You can’t be as venerable as the Final Fantasy series without spawning a few spinoffs. Usually the spinoff is a chance to use some of the same mechanics as the core series but make something drastically different: perhaps a totally different battle system, completely different approach to story, and sometimes just a celebration of the many years of success the source series has entertained. Regardless of the influence, there have been dozens of spinoffs and pseudo-sequels for Final Fantasy games, and none more awesome than the ten below.
Some of you may scoff and not call this a true Final Fantasy spinoff. Some of you might say that because you can play as Final Fantasy VII characters like Cloud, Tifa, Zack, Sephiroth, Vincent, Yuffie, and a Red XIII lookalike it’s most definitely a FF7 spinoff. The rest of you are probably wondering what the hell this game even is? Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring is a 3D fighting game by square that featured, among other brawlers, the aforementioned FF7 characters. The game is elementary in terms of combat and will in no way eclipse the fighting game crowd away from the mountain of better fighters out there, but swinging Cloud’s Buster Sword doesn’t get old!
9. The Mana series
The Mana series of action-RPGs has been quiet lately, but the games have spanned several console generations and are adored by some fans more than the numbered Final Fantasy’s. Starting on the original Game Boy with Final Fantasy Adventure, the series didn’t really hit the mainstream until the hugely popular Secret of Mana on the SNES. Throughout the years new games would trickle out that changed up the core mechanics a bit (like the DS game Children of Mana) but the series has always had a strong tie to Final Fantasy. Out of all the games that are derivative of FF, I feel the Mana series has the most unique persona.
8. Chocobo Racing
Bypassing the entire series and just giving the number eight spot to Chocobo Racing makes a lot of sense. I mean, the whole Chocobo series has been kind of “meh” but for the best experience you need to play Chocobo Racing on the PS1. There’s a lighthearted story centered where all the conflicts are resolved by racing (because that’s how things go in this world, I guess?), you can play as many different Final Fantasy staple characters, including a chibi version of FF7‘s Cloud and FF8’s Squall, and at the end of the game you can customize your own colored Chocobo!! The fact that a sequel was at one point planned on the 3DS just makes this game even better!
7. Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
Admittedly, I have only played the first game in the Crystal Chronicles series on the Gamecube. But, I also happened to think that the first game in the series was one of the most creative Final Fantasy games to come out in ages. Not only did it incorporate four player multiplayer in an engaging and fun way (assuming you could get together a group of friends with the requisite equipment to play (which I could!)), it also featured some of the best artwork and music in the entire series, Final Fantasy games proper included! Here’s hoping those handful of sequels are just as stellar!
6. The Kingdom Hearts series
A hell of a lot of RPG fans love the Kingdom Hearts series but don’t give any respect to Final Fantasy. Now, they might appreciate some of the concepts incorporated in both series, like magic spells and level progression, but Kingdom Hearts has such a different approach to combat and storytelling that I can easily see how you could like this series and not the turn-based masterpieces of yesteryear. Disney characters aside, the Kingdom Hearts series is essentially an action RPG Final Fantasy games. Even better than the Mana series! And I guess having Mickey Mouse in there kind of makes the game adorable.
5. Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy
Let me just put this into perspective for you: The Final Fantasy series’ music has been so well received over the years that they actually made an entire video game based on just the songs from each game! If you haven’t played Theatrhythm and you fancy yourself a Final Fantasy fan, then you need to read the rest of this article and go out and play this game. The songs included are perfect representations of the original versions of each, often accompanied by appropriate cutscenes from each game. Man… I think I know what I’m doing right after this…
4. Bravely Default
Forget that this game just came out: it’s so damn good at what it does that it easily zooms past several other entries on this list to take the number four spot. With a unique battle system, plenty of character classes to choose from, a classic story, and Final Fantasy mechanics from the good ol’ days, Bravely Default is one of the best non-Final Fantasy games to come out in ages. Plus, being included on this list, it isn’t even the strangest named group of the bunch!
3. Chrono Trigger
A game that stands the test of time, I still have friends that are playing and enjoying Chrono Trigger. Memorable characters, time traveling, a diabolical end boss, and lots of intense moments helped make the original SNES game a true classic. The game’s soundtrack was partly handled by the legendary composer of the Final Fantasy series Nobuo Uematsu, the gameplay was created by Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, and the art was done by Dragon Ball Z creator Akira Toriyama. With that much talent on one project it’s no wonder Chrono Trigger is often regarded as the best RPG ever made, let alone the best on the SNES.
2. Dissidia: Final Fantasy
Fan service can go a long way. Just look at Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series. That game is full of characters from Nintendo’s most popular franchises. Now look at Dissidia on the PSP (and it’s sequel Duodecim): it’s like Smash but pulls characters from JUST the Final Fantasy series. Largely made to appease the hungry fan base, Dissidia actually has a decent battle system. And just like the Final Fantasy series, it has dramatic battles, addictive gameplay, tons of characters to play, a somewhat coherent, melodramatic story, and beautiful cutscenes. These games are almost enough reason to own a PSP.
1. The Tactics series
After a long battle on which game/series would top this list, I decided there could be no other series than Final Fantasy Tactics. The series was not only a major departure from gameplay, it managed to look and feel just similar enough to capture an entire new audience while bringing the strategy RPG genre to a legion of new fans on the consoles. The PS1’s original Tactics was done one better by the PSP enhanced remake, which added beautiful HD cutscenes that retold the game’s stellar story in glorious detail. The Game Boy Advance housed a handful of worthy sequels as well, once again bridging the gap between the two core RPG genres. The Final Fantasy series could easily switch to the Tactics formula and be just as popular. Don’t get me wrong, I love my turn-based combat, but there’s something deeply satisfying about planning out an attack with each unit on the field and watching your opponent’s forces crumble. It’s awesome!
There are plenty of other games that didn’t make the cut, including the “direct sequels” to the numbered Final Fantasy games, as well as plenty of mobile
So which games would be your top “non Final Fantasy” Final Fantasy games? I’m betting that Kingdom Hearts will be a lot higher on many a gamers list than it is on mine.
So let’s hear it!