The first Final Fantasy launched in Japan in 1987. That is thirty years of main games and spinoffs with a title count almost to a hundred by now. So it should come as no surprise that Square Enix has tried many different battle systems from traditional turn-based ones to more modern action combat ones.
So which ten games have the best mechanics? Let’s put them all to the test and find out.
10 Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Crystal Chronicles is on our mind, what with the impending remaster early next year. It was the first game in the franchise to feature multiplayer and while the action combat was basic, with four people, it was a new experience for longtime fans.
The magic system was also a little weird as it reset between travel years, but because it was such a novel concept, we had to include it on this list. Hopefully the aforementioned remaster will lead to a more innovative sequel.
9 Final Fantasy Type-0
Another off the walls action take for the franchise was Final Fantasy Type-0. The central theme was a combination of the military academy from Final Fantasy VIII combined with the action combat of Kingdom Hearts.
Each classmate in the squad had a different weapon from cards to guns to swords. They also had magic abilities as well. This was originally a PSP release for Japan, but the West wouldn’t get it until it was remade for PS4 years later. Not everything comes together, but the combat sure was good.
8 Final Fantasy XIII-2
Of the three games in the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy, this is the best one of them all. First of all, it fixed a big complaint of the original, as it was more open-ended. Focusing on two party members also helped.
Now, much of the combat is the same, but the inclusion of being able to capture monsters for additional party members was enough of a twist to get us hooked. With the time travel elements as well it had strong hints of Chrono Trigger and that is never a bad thing.
7 Final Fantasy XII
At its core, one could simply dismiss Final Fantasy XII as an offshoot of MMO auto-style combat. While this is true, even if commands can be input, the Gambit system is what really differentiates itself from other MMOs and games in this series.
Players could go as deep as they wanted in order to create a killer party that could be self-sufficient. In a way, it acted as some sort of coding program. Everything could be regulated, from who players targeted to how often healing magic should be used. The tactical nature of it made us hunger for more.
6 World of Final Fantasy
World of Final Fantasy is another monster capturing based system, except this one has a weirder twist. Monsters can be captured and used in the party by either stacking them on top of the two main characters’ heads, or they themselves could be stacked on top of bigger ones.
With the art style and crossover appeal of fitting all Final Fantasy games into the story up to that point, it felt like a cuter version of Kingdom Hearts with a dash of Pokémon.
5 Final Fantasy X
Most RPGs, especially in the case of this franchise, rely on experience points for party members to level up. That is not the case here as players instead earned AP. These points could be spent at will in the Sphere Grid, which unlocked skills and upgraded stats.
Each grid for every character could connect as well, so for those dedicated, every party member could be exactly alike. It is doable, but it takes a lot of time.
On top of that diverse set of choices, we also liked being able to swap party members out in battle and being able to control Summons for the first time.
4 Final Fantasy V
Final Fantasy was technically the first game to start the Job system, but those jobs couldn’t be changed. Final Fantasy III was then the first to actually implement a system where players could swap when they wanted.
However, Final Fantasy V was the first main game Western fans got to experience that had this feature. On top of that focusing on four characters for a more in-depth story made that class mechanic richer. That is why we chose it over those other two.
3 Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII’s Materia system was like a more refined Magicite system from the previous entry. This made characters feel less special as every member, given they had the same Materia, could potentially be the same.
While that is true, the number of magical abilities one could obtain was huge at the time. Plus we really dug the more integral Limit Break mechanic in combat as well. Going into 3D for the first time also cemented this on our list for its cinematic pizazz.
2 Final Fantasy XV
The development cycle on Final Fantasy XV was ridiculous. This in turn caused the story and pacing to feel out of whack. Yes, we admit that the game has problems then, but the combat was second to none.
Accompanied by a various melody of battle tunes, every fight felt more invigorating than the last. On top of that, the monster designs were insanely creepy, which again made every battle more exhilarating and perhaps a bit frightening as well. Turn-based combat is classic, but we hope the series remains as action-packed as Final Fantasy XV.
1 Final Fantasy Tactics
There were Job systems before Final Fantasy Tactics, as we mentioned, but this game is the best implementation of them all. It also gave more meaning to what a turn-based game could be.
Having to strategically think about what to do both in and out of battle like what classes to bring into combat made every encounter a thrill of the mind. It’s like a nerdier and more in-depth version of Chess. It is without a doubt the best battle system in any Final Fantasy game.