The Final Fantasy series has come a long way in the character department from the four nameless and plotless ‘Warriors Of Light’ that graced its first numbered entry back in 1987.
As the length and complexity of its games has increased, so too has the depth afforded to its playable protagonists, who have numbered between four and fourteen in each release.
Some of these are passengers to their story, seemingly brought onboard solely to bolster the amount of battle setups and strategies available. Others are treated with indifference or even outright detested for their general uselessness in combat, blandness or excessive reliance on gags or other one-dimensional character traits.
The vast majority, however, are beloved for the emotional impacts that their adventures, both triumphant and tragic, impart upon the player. It is common to see a selection of Final Fantasy representatives in any ‘best of’ list of game characters and whilst some are more known to the gaming mainstream than others, few can ever dispute their inclusion.
What follows are the 25 greatest playable heroes (supporting characters and guest party members are being saved for a third entry in this series, which began with the 25 Greatest Villains) to grace the franchise, joyfully engaging the audience as they play their part in saving the world.
Given the hundreds of options, omissions are sure to inspire some debate!
Spoilers are widespread. Consider yourselves warned.
25. Shadow (VI)
With fourteen party members apiece, Final Fantasy VI and Final Fantasy Type-0 top the series in the character depth stakes.
Whilst Type-0’s cast (aside from Ace, Rem and Machina)
are interchangeable faces whose names would be easily forgettable were they not named after playing cards, almost all of VI’s are compelling creations,
with only Gogo and Umaro fully dismissible given their lack of impact on the
plot as optional secret characters.
Mog is largely superfluous, Strago doesn’t have much of a part to play aside from his grandfatherly protection of Relm and Gau isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but the rest of the party have a series of interesting backstories and personas that combine wonderfully as they unite against Kefka’s tyranny.
Shadow is a fascinating character. Though the mysterious ninja at first appears to be a one-dimensional mercenary, motivated solely by money, the game drip feeds hints to the player that there is much more to him than meets the eye.
These can be missed, particularly if Shadow is accidentally (or deliberately) left to die on the Floating Continent, but the subtle implication that he is Relm’s father and the showcase of the nightmares that he endures over his abandonment of partner-in-crime Baram paint an engrossing picture of a tortured soul.
Throw in Shadow’s striking visual appearance and lovable canine companion Interceptor and you have all the makings of a well-crafted supporting player.