It’s a series that has been around for decades and has had its fair share of criticisms. Final Fantasy is one of the most well know RPG series out there and also one of the more celebrated. The series has had its fair share of studs and duds and, in turn, has seen a ton of different characters make their way through the revolving door. Some great games have had bad characters and vice versa. You’re guaranteed to favor certain characters over others and it’s not like every character you’re introduced to can be a good one. Some are just bad. It’s a reality that shouldn’t surprise anyone. While it’s not as though the developers were planning on it, somewhere along the line they screwed up.
But while this is a very subjective conversation to have, there are some frequently mentioned characters when it comes to the best and worst ones in the series – which we’ll talk about soon. Often times they’re poorly developed leads forced onto players that eventually draw ire. No one wants to play 30+ hours as someone who’s about as interesting as a stick in the mud. Even more so when the main villain, or even a party member, is seamlessly more interesting than the protagonist. So with that in mind let’s look at the 8 coolest and 7 lamest Final Fantasy characters.
15 Coolest: Cid Highwind
Throughout the Final Fantasy series, there have been a plethora of characters that have donned the name Cid. One major trait of the character is that they’re mechanically minded, making them the Final Fantasy equivalent of a grease monkey. Cid Highwind outmatches every other iteration though. He’s the party’s source of wisdom in VII and serves as a sort of parental figure to the group. That doesn’t mean he can’t have fun though, as he’s simultaneously the biggest source of laughs and good times to be found in the game alongside Yuffie. Cid’s kind of like the cool uncle you like to hang with that gave you your first beer and let you drive his car a little when no one was around. Irresponsibly fun, but a good time all the same.
14 Lamest: Brother
Plenty of playable characters have been annoying, but the only redeeming factor about those guys is that more often than not, you can choose whether or not you want to play as them. Keeping them around isn’t necessarily a must, unless they’re a protagonist which doesn’t leave you with many options. But annoying non-playable characters are the worst. They’re an unavoidable part of any game and most of the time you just have to suck it up and put up with it. Case and point, Brother from Final Fantasy X. It starts off pretty promising with some tattoos and a cool Mohawk, but the whole talking to himself routine wears thin quick. The nail in the coffin though is his creepy obsession with his cousin which is more concerning than anything.
13 Coolest: Cloud Strife
He’s one of the most polarizing characters in the franchise. Cloud is definitely a memorable character from a design standpoint. The blond hair, athletic build and big ass Buster Sword on his back are all aesthetically pleasing. But at times, Cloud can seem pretty whiney, which is a reasonable criticism but also a key part of his character. Cloud’s backstory initially make him a pitiable character. But once you see it through, he develops into a pretty decent character. While he isn’t the strongest character and isn’t the most consistent character in the series, you’ve got to appreciate that Square was able to make him work despite his flaws. Even if you don’t like his character, you can’t hate on how he looks.
12 Lamest: Cait Sith
Imagine a completely annoying token character that doesn’t add anything to the narrative. Now picture that character slinging insults left and right while upholding a holier than thou attitude throughout about half of its screen time and you’ve got Cait Sith. Apart from his terrible personality – let’s get back to that later – there’s also the issue of his design. What is he exactly? A marshmallow? A cat? Something in-between it seems. But the kicker has to be Cait Sith’s true nature as a spy which is revealed sometime after he is first introduced. Not only was the guy insulting you at every turn, but he was also endangering you and your friends. What a douchebag.
11 Coolest: Yuna
Female leads aren’t necessarily foreign to the Final Fantasy series. When done right they can make a lasting impact on fans. When done wrong... well we’ll look at that later on in the list. Yuna is a pretty clear fit in the Bad Ass Female trope, but we love her anyway and she’s a bright spot in X and X-2, especially when you look at the lame pile of mass that is Tidus (more on him later). She was such a popular character that the developers decided to give her her own game. While some criticized their perceived over-sexualisation of the character in X-2, those of us that could take the two seconds required to simply look past the aesthetic differences noticed how great of a character Yuna had developed into.
10 Lamest: Zell Dincht
One tired trope that doesn’t exactly fit in most games is the comic relief character. In most games, especially those geared towards an older audience, the atmosphere can get pretty tense. So to combat that, writers put in characters whose main purpose is to stumble and bumble around for the laughs – not really adding anything but cheap slapstick comedy to the story. That’s pretty much who Zell, from Final Fantasy VIII, is in a nutshell. Admitting that we’ve laughed at some of his asinine antics would be a great shame that no one could ever live down. He spends the majority of his time rambling over everyone, making it more likely for players to throw their controller at the screen rather than simply skip the cut scene he’s inevitably going to butcher.
9 Coolest: Lulu
We just finished going over one great female character in Final Fantasy and so here’s another for you guys. Sex appeal goes a long way in video games. It’s been criticized to the utmost extent in recent years and there’s no denying that some characters are attractive for the sake of being attractive. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some people’s eyes, others would disagree. So what’s important in these situations is to have your eye candy characters come off with strong character traits to balance them out and give them away to deflect inevitable criticism. Lulu was not only one of Final Fantasy X’s strongest characters, but also served as a voice of reason, making her one of the games most intellectual characters as well.
8 Lamest: Vaan
It’s not uncommon for different franchises to draw inspiration from other works of fiction. In fact, it’s a great way to come up with new ideas, as imitation is one of the surest ways to creation. But sometimes the similarities are too similar and you haven’t so much created something new as you’ve failed to properly differentiate your material from what inspired it. That’s exactly the case with Final Fantasy XII as it seems the writers took a little too much inspiration from Star Wars with this one. Vaan is kind of like a Luke Skywalker clone, except he never really changes at the end. It’s a great example of the writers wasting every opportunity they could to properly develop their lead.
7 Coolest: Vincent Valentine
Initially, you would’ve seen Vincent and been drawn to him mostly due to his appearance. As is the case with most supporting characters, Vincent got a limited time to shine in Final Fantasy VII but was still pretty well received by fans regardless. It must’ve been his look along with his overall demeanor. You could make the argument that Vincent is one of the more edgy FF characters and normally that would be a deterrent. But in his case, a healthy dose of character development straightened that out right away. This resulted in Vincent becoming something of a cult hero among fans. We’re all pretty tired of vampire’s right now, as the market has once again died out. But Vincent came at a time where the character archetype was still used sparingly and his reception couldn’t have been better.
6 Lamest: Tidus
People like to complain about Cloud’s attitude and his overall emo-esque demeanor. Well while there are both those who are for and against this aspect of his character, one thing that’s certain is that his detractors have been very vocal about this perceived character flaw. So it seems as though Square Enix heard fans and took their complaints into consideration when making Tidus. Tidus is the anti-cloud, completely cheery and always looking on the bright side. It’s sickening actually. Like a sort of purgatory we’d been sent to by the developers. Of course he’s not a one dimensional character. You can enjoy his hours long struggle with coming to grips with his daddy issues should you choose to give a damn.
5 Coolest: Kefka Palazzo
Power is a driving force for a lot of heroes and villains alike. Both the lack of and the quest for more can lead to some very interesting characters being formed. Of course, this can get one dimensional at times and we certainly expect more out of our characters. But it still serves as a cornerstone for lots of characters. Kefka Palazzo is an example of a power hungry villain gone mad. Really you couldn’t have written it any better. Going from a simple jester to an all powerful being that serves as the embodiment of insanity is a complete 180. But it’s one that works well with his character. The insanity trope forced onto certain villains often misses in delivering any sustenance. They’re just crazy for the sake of being crazy. But when done right, characters can be outright terrifying. Case and point.
4 Lamest: Squall Leonhart
Let’s take a moment to examine the importance of a lead character, shall we? Your lead is the vessel in which the player interacts with the world at hand. It is paramount for the player to connect to this character or at least feel as though they can interact through them. But when no one seems to want to do any of those things, you’ve got an immediate problem on your hands. While polarizing, Cloud was still a pretty popular character. So Square Enix decided to turn up the angst with Cloud's successor, Squall in FFVIII. The guy can suck the fun out of a kid’s birthday and turn the entire event into a suicide prevention meeting. He’s that depressing. Most characters have their redeeming qualities and if you know of any in regards to this poor SOB, then please let us know.
3 Coolest: Sephiroth
We know, we know. Why all the hate for guys like Squall and Tidus when we’re praising Sephiroth? Well let’s be honest here, despite not actually being a lead character, Sephiroth carried Final Fantasy VII. As the main antagonist, Sephiroth drove the plot forward while keeping fans interested enough to stick through the game’s slower parts. He’s basically referred to as a God in game. Even as the main baddy, people still can’t help but marvel at his past glories and current aspirations. He’s that interesting a character. Say what you will about his overly edgy nature, but Sephiroth more than makes up for it with the way he brings the best out of every character around him.
2 Lamest: Lightning
Where to get started with this one? First let’s be clear, some people absolutely hated Lightning. But there are those that loved her. So this isn’t an open and shut case. Though some might say that it should be, but hey, it’s never that simple. She’s actually pretty popular in Japan, but those of us here in the West have been a little more critical. It’s really a shame because she’s such a good poster girl. Though aesthetically pleasing, that doesn’t make up for her complete lack of character. Remember the problem with lead characters we can’t relate to? Lightning might be badass, but she’s basically just copy paste Cloud – with less personality and an adjusted attitude problem for the next generation of Final Fantasy fans to absolutely hate. Or not, you know – whatever.
1 Coolest: Cecil Harvey
What really makes a compelling character is one that can go through genuine changes throughout the story. Those that are presented as being a certain way at the beginning of the game and throughout the plot become noticeably different and changed via different events that happen in the game’s story. It seems like an easy formula to mimic but it’s one that writers and developers often miss the mark on. Cecil, from FFIV, definitely wasn’t one of those. Conflict – if done right – is one of the most compelling obstacles a character can face. Cecil is very talented but also incredibly conflicted. It’s that aspect of his personality that makes him more than just some badass RPG character. Among all Final Fantasy leads, Cecil provides the most depth of any protagonist in the series.