of FF13 and Lightning, however - 69% of people who said FF13 was their favorite also stumped up for Lightning. The next closest in the loyalty stakes were Noctis and Squall. 
  • Despite placing second in the overall poll, under half of FF6-lovers voted Terra - 42%
  • The worst performance is by Vaan - poor Vaan - where as well as posting right towards the bottom of the poll, only 6% of those who most loved his game, FF12, voted him their favorite lead. Though many of those fans would argue that Vaan is not the lead of that game - a can of worms, to be sure. This 6% number is even lower than the correlation for the first three FF protagonists, despite two of those three having less votes overall.
Ivalice ran away with the poll of the best series, covering the Tactics games and a few other titles.

Favorite FF Spin-Off Games & Series

  1. Tactics / Ivalice Alliance (37.8%)
  2. Compilation of FFVII (17.6%)
  3. Final Fantasy X-2 (6.6%)
  4. Dissidia Final Fantasy Series (6.4%)
  5. Theatrhythm Series (6%)
  6. Final Fantasy XII-2 & Lightning Returns / FNC (5.9%)
  7. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin (3.7%)
  8. World of Final Fantasy (3.2%)
  9. Final Fantasy Type-0 (3.1%)
  10. Crystal Chronicles Series (2.8%)
  11. Final Fantasy Mystic Quest (1.7%)
  12. Chocobo Series (1.5%)
  13. Final Fantasy: The Four Heroes of Light (0.9%)
  14. Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Series (0.8%)
  15. Final Fantasy Record Keeper (0.6%)
  16. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years & Interlude (0.5%)
  17. Final Fantasy XV Universe (0.4%)
  18. Mobius Final Fantasy (0.4%)
  19. Final Fantasy Explorers (0.1%)
How excited are fans for Final Fantasy XVI? Here's how they answered in our poll...

Final Fantasy XVI Intention

This was quite a simple question, and we're not going to analyze it in depth - we simply asked fans how excited they were for Final Fantasy XVI, and how likely they are to pick the game up when it launches in just a few months time, on June 22nd.

This is how our polled user base, a mixture of hardcore FF fans and general RPG fanatics - including some fans of Western RPGs of the exact kind that FF16 is keen to court - responded:

  1. Yes - I'll be there Day One! (56.1%)
  2. Maybe - I need more convincing (36.1%)
  3. No - It's not my style (7.8%)