It’s almost hard to believe, but we’re creeping up on the sixteenth core, numbered Final Fantasy entry. There have been countless spinoffs and subseries and such of course, but the “main” games are the numbered ones. And since Final Fantasy has been running since the Famicom, and Square Enix is Square Enix, many entries in the series are playable in several different formats. So from the North American perspective, I thought it would be a good idea, as we head into the next console generation, to revisit every Final Fantasy, see what they’re available on, and give my personal recommendation on what’s best today.
The Best Way to Play Every Final Fantasy in 2020
This is totally subjective of course, but that being said I have a little criteria to keep things simple here. I’m going to list the original platform, and currently available platforms only. Yes, I know there was a flip phone version of Final Fantasy 2, and no it’s not going on the list. It also has to be a North American release, because I’m no import expert and that’s not the goal here. Also, emulation renders this entire exercise pointless, so we kind of have to leave that off the table. Alright, we cool? Cool.
Related: The Best JRPGs on the Nintendo Switch
The one that started it all. You’ve probably seen the urban legends about this game saving Square from bankruptcy, yadda yadda. What Final Fantasy really did was come running out of the gate into a world of Dragon Quest clones, with ridiculously high production values for the time. You could choose classes, see your party in battle (and they moved!), hear all kinds of different and elaborate musical numbers, so on and so forth. It was a Dragon Quest ripoff with a Hollywood bravado to it, which ended up being the ticket.
Original release - NES
Available on - PlayStation, Mobile, NES Classic Edition
Best on - If you’re in Europe, the PSP version is available digitally still, but for whatever reason that never came to be over here. With that being the case, we actually recommend the PlayStation version. You can still get Final Fantasy: Origins on the PS Store for your Vita or PS3, and you get an updated version that still has an old school feel. And it includes the second game too, so it’s a good deal. If you want all the extra stuff you can go for the iOS version, but you need to have an Apple device, and that game hasn’t been updated several screen iterations ago so it’s a bit creaky. None of the bonuses are in the Android version for some reason, so skip that for sure.
Final Fantasy II
A sort of black sheep in the family, Final Fantasy II is more of a precursor to the SaGa series than anything that took place afterwards in Final Fantasy. It’s a love it or hate it kind of game, which unfortunately means the only times it was re-released, it had to be bundled with the first game.
Original release - Famicom (official localization cancelled during development)
Available on - PlayStation, iOS, Android
Best on - Same deal here. Final Fantasy 2 doesn’t get enough love, so there are no fancy ports to be had. Again, Europe can still access the PSP version, so go for that if you can. Otherwise, it’s great in PSOne Classics form.
Final Fantasy III
The second in the pair of Famicom games we’ll never see official localizations for. The remake is a lot more ambitious, first appearing on the DS then getting a pretty fancy makeover on subsequent devices. It was even recently updated to clean some things up, which nobody expected.
Original release - Famicom (never localized)
Available on - PSP, iOS, Android, PC
Best on - These are all the same versions of the game, so dealer’s choice really. You can really crank the PC version up, but it’s a bunch of rezzed-up DS models so it’s kind of not worth the effort. The PSP version has a weird aspect ratio, but it runs really well.
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy IV is where things get really weird. A lot of older fans’ favorite, Final Fantasy IV is where the seeds were really planted for what the series went on to be. It has a melodramatic story, a big romance subplot, weird space demons, and tons of male angst. What’s weird is that there are basically three entirely different versions of this game. Unfortunately if you want a hard copy of the SNES original, you’re going to have to hit up the secondhand market. But a totally overhauled, voice-acted remake is available on PC and Mobile, and a more faithful remake is still hanging around on the PlayStation Store for now.
Original release - SNES (as Final Fantasy II)
Available on - 3D Remake: PC, Mobile, 2D Remake: PSP
Best on - Definitely the PSP. If you want to experience Final Fantasy IV as it was originally created, your best bet is the Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection. It has awesome visuals, badass box art, and it even comes with those bizarre sequels. The 3D remake is worth a look too for how strange it can be, but sometimes a less ambitious remake fits the material better.
Final Fantasy V
This is another one that never saw localization in its original form, and has subsequently been more of an oddity than a staple for fans. It’s one of the best “job system” games still today though, and personally one of my favorites. Please believe me there, because I’m about to pull a heel turn.
Original release - Super Famicom
Available on - PlayStation, Mobile, PC
Best on - Believe it or not, I’m about to point to the mobile version everyone hates. Look, we all know Final Fantasy V got the short end of the stick, perhaps even worse than II did. The PlayStation release is awful, with ludicrous load times and a… troubled localization. You can’t buy the GBA port officially, and frankly between its weird resolution fit and horrid, tinny GBA sound, it isn’t worth the 50 bucks on eBay.
The mobile version catches ire it really doesn’t deserve. Sure, blowing it up for a PC release was probably not the best decision Square Enix has made. But on a phone? It’s totally fine. But this isn’t really about the visuals. A lot of work was done under the hood to try and enhance Final Fantasy V’s quality of life. There are a ton of changes to how the game works, including a lot of the math and functions on various job abilities. Take a look here. Combined with more open controller support on mobile these days, it’s a great update even if it looks a little weird (It isn’t that bad).
Final Fantasy VI
This is the one everyone says is their favorite because it’s the right about of dour and edgy without flying off the handle or being too bright or silly. That said it’s a really great game! I’m just not sure if everyone who says it’s their favorite is telling the truth that’s inside their heart. Anyway, you have the least amount of options here.
Original release - SNES
Available on - PlayStation, SNES Classic Edition, Mobile,
Best on - The mobile version here is even more controversial than the one before. I’m less on board with it this time, too. Final Fantasy VI had some seriously good pixel art, and the blurry chibi sprites look shabby in comparison. The various QoL changes are more about the software than the actual game, so that’s less interesting as well. If you picked up a SNES Classic Edition, you may just have the best currently, officially available version of this game. No load times, no weird visual changes, no messed up music. Annoying to get a hold of, though.
Final Fantasy VII
Original release - PlayStation
Available on - PlayStation, PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Best on - Starting here, you get to games being available on the current consoles. And it’s at this point you have to make a big decision. Do you want the conveniences of modern hardware, or do you want a game without any problems? If you get the PSOne version from the PlayStation Store, you’ll be playing a perfectly fine copy of the original. The modern console versions have things like a turbo button to help make grinding better, but each version has some weird kink or another. That said a lot of bugs have been fixed, and you can get the Xbox One version on Game Pass right now.
Final Fantasy VIII
Original Release - PlayStation
Available on - PlayStation, PC Remaster: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Best on - Yeah, the only way you’re going to get this game sans tampering is via the PSOne Classics line. Otherwise you’re dealing with the original PC version (which has its own issues) or a remaster that people are kinda up and down on. These PlayStation-era ports really muddy the waters, don’t they?
Final Fantasy IX
Original release - PlayStation
Available on - PlayStation, PC, all of the above
Best on - PC! Honestly, this thing is just as fine as the others on modern hardware - it’s all the same port. But! Specifically with Final Fantasy IX, Square Enix has lost basically all of the original art assets for the game. A mod called “moguri” popped up in the Steam community, and it’s basically magic. Using AI and other techniques, the folks behind this mod have effectively remastered Final Fantasy IX. Check it out:
Final Fantasy X/X-2
Original release - PS2
Available on - Vita, PS3, PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC
Best on - You’re going to have to pick based on a one feature difference. Obviously the current gen versions look better than on the Vita and PS3. With the Xbox One, you’re getting the best resolution of all the consoles. With the Switch, you’re getting a portable version that isn’t ugly and weird touch screen shortcuts. And for some reason, the PC version is the only one with the boost/speed features.
Final Fantasy XI
It’s the MMO one! This game is an odd one to talk about in 2020. So many years later, Final Fantasy XI is still alive and kicking, still getting updates, and still getting new content. This thing has been trucking for 18 years, y’all. And I have it on good authority there’s gonna be something big when it hits 20.
Original release - PC/PS2
Available on - PC!
Best on - PC! All the other versions are dead, sadly. The 360 version was kinda rad while it lasted. You only got one option here, sorry folks.
Final Fantasy XII
Original release - PS2
Available on - All current platforms! Nothing older, though.
Best on - The Xbox One takes the cake on this one, surprisingly enough, with the Switch in a designated second place. If you want fidelity, play on the Xbox One X and that bad boy runs at 60 fps. The Switch version is portable, of course. What these versions have over the others are some crucial new features, namely the ability to reset your license boards, and even have multiple Gambit sets. It’s a done deal, especially with the license board reset option.
Final Fantasy XIII
Original release - PS3, Xbox 360
Available on - PS3, PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Best on - Xbox One X! Final Fantasy XIII is often seen as a gold standard for backwards compatibility efforts. If you play on the One X you get a resolution bump, a steady frame rate, and even the 1080p cutscenes from the PS3 version brought over to replace the awful 360 versions. Unfortunately, the PC port is kind of jank.
Final Fantasy XIV
Original release - PS3, PC
Available on - PS4, PC
Best on - PC - the differences are very small, but by virtue of raw power and customization options the PC is the best version. But since this is a contemporary game you’re looking at a more mundane choice compared to the others.
Final Fantasy XV
Original release - PS4, Xbox One
Available on - PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia
Best on - If you have the equipment for it, the PC version can be pretty incredible. Otherwise you’ll want it on Xbox One if you have the X, for the best performance on console. That said, it’s worth waiting to see how it runs on the PS5 and Xbox Series X before making a decision here. The Stadia version is fine if you can run it, but the exclusive features are extremely cursed.
And there you have it, a list of Final Fantasy version differences that started as a fun idea and ended as a large and unwieldy beast. As you can see, the differences get smaller and smaller as the numbers get higher, mostly because we’re simply catching up in the timeline. And if you’re wondering about Final Fantasy XVI, you’ll have to wait a while. It’ll be exclusive to PS5 at first, then move to PC and other platforms, presumably, after that. We live in exciting times, most of them powered by the Unreal Engine. Anyway, I spend a lot of time thinking about this subject for some reason, and I appreciate the option to put it somewhere outside the cosmic minefield that is my brain. Shout out to Final Fantasy and Square Enix for (probably) being the only developer you can do something like this for.
- Super Mario Bros. 35 Tips and Tricks
- Silent Hill 4: The Room Now Available on GOG
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon New Trailer Proves Yokohama Is a Good Time