The Final Fantasy series is one of the most beloved in video games, with its origins dating back to the release of the first game in the franchise in 1987.
The flagship series of Japanese developer and publisher Square Enix has garnered both critical and commercial success, and is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time, selling over 149 million units worldwide.
As a long-time fan of the series myself, many of the Final Fantasy titles are among my favourite videogames of all time, and served as an introduction to one of the most engaging genres of the medium – JRPGs.
Thus, it caught my attention when I learnt that Japan’s national broadcaster NHK recently conducted the All-Final Fantasy Grand Poll, asking participants to vote for the best games, characters, bosses & summons as well as music from the series.
The results were announced on February 29, with a total of 468,654 votes amassed.
In the poll, Final Fantasy X emerged in first place, voted as the best game in the series, followed by Final Fantasy VII in second and Final Fantasy VI in third.
Final Fantasy X is set in the world of Spira, revolving around a group of adventurers on a quest to defeat Sin, a monster that returns to every 10 years to wreak havoc on the world’s inhabitants. First released on the PlayStation 2 in 2001, a HD remaster of the game has since been re-released for modern platforms, first for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in 2013, the PlayStation 4 in 2016, Microsoft Windows in 2016 and most recently for Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in 2019.
Final Fantasy VII follows the story of a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organisation trying to save the world from the overlords of a mega-corporation that is draining the planet’s lifeblood. Final Fantasy VII was released on the first PlayStation in January 1997. A highly anticipated remake of the much-loved and nostalgia-inducing title is set to release on April 10, 2020.
The third placed game was Final Fantasy VI, which focuses on a conflict between the Gestahlian Empire trying to conquer the world and a rebel faction called the Returners. The game first released on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan in April 1994, then later in North America as Final Fantasy III in October 1994.
Rounding up the top 10 voted games in the series were Final Fantasy IX in fourth spot, followed by Final Fantasy XIV in fifth, Final Fantasy V in sixth, Final Fantasy VIII in seventh, Final Fantasy IV in eighth, Final Fantasy XI in ninth and Final Fantasy XV in tenth.
Cloud Strife, the main protagonist of Final Fantasy VII, was named the best Final Fantasy character in the poll, followed by the summoner Yuna from Final Fantasy X and Aerith from Final Fantasy VII.
Vivi and Zidane from Final Fantasy IX took fourth and fifth places respectively, while Emer-Selch from Final Fantasy XIV was sixth and Tidus from Final Fantasy X was seventh. Final Fantasy XIII’s main character Lightning was eighth, followed by Final Fantasy VII’s Tifa Lockhart and Zack Fair in ninth and tenth places.
For the Boss & Summon category, Knights of the Round, a summon from Final Fantasy VII with a notoriously long animation, took top spot, while the memorable villain Kefka from Final Fantasy VI was second, followed by Hades from Final Fantasy XIV. Fourth place went to the Anima, a summon from Final Fantasy X, with Final Fantasy V’s Omega taking fifth place, while Valefor and Brasca’s Final Aeon from Final Fantasy X took sixth and seventh respectively. Bahamut Type-0 from Final Fantasy VII placed eighth, Final Fantasy V’s Sildra was ninth and tenth went to Safer Sephiroth, the final boss in Final Fantasy VII.
The last category of the poll was for music from the Final Fantasy series. To Zanarkand from Final Fantasy X took first place, with Final Fantasy V’s Battle of the Big Bridge in second and Final Fantasy VIII’s Eyes On Me in third place.
Fourth place went to Searching for Friends from Final Fantasy VI, while Flash from Final Fantasy XIII took fifth spot, followed by Final Fantasy VII’s One-Winged Angel and Aerith’s Theme in sixth and seventh places respectively. Final Fantasy IX’s Melodies of Life finished in eighth place, while the Main Theme from the first Final Fantasy took ninth place and Final Fantasy VII’s boss battle theme, Those Fight Further finished in tenth.
Asked for his thoughts on the outcome of the poll, fellow Final Fantasy fan Brian said, “Personally, the results made sense. The top three voted games are generally accepted by most Final Fantasy fans as critical titles to play if one wants to experience what the long-running series is about.”
“Final Fantasy X is a great game, both in terms of mechanics and story. Final Fantasy VII has been praised ad nauseam by everyone and their mother, while Final Fantasy VI was known for tackling mature themes during the peak of the 16-bit era.”
“My favourite game is Final Fantasy IX, while my favourite character is a toss-up between Zidane and Vivi. I loved the Melodies of Life track from the game. I also enjoyed pummeling IX’s complex baddie Kuja and took delight summoning Ifrit throughout the whole series.”
Another fan of the series, Mohd Eidlan, said, “Final Fantasy X is considered to be one of the best in the series. Its characters, its story, and Blitzball mini-game were top notch, not to mention it had one of the best themes as well, To Zanarkand, which is still stuck in my head.”
“Final Fantasy VII deserves to be up there as well as it was one of the first Final Fantasy games to be popularised outside Japan. Plus, with the upcoming remake coming out soon, it had to be up there.”
Sharing his personal favourite game from the series, he said, “As much as I want to say Final Fantasy VII, taking off the nostalgia glasses and considering current context, I would choose either X or XII – they have aged well and are still enjoyable to play even in this generation of consoles.”
“My favourite character would be Vincent from Final Fantasy VII or Vivi from Final Fantasy IX,” he added. “Kefka from Final Fantasy VI would be my favourite boss, while my favourite summon is Odin from Final Fantasy VIII.”