It was initially called Final Fantasy because it was Square’s last chance to release a commercially successful game before having to disband. They poured their heart and soul into it. And luckily, the game was a hit.
A significant part of the series’ success is their complex stories and the likable characters that populate their worlds.
25. Rinoa Heartily – FFVIII
Compassionate, warm, and friendly are the traits that best describe FFVIII’s Rinoa Heartily, Squall’s love interest, and a prominent character.
She generally puts other’s needs before her own.
Despite her father leading the Galbadian military, Rinoa’s values lead her to join a resistance fighting for Timber’s freedom from imperial rule.
She’s deadly in battle with her Blaster Edge, and her faithful dog Angelo provides support both inside and outside of combat.
24. Firion – FFII
The heroic Firion isn’t just the main protagonist of FF2, but the first character in the series to have a defined name and coherent backstory that ties into the game’s plot.
We don’t know as much about him due to the narrative structure and standards of the time.
But two things are certain: he’s incredibly skilled in armed combat and willing to put his life on the line fighting for freedom and peace.
23. Bartz Klauser – FFV
An orphan from the city of Lix, the skillful Bartz is all about adventure and exploration.
But he knows when it’s time to buckle up and fight for what is right.
His father’s last wishes before passing away were for Bartz to become an explorer and see the world, so that’s exactly what he did – until he met Lenna and was chosen by the Crystals to be a Warrior of Light.
He’s remarkably easygoing – even in tense situations where stakes are high.
Still, that doesn’t mean he takes his responsibility to the world lightly, and he matures a lot throughout his adventure.
22. Lenna Charlotte Tycoon – FFV
Kind, caring, and a little naive, Lenna Charlotte Tycoon is one of the Warriors of Light, and the closest thing Final Fantasy V has to the main character.
While Bartz represents the freedom of the Wind, Lenna has the selfless and compassionate nature of Water.
She has the highest raw Magic stat in the game as well.
So most people spec her up to be the most powerful mage that ever lived.
21. Celes Chere – FFVI
The imposing Celes Chere starts as a high-ranking general of the Gestahlian Empire’s military, a title she holds dear even after joining the insurgent Returners and betraying her homeland in the name of justice.
She’s a Magitek Knight, infused with magic to give her the ability to cast spells.
She can also wield swords, daggers, and maces. Oh my!
Her independent and determined nature gives her the strength to seek out her allies after the Cataclysm turns the planet into the World of Ruin.
20. Locke Cole – FFVI
Locke Cole FF6 screenshot
Fighting along Celes is Locke Cole, an adventurer, and thief who prefers to be called a “Treasure Hunter.”
His adept sneaking skills are key for the Returners, for whom he plays the part of spy and saboteur.
Despite his cheerful nature, Locke is a committed member of the Returners with only one goal in mind: Stopping the Gestahlian Empire.
19. Kefka Palazzo
Kefka Palazzo Final Fantasy character screenshot
Much more interesting than FF5’s main characters is the leading villain, Kefka Palazzo.
Kefka was the first individual to be infused with Magitek, becoming the Gestahlian Empire’s first Magitek Knight. Regrettably, the procedure didn’t go as expected, taking his sanity and turning him into a psychopath.
Eventually, he takes over the Empire and becomes the God of Magic, causing the Cataclysm – an event that killed most of the planet’s population and plunged the world into ruin.
He likes inflicting pain. Simple as that.
18. Vincent Valentine – FFVII
Vincent Valentine is another victim of magic experimentation, this time on the part of Shinra – the central antagonistic organization in Final Fantasy VII.
Being infused with Chaos-tainted Mako saved his life, but it turned him into a vessel for Chaos. He feels like this turned him into a monster – a sin against the world – and seeks revenge against those responsible.
Dark and brooding, Vincent has a fallen angel aesthetic and possibly the most bad-ass design in the game.
17. Solus zos Galvus – FFXIV
Also known as Emet-Selch: the talkative, menacing, and mysterious character is the Founding Father of the Garlean Empire.
His brilliant leadership earned the Garleans massive success and ushered in a golden age.
Regrettably, like most empires, it was impossible to maintain without war and expansion.
He’s also the main antagonist of the Shadowbringers DLC.
Throughout the game, players uncover his true identity as Hades, the Architect of the Ascians.
16. Ramza Beoulve – FF Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics is among the least-known titles in the series, yet honestly one of the most fun.
And protagonist Ramza Beoulve doesn’t get nearly as much love as he deserves.
Proud of his lineage, Ramza believes in uplifting the Beoulve name by protecting peace and fighting for justice.
After abandoning his family and becoming a mercenary, Ramza learns the true meaning of selflessly fighting for the good of others.
15. Cecil Harvey – FFIV
One of the most interesting characters in Final Fantasy’s early history has to be Cecil Harvey, who starts out a Dark Knight in direct service to the King of Baron as the Captain of the Red Wings.
With time, he became somewhat possessed by his identity as a Dark Knight – wearing the black armor as a sign of the horrors and injustices he committed in blind obedience to his King.
After a battle with one of the Four Elemental Archfiends, Cecil finally finds the light within and is purified.
His class changes to reflect this, and he becomes a Paladin.
14. Terra Branford – FFVI
Terra Branford is the closest FFVI has to the main character.
This strong, independent woman is first seen fighting for the Gestahlian Empire as a Magitek Elite.
Eventually, she allies herself with the Returners to fight against the Empire’s oppression, and ultimately against Kefka.
She loves animals, and she’s especially fond of Moogles. I mean, who isn’t fond of them? They’re adorable!
13. Vivi Ornitier – FFIX
Whenever someone thinks of Black Mages in Final Fantasy, the image that comes to mind is usually that of Vivi.
Despite the somewhat feminine name, Vivi’s gender is male. But he looks like a genderless badass no matter what.
His body is covered in dark shadows but for his bright yellow eyes, and he’s incredibly powerful with staves that canalize his magical talents.
He may look sinister, but Vivi is rather shy and gullible. With time he matures and becomes confident in himself, thanks to adventuring with Zidane and the crew. Definitely a lovable character from an awesome PS1 RPG.
12. Freya Crescent – FFIX
Another memorable character from FFIX is Freya Crescent, a spear-wielding Dragon Knight who joins Zidane’s party after meeting him at Lindblum a bit before the Festival of the Hunt.
She’s a humble and friendly Burmecian – a race of bipedal anthropomorphic rats making their home in Burmecia and Cleyra.
While Freya is one of the characters to face the most tragedy and sadness in the entire game, she holds on to hope for a better future and fights tirelessly to get there.
11. Cid Highwind – FFVII
Cid Highwind FF7 screenshot
Every Final Fantasy has a Cid character. Hell, he’s even in the Kingdom Hearts series too!
But rarely are any of those guys as interesting as Cid Highwind from FF7.
He’s also one of the few that join the hero’s party as playable characters.
Despite dreaming of sending a rocket to space and generally putting his faith in science, Cid becomes sympathetic toward the planet’s woes at one point and decides he’s responsible for protecting it if nobody else will.
Cid is the captain of the Highwind, which he uses to support Avalanche in their struggle against Shinra.
10. Auron – FFX
Final Fantasy X is one of the most beloved entries in the franchise.
And Auron is probably the single coolest character in the game, hands down.
He’s a former warrior monk who served Yuna’s father – Summoner Braska – as his Guardian.
During the game, he does the same for Yuna – while also watching over Tidus as a personal favor to his old friend Jecht. His story is incredible but it’s also super spoiler, so if you haven’t finished the game just know that Auron is much deeper than he looks (and the dude already looks pretty deep!)
His ronin-like design, no-nonsense attitude, and impeccable swordsmanship have earned him the admiration of gamers worldwide.
Noctis Lucis Caelum from FF15
As the firstborn son of King Regis and the 114th heir to the Lucian throne, Noctis has some big shoes to fill at the onset of FFXV – and his problems only grow as the game goes on.
Still, this somewhat sullen and distant prince pulls through thanks to his friends’ help, learning to wield the power of the Lucian Kings to protect the realm from Niflheim’s claws.
His royal bloodline lets him forge weapons out of thin air by channeling the Crystals’ power, which he uses in combat to great effect.
He’s also pretty good at fishing.
8. Squall Leonhart – FFVIII
Like Noctis and most other main characters in Final Fantasy, Squall Leonheart isn’t the most talkative person, and his comrades see him as a cold and focused SeeD mercenary.
At first, he lives for his job, but he starts questioning his way of life as the game’s events unfold.
He becomes the leader of the party due to his excellent leadership skills rather than by choice.
This same skill eventually gets him appointed Commander of Balamb Garden, one of SeeD’s main strongholds.
7. Zidane Tribal – FFIX
One exceptional main character who broke the somber protagonist trope was Zidane Tribal, the chivalrous thief from FF9.
He’s a Genome, an artificial being, but he doesn’t let that keep him from living the life he wants.
He’s casual, outgoing, and even flirtatious whenever he meets a cute girl – a far cry from sullen personalities like Cloud and Squall.
In combat, you’ll find his Steal skill especially useful, as it lets you acquire powerful items and equipment by pick-pocketing enemies mid-battle.
6. Tifa Lockhart – FFVII
Even if you’re not a Final Fantasy fan, any gamer worth their salt has at least heard of Tifa – especially since a slight change in her design for the FFVII Remake caused a stir online.
After her hometown of Nibelheim is destroyed by Shinra, Tifa joins Avalanche to exact revenge against the mega-corporation.
She’s a fierce fighter, but also a kind and caring soul with an almost motherly attitude toward her allies.
5. Tidus – FFX
Among the many Final Fantasy protagonists, Tidus is probably the most realistic and believable of them all.
Most people complain that he’s too whiny and childish at first… but that’s to be expected from such a young man after having his entire existence flipped upside down.
Also, daddy issues.
He goes from rising star Blitzball celebrity to being lost in the unknown world of Spira in the blink of an eye – and yet he manages to keep himself together, and eventually matures through his experiences traveling with Yuna and her Guardians.
4. Yuna – FFX
Tidus might be the main playable character.
But FF10’s story is all about Yuna and her journey to save the world.
Like her father before her, she’s a Summoner tasked with appeasing the monster Sin and keeping Spira safe – even if it costs her a lot.
It’s a duty that weighs her down immensely. But she presses onward for the sake of the people she loves.
It’s refreshing to see her develop as a character between FFX and FFX-2, becoming more adventurous and finally living for herself.
And speaking of FFX-2… those dress spheres? Adorable.
3. Sephiroth – FFVII
Final Fantasy villains tend to fade away into obscurity after their story is over.
But the legendary soldier Sephiroth couldn’t have strayed further from his peers.
He’s almost as famous as his heroic counterpart Cloud.
And that’s a serious statement.
While we mostly see him as an overpowered villain in Final Fantasy VII, the backstory provided by Dirge of Cerberus and Crisis Core helps us understand this tragic character much better.
Anyone would have a hard time keeping their sanity after what he went through.
2. Lightning (Claire Farron) – FFXIII
If there’s a character that’s earned her place in this list with blood, sweat, and tears, it’s Lightning.
Her games may not be the best, quite honestly.
But even detractors have to recognize that this pink-haired Gunblade user carried an entire trilogy on her back alone.
She also has the finest fashion sense ever seen in a Final Fantasy game – and that’s counting the K-Pop boyband that is FFXV’s main squad!
1. Cloud Strife – FFVII
The main protagonist of the most acclaimed Final Fantasy title is also, unsurprisingly, the best character in the series – and arguably the most popular.
Defining Cloud as a character is complicated.
Especially considering that he spends most of the game believing he’s someone that he isn’t.
His identity crisis theme resonated deeply with players at the time.
And it’s among the reasons why FFVII is regarded as one of the best games ever made.
If you had to reduce RPG video games to a single image, it would be Cloud standing proudly with the Buster Sword slung across his back.