Final Fantasy. The name itself brings back memories of the most epic RPG moments of any gamer’s life. Grandiose settings and epic, larger than life characters will remain a staple and household name of gamers. It has, was and always will be a must play for gamers of all ages. Hironobu Sakaguchi, who spearheaded the first Final Fantasy‘s creation, assumed that it would be his final game. Little did he know that it would create a following as massive as it did, or have characters as loved and cherished as they are. In fact, without the thoughts and effort put into these characters, the franchise might not be where it is, today. Some of the most emotional gaming moments of any player’s life probably came from one of these games (Final Fantasy VII, anyone?)
Part of the love of these games comes from their believable, beloved characters the always find a way to pluck the strings of players’ hears and leave them wanting for more. They have flaws to go along with their heroic strengths. They carry weights and burdens, go through the ups and downs of relationships and live in a world beyond what we know. A fantasy. A FINAL FANTASY.
Behold, I give you the fifteen most powerful characters of the Final Fantasy franchise.
15. Vincent Valentine
“A mystical man. Stern and upright but at the same time dark and mysterious.”
Vincent Valentine is one of the most well-known characters of the Final Fantasy franchise. Emerging first in Final Fantasy VII as an optional player character, he went on to form a spin-off game as well as becoming a huge part of the movie Final Fantasy: Advent Children.
Vincent is a secretive character whose dark and mysterious past ties him directly to several of the main antagonists of the Final Fantasy VII world. It wasn’t always known, but he also has the power to shapeshift due to some dark experiments performed on him by Professor Hojo. With his characterized red garb and dual-wielded pistols, he shot his way into the hearts of gamers everywhere.
14. Tifa Lockhart
Another Final Fantasy VII character to make the list, everyone know Tifa Lockhart. She is known as the bright and most optimistic member of Cloud’s bunch. Though she plays a supportive role in Advent Children and Final Fantasy VII, she is one of the most well known of the Final Fantasy characters. Her outfit has always been one of the cowgirl, and in Crisis Core the reasons for this are given a bit of explanation. She is very strong, often deceptively so. While she is a shoulder for others, she does not often express her own inner feelings, and struggles when she tries to do so. She helps all of her allies along the way, especially Cloud, always uttering her most memorable words, “Be strong.”
13. Vivi Ornitier
Vivi is the epitome of the black mage from the Final Fantasy games, even if in the game in which he debuts, Final Fantasy IX, he seems very emo to the point of being almost annoying. Regardless of his constant one-liners about his own sorrow and wondering if he exists, the fact that Square gave one of the black mages a personality and a place in their franchise was enough to make players fall in love with Vivi.
Vivi is actually a prototype black mage created using technology from the Kingdom of Alexandria. He falls off a ship and joins the fight in Final Fantasy IX, completely unaware of who he was or why he was created. Hands down, Vivi is one of the most powerful black mages in existence.
There is a small Easter egg hidden in one of the favorite characters to come out of the Final Fantasy X game. This lies in the fact that Auron carries his arm within his shirt, called a haori. Why does he do that? Well, the theories are vast but if the hints from the creators of the game are to be believed, it is actually an homage to the ronin of the samurai era.
Ronin means without a master, or serving no lord. This may mean that at one point Auron served as a monk of Yevon, but no longer serves the other monks, the temple or his own philosophies. With his strict demeanor and extremely dry wit, Auron has become a favorite amongst the followers of the Final Fantasy franchise and is clearly one of the most powerful characters in the game.
Who could forget Tidus? He is the main character and protagonists of Final Fantasy X, which everyone remembers if they’ve played it. He was a popular character, such to the point where he made his way into Kingdom Hearts and Kindom Hearts II. Well, in Kindom Hearts II he is mentioned by Selphie but never actually shows up for a cameo.
Tidus is the stereotypical California kid with tan skin, disheveled blonde hair and a sword that looks like waves. Well, maybe not that last part. But wouldn’t it be cool? He’s as upbeat and carefree as anyone in a Final Fantasy game has ever been, and is known in his game as a star of the game Blitzball, which I never really understood. How can anyone hold their breath that long?
10. Squall Leonhart
Another character not only showing up in Final Fantasy but also Kingdom Hearts is Squall, or Leonhart depending on who you ask. In Final Fantasy VIII, Squall is one of the SeeD soldiers who later rises in the ranks to become a commander. Not too shabby for a teenager. It kind of seems like teenagers do a lot more in the Final Fantasy worlds, doesn’t it? Millennials moving through the ranks of military and saving the world. How’s that for a new take?
In Kingdom Hearts, Squall is also the leader of the Heartless Resistance, which makes sense given his military training in Final Fantasy. He even wields one of the most infamous and iconic of all of the weapons in the Final Fantasy world. The gunblade.
9. Zack Fair
Appearing in the late, great Final Fantasy VII, which is due for a remaster any day now, Zack Fair is a friend of Cloud Strife. Though I don’t recall him ever being alive in the game, all of the memories from Cloud make him a very memorable character. Before Cloud, Zack had the Buster Sword. When they’re trying to escape an experiment facility, perhaps the same one Valentine found his shapeshifting abilities inside, he bequeaths the weapon to Cloud.
Originally, Zack Fair was never even intended to be in the game. When the creators decided that Aeris and Cloud needed a connection, and the title needed more emotional depth, Zack Fair was created and entered the game, possibly saving it from being a much more bland title.
Those who have played Final Fantasy X will never forget Lulu. Mainly because, if they’re anything like me, they were still virgins crammed into their parents’ basement hoping a girl would magically appear to talk to them. Lulu was that girl for many underground gamers like me, and she had the magic and sex appeal of ten of my classmates combined.
Not only did she have the sex appeal to keep young, pre-adolescent gamers like me playing the game, she also had the tactical advantage to make her addition to the party a common sense move. Her magic was some of the strongest you could find in the game. Though she was cold-hearted and rational, her intellect became a much needed voice of logic in the game’s otherwise emotional and passionate party members.
Lightning may have literally been the single good thing to come out of Final Fantasy XIII. Don’t get me wrong, I love Final Fantasy and at one time believed they could do no wrong. That was until I played the single button smashing, linear stylings of Final Fantasy XIII. While the game itself is a definitive low point for the Final Fantasy franchise and Square itself, Lightning took the fore and did her best as a lead female role to try to save a failing game. In a changing game where females didn’t have many titles of their own, Lightning was there to slice down monsters and assert that women were strong, capable and a more than pleasant addition to video game heroes of their time.
6. Cecil Harvey
Appearing in the 1991 release of Final Fantasy IX, Cecil Harvey was raised to be a Dark Knight, and is a swordsman of incredible talent that no one could match. Even though he was raised and trained to be a Dark Knight, which are agents of violence and some might say evil, his role in the game caused players and gaming theorists to truly question the roles of good and evil, dark and light, especially for the Final Fantasy franchise, which had previously cast a very distinctive border between the two. And one can’t help but cheer for a man who has mastered their own life and become a good man, realizing his full potential and marrying the love of his life in spite of everything he should be and believe.
5. Red XIII
His real name is Nanaki, and he one of the coolest playable characters in Final Fantasy VII. He has the ferocity and instincts that allow animals to survive and thrive in a harsh climate, but he also possesses an intellect that surpasses most mortals, even the mages of the franchise. He is another of Professor Hojo’s experiments, giving him some fall in with Victor Valentine. While most would say he is a lion, the truth of the matter is that he is somewhere between a canid wolf and a lion. Most would say he looks like a lion and in Advent Children he roars like one, but he is also heard howling at the moon just like a wolf. In Costa Del Sol, there is a little girl who even calls him a dog.
Sephiroth was the best villain of the whole Final Fantasy franchise. Hell, Sephiroth may be the coolest villain of any video game, ever. Let’s just say that he is. He was so cool that he got an entire track on the Final Fantasy VII soundtrack just for him. And he deserves it. Just like Cloud Strife, Sephiroth was a member of the Shinra Military, SOLDIER.
Unfortunately for him and everyone around or in contact with him, Sephiroth was infused with an alien DNA that once tried to take over the world, leading him to do the same. He has several moments where his villainous nature became known. Burning down his hometown was a powerful moment, and his murder of our next character on this list caused players everywhere to hate him with a passion.
3. Aeris Gainsborough
Aeris begins as a simple flower girl and winds up being the most beloved and missed character in any video game. Ever. She also serves as Cloud Strife’s primary romantic interest which doesn’t stop, even in Advent Children even though he is totally seeing someone else. Full grown men have admitted to crying over her death, and her presence is sorely missed for three quarters of an entire game. She single-handedly created the idea that a game can illicit an emotional response. Through the beginning of the game, we were brought in close to Aeris, falling in love with her just as Cloud had. Her bright personality and upbeat attitude gave the game a much needed tone of light in the darkness. That is, until Sephiroth’s sword is seen plunged through her chest.
2. Ramza Beoulve
Final Fantasy Tactics is one of the best, most underrated games of the Final Fantasy franchise, and possibly of PlayStation in general. Ramza Beoulve is a mercenary that falls into a grand plot to get vengeance for the injustices of the world. Obsessed with honoring his family name, Ramza is the epitome of the “good guy” and a paragon of virtue, showing throughout the game that there is nothing as important as doing the right thing. His personality and plot through the Final Fantasy Tactics game shows him to be a deep and thought out character who brandishes the flame of light and good against darkness and evil in a world bent on corruption and thumbing down the weak. His moral lessons throughout the game remain with many of us, still.
1. Cloud Strife
No one epitomizes the Final Fantasy franchise like Cloud Strife. This lead hero remains one of the most compelling characters, facing off against his one-time compatriot, Sephiroth to save the world. Cloud Strife was the name of gamers everywhere in an era of PlayStation, and it is Cloud that helped make Final Fantasy VII one of the best games of all time. His appearance in Final Fantasy: Advent Children really sums up the character, bringing his grim and somber demeanor an explanation and presenting the details of his life and attitude in all its painful glory. He has seen many friends fall along the way, and his troubled past haunts him and the gamers who followed his journey to this day. Cloud Strife is, hands down, the absolute most memorable Final Fantasy character ever.