So, how are you feeling about the Final Fantasy series just now? If you’ve been a fan of the games for a while now, you’re sure to have a whole bundle of mixed feelings on that one.
Like Resident Evil fans, the Final Fantasy faithful sure have been through the wringer. Any long-running franchise is going to have highs and lows, but lately, the lows have been just amazing. Final Fantasy XV was a darn controversial one, and with that much-ballyhooed remake of VII apparently stalled in a ditch somewhere, without even a cell phone to call its mama… we just don’t know who to turn to just now.
It’s not really surprising, then, that Square Enix seems to be totally stuck in the past. Nintendo Switch is the latest system to see a host of ports, which began with Final Fantasy IX and will continue over the course of this year.
Why do we want to see them yet again? Because they’re fantastic titles, that’s why. The series high points were high, friends, there’s no denying. I’m not just saying that to try and justify my quadruple-dipping on the eShop, either.
Nevertheless, there were some real missteps taken in the classic games too. Let’s celebrate those peaks and troughs, then, by casting a critical eye over some of the very best and very worst villains in the series’ repertoire. From the destroying-a-whole-world-just-by-having-a-tantrum Kuja and wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey Ultimecia to the utterly pitiful Whelk, there’s something for everyone right here.
Watch out, though, there are going to be franchise-wise spoilers throughout.
25 OVERPOWERED: Jenova (Final Fantasy VII)
So, I thought to myself, what’s the number one trait that any overpowered villain needs to have? Incredible strength and magical prowess is a given (and we’re going to be seeing a whole lot of those over the course of this rundown), but we need something a little more interesting to kick things off with.
How about the ability to return again and again and again and.. again? Final Fantasy VII’s Jenova has this in spades. Sephiroth’s beloved mom is defeated numerous times by the party, in all kinds of bizarre and monstrous forms. They’re among the game’s most imposing bosses and possess a range of devastating magical attacks.
Let’s not forget, either: for most of the storyline, she ‘was’ Sephiroth. That guy’s got a bit of a reputation around here.
24 WEAK: Ozma (Final Fantasy IX)
If you’re a veteran of Final Fantasy IX, you’ve almost certainly whiled away considerable hours of your life playing that darned Chocobo Hot and Cold minigame. Hunting for chocographs could be a considerable pain in the behind, even if the rewards were well worth it.
It’s only through Chocobo Hot and Cold that you can battle Ozma, the game’s optional superboss. Probably the toughest battle in the game, yes, but mostly just through cheap shenanigans. If you select a move while Ozma isn’t already casting a spell, it’ll get another insta-turn, and it just loves to spread infuriating status effects all over your face.
Curse and Meteor combos are a bad time, friends. The good news is that, like all enemies in this game, it has very low HP, and can be dealt a righteous whupping in a few swift turns. There’s a lot of RNG involved, though.
23 OVERPOWERED: Kefka (Final Fantasy VI)
Kefka Palazzo is a bit of a controversial character among fans. Some will tell you that he’s a bit of a two-bit villain, making only brief appearances in the game and merely activating a devastating weapon (which anybody could do, technically) rather than being the true creator of the chaos.
As with Sephiroth, though, he has the advantage of being the villain of one of the most beloved entries in the series, and there’s a lot of cache that comes with that. Nevertheless, he certainly came close to achieving his goals (not many villains can truly make that claim) and boasts every stereotypical mark of villainy in the book. The pure evil for the sake of it attitude, the maniacal laugh… he’s got it all.
22 OVERPOWERED: Kuja (Final Fantasy IX)
Kuja’s dress sense may be a little suspect (who likes short shorts? Wrathful alien assassins with inexplicable rat-tails like short shorts!), but we’re not here to judge by appearances. Not until the next entry on this list, anyway, which is just pathetic and hilarious.
Hurry back on board my train of thought, though, Kuja is quite an underrated villain. He singlehandedly destroys the entire world of Terra with his magical might, simply because his daddy had sent him to his room (essentially). He adopts a Trance form of his own (the only non-party member seen to do so), and actually proves to be quite a sympathetic character in the closing moments of the game.
He’s multi-faceted, and I can appreciate that in a villain.
21 WEAK: Whelk (Final Fantasy VI)
Now, it may be a little unfair to snark on Whelk. After all, the very first boss of any game can’t be anything too imposing (it seems that Bloodborne’s Cleric Beast didn’t get that memo, but still). You’re supposed to ease people into the experience gently.
Having said that, though, there’s easing players in and then there’s… well, a giant feeble snail thing. As we’ve reported over on Screen Rant, the Whelk was later renamed Ymir in ports of Final Fantasy VI, but it’s still a sea snail. The only way was up, friends, that was the positive to take away from this sorry situation.
20 OVERPOWERED: Ardyn Izunia (Final Fantasy XV)
As I say, then, the most recent entry in the main series was not to everybody’s taste. Not a bit of it. the whole badly-behaved boyband on tour with magical swords thing split opinion, and it was trying just a little too hard to hop on the recent open-world bandwagon.
The main antagonist, Ardyn Izunia, has also been controversial. His presentation was less theatrical, he didn’t bust out a demonic, winged, Godzilla-sized final form in battle (a favorite party trick of RPG villains).
He was a little more grounded, as immortal warriors imbibed by the power of legendary kings go.
Nonetheless, he was a powerhouse in his own way.
19 WEAK: Zorn And Thorn (Final Fantasy IX)
I was a little conflicted here, I’ll admit. Queen Brahne herself could have easily taken this slot. When it came to outright villainy directed at the party themselves, though, I’m going to give it to her court jesters, Zorn and Thorn.
Right from the off, they’re hunting you down (on Brahne’s orders, but still) with their enhanced black mages, the Black Waltzes. After these are dealt with, they switch to performing rituals to remove the eidolons from Garnet and Eiko, and are even fought as a boss on two occasions.
To their credit, though, their true form is a disgusting yet brilliant sight to behold, and their theme tune is excellent. This doesn’t excuse the fact that their manner of speaking makes me want to chew my own ears off at times (which is ironic, as they’re not actually voiced), though.
18 OVERPOWERED: Emerald Weapon (Final Fantasy VII)
So, as we’ve seen, Ozma was a bit of a disappointment as superbosses go. A gigantic floating marble that can crush your soul into tiny, sad, defeated hunks is a thing to see, there’s no doubt, but the battle is quite luck-dependent. That’s not a good time for anyone concerned.
Final Fantasy VII’s Emerald Weapon, on the other hand, is a beast of a fight. It boasts an attack that deals more damage to the party the better prepared they are to face it (Aire Tam Storm, or Materia Storm), it has one million HP, and trying to take it down can ruin your whole foreseeable future.
Is it truly a villain, in the conventional sense? That depends on your perspective. It took my childhood self about fifty attempts to beat it, though, so it’s a personal nemesis of mine. That’s for darn certain.
17 OVERPOWERED: Emperor Mateus (Final Fantasy II)
What are some other hallmarks of truly powerful villains, then? We’ve touched on some of the obvious ones already, but I’d like to think that becoming the Emperor of the underworld is probably right up there.
Emperor Mateus appears in the second main game, commanding a mobile fortress and trying to bring the world to heel with his formidable magic. Heck, he was powerful enough to overthrow the Dark Lord himself.
16 WEAK: Necron (Final Fantasy IX)
What was the deal with Necron, exactly? The game was all set for a brilliant and dramatic end with the Trance Kuja battle, and then… a lumpy blue thing with a face even its mom would want a refund for appears.
It’s claimed that Necron was born of Kuja’s fear of his own demise, and is a representation of demise itself, but we get no more backstory than that. The fight on the Hill of Despair isn’t exactly disappointing, and this lumpen thing is no pushover, but the whole concept is weak. This thing wasn’t even alluded to during the entire story, why throw it into the mix right at the end?
15 OVERPOWERED: Seymour (Final Fantasy X)
I was a little conflicted here, friends. In the great pantheon of Final Fantasy villains, Seymour is a tough one to place. Unlike a lot of pure evil, demonic beings, Seymour had more of an emotional weight to him. All of that business with Yuna was almost rom-com-like at times. You half-expected Tom Hanks to walk into shot (he’s always in those movies).
He was a quieter, more brooding presence, only revealing the true extent of his power after his demise at the hands of Tidus and the gang. This is Seymour we’re talking about now, by the way, not Tom Hanks.
14 OVERPOWERED: Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII)
Yes, Final Fantasy VII is probably the most influential and eternally popular games in the series, but all that renown comes at a cost. There are those who will always and forever consider the game overrated.
By extension, the same applies to Sephiroth himself. We’ve all heard the mama’s boy jokes and the snark about his edginess, but in terms of the threat he posed to the world in which his game was set… well, he almost crushed the world in which his game was set with a big old angry meteor. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty threatening to me.
13 WEAK: Vayne Solidor (Final Fantasy XII)
Speaking of villains that are super hard to place on the overpowered/weak scale, where does Final Fantasy XII’s Vayne fit into things? That’s a difficult one.
In his lust for power and devious nature, Vayne is very similar to the Sephiroths and Kujas of the series. In most senses, though, he’s a world apart from that.
His villainy was far less melodramatic and flashy, more considered and insidious.
In this way, Vayne was a great fit. Final Fantasy XII is very different from previous entries in the series, and the tone that Vayne himself lent to the whole thing reflected that. If you want to see explosive theatrics, though, he’s not your guy (although he did take a shot at that in battle).
12 OVERPOWERED: Ultimecia (Final Fantasy VIII)
Ultimecia was one of those curveball villains that Squaresoft (as they were known back then) really should hit us with more often. For much of Final Fantasy VIII, we’re led to believe that Edea is the true villain of the piece, that she is the sorceress that SeeD are destined to battle.
As it turns out, though, she’s revealed to be a mere puppet for a far more menacing sorceress: Ultimecia. This new villainess wields magic so powerful that she can distort time, actually locking the player out of most areas of the world map after activating Time Compression.
She simply drips malevolence, her outfit looks like something she stole from Cruella de Vil’s closet and she’s just purely, irredeemably bad. What more could you ask for in a villain?
11 WEAK: This House (Final Fantasy VII)
Sometimes, just for the snark’s sake, it’s fun to leave the big bad antagonists of the franchise alone for a moment and take a look at some enemy designs. There are some darn shonky regular enemies in the Final Fantasy back catalog, after all.
Take the House, for instance, which we meet in the slums of Midgar. Just what in the world of sweet, strawberry-flavored heck is going on here?
Yes, Shinra and their dastardly machinery are polluting and destroying the planet. We get that. what have they made here, though? A vicious, sentient, transformer-house? How did this thing ever come to exist? Why does it fire rockets? The world will never know.
10 OVERPOWERED: Tonberries (Final Fantasy Series)
While we’re on the subject of regular enemies as villains, here comes one of most popular recurring monsters in the franchise: the tonberry.
If you’ve spent much time with the series, you’ll know the general MO of these little guys: they’ll slowly shuffle towards your party, tanking damage with their high HP. When they get close enough, they’ll dash forward and immediately KO whichever member they’re closest to with their rusty-looking knives, before beginning the process again.
Needless to say, you’ll want to dispatch these little swine with extreme prejudice. They’re often an enemy that you’ll want some kind of actual plan for, rather than just going into RPG autopilot grind mode.
This is a whole lot of power in a tiny, oddly adorable package.
9 WEAK: Yu Yevon (Final Fantasy X)
Do you remember the Magic Lamp that Cid gives you before you head off to Timber in Final Fantasy VIII? It contains Diablos, and you can defeat him and claim him as a GF far earlier than you’re ‘supposed’ to with ease. Why? Because he mostly just casts Gravity spells at you.
As Final Fantasy veterans will know, you’re not going to be defeating any darn enemies with gravity-based spells alone, buddy. Once Diablos was hit with Blind, he was largely harmless.
Sadly, Final Fantasy X’s Yu Yevon doesn’t seem to have gotten that memo. The big bad antagonist (and creator of Sin) is greatly weakened when the player battles him, only able to use Gravity against the party (halving the target’s HP). As a result, it’s all but impossible to lose the fight.
8 OVERPOWERED: Chaos (Final Fantasy)
Now here’s a throwback. All the way from 1987’s Final Fantasy, it’s Chaos. Most players today will probably be familiar with this beastly adversary, as he appears in Dissidia, but those of a certain age will remember that sickly green, blurry, purple-toenailed demon that started it all.
The God of Discord, he was originally another form of Garland. In the Dissidia series, however, he’s his own entity, existing to balance out the goodly Cosmos. He may be a little hackneyed, as huge, slavering, demonic villains go, but he just rocks that look.
Elements of Chaos can be seen in a lot of the Final Fantasy series’ later villains. Bonus points for being so influential.
7 WEAK: Professor Hojo (Final Fantasy VII)
As we know, then, we didn’t actually get to see a lot of Sephiroth (that is, the real one) throughout most of his game. This is also true of other classic villains like Kefka, but I suppose there are pros and cons to that.
On the plus side, it gave other antagonists their chance in the spotlight.
One of these would be Shinra’s resident mad scientist, Professor Hojo, whose leading role in the Jenova Project and SOLDIER make him directly responsible for most of the disasters that befall the world.
The player battles him on returning to Midgar, after Hojo has resorted to injecting himself with… heck knows what cells in order to mutate himself. He is defeated in various disgusting forms, none of which are particularly difficult to dispatch.
6 OVERPOWERED: Edea (Final Fantasy VIII)
So, we already know the situation here. Edea turns out not to be a villain at all, but an unfortunate victim of Ultimecia’s time-meddling shenanigans. We don’t know that until later in Final Fantasy VIII, though, and she serves as a top-notch villain before she’s freed from Ultimecia’s grasp.
Edea is a very unusual case, an enemy who becomes a member of the party for a brief time. Her limit break is even a take on those icicles she launched at Squall at the close of disk one. She’s rather weakened at this point, though, and we get a sense that this is Edea at only a fraction of her true magical strength. She’s a villainess that the party is only able to defeat for plot reasons, in my eyes.
5 WEAK: Gilgamesh (Final Fantasy Series)
A little comic relief is always welcome these days, isn’t it? As the world goes to pot in all kinds of exciting and creative new ways, we really do need that sort of thing.
Things can get super dreary and impending doom-y in the Final Fantasy franchise as well, which is why the character of Gilgamesh is always appreciated. As with Cid, a Gilgamesh appears in just about every main game, in some guise or another. He’s often a figure of fun, marked by his melodramatic nature and joke boss fights.
He tends to wield the Excalipoor, which probably tells you more than you need to know about him.
4 OVERPOWERED: The Friendly Yan (Final Fantasy IX)
Again, the debate raises its head. Can we really call regular enemies villains? I mean, from their perspective, the party is often encroaching on their territory and brandishing swords, fireballs, and gigantic summon monsters to crush them into dust, just for EXP’s sake. I think we’re the villains of the piece here.
Let’s not get caught up in that moral debate, though, because there’s one important thing to bear in mind. The Friendly Yan is another Final Fantasy IX superboss, and it is not friendly. The final task of the friendly monsters sidequest, this thing looks like an adorable little goat creature, but it’s the strongest physical attacker in the entire game. Yans themselves are tough (visit Vile Island if you dare), but this little guy’s on a whole new level.
3 WEAK: Cactuar (Final Fantasy Series)
The cactuar is another curious little recurring enemy, popping up in just about every game in the franchise. As its appearance suggests, it tends to be a very fast, very nimble little critter, which is very evasive and quick to flee the battle. Taking the cowardly creature out tends to be worth your while, though, because you’re usually given a generous amount of experience for it.
Often more of a nuisance than anything, cactuars love using their trademark 1,000 Needles attack, which always deals exactly that amount of damage to the target.
The greatest cactuar of all time is Jumbo Cactuar of Final Fantasy VII, a screen-filling beast and optional boss (which you can acquire as a GF if you defeat it). It’s the most hilarious, ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.
2 OVERPOWERED: Iron Giant (Final Fantasy III)
Yet another familiar enemy, Iron Giants are usually distinguished by these traits: they have large HP, tend to be encountered quite late in the game, take physical hits like the darn Terminator, and dish out heaping helpings of damage in return with their huge blades.
Final Fantasy III’s Iron Giant is another boss, and it takes all of these traits and runs them to the end zone. As we reported over on Screen Rant, It has gargantuan HP and defenses, and gets a really-not-very-fun-at-all four attacks per turn. This particular enemy wasn’t added to the game until the later remakes, and while it’s certainly a neat new challenge, I think many of us could’ve done without it in our lives.
1 OVERPOWERED: Seifer (Final Fantasy VIII)
For the last entry in this rundown, we’re going to pay homage to that nefarious Seifer Almasy. Like most things about Final Fantasy VIII, he’s quite a derisive character. One of those that often tends to be all talk and then disappoints when the fighting starts.
Kudos to him, though, he didn’t relinquish his role as the Sorceress’s knight, trying to defend her until the very end whether he could or not. In the party’s battles with him, I really don’t think we got to see his true potential either.
After all, this is a man who not only survived an attack by Odin, but cut Odin in half (man, did that cutscene shock the heck out of me the first time I saw it).
Where I come from, that’s all kinds of a yikes.