Final Fantasy is a video game series that is usually considered part science fiction and part fantasy. Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and developed by Square Enix, Final Fantasy has been around for decades. Since the first game was released in 1990 in North America, a total of fifteen games have since been added to the franchise.
The first three were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Final Fantasy III was the last in the series for the NES, until a remake was created for the Nintendo DS in 2006. The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) saw the next three Final Fantasy games. Here is where the numbering systems differ.
In Japan, Final Fantasy IV was released as Final Fantasy II in North America, while Final Fantasy VI in Japan became Final Fantasy III in North America. In the original game, the battle system was turn-based, while the second game is revolved around the story, with character classes limited to specific characters.
The designer of the battle system in the first game - Akitoshi Kawazu - said that no one understood the system he made for Final Fantasy II, so in game three it went back to the class-based model. The release of Final Fantasy V introduced the Active Time Battle system, which is what Final Fantasy became known for after that.
The franchise has seen memorable characters, as well as memorable villains. In this article we’ll explore some of the most powerful villains in the series.
17 Final Fantasy I: Chaos
Chaos is the main antagonist and final boss of the original Final Fantasy game. He’s a demonic monster who controls a time loop. During the game, the Warriors of Light defeat the villain Garland, then travel around the world to battle the Four Fiends of Chaos.
The Fiends stole power from various crystals located around the world, and directed that power into a dark crystal located in the Chaos Shrine. This created a portal into the past. The Warriors travel into the past and defeat the Fiends, and find Garland alive.
Garland tells the Warriors that he used the power of the Fiends to travel to the past while he was defeated. Then, he sent the Fiends from the past to the present, which created a time loop. At the end of the game, Garland absorbs the Fiends’ power and transforms into Chaos. The Warriors defeat Chaos, which breaks the time loop.
16 Final Fantasy II: The Emperor
Emperor Mateus, ruler of Palamecia, wants to take over the world with the help of demonic forces. Mateus received his powers by making a pact with Satan, lord of Pandaemonium. He begins attacking kingdoms around the world, although several resist. After capturing the kingdom of Fynn, Mateus starts building the Dreadnought.
The protagonists make several assassination attempts against the Emperor, before finally killing him in battle. As he dies, Mateus’s soul splits in two. One half travels to Pandaemonium, defeats Satan and becomes the new ruler. The other half goes to Heaven and becomes the lord of Arubboth. When the protagonists reach the throne room of Arubboth, the Light Emperor asks for forgiveness, but the party realize he’s lying. They attack the Light Emperor, while another group in Pandaemonium attack the Dark Emperor. As the Light Emperor is dying, he tells the group that “the struggles of violence and war will continue as long as humans exist.”
15 Final Fantasy III: Cloud of Darkness
The Cloud of Darkness is the final boss of Final Fantasy III. Its goal is to create a flood of darkness to “reduce the world to nothingness.” During the game, the Cloud manipulates the character Xande to destroy the Crystals. Xande thinks this will stop time and let him live forever, but it’s actually what the Cloud needs to fully manifest into physical form.
After Xande dies, the Cloud appears because of an imbalance between light and dark. The Cloud then defeats the Warriors of Light in battle, but they are revived and return to confront the Cloud. The Cloud of Darkness summons the Warriors of Darkness, but they rebel and help the Warriors of Light.
At first, the Cloud of Darkness is too powerful, but the Warriors of Darkness sacrifice themselves and weaken the Cloud. At the end of the game, the Warriors of Light defeat the Cloud of Darkness, and stops its plan to extinguish all life.
14 Final Fantasy IV: Zemus/Zeromus
“The resentment of Zemus, unable to accept death, grew to a scream of hatred that will threaten to destroy the whole world. Within his grotesque smile is the Lunarian's fury at the world he failed to makes his own.”
Zemus is a Lunarian who wants his people to wake from their sleep and populate Earth. The other Lunarians want to wait for Earthlings to evolve to the point where the two races can coexist. But Zemus was impatient and wanted world domination (what villain doesn’t?).
Zemus was forced to sleep, and the moon’s crystals sealed him inside the moon. However, because of his strong psychic powers, his mind stayed awake, and he formed a plan. He manipulates a Lunarian - Golbez - into summoning the Giant of Babil, a huge android that can destroy all life on Earth.
The other Lunarians and their allies work together and defeat the Giant by destroying its central processing unit. Another Lunarian break’s Zemus’s mind control over Golbez, and Golbez swears to kill Zemus. In a battle, Zemus goads the others into killing him with a meteor spell. His will to live is too powerful, and he becomes the spirit Zeromus.
13 Final Fantasy V: Exdeath
In this game, the humans need to find a way to purge their land of evil souls. They eventually seal them inside of a great tree, but a side effect of this prison is that the souls make the tree self-aware. The tree assumes a humanoid form, and Exdeath is born, as evil as the souls imprisoned within.
Exdeath builds a castle for himself and starts a war with the other kingdoms. He starts destroying the crystals of the world, one by one. The Warriors of Light fight back, and seal him in an alternate dimension. But Exdeath escapes his prison and hides within his castle.
As the game continues, Exdeath tortures the Warriors of Light in retaliation. He defeats the protagonist Galuf, and reveals his true goal: to control the Void and “return the world to a state of nothingness.” Eventually, the Warriors of Light defeat Exdeath, and the world is restored as new crystals appear.
12 Final Fantasy VI: Kefka Palazzo
Known as the “psycho clown”, Final Fantasy fans consider Kefka to be the second most powerful villain in the series. In this game, Kefka is Emperor Gestahl’s right-hand man. He is considered the first experimental Magitek Knight, which gave him magical powers. But the process was still in its infancy, and the experiment made him go insane.
Kefka becomes an insane madman, and as a result becomes one of the most dangerous men in the Gestahlian Empire. Six years after the experiment, he creates an imperial military and enslaves a half-human named Terra Branford. To make sure the enslavement worked, Kefka has her burn 50 soldiers alive.
At some point in the game, Kefka steals power from the Triad and becomes the God of Magic. He builds himself a tower from the ruins of the world, and kills people who defy him with the Light of Judgement. Eventually, a protagonist named Celes travels to the tower and kills Kefka. But since Kefka became the God of Magic, all magic in the world disappears with his death.
11 Final Fantasy VII: Sephiroth
Sephiroth is one of the most well-known villains in the Final Fantasy series, and most consider him to be the most powerful villain. He is the product of a biological experiment where he was injected with alien cells while still in his mother’s womb.
As he grows up, Sephiroth becomes the most powerful member of SOLDIER, which is the planet Shinra’s elite military division. After the Shinra-Wutai war, he travels to the village of Nibelheim where he learns the truth of his birth. He finds out that the alien whose cells he was injected with - Jenova - tried to take over the planet 2000 years ago.
He attempts to do the same, and tries to become a god to rule over the planet. He believes he can merge with the planet’s Lifestream, and take control of it. Over the course of the game he ends up being defeated several times, but always comes back. In the end however, the protagonist Cloud Strife kills him for good.
10 Final Fantasy VIII: Ultimecia
Ultimecia is a powerful sorceress whose ultimate goal is to “compress all time and space to become a living god.” In this game, it’s implied that she's the rule of the world. She’s afraid that her destiny is defeat at the hands of the “Legendary SeeD”. SeeD is a codename for Balamb Garden’s elite mercenary group.
To avoid this, she sends her consciousness back in time and possesses the sorceress Edea Kramer. Ultimecia wants to send her mind far enough back in time to cast the compression spell, but to do so she’ll need to use a girl called Ellone.
At the end of the game, she is able to acquire enough power to start absorbing all of time, space and existence into her body. However, her plan backfires, and she is killed in a huge explosion as time starts decompressing. She ends up fulfilling her destiny, and fades away in a cloud of purple smoke.
9 Final Fantasy IX: Kuja
Kuja is a member of a race called Genomes, created by the ruler of the dead planet Terra, Garland. Garland’s goal is to use Terra to assimilate the planet Gaia by replacing Gaian souls with Terran ones. To speed up the process, Garland creates Kuja to start a war.
Kuja serves as an arms dealer to Queen Brahne, so she can conquer her neighboring kingdoms and steal their crystals. The weapons that Kuja creates are black mages, soulless golems that have powerful magic. The protagonists of the game eventually travel to the Lifa Tree, a giant tree that filters the Gaian and Terran souls.
The protagonists then make their way to the planet Terra, where they learn of Garland and his plan. At first, Kuja defeats the group by using the most powerful black magic spell, Ultima. Kuja kills Garland, but Garland’s spirit remains and reveals the truth to Kuja, that he was only meant to be a temporary Angel of Death.
8 Final Fantasy X: Yu Yevon
A thousand years ago, Yu Yevon was the leader of the ancient city Zanarkand, and he was a powerful summoner. When Zanarkand was at war with Bevelle, a city that uses machines and mechanical weapons. Yu Yevon, not wanting Zanarkand to be destroyed, had his remaining citizens turn themselves into fayth. He then creates an idealized version of Zanarkand.
Yu Yevon then gathers up a huge swarm of pyreflies and transforms them into a living armor for himself, which becomes the creature Sin. He gives Sin instructions to destroy any machines or big settlements to stop technological evolution. Sin’s first goal is to destroy the real Zanarkand. Bevelle’s armies retreat as they see Zanardkand’s destruction.
According to the game, Yu Yevon is neither good nor evil. His only purpose is to maintain Dream Zanarkand while protected by his armor. In a cycle of destruction, every time a summoner destroys Sin, the aeon used for the Final Summoning is possessed by Yu Yevon and he uses it to rebuild Sin. The period of time when Yu Yevon rebuilds Sin is known as the Calm.
After a thousand years of this endless cycle, the protagonists are able to pierce Sin’s armor and defeat Yu Yevon. This banishes Sin and allow the fayth to stop dreaming Dream Zanarkand.
7 Final Fantasy X-2: Shuyin
“Lenne's lover from the Zanarkand of a thousand years past. He could not save her, and his consequent sorrow and despair linger in this shadowy form.”
This game is set two years after the events in Final Fantasy X, and is the first true playable sequel. A thousand years ago, Shuyin lived when Zanarkand was at war with Bevelle. He wanted to end the war and save his lover, Lenne, who was summoned to the front lines of battle.
To end the war, he tried to use Bevelle’s powerful weapon, Vegnagun. Although he was captured in his attempt, he manages to activate the canon before Lenne appears and pleads with him to stop. Shuyin embraces Lenne as they are surrounded by soldiers and shot.
His spirit is consumed with hatred and a desire for vengeance, and again tries to steal Vegnagun. Once the protagonists destroy Vegnagun, Lenne’s spirit is reunited with Shuyin, and they fade away into the afterlife.
6 Final Fantasy XI: Lady Lilith
Not to be confused with Lilith from Final Fantasy IV, Lady Lilith is the main villain of Final Fantasy XI. Lady Lilith is actually Lilisette from an alternate timeline. In this timeline, she’s a Vana’diel where the Crystal War never ended, and no one was able to defeat the Shadow Lord.
Because of this, Lilith made a pact with Odin to be able to fight the Shadow Lord as an equal. The Dawn Goddess Altana used the Cait Siths to release Atomos, which replaced Lilith’s timeline with a more peaceful world. Lady Lilith and her minions defended their history from Altana.
She chases her parents to make sure her existence is favored over Lilisette’s. However, a reborn Lilisette confronts Lady Lilith, and they battle. Lilith is defeated, but plays dead to trick Lilisette. She captures Lilisette and absorbs her to become more powerful. But Lady Lilith is injured by Lilisette’s allies, and Atomos devours her. Lilith releases Lilisette and restores the barrier between their timelines.
5 Final Fantasy XII: Vayne Solidor
Vayne Solidor is the third son of Lord Gramis, Emperor of Archadia. In the course of the game, Vayne’s brothers became traitors, and he killed them at his father’s request. He was the mastermind behind the invasions of Nabradia and Dalmasca, in order to seize the Dusk Shard and Midnight Shard.
Two years later, he becomes Consul of Rabanastre, making him the ruler of Dalmasca. But his rule is short-lived. The Imperial Senate recalls Vayne to Archades, and discovers that someone poisoned his father, Lord Gramis. He begins acting as the new Emperor of Archadia.
In his attempt to “put history’s reins back into the hands of man,” he rebels against the Gods. Princess Ashe, a protagonist of the game, confronts Vayne and defeats him, but with the power of a crystal, he transforms into Vayne Novus. In the course of battle, he is wounded and becomes a mechanical dragon, but he explodes into a cloud of Mist.
4 Final Fantasy XIII: Orphan
Orphan is the main power source for fal’Cie Eden, in order to keep the continent of Cocoon floating. Orphan wants to be reunited with the fal’Cie’s Maker, and formulates a plan to send Cocoon falling to the lowerworld - Gran Pulse. This ensures that Etro’s Gate is opened by the passing of a large number of souls.
After the familiar Menrva gives birth to Orphan, he tortures the character Vanille to kick-start her transformation into Ragnarok, a legendary beast that a Pulse I’Cie must transform into to destroy Cocoon.
A friend of Vanille’s - Fang - doesn’t want to see her suffer, and offers to be tortured instead. Fang transforms into Ragnarok and destroys the barrier that protects Orphan, but she can’t defeat the fal’Cie. Orphan’s shell is destroyed and emerges in his true form, but is ultimately defeated. Fang and Vanille become Ragnarok together and use a crystal pillar to keep Cocoon floating.
3 Final Fantasy XIII-2: Adam
XIII-2 is the direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, set three years after the events of the latter. Proto fal’Cie Adam is a man-made fal’Cie and is made sentient with advanced artificial intelligence. He was tasked with the protection of the city of Academia, and was meant to re-levitate Cocoon when the crystal pillar weakens.
However, a future incarnation of Adam travels back in time when it was first created. It influences the AI responsible for its creation, and reprograms machines to murder the scientists that created it. This creates a time loop and Adam becomes a paradox.
Eventually, the protagonist Hope Estheim realizes the situation is his fault. He uses an Oracle Drive to see into the past before the creation of Adam. He is able to travel back in time to cancel the project, which erases Adam from existence.
2 Final Fantasy XIV: Gaius van Baelsar
“Unworthy is the rule whose subjects seek the solace of false gods.”
Known as the Black Wolf, Gaius van Baelsar is one of the main villains of this game. As a general in the Imperial Army, he becomes the Emperor’s favorite Legatus because of his combat ability and leadership.
After years of dedicated service, the Emperor tells him to take over the subcontinent of Eorzea and bring it under their control. During the game, his conquest is stopped when the XIVth Airship Fleet comes into conflict with the dragonkin and their leader, Midgardsormr.
Gaius and his legion retreat to avoid angering the Beast Tribes and their Gods. Another Legatus - Nael van Darnus - creates a plan to destroy Eorzea by using the ancient spell Meteor. Gaius pledges to help with Project Meteor. However, decides to act on his own to conquer Eorzea for himself. In the last battle with the protagonists, Gaius is killed.
1 Final Fantasy XV: Ravus Nox Fleuret
Final Fantasy XV is the current game of the series, having been released in November 2016. When Ravus is a child, the kingdoms of Lucis and Tenebrae are allies. As he grows up he becomes a commanding officer in Niflheim’s army.
After a peace treaty is signed with with Insomnia, Niflheim steals Insomnia’s crystal. After King Regis’s hand is cut off, Ravus picks up his ring - the Ring of the Lucii - to use its power for himself. The old Lucian kings find him unworthy, and the ring severely burns his arm.
His arm is replaced by a magitek prosthetic that enhances his bodily strength to “unnatural levels.” After his sister is killed, Ravus resists arrest and is killed himself. The demonic energy in his prosthetic arm turns him into a demon. A tiny part of Ravus remains and begs for death, and is eventually killed by his friends.
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