The Final Fantasy series is over 30 years old, which can be pretty daunting for a new player. How are you ever supposed to catch up? Well, the good news is that every mainline entry in the series tells a standalone story. So that makes things slightly easier. But even so, where do you start? This isn't a list of every Final Fantasy game. Some of the really old ones, while great games, are best played by people already familiar with the series. Instead, here's a selection of what I think are the best ones to play today on PC.
Final Fantasy XII (12)
A scrappy street kid who dreams of one day becoming a sky pirate teams up with a motley crew of adventurers and joins a resistance movement rebelling against the mighty (and mighty evil) Archadian Empire. There are better Final Fantasy games, but this is a great introduction to the series for a newcomer. It's polished, playable, and gorgeous to look at—and you won't have any problems getting it running on a modern PC.
+ An incredibly beautiful game, with a refined, elegant, and tasteful art style that really brings the world and characters to life.
+ Joyously easy to play, but with enough complexity hidden in its combat and RPG systems for anyone who wants to go deeper.
+ The 2018 remaster runs very nicely on PC, with built-in support for gamepads, ultrawide monitors, and high resolutions.
– Some of the dungeons are pretty dull and repetitive, with a few too many long, empty corridors filled with enemies to slog through.
– The story is good, but not quite as memorable as some other entries in the series. And honestly, lead character Vaan is kinda annoying.
Final Fantasy VI (6)
In a dark, industrial fantasy world, a team of adventurers—including former slave Terra, treasure hunter Locke, and martial artist Sabin—rebels against a military dictatorship locked in a magical arms race.
+ Tells a memorable story with real emotional depth, and features a massive cast of 14 weird and wonderful characters.
+ The music, composed by series regular Nobuo Uematsu, is among the best he's ever composed. I mean, just listen to Terra's Theme.
+ The turn-based combat is simple compared to other games in the series, but it's fun, tactical, fast-paced, and very easy to pick up.
– The current Steam release is a travesty. The art has been redone and it looks utterly hideous. Emulate the SNES or GBA version instead.
Final Fantasy VII (7)
A team of eco-terrorists battles Shinra, an evil corporation draining the planet of its lifeblood for profit, and Sephiroth, a guy with severe emotional problems who wants to destroy it by slamming a meteor into it.
+ A vibrant cast of interesting, memorable, and eccentric characters to fall in love with. Arguably the series' greatest ensemble of heroes.
+ An unforgettable story that is surprising, funny, and emotional. As good at telling small stories as the big planet-ending ones.
+ Loads of great sidequests and minigames, including breeding a stable of chocobos (giant chickens, basically) and racing them.
– Has an unfortunate tendency to get melodramatic and overly self-indulgent at times—especially towards the end of the game.
Final Fantasy VIII (8)
A ragtag squad of emotional, flawed teenagers, recently graduated from mercenary school, embarks on a dangerous mission to stop an evil sorceress (from the future) who is trying to destroy time itself.
+ One of the series' best settings, with a stylish, mature near-future aesthetic and some of Tetsuya Nomura's best character designs.
+ A unique, customisable magic system. Collect spells from draw points, then junction them to your character to boost their attributes.
+ Prominently features a strategic, wildly addictive collectible card game called Triple Triad, one of the greatest minigames ever made.
– Some story beats that'll have your eyes rolling, including an infamously dumb plot twist that is rightly mocked by fans and non-fans alike.
Final Fantasy IX (9)
As two nations go to war, a thief, a knight, a princess, a mage, and other good-hearted oddballs team up to stop the scheming Queen Brahne, who started the war and threatens to escalate it even further.
+ The quirky medieval setting is brought to life beautifully by richly atmospheric backgrounds and expressive character art.
+ The story is wonderful, and a real emotional rollercoaster, making you laugh one minute, then snapping your heart in two the next.
+ It's the last game to be fully overseen by series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, who always brought a special kind of magic to the series.
– Card-battling minigame Tetra Master is overcomplicated, and nowhere near as good as Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad.
Final Fantasy X (10)
A star athlete is transported a thousand years into the future and joins a team of adventurers, including a summoner named Yuna, to defeat Sin, a giant monster that destroyed the world he came from.
+ The sphere grid system lets you create interesting, unique character builds, in a more interactive way than in most Final Fantasy games.
+ The world is vividly realised, coloured by interesting culture and history. It's just a really nice place to hang out, especially Besaid Island.
+ If you really love the world and characters in FFX, there's a great sequel, Final Fantasy X-2, which continues the story brilliantly.
– Ditching the explorable world map for the first time, and a heavily story-led structure, means FFX can occasionally feel quite linear.
Final Fantasy XIII (13)
In a floating world called Cocoon, a former soldier goes up against the ruling Sanctum government and, along with a band of allies including a guy who keeps a chocobo chick in his afro, fights to save her sister.
+ If you want more story, there are two sequels—FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns—which have developed something of a cult following.
– The most stiflingly linear mainline Final Fantasy. A few open areas aside, the whole game is essentially just a load of narrow corridors.
Final Fantasy XIV (14)
After an apocalyptic event destroys much of the world, a hero blessed by the gods (that's you) escapes the calamity by travelling five years into the future, where the Garlean Empire is staging an invasion.
+ FFXIV is the best MMO on PC, with a sprawling story many consider to be up there with the best of the singleplayer games.
– Being an MMO, it's much more fun with friends. Also, it's incredibly slow to start, with some truly tedious, mind-numbing early quests.
Final Fantasy XV (15)
A young prince and his buddies go on a road trip across Eos—one of the most contemporary-feeling Final Fantasy worlds yet—on a mission to recover a magic crystal stolen by their enemies, the Niflheim Empire.
+ Driving across the world with your pals, stopping to camp and cook dinner together, gives the game a really chill, pleasant vibe.
– Features some of the worst sidequests in Final Fantasy history. They're like something out of a particularly unimaginative MMO.