The JRPG genre has witnessed its highs and lows over the course of gaming history. There was a time when these games were coveted for their brilliance, with thrilling stories, enthralling characters, and a beautiful world driving the craze that most people had for this genre. Just take a look at the original PlayStation, which was graced with a bevy of JRPG titles that have remained in the hearts of fans to this very day. Vagrant Story, Xenogears, Parasite Eve — these are just some of the many titles that became major hits on the home console and ended up becoming nothing short of legendary. The common thing amongst these three titles? Well, the innovator at the helm of the project was none other than Squaresoft (now Square Enix), and one of their franchises was the sole reason why this JRPG boom happened on the PlayStation.
Final Fantasy VII was a landmark title that sparked an interest in more games like this legendary title. In fact, the entire Final Fantasy series became one of the most coveted JRPG franchises of all time, and for good reason — the fact of the matter is that these games have featured some amazing stories that have stood the test of time as some of the best tales ever told in any video game.
However, not all is roses and sunshine when it comes to these stories in the Final Fantasy universe — there are still several tales that have been less-than-stellar, ruining the gaming experience for many. Here are 15 such tales that have hurt the entire Final Fantasy series as a whole, coupled with 10 memorable stories that made it all worth it.
It pretty much goes without saying, but there'll be some MAJOR spoilers for the entire series from now on.
25 SAVED: The Reason Why Cloud Has Hazy Memories (FFVII)
We start this list off with the game that kickstarted the JRPG craze as we know it — something that has already been stated at the start of this list. The stories interwoven in Final Fantasy VII were absolutely beautiful.
At the center of it all was Cloud's hazy memories.
After surviving a traumatic event that resulted in the loss of his best friend Zack, Cloud — who himself was ill from Mako poisoning — lost his memories and adopted that of his fallen comrade. As the story unfolds, Cloud finally reverts back to his true self, which is an absolute treat to watch.
24 HURT: Cait Sith's Backstory (FFVII)
However, not all is well with the most popular title in the franchise. While the story in Final Fantasy VII is amazing if people look a the big picture, there are certain elements of this tale that can bore the absolute crap out of you.
Cait Sith's character is a great example of this.
The fact of the matter is that Cait Sith is one of the worst Final Fantasy party members of all time, and his backstory does little to nothing to redeem him in our eyes. He's just a robot controlled by Reeve, who comes back even after sacrificing himself.
Honestly, we would've preferred if he remained lost forever.
23 HURT: Cid's Rumored Antics (FFVII)
Time to talk about an element of Final Fantasy VII that is certainly not kid-friendly. Once the party enters Rocket Town, a series of events will lead to them meeting up with Cid. While he might seem like a decent person at first glance, there's a dark side to his character.
The manner in which he treats his wife is nothing short of deplorable.
We say this because there are multiple instances where he swears and shouts at his wife. If this is how he treats his partner in front of other people, one can easily assume that there's something even worse happening behind the scenes.
22 SAVED: The Entire World Breaking In Two (FFVI)
Final Fantasy VI is widely considered by many to be the best entry in the franchise, and one need only play the game to understand why this is the case. A cast of ensemble characters means that every person is important in his on her own right. This is coupled with a brilliant story that never pulls its punches when it comes to the story.
Case in point — there's a nerve-wracking scene in the game where the party needs to stop Kefka and Emperor Gestahl from messing around with the Warring Triad statues. However, the party fails, and Kefka sends the whole world into ruin as entire continents split into two.
21 HURT: The Generic Plot Of The First Game (FFI)
Square was in dire need to nail down a product as a last-ditch effort of sorts to redeem themselves and pick themselves out of the rut they were stuck in. Out came the very first Final Fantasy game, which was a resounding success and put Square back on the map.
However, while the first game is definitely great from a gameplay perspective, the last thing anybody would commend the game on is its story. There's nothing really to write home in this regard, with a barebones plot that utilizes all the tropes available in the book of writing generic fantasy stories.
20 HURT: A Decent Plot That Was Overshadowed By Weird Gameplay (FFII)
After the runaway success of Final Fantasy, Square was more confident and willing to take creative risks. Thus, Final Fantasy II became a melting pot of ideas, which led to it becoming somewhat of a mixed bag that has proven to be quite divisive in the modern era.
While the attempt at a serious story was actually quite admirable, this tale was hampered by a horrible gameplay mechanic. Basically, instead of leveling up, your characters needed to do certain things to increase their stats.
Do we really need to state why this is a bad idea?
19 HURT: Going Back To A Generic Plot For No Reason (FFIII)
While Final Fantasy II did a lot of wrong things when it came to the gameplay, the attempt at telling a halfway-decent story was definitely a step in the right direction. However, once Final Fantasy III was released, it seemed that Square just kicked its gears into reverse.
We say this because Final Fantasy III is virtually identical to the first game in the series, featuring the job system once again while going back to a generic plot that just served as an excuse for more dungeon crawling.
Well, at least the game introduced the iconic summons.
18 SAVED: Sephiroth's Descent Into Madness (FFVII)
Final Fantasy III was the last time Square would ever put its plot on the back burner — each successive title after the third one featured a grandiose story that has become a staple of the series at this point.
A great way to illustrate this would be to talk about the main villain of Final Fantasy VII, Sephiroth. While he started out as a regular run-of-the-mill SOLDIER, his mind broke once he found out that he was nothing more than a scientific experiment.
Cue one of the most iconic descents into madness, and the development of what might be one of the most memorable video game antagonists of all time!
17 HURT: Using Guardian Forces Caused Amnesia (FFVIII)
Final Fantasy VIII is definitely a great game, but one can understand why it gets so much flack from the hardcore fans of the series. The tiresome Draw mechanic might be one such drawback, but the worst insult has to be the story itself.
While this game might have its moments of brilliance, the "big reveal" that comes is one of the stupidest things ever. Basically, excessive use of the Guardian Forces' power — the summons of this game — led to memory loss, which is why the characters don't remember the following thing about their lives.
16 HURT: The Fact That All Of The Main Characters Are From The Same Orphanage (FFVIII)
There are two aspects to the "big reveal" in Final Fantasy VIII. The first one is something that we've already mentioned before — the amnesia caused by using the power of the Guardian Forces led to the party members forgetting one crucial thing about their lives.
They all originated from the same orphanage, which is something that pretty much anyone would find hard to believe. It's just too convenient that all these people who just happened to travel together also share a childhood with each other.
15 SAVED: The Love Story Of Squall And Rinoa (FFVIII)
At this point, it's understandable if you think that Final Fantasy VIII doesn't really have anything going for it in terms of a decent story. However, if you haven't played the game, then we implore you to do so — there are several great things in the game's story that you need to experience firsthand.
A great example to illustrate would be to talk about the love story between Squall and Rinoa. The seeds for this story are placed near the start of the series with an amazing dancing sequence, which keeps on escalating over time as both these individuals slowly — but surely — fall into love with each other.
14 HURT: Cecil's Transformation That Left You Hopelessly Underpowered (FFIV)
Now, don't get us wrong — Final Fantasy IV sports one of the greatest plots in JRPG history. The sacrifice of Tellah, Porom, and Palom are some of the most bittersweet moments ever in gaming.
However, the main focus of this entry is on Cecil's transformation from a Black Knight into a White Knight. While this moment is certainly special for a whole host of reasons, there's a major problem that arises with this story development — Cecil's level goes down to criminal levels, forcing you to grind and bring Cecil's power back to where it should be.
13 HURT: The Entire Game Itself (FFXIII)
A game can have good and bad moments, but if the former outweighs the latter then things generally turn out to be fine for the most part. However, what if your story is so hopelessly convoluted that people can't make head or tail of the world that they're supposed to be invested in?
This is the case with Final Fantasy XIII — a game that's vehemently hated by the majority of the fanbase, and for good reason. The story is completely lackluster and overflowing with ridiculous terms and jargon that no one would even bother to remember.
12 SAVED: An Epic Plot To Free Dalmasca (FFXII)
If you want to look at an example of an epic plot done right, then look no further than Final Fantasy XII. The ensemble cast of this story harkens back to the structure of Final Fantasy VI and provides us with a high-stakes plot that is definitely worth your attention.
The story of Princess Ashe as she leads her little band of rebels to glory is truly amazing. It's quite hard to believe that this absolute gem of a game was followed by the trash pile that is Final Fantasy XIII.
11 HURT: Rosa — A White Mage — Getting Poisoned (FFIV)
Rosa is a beloved character in Final Fantasy IV who also serves as the romantic interest of Cecil. Her master of White Magic makes her an integral aspect of the party as she lays waste to anything and everything in her path, while simultaneously curing her allies of any grievous wounds and ailments.
However, it seems that we've overestimated Rosa's White Magic aptitude. We say this because of the plot point in the game where she contracts Desert Fever and is unable to cure herself.
Like, really? Just cast an Esuna and you'll be fine.
10 HURT: No One Noticed That Faris Was A Girl (FFV)
Speaking of plot points that make no sense, it's time to talk about Final Fantasy V and its colorful cast of characters. While some fans were less than enthused by the fact that the story took more of a light-hearted approach as opposed to its predecessor, no one can argue against the brilliance of this game as well.
However, certain plot points can prove to be quite annoying head-scratchers. Case in point — until the creepy reveal when Bartz and Galuf find out that Faris is a girl, no one around her noticed her feminine physique.
That's pretty hard to believe.
9 SAVED: The Sad Tale Of Vivi Ornitier (FFIX)
At a glance, Vivi might seem like a character whose entire reason for existing is to reintroduce a classic character design into the main game. However, the creators of Final Fantasy IX did so much more.
Instead of making Vivi your run-of-the-mill Black Mage, they decided instead to give this character one of the more engrossing stories in the entire game. In a Westworld-esque twist, Vivi finds out that he's nothing more than an automaton prototype who can only last for one year before perishing.
8 HURT: The Existence Of Necron (FFIX)
However, for all the good that Final Fantasy IX did, one of its most egregious transgressions made Kuja — one of the best antagonists in Final Fantasy — look absolutely stupid.
After going through a tough fight and beating Kuja, the party is transported to an alternate dimension where they need to fight a being by the name of Necron. This omnipotent being has never been talked about before, and the fact that he can just steal Kuja's thunder without even the tiniest shred of decency makes his inclusion in the final battle of the game all the more pathetic.
7 SAVED: Tidus Being A Dream Of The Fayth (FFX)
Final Fantasy X was an important venture for Squaresoft, and it was the last game under their umbrella before the merger than formed Square Enix. The quality of this game speaks for itself, boasting a plot that would induce tears in the eyes of the manliest of men.
The reveal of Tidus was a dream of the Fayth all along is a bittersweet reveal that serves as one of the most emotional endings in Final Fantasy history. The fact that this perfect game got a forced sequel is a massive offense to the sheer quality of this brilliant title.
6 HURT: The World Might Be Ending, But Blitzball Is Still A Priority (FFX)
Of course, the concept of a ludo-narrative dissonance has been around in the gaming landscape since time immemorial. Unfortunately — regardless of the brilliance of the game — Final Fantasy X also experiences this prevalent problem.
The fact that the entire world of Spira will be demolished once Sin decided to go berserk is a reality that most people deal with every single day. However, instead of dealing with this threat, Tidus and Wakka (among other players) can still engage in countless Blitzball tournaments without a single care in the world.
5 SAVED: The Chemistry Between Tidus And Yuna (FFX)
But then, there's a reason why Final Fantasy X is praised even after a whole host of its flaws have been pinpointed and revealed for the world to see. The story is simply so brilliant that nothing really affects the overall quality of the game itself.
Just take a look at the beautiful budding romance between Yuna and Tidus. Through thick and thin, these characters bonded to form something truly spectacular and engrossing. It's an amazing development that goes to show just how much the characters of a game can resound with you if the story around them is riveting enough.
4 SAVED: The Story Of Vincent And Lucrecia (FFVII)
The Final Fantasy series is no stranger to fleshing out romantic bondings. We've already talked about one such instance before, and Final Fantasy VII brings another pairing to the mix in the form of Vincent and Lucrecia.
However, unlike the love between Tidus and Yuna, this particular pairing doesn't exactly enjoy a happy ending. After being manipulated by Hojo, Lucrecia decides to leave Vincent and willingly becomes the subject of some highly questionable experiments, culminating in the birth of Sephiroth himself.
3 HURT: The Half-Baked Love Story Between Noctis And Lunafreya (FFXV)
Unfortunately, not all of the romances in Final Fantasy have been perfect. Just take a look at Final Fantasy XV to understand what we're talking about — the pairing of Noctis and Lunafreya seems highly forced and without any substance.
They're just paired up because the story wants them to.
The fact that Lunafreya's premature demise didn't elicit a single reaction from most players should be proof enough of just how pathetic this overall dynamic was, to begin with.
2 HURT: An Epic Plot That Feels Hopelessly Disjointed With The Game (FFXV)
This is not the only problem in Final Fantasy XV — one can make an entire list with all the issues surrounding this game, which prevent it from reaching its full potential.
The plot itself is a great example.
Instead of condensing the entire plot in the game, Square Enix went ahead with the brilliant idea to split the story between the game, a movie, and short anime snippets. The reaction to this bifurcation has been quite divisive, especially since the movie had very little substance and did nothing to contribute to the overarching themes of the game.
Let's face it — Kingsglaive was just a lazy excuse to showcase some admittedly impressive animation.
1 SAVED: The Companionship Between The Main Cast (FFXV)
There's a reason why people still adore Final Fantasy XV amidst all the hate — while the subpar elements of this experience should be rightfully criticized, the fact of the matter is that the companionship between the main cast is amazing in its own right.
The pairing of Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto feels natural.
The motif of friendship is a strong one in Final Fantasy XV, and goes to show that a game is not about stuffing too many things — it's about perfecting the elements that matter.