Which characters in Square Enix games have the best smiles?

In honor of World Smile Day, we take a look at some of the best grins in all of gaming. Who’s your favorite?
By Duncan Heaney

A smile is a powerful thing. Not only does it make you feel good, it makes everyone around you feel great too. That’s equally true in games - some of the greatest characters in Square Enix titles face their problems head-on with a grin, and it’s a joy to help them do it.

In honor of World Smile Day, we wanted to highlight some characters who can light up a room when they turn their frown upside down. Their kindness, positivity and beaming visages help make their worlds a better place.

Also Kefka’s in there.

So without further ado, let’s get started:

Zell - FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered

Of all the students in Balamb Garden, few have as much pure energy as Zell Dincht. Whether he’s punching robots to pieces or simply riding in the car, he’s loud and excitable to a fault.

At first, the game’s lead Squall Leonhart, doesn’t think much of his classmate. For the introverted hero, Zell’s big personality, and bigger volume level, are as much an annoyance as an asset.

But over the course of the game, he proves himself to be a loyal and brave companion - someone who always has his teammates’ backs, no matter how dire the situation. And some of those situations are pretty dire indeed…

Ultimately though, Zell’s greatest strength is his resilience. You can lock him up, knock him down or - worst of all - call him ‘chickenwuss’, and Zell’s will always bounce back with a grin.

Well, unless the school cafeteria runs out of hot dogs again. There are some traumas you don’t recover from.

Daniel Diaz - Life is Strange 2

In most respects, Daniel Diaz is a typical 9-year old. He’s excitable, mischievous and curious about the world. But unlike most kids, Daniel also has telekinetic powers, and when a horrifying incident tears he and his brother Sean from their home, they’re forced into a dangerous life on the road.

As things get darker in the story, and the brothers’ situation becomes more severe, Daniel provides Sean with a reason to endure. His happiness, and his innocence are something for Sean and the player to cling on to - it’s amazing how a simple smile can help in the bleakest times.

But will he retain his naivete and innocence, or embrace the destructive potential of his powers to protect his family? That’s largely up to you - the decisions you make as Sean will have a profound effect on Daniel’s personality and outlook. So choose wisely…

Slime - DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Definitive Edition

What would the DRAGON QUEST series be without these smiley little guys?

Designed by the legendary artist Akira Toriyama, the slime has become the de facto icon of the DRAGON QUEST series. These wibbly-wobbly monsters have not only appeared in every game in the series, they’ve starred in movies, inspired merchandise and even headlined their own titles!

A large part of their appeal is that ever-charming grin - it’s so jolly it almost makes you feel bad about casting a well-timed Zap spell at them. Almost.


Not all smiles are nice. Some are Kefka’s.

This monstrous jester has more than earned his place as one of the greatest villains of all time. Not just because he’s a unique combination of charming, sadistic and terrifyingly competent but also because he really enjoys his work.

Kefka’s demonic laugh will be burned into many a FINAL FANTASY fan’s mind. As he commits acts of increasing depravity, his glee only gets more pronounced. How many other villains have essentially destroyed a world with a smile on their face?

If you want an up-close look at how disturbing Kefka’s grin can be, check out DISSIDIA FINAL FANTASY NT.

This 3v3 fighting game presents him as a tricky, technical opponent that can frustrate his opponent as much as hurt them, but it’s oh-so satisfying to finally smack that smirk off his face.

Hildibrand Manderville

This self-proclaimed inspector extraordinaire is a fan favorite character in FINAL FANTASY XIV Online, and for good reason. With his positive attitude, unflinching self-belief and a smile as broad as a goobbue’s, Hildibrand is always a pleasure to be around.

True, he may not be the best detective in Hydaelyn (and that’s putting it politely), but he approaches his cases with such verve and enthusiasm, it’s hard to feel anything other than affection. (Even though he inevitably causes chaos and disaster, usually on himself.)

But the real reason Hildibrand Manderville is such a treasure is that he genuinely wants to help those less fortunate than him. While his head may not always be in the right place, his heart definitely is.

Emil - NieR Automata

Emil is a welcome sight in the ruined Earth of NieR Automata - and not just because of his iconic grin.

This grinning moon-faced merchant has some valuable goods, from plug-in chips that improve our heroes’ combat abilities, to valuable materials that you can use to upgrade weapons.

If you’re so inclined, and you know how, you can even fight him a couple of times - but for a disembodied head, he sure can put up a fight. Only the best of the best will be able to - ahem - get ahead in this battle.

Emil is a beloved part of NieR Automata - but did you know he also has ties to the original NieR game too? You’ll be able to find out what that is in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…. This new and enhanced version of the original title releases April 23, 2021 for PS4, Xbox One and Steam.


It doesn’t matter whether she’s selling flowers on the streets of Midgar, or whacking a hoodlum with a chair, Aerith approaches life with a positive attitude and a smile.

She lights up the screen in FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE, and provides a perfect counterpoint to Cloud’s more detached and self-serious persona.

Aerith’s total refusal to take any of the mercenary’s nonsense is a constant source of humor in the game - when she finally gets him to achieve a successful high five, it’s as much a victory as making it through the monster infested Midgar underground.

Of course, Aerith’s life is no picnic - she’s watched and hunted relentlessly by the sinister Shinra Electric Power Company. But she never lets her troubles get her down - it’s just one of the reasons she’s won many a fan’s heart.

Sora - KINGDOM HEARTS series

Speaking of hearts, how could we not mention Sora? Look at that smile:

I mean, just look at it.

Few smiles dazzle quite like Sora’s. This friendly hero wears his heart on his sleeve - his welcoming and open personality have helped him win the trust of everyone from Buzz and Woody from Disney and Pixar's Toy Story, to King Mickey himself.

But as Sora often says - his friends are his power, and there’s nothing that makes him light up quite like Donald and Goofy, or Riku and Kairi. So long as he’s surrounded by those he loves, Sora will always have a big grin on his face… and so will we.

Those were just some of our favorite smiles we’ve seen in Square Enix games - but what about yours?

Is there a character who you think we’ve missed? Whose face brings a smile to yours? Let the team know on social media: