Final Fantasy is a name that’s long been recognized outside of the insular video game sphere. For good reason! Now, in honor of the launch of Final Fantasy XV, it’s time to take a look at all of the numbered — including literally everything would be madness — Final Fantasy games from years gone by.

Final Fantasy II
I'm pretty sure those weren't the original character names. 

14. Final Fantasy II

Final Fantasy II was bold and brave, making some changes to the classic RPG system that didn’t actually pan out. Characters levelled up by performing certain actions frequently. Characters who used daggers, for example, would gradually become more proficient in that particular weapon type. It’s a cool idea, but it didn’t work so well in practice. Final Fantasy II wasn’t all terrible, though. The game was the first in the series to start experimenting with character development and exploring themes of romance and death.

Final Fantasy
The original 'Final Fantasy' is more of a fond reminder of how far the series has come than a game you would go back and play today. 

13. Final Fantasy

It’s hard to find fault with the original Final Fantasy, being the first in the series. It’s Final Fantasy at its most basic, but for the time it was quite revolutionary. The story was thin and the mechanics rudimentary, but it built on Dragon Quest’s successful formula and paved the way for the future.

Final Fantasy XIII
This game is one gorgeous mess.

12. Final Fantasy XIII

While it featured gorgeous set pieces, a fantastic battle system, and one of the most iconic protagonists in the franchise, Final Fantasy XIII fell a little flat. Debuting at a time when open-world games were all the rage, people were dissatisfied with the games linear path. It doesn’t open up for about 25 hours, and the story can be a bit difficult to follow.

Final Fantasy V
'Final Fantasy V' also had dragons, which is fun. 

11. Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy V’s story was pretty generic: a group of heroes must protect the four crystals from the game’s antagonist, and so on and so forth. Perhaps Square had spent all of their creative energy on Final Fantasy IV’s narrative. The job system, on the other hand, was quite something. It built off of the system in Final Fantasy III and vastly improved upon it. Characters use crystals to take on a job, earning Ability Points to level up in their area of expertise. Doubly exciting was the ability to transfer abilities to other jobs, creating unique hybrid classes.

Final Fantasy VIII
For all its foibles, it's hard to hate 'Final Fantasy VIII'. 

10. Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII is a bit of a puzzle. It does so many things well, and yet so many things are terrible. The biggest frustration many had was the draw system, in which spells had to be drawn from enemies and kept in stock if spellcasters wanted to use them. While many people were quite attached to Squall and Rinoa, the game’s main protagonists, the story did lose its way towards the end. Despite that, it has many memorable moments — the failed assassination attempt on Edea, helping the Forest Owls with a train heist, the ballroom scene, etc.

Final Fantasy XII
Battle in 'Final Fantasy XII' broke with tradition. 

9. Final Fantasy XII

Final Fantasy XII was an attempt to redefine the series. The game is set in the world of Ivalice, and it really put the PlayStation 2 through its paces. The battle system abandons the turn-based combat everyone was familiar with for a more urgent MMORPG-based system that emphasizes tactics and careful planning. While the battle system was challenge, the game sacrificed strong characters for a heavy, politically charged plot that fell flat. It was hard to care, and all told, the game feels a bit bland.

Final Fantasy III
'Final Fantasy III' helped improve the series' job system. 

8. Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III built on Final Fantasy II’s attempts at storytelling while also breaking new ground with its job system. Any character could take on any job with the use of capacity points, and this system would be the inspiration for future games, including Final Fantasy V and Final Fantasy XI.

Final Fantasy XI
Some monsters in 'Final Fantasy XI' required alliances of 24 people and hours to defeat. 

7. Final Fantasy XI

Final Fantasy XI was a dastardly difficult game, following Everquest’s example. It was the most difficult game on Xbox 360 when it came to earning achievements. The game was controlled entirely with the keyboard and required serious memorization. Once you got to level 50, players had to spend hours to earn hundreds of thousands of experience points to level up. Oh, and if you died, you lost a percentage of that hard-earned experience.

However, its steep learning curve meant the players who survived the longest were highly skilled and the community was, for the most part, friendly and close-knit. Final Fantasy XI featured a massive world with diverse environments, and a fantastic story to go along with it. It was also one of the last games to feature Nobuo Uematsu on its incredible soundtrack.

Final Fantasy IV
If you haven't played the DS remake of 'Final Fantasy IV', you should probably fix that. 

## 6. Final Fantasy IV

Many would argue Final Fantasy IV is the best game in the series, and it’s not entirely unjustified. Final Fantasy IV showed that these games were capable of telling affecting stories. The game was the first to feature nuanced characters, and it introduced the Active Time Battle system, giving combat a renewed sense of urgency that future games would also adopt.

Final Fantasy XIV
Times are tough for MMORPGs these days, but 'Final Fantasy XIV' is still going strong. 

5. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV started out as one of Square Enix’s biggest disasters, and with hard work, became one of its greatest success stories. It originally launched in 2010, but closed its servers in 2012 due to overwhelming negative response. Enter Naoki “Yoshi-P” Yoshida, who turned the game around completely with the help of an amazing localization team and major fan input. Yoshida transformed the world of Eorzea into a beautiful, polished experience with a great story, making Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn one of the most successful MMORPGs on the market today.

Final Fantasy VII
It's impossible to deny 'Final Fantasy VII's' lasting influence. 

4. Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII, to some the only true Final Fantasy, has a very, very devoted fanbase. The game is inspiring with its vast, expansive world. There are hundreds of secrets to discover, areas to explore, and, of course, you can breed and race Chocobos. No one could really imagine a game of this scope before Final Fantasy VII came around. And, let’s not forget the revolutionary 3D graphics and FMVs, iconic protagonist, or classic soundtrack. Final Fantasy VII also proved these games were brave enough to break our hearts — people are still mourning the death of Aeris.

Final Fantasy X
'Final Fantasy X' is still visually impressive 15 years later. 

3. Final Fantasy X

Final Fantasy X really shook things up with its mind-blowing graphics and hyper-realistic FMVs. It was also the first fully voiced Final Fantasy game, and while the English voice acting was laughable at times, it did manage to bring the series to life in new ways. The characters were not as well developed as those we met in Final Fantasy IX, but they were still fun. The Sphere Grid system was a nice change, too, and the ability to switch in any character you wanted in the heat of battle made for new ways to approach strategy.

Final Fantasy IX
'Final Fantasy IX' wasn't exempt from plot wackiness, but it still had plenty of moving character moments.

2. Final Fantasy IX

After the relatively modern or futuristic stylings of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Final Fantasy IX went back to the traditional medieval fantasy of knights and sorcery. The game takes players through moments of both terrible tragedy and hilarious brevity. Final Fantasy IX deals with issues surrounding loyalty to family and the meaning of life and death in poignant, memorable ways.

Each of the characters are well realized, and the game does a good job of telling each of their stories. Plus, Kuja absolutely wins the award for most fabulous Final Fantasy villain. The weapon system, in which characters gain new abilities by equipping certain items, was something fresh and creative that has since been incorporated partially into Final Fantasy XIV.

Final Fantasy VI
If we were to recommend just one 'Final Fantasy' game, it would be 'Final Fantasy VI'. 

1. Final Fantasy VI

Final Fantasy VI is the series at its finest. Playing through the game now, it’s very ‘90s, but it still holds up. The game features a memorable cast of characters that are carefully developed over time. The narrative, too, has an amazing structure — splitting the party up and switching back and forth before coming together just before the world ends.

Final Fantasy VI is probably the first Final Fantasy game to handle complete devastation in such a moving way, but the game also has moments of happiness and goofiness. The pacing is on point, the art is some of the best on the SNES, and the soundtrack is one of the most memorable.

Final Fantasy XIV
What will the next adventure hold? 

Photos via Giant Bomb (1, 2), UsaSatsui, Square Enix (1, 2, 3), GameFAQs, A.V. Club, Final Fantasy Wiki, Project Killscreen, Lualli, Destructoid, Hardcore Gamer, The Lifestream, Cartidge Lit, The Final Fantasy

Jessica is a freelance writer based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. You can read other stuff she writes on VICE, Rock Paper Shotgun, and Geek & Sundry.