This article contains general spoilers for practically every game in the Final Fantasy franchise. We are deliberately light on titles released last year, but any other fantasies and their finales are fair game. You have been warned!

This looks niceI am tired of talking at you, gentle reader. What are we at here? FGC #660? Yes, it is time to flip the script. I want to hear from you! Today’s question:

Which Final Fantasy game would you most want to live through?

Here are the parameters: we are only going to address mainline Final Fantasy games. Additionally, we are going to ignore Final Fantasy 11 and Final Fantasy 14, as they are MMORPGs, and people already live there. But any of the other fourteen Final Fantasy titles are on the table. And we are talking about not being a protagonist or villain in a particular FF, just a common non-playable character. You are not the center of the universe on Earth, you will not be spotlighted on Spira, either. And, because I am a generous host, I will review my personal impressions of the survivability rating for the featured Final Fantasies. You are welcome to disagree, but these are my justifications for my rankings.

We will be examining these worlds from least horrible living conditions to greatest. That means we start with…

Final Fantasy 8
Survivability Rating: Comfortable

This is niceThe world of Final Fantasy 8 has a war or two going on, schools dedicated to creating more and more child soldiers, and monsters roaming the countryside. But other than that? It is pretty chill. At the start of Final Fantasy 8, Esthar and the Sorceress Wars are little more than background radiation for the population, and most people can go about their lives watching schools sail through the skies while playing cards that may or may not inexplicably feature their family members. Even the destructive finale of Final Fantasy 8, Time Kompression, only impacts approximately twelve people, and everyone else on Earth misses it in the blink of an eye. Try not to swiss cheese your brain by junctioning to a fire demon, and you’ll live happily through Final Fantasy 8.

Final Fantasy 5
Survivability Rating: Comfortable (with possible discomfort)

Don't live thereYou have a fifty-fifty chance of having a good time in Final Fantasy 5. If you are hanging out in Galuf’s World, you are likely embroiled in a world war against a tree and his malevolent masses of multiarmed mercenaries. But if you have the good fortune of living on Bartz’s World, you only have to worry about goblins’ ineffectual punches. Yes, the crystals are in danger, the winds aren’t blowing, and fire is starting to chill out. But you can have a pretty good life outside of relying on the elements. And, special bonus, once the heroes accomplish a little more monster slaying, the whole planet gets smooshed into another world, and everything old is new again! Can you imagine waking up one morning, and finding that your local Waffle House has magically merged into a Hot Topic? And now you can buy ironic t-shirts and waffles at the same time? Pretty amazing experience for everybody. Just don’t get targeted by the Void, and all will be well.

Final Fantasy 4
Survivability Rating: Mildly Comfortable

Live somewhere elseFirst of all: don’t be a dwarf. I feel like that should be a given, but living within spitting distance of lava is a terrible choice. Past that obvious caveat, all you have to do in Final Fantasy 4 is not have a crystal. The forces of Baron are raiding countries for the elemental crystals that will let their malevolent lord fly to the moon, but if you don’t have a crystal (or stand anywhere near a crystal), you should be fine. Golbez is laser-focused on his goals, and if you are not a threat (like a five-year-old summoner) or a crystal bearer (like that castle full of karate men), you will be sitting pretty. Keep your head down, and right about when you notice one of the moons is missing, you will be completely in the clear.

Final Fantasy 10
Survivability Rating: Devout

Hope you like saltListen to the monarchist religion, and nobody gets hurt. Yes, Sin is out there and generally likely to wreck your pastoral fishing village, but if you stay away from the shore and population centers, you can avoid magical drowning. If you live in a hurricane zone on this planet, it’s the same thing. Past that, the only major threat to Spira is an omnipresent religion that will murder you the minute you try to reveal their secrets. And, given “their secrets” involve the fact that death is a fake idea, you will probably be fine anyway. Just believe in not being dead, and you’ll be a perfectly alive person. You don’t even have to eat brains. Choose life! Choose Final Fantasy 10.

Final Fantasy 12
Survivability Rating: Shockingly Relaxed

Where are your pants?Step one in any happy life: do not be a Dickensian urchin. Vaan and Penelo got that one wrong, and they spend the whole game being shuffled from tragedy to disaster because of it. But give or take the crippling poverty, Ivalice is actually a pretty sweet place to live. Once you get past the desert, there are grassy plains, temperate hills, and some gorgeous beaches. And, yes, there is another war going on, but that conflict involves a whole lot of Judges and Senatorial Houses infighting, and they barely scrape together the ability to heist a floating weapons platform. Stay out of politics, stay in a good mood. And that Bahamut death star is banished before teatime, so really nothing much to worry about.

Final Fantasy 7
Survivability Rating: Don’t Look Up

Beautiful sunsetsThe planet is dying, Cloud. But are you the planet? No! Final Fantasy 7 has the same issue as Final Fantasy 12: do not be poor. The lower levels of Midgar suck, and some girl in pink selling flowers is not going to help your upward mobility. But practically anywhere else on that planet looks like an alright place to live. You can even buy a nice home at Costa del Sol! And Sephiroth’s global assault on the Lifestream is rough, but Meteor to the common man is just some weird weather with a WEAPON for a week. You have more than enough time to get to a basement, and then you can get back to chatting with Dave about going to the Golden Saucer this weekend.

Final Fantasy
Survivability Rating: Probably Pretty Pleasing

Less people means more propertyThe world of Final Fantasy has some kind of every-two-hundred-years schedule where fiends wake up and cause issues. 2,000 years back, Garland/Chaos got the whole cycle started. 400 years ago, Tiamat wrecked Lufenian civilization. 200 years later, the Kraken was released upon the sunken shrine. Now, Lich has awakened to menace Melmond. So write that down, and don’t go to any of those places. Stick to that simple rule, and you have 200 years of free time before Kary/Marilith burns the whole planet down. Oh, and then the Light Warriors break the time loop set up by Chaos at the finale, so the world might be even better for that bit of time travel. We don’t see the “new” world of Final Fantasy, but lets assume conditions are improved when there isn’t a multiheaded dragon stalking around.

Final Fantasy 3
Survivability Rating: Hope for the Best

Just stay back hereAppropriate to the last 8-bit Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 3 has some manner of Dragon Quest-based world. While there is clearly a global threat in the form of flooding darkness and a distressingly mortal wizard, every single town and city has its own problem that has to be solved before your foursome can make any progress. So the trick here is to miraculously be born in one of the towns with the least threatening issue. Maybe the genie? Or being frozen in a cloud of black? That sounds restful. Whatever the case, we are entering the realm of Final Fantasy games where it would absolutely suck to live there, but maybe you could pal around with those fake Light Warriors to have a generally agreeable time.

Final Fantasy 13
Survivability Rating: Devout with Worse Penalties

Sunleth is a weird wordMuch like Final Fantasy 10, Cocoon is a place where you just have to listen to your religious leaders, and you will be okay. Unlike Spira, though, the penalty for not listening to your local deities here is either becoming a literal monster or an inanimate statue. And if you need to see those punishments in action, there is Pulse, which is filled with monstrosities and rocks symbolizing centuries of failure. So follow the rules. Or else. Unfortunately, the rules of this exercise do state that you have to live through the plot of the featured game, and the finale of Final Fantasy 13 sees the whole of society crash onto Forbidden Planet. So even if you were having a good time listening to the Space Pope, his death is going to cause some interruptions in your social calendar.

Oh, and do not even chance it with the Final Fantasy 13 sequels. Nobody survives those.

Final Fantasy 9
Survivability Rating: Fun While it Lasted

LickablePresumably in an effort to showcase the “fantasy worlds” of old with the storytelling traditions available to the 32-bit era, Final Fantasy 9’s Gaia is a world with more culture than you can shake a moogle at. Monsters are stalking the planes, and an entire continent is covered in malevolent mist, but you can catch a fun show at the theatre if you have tickets (please do not buy any forgeries from the rat boy). And there are fantastic airships! And sporting contests! And enough taverns to encourage a lifetime of alcoholism! The only limitation this time is that Kuja’s quest for power and/or death absolutely wrecks nearly every location on the planet, and about the only place that is safe is Dwarf Marriage Kingdom (don’t ask). So enjoy what you can before it gets trashed, and hope you endure to the peaceful finale.

Final Fantasy 16
Survivability Rating: Don’t even Try

Chocobo timeThere are people enjoying their time on Valisthea, but they are few and far between. This is a universe based on aping the tone of Game of Thrones, so everyone is a miserable old sod that can only speak in metaphors for real-world issues. And there is a significant slavery problem to boot! So don’t bother. Even if you luck into some magical summoning powers, you are probably just going to get stuck using them in the service of some dumbass named Lindworm.

Final Fantasy 6
Survivability Rating: Apocalyptic

DA BEARSFinal Fantasy 6’s initial offering is exciting and joyous. The start of an industrial revolution! Magic is being rediscovered! Assassins are allowed to take their service animals to bars! Then some clown takes the reins, and the world gets ruined. There does not need to be further elaboration on why it would be difficult to survive a literal apocalypse, right? The Empire stomping all over continents is part and parcel with any given Final Fantasy, but whole cities being reduced to monster graveyards is new and exciting. The only good news here is that if you make it through the cataclysm, you only have to live through one year of unchecked Kefka rule. The same cannot be said for…

Final Fantasy 15
Survivability Rating: 90% Terrible

Cruisin'Initially, it looks like you will be alright if you just stay out of Insomnia and enjoy your time rolling around the countryside. So much to see! So much to do! It’s basically a fantasy Midwest, complete with pinball machines in the gas stations. But after derailing his own road trip, Prince Noctis gets sucked into a crystal, and the antagonist runs wild while the world is damned to The Long Night for a decade. So if we assume Noctis’s journey took a few months up to that point, you get one year of decent fun, and then ten years of monsters and misery. I have a hard time getting up in the morning without a light therapy lamp, I don’t want to imagine what would happen to my mental state during ten years of night (and also getting eaten by a demon would likely be bad, too). The skies clear up when Noctis gets off his butt and sits on the throne, but just buying some ramen would be a hassle in perpetual darkness.

Final Fantasy 2
Survivability Rating: Avoid at All Costs

LOOK OUT BELOWThe introduction of Final Fantasy 2 claims that “A long-lived peace…is at an end.” While nearly every Final Fantasy involves a conflict that has been percolating for years before the protagonist decided to grab a sword, Final Fantasy 2’s war starts the exact moment you can control Firion (and watch him die). The Emperor of Palamecia has decided to take his show on the road, and, over the course of Final Fantasy 2, obliterates every town on the map (except Mysidia, likely because he forgot it was there). He had his own flying death fortress built just for comprehensive annihilation! And when that doesn’t work, he scores a magical tornado! And, whereas death is a release in nearly every other game on this list (FF10 and FF7 both have afterlives that can be confusing, but are still peaceful), this malevolent monarch that all but conquered the world dies, and then rules over Hell! Which is probably more populated than the living world after his continual sieges! Yes, things “go back to normal” after the heroes kill/frogify Matteus, but practically every last second Final Fantasy 2 is happening is torture for every sentient being on and off their planet. If any of this sounds like a good place to hang out, please seek help.

So there is your complete cheat sheet: Which Final Fantasy game would you most want to live through? And why is a game released in 1988 somehow the absolute worst?

FGC #661 Final Fantasy 2

  • System: I first played it on the Playstation (1), but it was technically originally released in Japan on the Famicom (NES equivalent). There was an excellent Gameboy Advance version, too. Beyond that, you could give it a try on the WonderSwan Color, PSP, iOS, or the Pixel Remasters on PC, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. 2023 Switch Pixel Remaster is responsible for the playthrough that prompted this article.
  • Number players: Wouldn’t it be cool if your frequent guest character could be controlled by a second player? But, no, single player.
  • SURVIVE!Port of Call: I will defend the Final Fantasy 2 Advance version as the best available, as it includes a special “post game” featuring your dead party members venturing through the afterlife. It’s neat! And it puts a nice button on not only your lost friends, but their horrible, damned-to-always-fight existences. The PSP upgrade also includes bonus dungeons that attempt to recycle the key word commands to “randomly” generate floors. The whole enterprise feels like the design team really had no idea how to add to Final Fantasy 2 Advance. Whatever! Not like anyone playing Final Fantasy in 2007 would have any issue consulting GameFaqs to “solve” these new puzzles.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Final Fantasy 2 is considered the not-so-secret origin of the SaGa franchise, and a lot of people focus on the unusual leveling system that is based on actions taken during combat. And I have always thought that system is flawed but cool. However, it is not cool that every other dungeon has a thousand wasteful dead ends and doors to monster closets that are completely pointless. We are not at Beyond the Beyond levels of terrible here, but any given dungeon does have about a 70% chance of being 90% a waste of 100% of your time.
  • Broken in every way: Final Fantasy 2 is infamously the game where you could beat up your own party to earn levels. In fact, sadism is the recommended way to play the original release! Later versions have marginally improved on this oversight, but it is always going to be a game that has some glaring issues from a proper “balance” perspective. As another well-known example, the final fight is basically a check against whether you collected a Blood Sword back before the tornado siege. If you missed that blade… Well… Good luck!
  • The Ultimate Weapon: Speaking of which, we all always have a good laugh at the fact that Ultima is “coded wrong”, never does any damage in the original, and the programmer (likely Nasir) apparently claimed this was canon with the concept that ancient weapons are not guaranteed to work as well compared to modern armaments. And that is all well and good. But real ones that actually played Final Fantasy 2 know that Ultima requires finding two masks hidden across the world, using those two masks in two distinctly separate locations, venturing through a cave to find a staff, fighting your way out of the belly of Leviathan, climbing a tower that contains a surprising amount of lava, battling multiple giants, and then sacrificing a party member that previously brought you back to life. After all that, earning a “weapon” that is less effective than the spell you use to exit dungeons is pathetic. Bonuses from the interred crystals of Final Fantasy 1 are not an appropriate consolation prize.
  • RIBBITThe Lords of Hell: Color-swapping monsters is a tradition in Final Fantasy, and it is in full effect in this adventure. You fight a random encounter shadow of the emperor about seven seconds after you put him (temporarily) in the ground. But the most egregious color swap in the game has to be how the four “treasure bosses” of Pandemonium are Beelzebub, Astaroth, Tiamat… and Zombie Borghen. Yes, he said he would “see you in Hell” when he died, but standing shoulder to shoulder with biblical menaces is quite the upgrade for a guy that previously just kind stole Columbus’s hat.
  • For the franchise: The first Cid in the franchise! And you can ride the first chocobo! And it’s the only mainline Final Fantasy that didn’t directly name some creature “Bahamut” (though you can assume that is the name of at least one of the wyverns). And you better believe those beavers are secret moogles. They are just a game early.
  • Did you know? You never fight Leon the Dark Knight. Never. This is my personal Final Fantasy Mandela Effect, as I always expect that boss fight is coming, but it literally does not exist. Must be all the other Darth Vaders we have fought in RPGs…
  • Would I play again: I have nothing but respect for anyone that finished Final Fantasy 2 in its original form without cheating. Scratch that. I have respect for anyone that has finished Final Fantasy 2 for any reason, as it is a slog. So, despite the fact that I acknowledge that FF2 is important to the genre, there is absolutely no way I am coming back to this one over any other Final Fantasy. Even World of Final Fantasy gets a turn first!

What’s next? We’re going Toobin’! Which, oddly enough, involves another trip to Hell. Weird! Please look forward to it!

It is gross here

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