Although Final Fantasy games are numerically ordered, they aren’t direct sequels of each other. Final Fantasy II isn’t a narrative sequel to Final Fantasy and so on. For the most part, Final Fantasy games are independent of one another. You can start from whichever games in the series and you’d still most likely receive the full experience. To be clear, there is no chronological way of playing the Final Fantasy series. However, you can play Final Fantasy in order of release, which is what we believe is the best way to play the series.
In this article, we will be looking at the order of release of the mainline Final Fantasy series. This only includes the mainline 15 entries and their dedicated sequels. Come and join us in this brief, retrospective look at one of the greatest JRPG series of all time.
Final Fantasy (1987)
The one that started it all. Final Fantasy was said to be the series creator’s final hurrah to make a name in the game industry. Little did he know it would be the progenitor of one of the now-longest running game series in history.
Final Fantasy II (1988)
Hoping to capitalize on the success of the first Final Fantasy, Square decided to release the next mainline entry only a year after. Final Fantasy II succeeded to build around the mistakes of the original entry. However, the fact that it was released so close to the original hurt it. Despite being a great game, it did not receive the same appreciation.
Final Fantasy III (1990)
Square learned from its mistakes and let the series breathe for two years before releasing the next mainline entry. This resulted in a more focused game that succeeded in improving the formula even further. That said, even though Final Fantasy III is technically-sound, its character work is lacking compared to other entries.
Final Fantasy IV (1991)
By this point, Square is now confident with its cultivated audience. They are now ready to ride the FF train for as long as it takes. Final Fantasy IV is also where they got the character work and their individual stories right. Cecil and the gang are just as recognizable to series fans as those that were just recently introduced. However, Final Fantasy IV is also notorious for its wild difficulty spikes. To play it is to prepare for some grinding sessions.
Final Fantasy V (1992)
Three years in a row now that Square released a mainline Final Fantasy game. Perhaps due to series fatigue, Final Fantasy V suffered the same fate as Final Fantasy II. It failed to gain a considerable audience as with its contemporaries. Although Final Fantasy V is a great game, it gets no attention, making it the series’ black sheep.
Final Fantasy VI (1994)
After the less-than-stellar performance of V, Square took yet another two years before they released the next entry. This resulted in what many agree is one of the best Final Fantasy games out there. Final Fantasy VI not only succeeded in improving the working JRPG formula, but it also took it to an entirely new level!
While not as popular as the next entry or the newer ones, fans would die to protect Final Fantasy VI’s place in the pantheon of greatest FF games.
Final Fantasy VII (1997)
Final Fantasy VII was the developer’s most-ambitious FF entry back then. This is the first series entry to ditch pixel graphics and officially go full 3D. Additionally, Final Fantasy VII is also a stellar title on almost every front. Its storytelling is superb, its character work is next to none, and its world-building is revolutionary. This title got so popular that it sparked the explosion of JRPG console games back in the late 90s to 2000s.
Final Fantasy VIII (1999)
Square is now on a roll! Final Fantasy VIII’s release before the turn of the century marks the third straight entry in the franchise that received critical success. While not as popular as FFVII outside of Japan, VIII succeeded in creating its very own vast audience. There are a lot of people around the world head-over-heels with this title, and we just couldn’t blame them.
Final Fantasy IX (2000)
Final Fantasy IX kept the great momentum rolling Square is on at that time. Although it failed to garner the same amount of fans as the previous two entries, FFIX is just as excellent, if not, better. It is a must-try title for any JRPG fan—that is how good FFIX is!
Final Fantasy X/X-2 (2001/2003)
Square Enix aimed to create the same success FFVII had back then with its 10th mainline entry. The developers went for the fences for its first Final Fantasy game to hit the PlayStation 2. It gave Final Fantasy X a lot of series firsts. Not only is the graphics prettier than ever before, but FFX also featured full voice acting. This made the game’s narrative beats more memorable than ever before. Furthermore, FFX also is the very first FF game to receive its dedicated sequel: FFX-2. This wouldn’t be replicated for the next 8 years.
Final Fantasy XI (2002)
By this point, Final Fantasy is now firmly cemented as one of the most successful gaming franchises in history. However, Square Enix didn’t become complacent. To make Final Fantasy even bigger, it aimed to extend its reach even beyond the JRPG genre. Thus, the release of Final Fantasy XI. This is the first in the series to go full MMORPG. It received mild success back then.
Final Fantasy XII (2006)
Square Enix dedicated most of its time to making its MMORPG work. Four years later, however, it decided to go back to its JRPG roots with Final Fantasy XII. This title revamped the classic active time battle system that worked in the previous FF iterations. It introduced a very unique Gambit-style combat system that holds up to this day. Final Fantasy XII’s release reminded the world that the JRPG king is still here.
Final Fantasy XIII/XIII-2/Lightning Returns (2009/2011/2013)
Right off the bat, it is clear that Square Enix had high hopes for its 13th Final Fantasy entry. They heavily pushed it as the prettiest FF game to date and how it will revolutionize the series moving forward. Unfortunately, Final Fantasy XIII just missed the mark. It wasn’t that great of a game and its characters and story are just forgettable.
Nevertheless, Square Enix tried hard to make this title succeed. It released two direct sequels to it, becoming the first numbered entry in the series to have three titles.
Final Fantasy XIV/A Realm Reborn (2010/2013)
After the disastrous reception FFXIII received, the series took a break from releasing another mainline JRPG entry. Instead, it went back to the MMORPG space with Final Fantasy XIV. That said, XIV failed miserably. It died even before it could fly.
The massive backlash the game received forced Square Enix to recreate the game itself from the ground up. This resulted in the aptly named MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. This time, everything about the game clicked. Fast forward to today, A Realm Reborn is now seen as one of the most successful MMORPGs in recent times.
Final Fantasy XV (2016)
It took a long time for Square Enix to release another fully-fledged JRPG entry in the FF franchise after the disaster that was FFXIII. With Final Fantasy XV, the series completely ditched the traditional turn-based combat and went the full action-adventure game.
Moreover, it is also the first in the franchise to employ an open-world setting. Final Fantasy XV serves as the series’ true stepping-off point to its classic yesteryears. So much so that many argue if the future Final Fantasy games could even be considered JRPGs anymore.
There you have it! That is Final Fantasy in order of release. With Final Fantasy XVI just around the corner, it just feels right to look back at the long history of the FF series this way. For everything Final Fantasy and gaming, visit our website today!