It’s safe to say that we’ve all played a Final Fantasy game at one point in our lives. Whether it was the ballsy advertising of Final Fantasy VII that drew you in, the nostalgia of the ninth entry that is still hailed as a masterpiece so many years after release or even the magnificent sixth game in the series that was the highlight for a 16-bit generation, Final Fantasy has and still remains a force to be reckoned with.
But what of the games outside of the numbered series? The spin-offs, the prequels and the crazy experiments in other genres? Final Fantasy as a franchise is full of one-shots that explored other corners of its multiple universes, games which expanded on and sharpened ideas which were felt in the core series in the years to come.
Here’s a look at five such games which were crystallised perfection.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Love it or hate it, but there’s no denying the sheer impact that Final Fantasy VII had on an industry when it was released more than two decades ago. It was a game that moved the franchise forward to glorious new heights, spinning a tale of love, loss and redemption that was so intriguing that it had to be explored further.
One of those explorations? The PlayStation Portable masterpiece Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII. Giving the vastly underrated Zack Fair the spotlight, this was the prequel that filled in the gaps of Final Fantasy VII. The rise of Zack as a hero, the fall of Sephiroth and the birth of Cloud Strife as his successor. It’s a game of heartbreak and despair, wrapped up in an accessible action package whose influence can still be felt today in the magnificent Final Fantasy XV and beyond.
It’s not often that a spin-off comes close to toppling the game it was based on, but Crisis Core came damn close to doing so.
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius
One of the best Final Fantasy games that you can find today isn’t a premium console-exclusive title that’ll cost you a fair amount of pennies. Rather, it’s the freemium gem that is Final Fantasy Brave Exvius. Sure, it may have all the trappings of your regular free-to-play mobile game, but it’s a design that actually works wonders for Brave Exvius.
It’s Final Fantasy condensed to its turn-based core, offering the quickest of battles while still providing a layer of depth that other games in the franchise could learn from. The greatest strength of Brave Exvius however, is that it’s easily the most rewarding game on this list. Events are held regularly, prizes that’ll turn your characters into gods are always up for grabs and obtaining new warriors is simply a matter of loyalty and persistence.
All that, and it’s still 100% free. Amazing, right?
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
You’ve always needed to do some quick thinking within a core Final Fantasy game to find success, but shifting the entire premise of that franchise towards a more cerebral exploration of its themes? Utter genius. 1997 saw Final Fantasy go for broke with strategy in Tactics, and the result was simply magical. Square Enix would explore the concept further in the years to come, shrinking the concept to fit on the GameBoy Advance, but it was the PlayStation portable that was home to the very best incarnation of a Final Fantasy that asked you to think several steps ahead of the curve.
Taking the magnificent work done in Final Fantasy Tactics and updating it into The War of the Lions, this port of a spin-off was pure magic. The visuals were spruced up, multiplayer was thrown in and new content was developed specifically for a game which could have easily been a case of wham bam thank you ma’am.
Instead, Square Enix threw a ton of effort into making one of their very best spin-off games even better. War, love and the true nature of nobility. Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions has it all.
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm
With over three decades worth of games, Final Fantasy has managed to amass one hell of an audio treasure chest along the way. You can thank composers such as Nobuo Uematsu for dozens upon dozens of soundtracks that crafted the series, while other legendary composers such as Hitoshi Sakimoto, Masashi Hamauzu and Kumi Tanioka also all contributed some form of distinctive audio magic to the franchise.
Final Fantasy Theatrhythm then, is a celebration of the sound of a franchise. Ably mixing composition with an utterly addictive game of rhythm and timing, Theathrhythm is everything your ears love about the series. A collection of signature tracks that stretches across multiple generations to provide the greatest love letter possible for a franchise that shaped so many lives over so many years.
Dissidia Final Fantasy
As fans, we love to ponder on the most important question to ask of any franchise that has endured for multiple years: Who would win in a fight? A pointless question at the end of the day, but dammit a question that needs to be asked. Final Fantasy Dissidia answered that query, in a manner that only Final Fantasy could.
Dissidia could have easily been a stock-standard fighting game along the same lines as Street Fighter or the weirdly 3D Ergheiz of the PS One era, but Square Enix decided to go in a different route at the time. Combining a properly three-dimensional arena within which players could stage fights that wouldn’t look out of place in a high budget action film starring gods with oversized swords, Dissidia was utterly unique in its design.
This was a game where dramatic progressive action led to bravery being a resource between every clash of the blade, with environments hiding Hail-Mary advantages when you were pressed into a corner and your most powerful attacks were stylish to the max. All that, a massive cast of playable characters and a story that had all of reality at stake? What more could you ask for?
An enduring legacy, Dissidia Final Fantasy lived on in numerous sequels, with a gorgeous new version being released at the start of 2018.
Last Updated: February 15, 2018