The Final Fantasy series is notorious for its effeminate male characters. Many of its leading men would be instantly recognized as women with only a change in wardrobe. This isn't even a problem, as there are a large number of cross-dressers that appear throughout the series as well; though normally this part is played by unimportant NPCs.
There are also a large number of masculine women that appear throughout the series, perhaps manlier than many of the guys. Then there are issues of race, like most Elvaan from Final Fantasy XI are taller and brawnier than human men. In addition to this, there are also a lot of characters and creatures whose sex is entirely ambiguous. And some races only have one gender.
With these things in mind, without narrative context, anyone who hasn't played a particular Final Fantasy might have trouble discerning whether a character is male or female. This is especially true if you're using Yoshitaka Amano's artwork as a reference, where almost everyone looks too pretty. Though the game often tries to make it clear, it doesn't always, so here are fifteen characters that audiences have asked about over the years.
15 Kuja (Final Fantasy IX)
Make no mistake, Kuja is a man. There are certainly a large number of pretty boy Final Fantasy villains. Though some onlookers might jokingly ask whether or not Emperor Palamecia, Kefka, or Yazoo are women. Kuja easily places at the top of all the divas, male or female.
Kuja sports flowing, revealing attire to go with his long locks of silver hair. He is often portrayed with an obsession with Final Fantasy IX's protagonist, Zidane, but this is likely because they are actually brothers. Kuja's speech and dialogue also tend to be fairly eloquent and lyrical. But don't let his guise fool you, he's actually quite the dangerous oppressor and a powerful mage.
14 White Mage (Final Fantasy I)
For years, players wondered whether or not the white mage in the first Final Fantasy is female. Since the cast of FFI are customized by the player, they have no dialogue or character development, so there isn't really a canonical answer to this, but it's fine to speculate. Many players probably chose to think of the white mage as female since every single one of the other classes looked more like they were men.
But that's not a good enough reason to assume the white mage is just there as some sort of token female character. In remastered versions of the game, no matter how you look at this sprite, there was no way to tell. However, by upgrading the white mage's class into white wizard, the sprite seems to portray a young woman with long hair.
13 Quina Quen (Final Fantasy IX)
Meet Quina, the resident blue mage of Final Fantasy IX. Quina is a member of the Qu Tribe, a race well-known for a love of eating and poor language skills. Other than their clothes, the Qu all look pretty identical, with a wholly ambiguous gender. In fact, it's speculated that they don't have genders at all.
Some versions of FFIX chose to settle and pick a gender for every Qu. The French, Italian, and Spanish versions chose for Quina to be a 'she.' Personally, I played a version where Quina was referred to as 'he,' which matched up with the fact that Zidane's 'Protect Girl' passive skill never activated to place him as a meat shield for Quina. However, now it's generally accepted to refer to Quina as a 's/he.'
12 Fujin (Final Fantasy VIII)
Fujin is a member of Final Fantasy VIII's Disciplinary Committee, alongside Seifer and Raijin. With updated graphics, it's a lot clearer that Fujin is a woman. But back in the old days, on crummy television sets, it was hard to tell at first. She doesn't tell you much, but by watching her actions you can tell she has a hot temper, is quick to violence, and is a stickler for the rules.
Why mistake her though? Sure, Fujin has shorter hair than quite a number of Final Fantasy men throughout the years. And sure, she doesn't wear clothes that are particularly feminine. But most importantly, she's the most brusque speaker, possibly in all of FF history. Most of Fujin's dialogue is composed of one-word expressions in all capital letters like 'AFFIRMATIVE,' 'EXPLAIN,' or 'RAGE.'
11 Vivi Ornitier (Final Fantasy IX)
Perhaps it was inevitable that people who haven't played Final Fantasy IX have asked whether Vivi was a boy or girl. After all, none of Vivi's features are visible through the black mage attire. Hell, even for the player, when it comes to dialogue, Vivi doesn't exude macho masculinity (or feminine qualities for that matter). Vivi just comes off as a gentle, yet big-hearted child.
But Vivi is definitely male, and is referred to as such. Some might disagree with this, as he's a living doll, possibly without all the same parts as a human. But in the story of FFIX, there is a scene where Zidane and Vivi bond as men while they urinate outside. Though this is off-screen, it's easily inferred from context that Vivi is, in fact, a boy.
10 Cloud Of Darkness (Final Fantasy III)
The Cloud of Darkness is the final boss in Final Fantasy III. And well, it's easy to take one look and say 'it's a woman.' But the truth isn't at all that straightforward. Similar to the Creator from Final Fantasy IV: The After Years or Jenova from Final Fantasy VII, this creature might not be female despite its apparent anatomy. While those two can still be debated upon, Cloud of Darkness is canonically a 'we.'
The tentacles apparently have minds of their own, and this boss speaks for their collective consciousnesses. The Cloud of Darkness doesn't get much characterization, but apparently, they choose for their form to appear this way. Their gender is ambiguous, but in Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, the sight of them still gives Laguna his infamous cramps.
9 Mog (Various Final Fantasy Games)
Mog is a common name for moogles throughout the Final Fantasy series. Mog is most commonly associated with his appearance in Final Fantasy VI. Not all moogles are male though. His entire group of ten other moogles show up as guest characters early on in the game, and it's easy to infer that at least one or two of them are female (Molulu is his girlfriend).
Though Mog seems to be a masculine name judging by most of its usage throughout the series, the major exception to this is Mog from Final Fantasy IX. She was Eiko's pet and closest friend. Since Mog was a runt and quite shy, she would often shrink and hide in Eiko's clothes. But in actuality, she was the eidolon Madeen, and becomes one of Eiko's summons.
8 Papalymo Totolymo (Final Fantasy XIV)
Like the Tarutaru from Final Fantasy XI, there is a major race of little halflings that are playable in Final Fantasy XIV. Papalymo is an example of a Plainsfolk Lalafell. Since Lalafell are pretty much equally fair-skinned and petite, it's often more prudent to look at details like clothes, facial hair, or hairstyle to determine if you're dealing with a male or female.
Since Papalymo doesn't really give much indication through any of these, we're lucky that he's a fairly major character in the plot so we get to hear his surprisingly manly voice. Yes, Papalymo is a man. And quite a respectable (and respectful) one at that. As a Thaumaturge and a member of the Scions of the Dawn, Papalymo is a powerful asset to the heroes of Eorzea.
7 Sant' Angelo di Roma (Final Fantasy VIII)
Angelo is Rinoa's pet dog from Final Fantasy VIII. After years of believing Angelo was a male, I only recently discovered that it is, in fact, a female dog. Though I'm used to Angelo being a masculine name, she was likely only named this in Japan due to the angelic themes associated with Rinoa.
Angelo is an Australian Shepherd. Unlike other dogs featured in the series, Angelo has quite the cheerful temperament. Angelo is also seen howling when she is separated from her master. She appears in battle for Rinoa's limit breaks, 'Combine.' New limit breaks are obtained by learning new tricks by collecting Pet Pals magazines.
6 Judge Of Wings (Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings)
Despite its looks, the heroes of this Final Fantasy XII spin-off find out that the major antagonist, the Judge of Wings, is a woman. And not just any woman. The Judge of Wings was named Mydia, and she was a Feol Viera, which is a hybrid between the Viera (a race composed of bunny girls) and the Aegyl (the until-recently sealed away winged-folk).
After Mydia loses her human lover to war, she seeks a method to revive him. The angry god Feolthanos used her rage to control her, and she dons an armor similar to the Archadian Judges (thus gaining her nickname). After becoming a puppet, she devotes her efforts into starting a war between Aegyl and humans. She's not only powerful and capable of summoning, but she also exerts some control over peoples' minds.
5 Shiva (Various Final Fantasy games)
Now hold on, don't worry. I'm not going to ruin Shiva for you. Shiva's always had attire that reveals her feminine form, and she is indeed female. Players that speak to the contrary tend to mention that Shiva is supposed to be based on the Hindu god of destruction of the same name. While that Shiva is a male god portrayed as capable of taking on female or hermaphroditic forms, this Shiva's similarities to him stop at 'breasts' and 'blue skin.'
Perhaps she wasn't meant to have much more in common that that. Or maybe her name just came from the root word 'shiver.' Shiva recurs in most Final Fantasy games as an ice queen (literally). In most games, she is a friendly spirit that doesn't require defeating her to get her to join you as a summon.
4 Larsa Ferrinas Solidor (Final Fantasy XII)
Larsa is twelve years old, so it's alright to be confused here, as I was during my first playthrough of Final Fantasy XII. Larsa joins Vaan's party as a guest character, typically used for healing with potions. Even after hearing the voice actor read Larsa's lines, I still couldn't tell what Larsa was. I eventually settled on 'Larsa is a girl.'
I was wrong. Look at that face; he's quite the genteel youth, isn't he? Larsa is a noble, and the only brother of Vayne Solidor that Vayne didn't kill. When he meets Vaan, Larsa gives an alias, calling himself Lamont, as his family is the source of much political strife. He does eventually put all of his trust in the party of sky pirates though. And after his brother is finally defeated, Larsa goes on to become a benevolent Emperor.
3 Gogo (Final Fantasy VI)
Gogo is the source of much speculation among fans of Final Fantasy VI. Even the game's description of Gogo isn't sure of the gender or even species of the mimic. With such a flamboyant array of layered clothing, no details of Gogo's identity are revealed. One theory is that Gogo in FFVI is merely another appearance of the master mime of the same name from Final Fantasy V. That Gogo was male.
Of the theories I know of, my personal favorites: are Gogo is Darill (Setzer's long-lost girlfriend) or Gogo is Banon (the leader of the Returners who disappears). Though, a deeper look into the game might indicate Gogo is a man. In the Japanese script, he uses the masculine 'ore' to describe himself. And although he's capable of equipping female equipment, the coding reveals he would have been treated as male at shops if the unused overcharge/discounts had been used.
2 Adel (Final Fantasy VIII)
Look at that beefcake. Creepy, sure. But that's a manly man, right? Wrong. Adel is a sorceress. Despite the masculine looking torso and brutish face, Adel is a woman (as apparently, only the first natural magic-user was male). This is odd because her armor (which camouflages with her tattoos) barely covers her nipples while showing off her burly pecs and wide set shoulders.
Adel is a bloodthirsty conquerer from the past. Laguna and the resistance had her bound, frozen, then launched into space. This is done rather than killing her so that she wouldn't pass on her sorceress powers to someone else. But seventeen years later, the time-controlling sorceress Ultimecia possesses just the right people to get control of Adel. Squall's party kills Adel, which renews the cycle once more.
1 Faris Scherwiz (Final Fantasy V)
Faris' original name was Sarisa Scherwil Tycoon. She's the older sister of Lenna, and thus another princess of Castle Tycoon. She was lost at sea as a child and raised as a boy by pirates. After saving her ship from a whirlpool by bonding with a sea dragon, she becomes their youngest pirate Captain ever at fifteen. After half a decade as Captain, not many know she's a woman.
Early on in the game, Faris doesn't reveal her gender to the party by choice, as they remove her soaking clothes and find out by accident. And she's particularly self-conscious about this. Even after her secret is exposed, she still often mistakes her pronouns, and uses them interchangeably. Faris' upbringing is cemented into her personality. She's brash, she has difficulty opening up, and hates the reunion with her home where she's dolled up as a princess.