Final Fantasy had a weird start in the West. It didn’t premiere until three years after Japan’s launch on the Famicom in 1987. When it did land in 1990, Japan already got two sequels. So instead of localizing those, Square decided to focus on Final Fantasy IV’s port. To not confuse people it was called Final Fantasy II. The next game was skipped and Final Fantasy VI became Final Fantasy III. Final Fantasy VII then was the first game to keep its title across all regions.
The point here is that despite the rocky start, the series has become THE premier Japanese RPG that is known around the world. We're not counting Pokémon, which is a whole other beast. Among the best are today’s two subjects. Which one is better? Let’s go through their strengths and find out.
10 Battle System: Final Fantasy VII
In many ways Final Fantasy VI’s mechanics served as a prototype for Final Fantasy VII’s. Every Esper a party member equipped allowed them to learn abilities from magical spells to passive skills. It’s like Materia except a lot wilder.
Material, on the other hand, is a more refined implementation of this concept and made for a better magic system. On top of that Final Fantasy VII had real Limit Breaks that weren’t randomly triggered based on damage.
9 Side Quests: Final Fantasy VII
There are also so many more side quests in Final Fantasy VII. In general the game is just bigger. At the time the big cast, the halfway point in the game, which will be discussed further later, and the world itself in Final Fantasy VI seemed big. It looks like an ant compared to Final Fantasy VII though.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better, but in this case it sure does. The Chocobo breeding quest may be a time sink and the Weapons are hard as heck, but both of those examples are also deeply reward every time.
8 The Graphics: Final Fantasy VI
At the end of the day SNES era 16-Bit games are almost always going to look better than anything the PS1, or even the N64 had to offer. Big clunky polygons may have been mind-blowing back then, but nowadays they rarely hold up.
There are, of course, some exceptions. Final Fantasy VII doesn’t look ugly by any means, but it is an acquired taste. Final Fantasy VI’s graphics are pixel perfect.
7 Music: Final Fantasy VII
This was probably the hardest decision to call on this list. Both soundtracks are some of the best the series has to offer. No, scratch that. Compare any Final Fantasy soundtrack to its contemporaries at the time and they will always stack up near the top.
When Nobuo Uematsu was at the helm composing, there was no stopping his genius. That said this is a versus list so gun to the head, Final Fantasy VII wins by a margin.
6 Cast: Final Fantasy VII
When it comes to the cast, be they playable, side, or villain, less means more in this case. It was kind of cool to have a party represent every class in the series up to that point as a character and not just a job.
Locke was a thief, Sabin was a Monk, Shadow was a Ninja, and the list goes on. However, since the party was so big, a lot of characters got short shrift whereas everyone in Final Fantasy VII had a place in the story.
5 Story: Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VII’s story is great and has a courageous message of standing up to power hungry companies in order to save the planet. It, however, also gets very convoluted especially in regard to Sephiroth, Cloud, and their many clones. Final Fantasy VI has a better narrative that doesn’t really deviate.
Despite the game’s large cast not getting enough screen time to matter, the characters that are important see this tale through to the end.
4 Legacy: Final Fantasy VII
How many sequels, ports, or whatever has Final Fantasy VI received? Not much at all. Besides of couple of enhancements thrown into the GBA and PS1 ports, this game hasn’t received nearly as much attention as it should. Final Fantasy VII on the other hand received maybe too much.
Not all of it was good, but the movie and spinoffs all make its legacy a lot more pronounced. Cloud also popped up in a lot of cameo roles like in Super Smash Bros. Oh yeah and don’t forget about the remake.
3 Cultural Impact: Final Fantasy VII
This is almost the same concept of the last entry, but besides the legacy of games, fans have also shown more love to Final Fantasy VII. While researching for an article about fan projects in regard to the whole series, it was surprising how much stuff there was out there for it.
Not to mention it was equally surprising how few things there were for Final Fantasy VI. It’s not completely absent. It's still a fantastic game with a great following, but nothing can really top Final Fantasy VII.
2 Meaningful Deaths: Final Fantasy VI
It’s time to discuss Final Fantasy VI’s greatest achievement to finally shine. Many games threaten players with destroying the world, but rarely, if ever, does that reality play out. Sure Aeris died in Final Fantasy VII and a Mako reactor explosion did presumably kill a whole sector. That said nothing could top the jaw on the floor moment when Kefka brings about the apocalypse.
It’s never explicitly said how many died, but the death count has to be higher than Final Fantasy VII. It’s a straight up bummer and yes, more shocking than Aeris.
1 The Winner: Final Fantasy VII
If one does the math correctly then that makes the final score six to three with Final Fantasy VII being the winner. Both games are excellent RPGs and are way better than anything else out there. Pitted against each other, well, it’s hard to deny all of the pluses on the side of Final a Fantasy VII.
It’s a subjective argument, though. There is no real way of knowing which one is better, but this was still fun, right?