“Which FINAL FANTASY game should I start with?”

It’s one of the most common questions we see from people yet to dive into the series, and a hotly debated topic online - ask five fans and you’re likely to get five different answers.

The actual ‘correct’ answer, of course, is… any of them. After all, almost every game in the series acts as a standalone adventure with its own distinct world, characters and even gameplay mechanics. There really isn’t a wrong or right place to start.

But we also realize that’s not particularly helpful for new players, who have a lot of options available - particularly with re-releases and new FINAL FANTASY pixel remaster series.

So to lend a hand, we’ll run through the mainline FINAL FANTASY games that are available and give you a sense of what to expect from each adventure.

Then, you can simply choose the game that most appeals most to you - we’re confident that whichever you pick, you’ll have a good time.

FINAL FANTASY pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY pixel remaster

This is the game that started it all - and it’s better than ever in the pixel remaster edition.

FINAL FANTASY follows the Warriors of Light, who set off on a quest to defeat four fiends and restore their tainted crystals back to their former glory.

It may be the first, but it immediately established many of the elements that would come to define the series - vast, sprawling worlds, deep strategic combat (turn-based in this case), creative character and enemy designs and sublime music.

The pixel remaster edition updates the game with amazing new 2D art, quality of life features, such as auto-battle, and a rearranged soundtrack that’s just… *chef’s kiss.

Play this first if…

  • You want to see where the FINAL FANTASY series began
  • You want to play a traditional Japanese RPG with turn-based battles
  • You also want to play STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN - it directly connects to this game
FINAL FANTASY II pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY II pixel remaster

The second FINAL FANTASY game focuses on four war-orphaned heroes: Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon. The group becomes embroiled in a conflict between the hostile Empire of Palamecia and the rebel resistance, with the fate of the whole world hanging in the balance.

Combat is once again turn-based, but even in this early stage, FINAL FANTASY was a series that innovated. Rather than sticking with traditional leveling, FINAL FANTASY II introduced a new proficiency system, in which characters’ skill with weapons and abilities increased the more they used them.

The pixel remaster offers the definitive way to play this classic RPG. As with the other pixel remaster games, it features new 2D art that’s beautiful in HD, a rearranged soundtrack and more!

Play this first if…

  • You’ve played RPGs before and are looking for something unconventional
  • You’re excited to see one of the more experimental games in the series
  • You want to see the origin of Chocobos! The iconic birds make their first appearance in this game.
FINAL FANTASY III pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY III pixel remaster

When darkness falls and the land is robbed of light, four young heroes are chosen by the crystals to head off an exciting journey across a vast and hostile land.

This critically acclaimed entry in the series introduced a flexible job system, which lets characters change their roles in combat at any time. It was also the first to introduce powerful summons, including series mainstays Bahamut and Shiva.

The pixel remaster edition is out now, and brings with it a number of improvements to the original game, including new visuals, new music and more.

Play this first if…

  • You want to play an RPG that has a lot of strategic depth
  • You like having a lot of control over your characters and party composition
  • You relish a challenge - FINAL FANTASY III is one of the tougher games in the series
FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY IV pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY IV innovated once again, with the deepest narrative and most beloved characters in the series so far.

After questioning some troubling orders from his King, the dark knight Cecil is demoted and sent on a simple delivery job with his friend Kain. The shocking events that follow send Cecil and a group of heroes on a dramatic journey of betrayal, love and redemption.

As well as delivering one of the most powerful stories in the series, FINAL FANTASY IV was the first game to feature the Active Time Battle system, which combined turn-based and real-time elements together to create a faster, but equally strategic, battle system.

It was already a true classic, but the pixel remaster makes it even better, thanks to its new visuals, music and gameplay features.

Play this first if…

  • You love games with a strong story
  • You want to meet some of the best characters in the series
  • You enjoy fast, dynamic battles
FINAL FANTASY VII

FINAL FANTASY V pixel remaster

The world of FINAL FANTASY V is reliant on elemental crystals with the power of earth, water, fire and wind. These crystals bring life to and prosperity, but they have lost their power and are on the verge of destruction.

Four characters are driven together by fate: Bartz, Princess Lenna of Castle Tycoon, the pirate captain Faris and the deeply mysterious Galuf. Together, they embark on a journey to save the planet.

As with its predecessor, FINAL FANTASY V features the ATB battle system, but expands the possibilities dramatically with an incredibly deep and flexible new class system that lets you customize your characters with 26 unique jobs.

Play this first if…

  • You enjoy battle systems with a lot of depth
  • You want as many options as possible in how you build your party
  • You like to laugh - FINAL FANTASY V is one of the funniest games in the series
FINAL FANTASY VI pixel remaster

FINAL FANTASY VI pixel remaster

  • Available on: PC, iOS, Android (coming soon)

FINAL FANTASY VI is one of the most popular entries in the FINAL FANTASY series - acclaimed by fans and critics alike.

This game introduced several interesting ideas, including a story with strong characters, but no central protagonist - each member of the party gets their own moment center stage and you can choose who to control for much of the game.

It’s set in a world where magic has vanished, and humankind has embraced the power of iron, gunpowder, steam engines and other technologies. But one still does have the power of magic - a young woman named Terra, who is enslaved by the evil Empire.

An encounter with an Esper - an ancient being of incredible power - frees Terra from the Empire’s clutches and sets off a chain of events that touches countless lives, and leads to epic and terrible consequences.

And, of course we should mention that FINAL FANTASY VI features Kefka - regarded by many as one of the greatest villains of all time…

Play this first if…

  • You want to start with one of the most critically acclaimed games in the series
  • You like games with memorable villains
  • You like surprises - this game goes places you may not expect…

FINAL FANTASY VII

FINAL FANTASY VII changed the face of gaming forever.

It’s inspired a legion of fans thanks to its epic story, legendary characters and unsurpassed presentation. It’s gone on to inspire spin-offs, movies and even a full-blown remake.

The story starts in Midgar, a city controlled by Shinra Inc - a less than ethical multi-conglomerate that is absorbing Mako energy and destroying the natural resources of the planet.

Cloud, a former member of Shinra’s elite SOLDIER unit, joins AVALANCHE in a daring mission to bomb one of the city’s reactors, but in the chaos that follows, he makes a discovery that will change his life, and the world, forever.

The game also made waves with its cinematic presentation and innovative Materia system that essentially lets you slot abilities and magic into armor - this allows for an incredible level of flexibility in how you set up the party.

The version available now on current platforms features a number of useful features, including the ability to speed up time, turn off random encounters or even boost your characters to full health.

Play this first if…

  • You want an adventure with unforgettable characters
  • You want an easy-to-understand combat system that has a lot of depth
  • You want to understand what all the hype is about
FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE

FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE

The most recent game in the series reimagines FINAL FANTASY VII and the iconic city of Midgar for modern platforms.

The story follows the same storyline as the original game up to the party’s escape from the city but the game uses the increased fidelity and scale to deepen the already-beloved characters, add new scenarios and even additional story elements.

The battle system is especially noteworthy, fusing real-time action with menu-based commands to create something that’s exciting, fast-paced and agreeably strategic.

Add in amazing minigames (Motorcycle battles! Dance offs! Competitive squatting!), loads of side quests, battles and challenges to complete, stunning graphics and a truly incredible soundtrack and you have one of the greatest games in the series to date.

Let’s just say there’s a reason it won ‘Best RPG’ in the 2020 Game Awards.

If you have a PS5 or PC, you can get FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE INTERGRADE, and the new FF7R EPISODE INTERmission. This new story takes place concurrently with the main tale and follows fan-favorite ninja Yuffie Kisaragi as she embarks on a dangerous mission in Midgar.

(Note: PS4 owners who own a copy of FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE can upgrade to the PS5 version for free. FF7R EPISODE INTERmission must be purchased separately.)

Play this first if…

  • You want an exciting story that’s full of very memorable moments and characters
  • You want an amazing combat system that fuses real-time action and command-based strategy
  • You want to see jaw-dropping visuals - this game is beautiful

FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered

In FINAL FANTASY VIII, the militarized nation of Galbadia has formed an alliance with the Sorceress Edea and is making a bid for world conquest.

Amid the conflict, Squall Leonhart and a group of fellow students from Balamb Garden’s mercenary force, SeeD, are dispatched into action. But Squall’s universe it turned upside down when he meets the free-spirited Rinoa Heartilly and starts to dream that he is a Galbadian soldier named Laguna Loire…

FINAL FANTASY VIII upped the ante with presentation once again, with more detailed characters models, jaw-dropping cinematics and one of the most adored soundtracks in the series.

It also innovated in terms of gameplay, with more real-time elements like timed button presses to enhance damage in combat, and the strategically deep ‘Junction’ system, which lets you enhance your party’s stats with magic. Also, it featured the card game Triple Triad - one of the best mini-games in the series to date!

FINAL FANTASY VIII Remastered is an updated version of the game with enhanced visuals, and useful boosters, such as the ability to speed up time!

Play this first if…

  • You have a soft spot for romance
  • You want to see some of the most impressive cinematics in the series
  • You like card games - Triple Triad is great!

FINAL FANTASY IX

FINAL FANTASY IX is an epic story of love, war and betrayal. The game begins with an elaborate plan by the roguish Zidane and the Tantalus Theater Troupe to kidnap Princess Garnet, the heir of Alexandria.

But to their surprise, the princess wants to be kidnapped, and make her escape from the castle. Before long Garnet, her personal guard Steiner, have joined Zidane and a colorful cast of misfits, including Vivi, Freya and Quina, on an unforgettable journey across a dangerous land.

This game marks a return to the series traditional fantasy roots, after the sci-fi inspired worlds of the prior two games. More than that, it operates as a love letter to the FINAL FANTASY series as a whole. The game contains lots of references that serve to reward series veterans, while introducing many elements of the franchise to newcomers.

Play this first if:

  • You want a charming, light-hearted story and characters
  • You want a gentle introduction to all the iconic elements of the series
  • You prefer fantasy settings over science fiction

FINAL FANTASY X HD Remaster

FINAL FANTASY X tells the story of Tidus - a talented blitzball player, who journeys with a young summoner named Yuna on a quest to save the world of Spira from an endless cycle of destruction wrought by the colossal menace Sin.

The game features exciting turn-based battles and introduced the sphere grid system of character progression.

Rather than characters levelling up automatically as in prior games, in FINAL FANTASY X, you manually build their stats and abilities by inserting orbs into a massive grid. It’s very simple system to use, but it gives you greater control over how your party develops than many of the older games.

FINAL FANTASY X|X-2 HD Remaster is available now, and updates the game with high-definition visuals, and a remastered soundtrack. The collection also includes the sequel FINAL FANTASY X-2 - a memorable game in its own right - as well bonus material and extras.

Play this first if:

  • You want to play one of the most popular and successful games in the series
  • You want a battle system that’s fast-paced, turn-based and tactical
  • You also want to play its sequel FINAL FANTASY X|X-2 - it’s included in FINAL FANTASY X|X-2 HD Remaster

FINAL FANTASY XI

  • Available on: PC

FINAL FANTASY XI was even more of a departure for the series - rather than an epic single player adventure, the game was a massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG). Still pretty epic though.

It’s set in the vast world of Vana'diel, and allows players team up to battle, explore, chat and trade their way through a huge number of quests, full of drama and intrigue.

With the game set to celebrate its 20th anniversary soon, it's clear that this game has staying power!

Play this first if:

  • If you want to play a traditional old-school MMORPG
  • You like having a vast world to explore and lots of things to do
  • You have friends who play the game, and can join you on quests

FINAL FANTASY XII THE ZODIAC AGE

Available on: Switch / PS4 / Xbox One / PC

The world of Ivalice is at war. The small kingdom of Dalmasca has been conquered by the Archadian Empire, leaving Princess Ashe the one and only heir to the throne. Meanwhile, Vaan, a street urchin and orphan, dreams of flying freely in the skies.

The two will join forces with friends, pirates and warriors to form a resistance, find a way to restore Dalmasca to its former glory, and maybe even save the world.

FINAL FANTASY XII’s biggest innovations were in the critically-acclaimed Gambit system, which allows players to set the behaviors of your party to an incredibly precise degree, enabling them to act automatically in battle.

The ZODIAC AGE edition of the game - available on most platforms - expanded the options further, with even more gambits and the ability to give characters a second job in combat. It also features improved HD visuals, a remastered soundtrack and the ability to speed up time.

Play this first if:

  • You want your fantasy to be full of large scale and full of political intrigue. Also pirates.
  • You’d like to be able to control and experiment with your party’s AI
  • You want a seamless world with no separation between exploration and combat

FINAL FANTASY XIII

  • Available on: PC / Xbox One (via backwards compatibility)

A deepening crisis threatens to plunge the floating world of Cocoon into chaos. A powerful and dangerous being called a Fal'Cie has been discovered, and in the aftermath a group of unsuspecting strangers are branded enemies of the state.

With the terrified population baying for their blood, and the military eager to fulfil that request, the group has no choice but to run - but will they be able to escape the destiny that has been thrust upon them?

One of the best things about FINAL FANTASY XIII is the paradigm system - fast paced, strategic battles in which characters must change roles on the fly to suit the constantly changing conditions. It also introduced popular characters like Lightning and spawned two direct sequels.

FINAL FANTASY XIII (and its sequels) can be played on PC and Xbox One via backward compatibility.

Play this first if…

  • You’d prefer a more guided RPG than others in the series
  • You like your games with an ensemble cast of characters
  • You like a combat system that’s strategic and makes you adapt on the fly

FINAL FANTASY XIV Online

Available on: PC / Mac / PS5 / PS4

FINAL FANTASY XIV Online is a massively multiplayer game set in Eorzea - a realm embraced by gods and forged by heroes.

It has everything you could want from a FINAL FANTASY game - an intricate, engaging storyline, fantastic graphics, and a deep job system that lets you change roles as much as you want. It also includes one of the most welcoming MMO communities out there for newcomers. The game eases players in gently to the adventure, and features a mentor system that helps new players find answers and get up to speed quickly through interacting with veterans.

Even better, it’s getting bigger all the time. The most recent expansion, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Endwalker is out now, and it adds loads more content, including two new jobs, new areas, new storylines, and more.

It’s a game with hundreds of hours-worth of quests and content to sink your teeth into - not to mention some of the most compelling stories in the whole FINAL FANTASY series.

Play this first if…

  • You want a FINAL FANTASY game that you can enjoy with others
  • You want a massive world with literally hundreds of hours of content available
  • You want to be part of one of the most supportive communities in gaming - plenty of players would be delighted to help you get started

FINAL FANTASY XV

After years of fighting, the nations of Lucis and Niflheim agree to an armistice.

As a symbol of the peace, Noctis, crown prince of Lucis, plans to wed Lady Lunafreya of Tenebrae. Joined by his friends and bodyguards - Gladiolus, Ignis and Prompto - the young prince sets off on a road trip towards his bride to be. But the group is unaware of the many dangers that lie ahead.

FINAL FANTASY XV opens with a statement of intent - “A FINAL FANTASY for Fans and First-Timers”.

It offers up a large world, filled with quests to complete, vicious monsters to hunt and secrets to discover and - for the first time for a numbered FINAL FANTASY game - a spectacular action-oriented battle system.

It’s an unconventional FINAL FANTASY game in that respect, but the core of the series shines through - wonderful characters, a compelling story, exciting battles and incredible presentation.

Play this first if…

  • You want a battle system that’s action-oriented rather than command-based
  • You want a large world full of side quests and monsters to hunt
  • You’re a foodie - the meals in this game are something else!

What about the spin-offs?

FINAL FANTASY has been around for a long time, and has spawned direct sequels, like FINAL FANTASY X-2 and FINAL FANTASY XIII-2, as well as spin-off games like STRANGER OF PARADISE FINAL FANTASY ORIGIN, FINAL FANTASY TACTICS or WORLD OF FINAL FANTASY.

But to be frank, this article is more than long enough already. Maybe we’ll cover them in a future post, but much like the main numbered titles, each is designed to be played standalone, so you can’t really go wrong.


As we said at the start, there’s no right answer to where you should start with the FINAL FANTASY series. As each game is its own unique entity, you really can begin wherever you want. Hopefully the descriptions here will help you make that decision.

Even so, we’re sure that any fans reading have strong views, so why not let us know on social media?

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