7 of the best monks and pugilists in Square Enix games

It takes a very special kind of person to dive into danger with nothing to protect them but their own two fists. Let’s give these heroes a big hand.
By Duncan Heaney

We previously celebrated White Mages and Black Mages here on the blog, so we thought: this time, let’s get physical.

Plenty of Square Enix characters eschew swords, spears and firearms in favor of their own bodies. You can call them monks, pugilists or simply brawlers - whatever the label, we wanted to pay homage to those characters who rely on their own two fists to overcome adversity.

Let’s get to it:


Snow and Serah from FINAL FANTASY XIII

Optimistic, protective, passionate… there are a lot of words you could use to describe Snow Villiers. ‘Subtle’ is not one of them.

This self-proclaimed hero tends to rush headlong towards his problems, relying on brute strength and an unbendable will to overcome the challenges before him. He’s the kind of guy who’ll throw himself into the direst conflicts if it means protecting others - no matter the personal cost.

Some would (and do) call that approach reckless, but in fairness to Snow, he’s got the skills to justify it. In combat, he attacks primarily with his fists, using technologically augmented strength to batter his opponents with a flurry of blows.

He’s got it where it counts on defense too - not only does he have some impressive skills that let him bolster his and his allies’ resistances, he’s pretty hardy in his own right.

But then, considering how many times he gets smacked in the face by Lightning, he’d have to be.

Sabin - FINAL FANTASY VI pixel remaster

It should be obvious why Sabin’s on this list: this is the guy who can suplex a train!

But Sabin’s so much more than mere memes: he’s big, buff, burly… and a brilliant character in his own right.

This prince of Figaro abandoned his claim to the throne years ago for a life of freedom. He’s spent the years training under the martial artist Duncan and mastering his powerful Blitz techniques.

These years of study have turned his body into a weapon - not only is Sabin exceptionally skilled at various martial art techniques, he’s also incredibly strong. Whether he’s single handedly propping up a collapsing building, wielding a steel girder, or simply smashing an enemy, Sabin’s physical prowess never fails to impress.

Kevin - Trials of Mana

Kevin weeping over the body of his wolf friend Karl

As the son of a Beastman and a human, poor Kevin is trapped between two worlds. He’s too wild to mingle well with humans, yet too gentle-natured to fit into the Beastmen’s home of Ferolia. As a result, he tends to spend a lot of time alone.

Although he struggles with this internal conflict, he’s far more capable at dealing with external ones. Kevin is a powerful fighter, who relies on his brute strength to take down the many monsters who oppose him.

He only gets more ferocious at night, when his beast form takes effect, and his power increases dramatically.

He may not be the most articulate character in Trials of Mana, but when he lets his fists do the talking, the message comes through loud and clear: Kevin is awesome.

Zell - FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered

Zell is loud, overenthusiastic, and hot-tempered. He’s also brave, reliable and one of Balamb Garden’s finest students.

Whether he’s taking on dangerous missions as a SeeD mercenary or trying (failing) to grab the last hot dogs in the cafeteria, Zell approaches every task with total commitment. Although this boisterousness irritates the game’s willfully introverted protagonist Squall, he soon comes to appreciate the value that the more social Zell brings to his group.

Also, the strength - Zell is a powerful fighter who batters enemies with his punches and kicks. His Limit Break technique, Duel, is particularly impressive, letting the excitable young man use special attacks like piledrivers, uppercuts and more!



Not only is Jack Garland a capable White Mage, and a devastating Black Mage, he can also throw one heck of a punch!

As we’ve said time and time again, he’s Jack of all trades, and as such is able to take on many fist-focused jobs, from pugilist to the powerful tyrant.

Jack’s impressive speed and powerful combos allow him to make short work of most enemies - he can get in close, unleash a flurry of blows, and get out again before they even know what happened. His fast-flying combos are particularly effective at reducing an enemy’s break gauge, setting himself up for an instant Soul Burst kill.

Trust us - few things are as viscerally satisfying as smashing a Malboro into crystal shards with your bare hands. It just feels good…

By the way, Jack is back in the first expansion Trials of the Dragon King - find out about that here:

Yang - FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

Yang from FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

Yang is as respected a monk as you’re likely to find. His impressive combat skills combined with a kind and humble nature have made him a person of some standing in the kingdom of Fabul.

In battle, he’s an impressive damage-dealer, striking hard with bare hands and claws alike. His ability to target multiple enemies with kicks, brace himself to withstand more damage and even focus to allow for even more devastating assaults.

That strength is very welcome when he’s part of the team… although less so when, due to a series of unfortunate events, you have to face him as an opponent instead!

Misunderstandings aside, Yang proves himself to be a noble protector, valued companion and one of the most beloved brawlers in FINAL FANTASY history.


Tifa making a cocktail in Seventh Heaven

How tough is Tifa? Let’s put it this way - while her friends take on Shinra’s giant robots with oversized swords and guns, Tifa splinters them into scrap metal with nothing but her hands and feet!

This bar owner from the Sector Seven slums is also a member of the resistance group Avalanche, and in many ways, the heart and conscience of her cell.

When it is time for action though, Tifa doesn’t hesitate. Her perfectly honed martial arts let her deliver massive amounts of damage very quickly, pressure and interrupt enemies, increase stagger damage and more.

Honestly, the only thing in Midgar that probably hits harder is one of her Cosmo Canyon cocktails.

Those were just a few of the fist-flingin’ fighters who we think are a hit - there are plenty more we’d love to highlight, but perhaps we should leave that for another time.

Of course, you could beat us to the punch by telling us your picks right now on social media: