This is the game which introduced the Active Time Battle system to the series, and the one Westerners first knew as Final Fantasy II on the SNES. We were lucky enough to see it again on GBA as Final Fantasy IV Advance, and again around three years later with this DS iteration. Final Fantasy IV on DS was a 3D remake of the 16-bit original which added several more features, including voice acting. Aesthetic preferences aside, it's tough to play a 'bad' version of this game, so take your pick.
As with other games of the era, Cecil's journey is a challenging one and not for the faint of heart, but whichever version of the game you play — SNES, GBA or DS — this is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Final Fantasy X / X-2 HD Remaster is a package of two fantastic games; the 2001 original and its 2003 direct sequel. FFX is probably not the most straightforward introduction for new players, but it presents one of the most engaging worlds in any of games in the series and its Conditional Time-Based battle system (which here replaced the standard Active Time Battles of previous entries) spiced things up nicely. With upgraded visuals and audio and all the content from the 'International' version of the game, Switch is a great place to play X. If you've got the requisite dozens of hours to spare, of course.
Final Fantasy V expanded the series' job system and came to the West in TOSE's 2006 GBA port Final Fantasy V Advance. The port touched up the visuals and added a sprinkling of new content and features to make it arguably the best version to play — it remains the only way to play the game in the West on Nintendo systems, although it's on Japanese Virtual Consoles and is widely available on other platforms (PC, PlayStation, mobile).
Final Fantasy VII presented gamers with one of the biggest conundrums of our time: is it Aeris or Aerith?
Pronunciation posers aside, this game represented the series' 3D debut and was the first mainline game to not appear on a Nintendo platform. Therefore, Square took full advantage of the space available on Sony's CD media that simply wasn't available on Nintendo's cartridges at the time.
In many ways, FF7 is a relic. If you were there at the time, it likely affected you deeply; if you've never played it before, it's influence quickly spread across the entire genre and you'll most likely have seen everything it has to offer done elsewhere, and better in the intervening years. That's only natural — and it happens to all the very best games — but if you can overlook the odd clunky mechanic and antiquated piece of design, the core game here is as brilliant as it ever was.
As with any 20-year-old video game, there are elements of Final Fantasy IX that don't go down today quite was easily as they used to, but the characters, wacky story, and overall gameplay hold up very well in a modern context. Its medieval-style setting makes it a fun nostalgia trip for fans of the older series entries, or players fed up of all the futuristic Final Fantasies.
Known as Final Fantasy III on SNES in the West back in 1994, the RPG debate over whether Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI is best wages to this day. For a long time this was the final Final Fantasy from the mainline series to appear on a Nintendo console — indeed, it remains the last one to launch on a Nintendo console, remakes notwithstanding.
If this were to be the series' swansong on Nintendo hardware, it would have been a fitting Final farewell. The GBA version by TOSE added some bells and whistles alongside its innate portability (always a boon with a lengthy RPG), but this is a winner however you play — it's available on the SNES Classic Mini, too. If you're only going to play one old-school Final Fantasy, we'd probably go with this one; if you chose to only play one from the entire series... our answer might well be the same.
And there we are: your 'Final' word on all these Fantasies. So, what next? All the Final Fantasy spin-offs, ranked? Tactics, Dissidias, Theatrhythms, Chocobos, Crystal Defenders, Explorers...
You see why we stuck to the mainline games, hmm? Feel free to let us know your thoughts on the ranking, and share your thoughts on the different versions of the games above.