For most other than its most loyal fans, the original Final Fantasy XIV was a boring mess that sent the franchise into a tailspin after lukewarm response of Final Fantasy XIII. It was eventually rescued heroically from total embarrassment after a change of staff that put Naoki Yoshida at the helm.
Both fans and critics alike were not thrilled with the dramatic change in gameplay seen in Lighting Returns, the finale of the XIII saga. The change in combat style was divisive, and the Majora’s Mask style timer was not a great fit for a Final Fantasy game, at least not this one.
Final Fantasy XIII-2 was seen by some as a step in the right direction as it was far less linear than its predecessor. However the not so great taste of XIII was still in the mouths of some reviewers, and many saw it as one step forward, but a few steps back in other areas.
While far from universal acclaim, the second iteration of Final Fantasy XIV was much more well received by both critics and players, thanks to dramatic changes in its gameplay. While its 6.8 user score isn’t great, its first expansion, Heavensward holds an impressive 86 Metascore, and an improved 7.7 user score.
Although tied with A Realm Reborn at 83, we’ll give Final Fantasy XIII tie-breaker thanks to its stronger 7.3 user score, something we’ll do the rest of the way considering how many ties we have. Final Fantasy XIII was one of the most controversial Final Fantasy games ever released because of how linear it was for the majority of the game. Still despite the stigma it still carries, it surprisingly still received decent scores from critics, and that user score isn’t as bad as you would imagine. A vocal angry minority perhaps?
Here we have the most recent entry into series, released just days ago. Final Fantasy XV’s Metascore still could change over time, but it seems for now to have settled at 83. The same as FF: XIII. However, fans seem to enjoy XV more than they did XIII, at least for now. It has a positive 7.9 user score versus XIII’s mixed 7.3.
Final Fantasy X-2 is one of a couple of games on this list where critics and fans didn’t see eye to eye. Critics largely praised X-2, especially its combat, and it settled at an impressive 85 Metascore. However fans, especially ones bothered by the dramatic tonal shift in the story, left it with a mixed 6.6 User Score.
Although not for everyone, Final Fantasy XI has had a remarkable run despite being in the shadow of World of Warcraft. It impressed most critics after its worldwide release, and had string of successful expansions that have carried it to 2016, and still beyond.
It may be number one in our publisher Yami’s heart, but it’s a couple notches down in the critical rankings. FF: VIII seems to always have, and always will, occupy the space of better than most of the FF games, but not quite as good as the ones that come up more often as the best in the franchise. Still its User Score is much higher than the next game on this list…
Final Fantasy XII is the last mainline game to have received “universal acclaim” from critics despite a lukewarm user score of 7.6, only .3 points better than XIII. This is probably due to the divisive nature of its gameplay, which plays more like an offline MMORPG, and its main character Vaan, which is seen by some to be an ancillary character as compared to other game’s heroes.
Final Fantasy X marks the last time that the series was truly turned-based. Sticking the classic formula though didn’t effect X negatively though as it was/is revered by both fans and critics alike. It has a 92 Metascore and 8.7 User Score.
Final Fantasy VII’s Metascore comes up just short of one other. Still, it’s worth noting that Final Fantasy VII has the highest User Score, settling at 9.2, indicating while it might be #2 for critics, it’s still #1 for many fans.
Here we are at last. The most critically acclaimed Final Fantasy game according to Metacritic is Final Fantasy IX. This shouldn’t come as a total shock. FF: IX, like most of the classics, has everything you could ask for in a good Final Fantasy game. Lively lovable characters, memorable story and villains, great music, and so on. Its User Score is also incredibly high at 8.9 (although still short of FF: VII). Although the debate of which is the best will continue to rage on, for now, at least on Metacritic, FF: IX reigns supreme.