The Final Fantasy series is now 32 years old with fifteen mainline entries. That doesn’t sound like a great deal, because there’s usually a few years and a whole generation between the contemporary mainline releases. However, there are dozens of spin-offs, ports and remasters that get also get released in-between to keep fans of the franchise satisfied and, for better or worse, to keep Square-Enix making money.
Despite not being mainline titles, many of the spin-off games have become classics in their own right, and even spawned a series of their own. Unfortunately, not all of the games under the Final Fantasy banner have been so well-received, with obvious cheap cash-ins, rushed scripts, and failed experiments in new genres. Let’s take a look at the best and worst spin-offs in the franchise's history.
10 Best: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call
Whatever your feelings are about the Final Fantasy series, there is no denying that the series’ musical scores aren’t just amongst the best in gaming, but in any entertainment medium. The Final Fantasy: Distant Worlds concerts continue to sell out all over the world and are celebrated on classical radio stations.
Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy: Curtain Call on the Nintendo 3DS is a sequel and a surprisingly fun and deep rhythm game, which requires you to time to musical notes in battles using the 3DS touch screen. It’s pure Final Fantasy fan service from start to finish and is even more enjoyable with a set of good headphones plugged in.
9 Worst: Dirge Of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII was part of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII series and instead of a turn-based RPG, it was an experiment in the action genre. Sadly, Square-Enix’s inexperience with the genre was glaringly obvious, and there was an inescapable feeling that the developers should have outsourced the project to a more experienced action-adventure developer.
The cutscenes, however, were enjoyable and helped add some weight and depth to Vincent-- Final Fantasy VII’s most mysterious character.
8 Best: Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
The original Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles was released worldwide on the Nintendo Gamecube by 2004. It was the first time a Final Fantasy title released on the Nintendo system in nearly a decade, after Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo.
Crystal Chronicles uses a real-time action-based combat system instead of the Active Time Battle System seen in mainline titles. The game’s art style was designed by Final Fantasy IX’s Toshiyuki Ithana, and as a result, shares many of the same themes seen in the ninth mainline entry. In addition, those who missed out on the GC version will get to play the remastered version with enhanced visuals in late 2019 on the Switch and PS4.
7 Worst: Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius
Final Fantasy: Brave Exvius is a free-to-play title available for Apple devices. It uses a battle and inventory system that bears some resemblance to the Final Fantasy titles of old and its plot is fairly standard fantasy fare.
However, there’s very little depth to the game and its story overall and feels rather shallow as a result. In addition, like all free-to-play mobile games, you’re expected to pay for expensive item packs with real money. In addition, there are waiting times of up two hours when the game’s “energy system” runs to zero.
6 Best: The Bravely Series
The Bravely series, which consists of Bravely: Default and Bravely Second, was developed by Silicon Studio and published by Square-Enix. It is officially acknowledged by its creators as a spin-off to the Final Fantasy series and a successor to Silicon’s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light.
Just like the mainline series, Bravely’s themes are centered around the “Warriors of Light” and Crystals. It’s as traditional as a FF title can get and everything from Phoenix Downs to Summons are present. Those who have found themselves slightly disillusioned by the mainline entry’s science-fantasy themes should definitely give the Bravely series on the Nintendo 3DS a try.
5 Worst: Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT
Dissidia: Final Fantasy for the PlayStation Portable was a flawed but enjoyable spin-off for the franchise, which included a canon storyline that brought together most of the main heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy universe.
Dissidia: Final Fantasy NT is a PlayStation 4 follow up that sadly stripped back most of what made the core elements of the PSP series so interesting. Individual character stories have been removed, the new combat system is unwelcoming, and you’re forced to rely on incompetent AI partners in the two on two battles. Square-Enix clearly had one goal in mind, and that was to make Dissidia a hit at E-sports events. Unfortunately, this came at the cost of a decent single-player experience.
4 Best: Final Fantasy: Type-0 HD
Final Fantasy Type-0 was originally released as a PlayStation Portable title in Japan only. It was later translated and remastered in HD for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in 2015. Visually, the game suffers as a result when compared to Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy XV, but its mature story of war, conflict, and loss is where it shines the most.
Instead of one lead character, you’re in control of Class Zero, a cast of 14 elite students/soldiers gifted with different abilities to be used in various battle scenarios. There’s a Persona-like social system that you can participate in in-between battles to help develop the game’s overarching plot, which spans 8 chapters.
3 Worst: Final Fantasy: Airborne Brigade
Final Fantasy: Airborne Brigade was released in 2012 on mobile devices such as Android and iOS. It’s a socially-driven experience that featured a lot of the usual Final Fantasy traditions, such as an overworld and dungeons to defeat.
The art style resembles the Theatrhythm Final Fantasy series on the 3DS but that’s where the similarities end. Not only did this entry clearly lack any of Theatryhthm’s polish, but there’s no real musical score to speak of.
2 Best: Final Fantasy Tactics: War Of The Lions
Final Fantasy Tactics was originally released in 1998 on the PlayStation in Japan and the US. Set in the same Ivalice universe that would later appear in Final Fantasy XII and directed by Hiroyuki Ito, Tactics was a far more mature and layered story than was usually seen in the franchise.
The War Of The Lions was an updated release for the PlayStation Portable that released in 2007 and featured updated visuals, sound, voice acting, new characters. It is the definitive version of the game and was also released on iOS systems. Final Fantasy: Tactics' story took inspiration from historical medieval events that happened during the War of The Roses - which also happens to be the inspiration for Game of Thrones. FF: Tactics isn't just contender for the best Final Fantasy spin-off, but it's arguably among the best in the franchise.
1 Worst: Final Fantasy: All The Bravest
Final Fantasy: All The Bravest is another mobile RPG that was released on the iOS and Android systems in 2013. In trying to tap into the most nostalgic amongst Final Fantasy fans, the game included many familiar locations, characters, and art designs.
However, All The Bravest is just another greedy mobile cash-grab that requires expensive in-app purchases to comfortably progress through the game. The actual gameplay itself is shallow and has been universally panned by critics as an excuse for Square-Enix to milk the franchise and rinse fans of their money, as well as severely damaging the brand in the process.