Welcome to the enchanting world of Final Fantasy! With a legacy spanning over three decades and numerous installments, it can be overwhelming to decide which game to embark on first. Fear not, intrepid adventurer! This guide is here to help you navigate the vast and mesmerizing Final Fantasy universe, ensuring you find the perfect entry point to this iconic series. So, gather your courage, sharpen your sword, and let’s embark on a journey to discover which Final Fantasy you should experience first.
Understanding the Final Fantasy Series
A Brief History of Final Fantasy
The Early Years (1987-1999)
The Final Fantasy series began in 1987 with the release of the first game, simply titled “Final Fantasy.” Developed by Square Co. (now Square Enix), the game was a groundbreaking RPG that introduced innovative features such as a unique job system and a rich, immersive storyline. Over the next several years, Square Co. released several more Final Fantasy games, including Final Fantasy II (known as Final Fantasy IV in Japan), Final Fantasy III (known as Final Fantasy VI in Japan), and Final Fantasy V. These games further expanded on the series’ signature elements, such as turn-based combat and memorable characters.
The Golden Age (2000-2013)
The early 2000s saw a resurgence in the Final Fantasy series, with the release of several critically acclaimed games. Final Fantasy IX, released in 2000, was a return to the series’ roots, featuring a nostalgic storyline and a focus on character development. Final Fantasy X, released in 2001, introduced real-time combat and a more mature storyline, while Final Fantasy XI, released in 2002, was the first game in the series to be released online. The next several years saw the release of several more Final Fantasy games, including Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy XIII, and Final Fantasy XIV. These games continued to push the boundaries of the RPG genre, introducing new gameplay mechanics and cinematic storytelling.
The Modern Era (2013-Present)
In recent years, the Final Fantasy series has continued to evolve and expand, with the release of several new games and the re-release of classic titles. Final Fantasy XV, released in 2016, was a departure from the series’ traditional turn-based combat, instead featuring real-time action. Final Fantasy XIV, originally released in 2010, was re-released in 2013 with a new version of the game, and has since become one of the most popular MMOs in the world. Other recent Final Fantasy games include Final Fantasy VII Remake, a re-imagining of the classic 1997 game, and Final Fantasy XVI, which is currently in development.
Key Features of Final Fantasy Games
Rich Storylines and Characters
Final Fantasy games are renowned for their intricate and engaging storylines, which transport players to immersive worlds filled with memorable characters. If you’re a fan of complex narratives and well-developed characters, then the Final Fantasy series is definitely worth exploring. Here’s a closer look at the key elements that make the series’ storytelling so captivating:
Narrative Arc and Character Development
One of the most impressive aspects of Final Fantasy’s storytelling is the way it weaves together multiple narrative arcs and character journeys. Each game in the series has its own unique story, but they all share a common thread, with characters and events from previous games often reappearing in later installments. This allows for a sense of continuity and depth that few other game series can match.
The characters in Final Fantasy games are also remarkably well-developed, with rich backstories and complex motivations. From the stoic warrior to the emotionally fraught mage, each character feels like a fully-realized individual, with their own strengths, weaknesses, and flaws. As you progress through the games, you’ll watch these characters grow and evolve, often in unexpected ways.
Worldbuilding and Lore
Another key aspect of Final Fantasy’s storytelling is its meticulous worldbuilding and attention to detail. The series’ fantasy settings are among the most fully-realized in all of gaming, with rich histories, intricate cultures, and unique ecosystems. From the technologically advanced cities of the future to the magical kingdoms of the past, each setting feels like a living, breathing world.
But it’s not just the setting that’s well-developed; the lore of the Final Fantasy universe is equally rich and detailed. From the powerful crystals that serve as the source of all magic to the ancient beings known as the “Elders,” there’s no shortage of fascinating concepts and ideas to explore. Whether you’re interested in the history of the world, the inner workings of its various factions, or the mysteries of its magical systems, there’s something for everyone in the Final Fantasy universe.
Engaging Gameplay Mechanics
Final Fantasy games are renowned for their engaging gameplay mechanics, which are a key factor in their enduring popularity. These mechanics include:
Turn-Based Combat System
One of the most distinctive features of Final Fantasy games is their turn-based combat system. In this system, players take turns selecting actions for their party members, such as attacking, using items, or casting spells. This system encourages strategic thinking and planning, as players must carefully consider their options and choose the most effective actions in each situation.
Party-Based System and Jobs
Another important aspect of Final Fantasy’s gameplay mechanics is the party-based system. Players control a group of characters, each with their own unique abilities and strengths. As players progress through the game, they can choose to switch between different characters, known as “jobs,” allowing them to customize their party’s composition and adapt to different situations.
Summoning and Espers
Final Fantasy games also feature a summoning system, which allows players to call upon powerful creatures, known as “summons” or “espers,” to aid them in battle. These summons can be a deciding factor in battle, providing players with an added layer of strategy and depth to the gameplay.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Final Fantasy Game
Platform and System Requirements
When choosing your first Final Fantasy game, it’s important to consider the platform and system requirements. These factors can have a significant impact on your gaming experience, so it’s essential to choose a game that is compatible with your device.
Console vs. PC
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to play on a console or a PC. Each platform has its own advantages and disadvantages. Consoles like the PlayStation and Xbox offer a more streamlined gaming experience, with simple navigation and easy access to online multiplayer. On the other hand, PCs offer more customization options, better graphics, and more demanding games.
Generations and Compatibility
Another factor to consider is the generation of the Final Fantasy game you want to play. Some games are only compatible with certain consoles or PCs, so it’s important to check the system requirements before purchasing. Additionally, newer games may require more advanced hardware, so if you’re playing on an older device, you may need to consider an earlier Final Fantasy game.
It’s also worth noting that some Final Fantasy games are only available on specific platforms. For example, the mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius is only available on iOS and Android devices, while the online multiplayer game Final Fantasy XIV is only available on PC and Mac.
In summary, when choosing your first Final Fantasy game, consider the platform and system requirements. Think about whether you want to play on a console or PC, and check the compatibility with your device. Additionally, consider the game’s generation and whether it’s available on your preferred platform. By taking these factors into account, you can choose the perfect Final Fantasy game for your gaming experience.
Game Length and Time Commitment
When choosing your first Final Fantasy game, it’s important to consider the length and time commitment required to complete the game. Final Fantasy games can range from short and sweet experiences to lengthy and epic adventures.
Short vs. Long Games
Short games are ideal for players who want to experience the world of Final Fantasy without a significant time investment. These games typically have a shorter main storyline and may not include as many side quests or additional content.
Long games, on the other hand, offer a more immersive experience with a lengthy main storyline and numerous side quests and additional content. These games can take dozens of hours to complete and offer a more comprehensive Final Fantasy experience.
Side Quests and Content
Regardless of whether you choose a short or long game, Final Fantasy games typically offer a variety of side quests and additional content to explore. These quests and content can add hours to your gameplay experience and offer unique challenges and rewards.
If you’re short on time, you may want to consider a game with fewer side quests or a more streamlined experience. However, if you’re looking for a more comprehensive Final Fantasy experience, a longer game with more content may be the better choice.
Ultimately, the length and time commitment of a Final Fantasy game will depend on your personal preferences and availability. Consider your schedule and how much time you’re willing to dedicate to the game before making your final decision.
Popular Final Fantasy Games to Consider
Final Fantasy VII
Why It’s a Great Starting Point
Final Fantasy VII is often considered a great starting point for newcomers to the series due to its strong storytelling, memorable characters, and impactful themes. This game has set the standard for the franchise and continues to be a fan favorite.
Key Plot Points and Characters
The story follows the journey of Cloud Strife, a former soldier, as he and his allies battle against the corrupt megacorporation, Shinra, and its monstrous creation, Sephiroth. The plot delves into themes of environmentalism, politics, and personal identity.
The cast of characters is diverse and well-developed, with memorable personalities like the charismatic rebel leader Barret Wallace, the mysterious mercenary Tifa Lockhart, and the enigmatic scientist Dr. Aeris Gainsborough.
Tips for Beginners
- Familiarize yourself with the game’s unique battle system, which incorporates a turn-based combat system with limit breaks and materia.
- Take time to explore the game’s world, which features stunning visuals and diverse locations such as the bustling city of Midgar and the serene village of Nibelheim.
- Pay attention to the game’s soundtrack, which is considered one of the greatest in video game history and enhances the game’s emotional impact.
- Be prepared for a challenging yet rewarding experience, as Final Fantasy VII is known for its difficult boss battles and complex storyline.
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X is an excellent starting point for newcomers to the series because it offers a compelling story, memorable characters, and engaging gameplay mechanics. The game’s cinematic cutscenes and emotional narrative make it an immersive experience that draws players into its world.
The story of Final Fantasy X revolves around a young summoner named Tidus and his journey to save his homeworld of Spira from an evil being known as Sin. Along the way, Tidus and his companions, including a fierce warrior named Auron and a magical creature named Wakka, uncover a plot by the ruling religious organization known as the Temple of Yevon to manipulate Spira’s history and control its inhabitants.
Other key characters include Yuna, a young woman who becomes Tidus’ love interest and a summoner in her own right, and Seymour, a mysterious figure who holds the key to Sin’s origins.
For beginners, it’s important to understand the game’s battle system, which involves turning-based combat and a unique sphere grid that allows players to customize their characters’ abilities. It’s also helpful to pay attention to the game’s many side quests, which can provide valuable experience and insights into the game’s world and characters. Finally, be prepared for the game’s emotional twists and turns, which can be both thrilling and heart-wrenching.
Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV is an excellent starting point for newcomers to the series because it offers a unique combination of traditional gameplay elements and modern MMO mechanics. The game’s focus on storytelling, character development, and cooperative gameplay provides a welcoming entry point for those who may be intimidated by the more complex and mechanically-driven Final Fantasy titles. Additionally, the game’s continually evolving content and strong community make it a great choice for players looking to immerse themselves in the Final Fantasy universe.
Key Features and Content
Final Fantasy XIV offers a wide range of features and content that make it a great choice for newcomers to the series. The game’s storyline is set in the fictional world of Eorzea, where players can embark on an epic journey to defeat the antagonistic god Zodiark. The game’s main questline is complemented by a vast array of side quests, instanced dungeons, and raids, providing players with a wealth of content to explore. Additionally, the game features a robust crafting and gathering system, as well as a housing system that allows players to design and decorate their own homes within the game world.
For those new to the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy XIV can be a daunting game to get started with. Here are a few tips to help beginners get acclimated to the game:
- Take advantage of the game’s tutorials and introductory quests to get a feel for the game’s mechanics and controls.
- Join a Grand Company, which acts as a faction within the game, to gain access to unique quests and activities.
- Seek out community resources, such as forums and guides, to help you navigate the game’s vast content and features.
- Don’t be afraid to ask other players for help or advice – the Final Fantasy XIV community is known for being friendly and helpful to newcomers.
Other Notable Mentions
Final Fantasy III (FF6)
Final Fantasy III, also known as FF6, is a classic game in the series that was originally released in 1994. It is widely regarded as one of the best games in the franchise and features a unique job system that allows players to switch between different professions and abilities. The game’s story follows a group of heroes as they attempt to stop an evil force known as the Warriors of Light from destroying the world. With its memorable characters, engaging storyline, and challenging gameplay, Final Fantasy III is a must-play for any fan of the series.
Final Fantasy IV (FF2)
Final Fantasy IV, also known as FF2, is another iconic game in the series that was first released in 1991. The game follows the story of Cecil, a dark knight who is on a quest to save the world from the evil sorcerer Zeromus. Along the way, Cecil is joined by a cast of memorable characters, including the dragoon Kain and the thief Rosa. The game’s turn-based battle system and unique character abilities make it a challenging and rewarding experience for players.
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX is a fan-favorite game in the series that was released in 2000. The game is set in a world filled with magic and features a cast of memorable characters, including the thief Zidane and the princess Garnet. The game’s story follows Zidane and his crew as they attempt to rescue Garnet from the evil queen Brahne and her minions. With its charming characters, beautiful graphics, and memorable soundtrack, Final Fantasy IX is a must-play for any fan of the series.
Final Fantasy XII
Final Fantasy XII is a game that was released in 2006 and is set in the world of Ivalice. The game features an unique political setting, where the characters are caught in a power struggle between two rival nations. The game’s story follows Vaan, a young man who dreams of becoming a sky pirate, and Ashe, a princess who is fighting to reclaim her throne. The game’s real-time battle system and unique character abilities make it a challenging and engaging experience for players.
1. What is Final Fantasy?
Final Fantasy is a popular and long-running series of role-playing video games developed and published by Square Enix. The series has been running since 1987 and has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations across various platforms.
2. What is the Final Fantasy universe?
The Final Fantasy universe is the shared fictional world in which all the Final Fantasy games are set. It is a vast and intricate world filled with mythical creatures, magical spells, and high technology. The universe has a rich history and mythology, with many recurring characters, locations, and themes.
3. Which Final Fantasy game should I play first?
If you’re new to the Final Fantasy series, we recommend starting with Final Fantasy VII. It is one of the most popular and highly regarded games in the series, with a deep story, memorable characters, and engaging gameplay. It is also a great introduction to the world of Final Fantasy and a good starting point for exploring the series.
4. What is the difference between the different Final Fantasy games?
Each Final Fantasy game has its own unique story, setting, and gameplay mechanics. Some games focus more on action-oriented combat, while others emphasize strategic turn-based battles. Some games have more fantastical settings, while others are set in more realistic or futuristic worlds. The series also experiments with different genres, such as tactical RPGs, massively multiplayer online games, and mobile games.
5. Are the Final Fantasy games connected?
Yes, the Final Fantasy games are connected in a loose way. They share a common mythology and some recurring characters, but each game has its own self-contained story and cast of characters. However, there are some overarching storylines that span multiple games, such as the mainline numbered Final Fantasy games, which follow a continuous timeline.
6. Can I play the Final Fantasy games in any order?
It is generally recommended to play the mainline numbered Final Fantasy games in order, starting with Final Fantasy I and progressing through to Final Fantasy XVI (which has not been announced yet). However, you can still enjoy the games out of order if you prefer, as each game has its own self-contained story.
7. Are the Final Fantasy games suitable for all ages?
The Final Fantasy series has a wide range of content, and some games may contain mature themes, violence, and language that may not be suitable for all ages. However, many of the games in the series are appropriate for teenagers and up, and the series is known for its imaginative world-building and engaging storytelling. It is always a good idea to research a game beforehand to ensure it is appropriate for you or your child.
8. Where can I find more information about the Final Fantasy series?
There are many resources available for learning more about the Final Fantasy series, including official websites, wikis, and forums. You can also check out fan sites, blogs, and social media groups dedicated to the series. Joining the Final Fantasy community can be a great way to connect with other fans and learn more about the games.