Few series on any platform have had the worldwide impact of Final Fantasy. This role-playing series, known for its captivating visuals, detailed combat systems, and epic storylines, is available in many forms on iOS. You can download remastered versions of the first five Final Fantasy games (with a sixth on the way), plus multiple spin-offs of varying quality.
In this remake of the original Final Fantasy, the graphics received a major upgrade, appearing much bigger and brighter than they first did on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. The playable characters, which you can customize within your party, stay silent throughout the game and don’t have much to say to advance the plot. Also, Final Fantasy relies heavily on random battles and turn-based attacks. If you don’t mind these retro throwbacks, plus a few new issues like the tricky font and virtual controls, Final Fantasy is a deep RPG with many hours of gameplay.
Key Quote: “The original Final Fantasy on the NES gave us untold hours of entertainment when we were kids, and this port reminds us what made it so great. It introduces a few new issues, but these don’t ruin the experience by a long shot.”
Final Fantasy II
Although it was never originally released in the US, this remake gives players a chance to complete their collection. New features like the proficiency system, which lets you become better with certain attacks the more you use them, and the key term memory system, which lets you advance the story through dialogue, are welcome changes, if a little confusing at first. Final Fantasy II also contains new dungeons that weren’t in the original game, providing even more value for the download price.
Key Quote: “Whenever we take on an older RPG, it’s necessary to put ourselves back a few decades to when this was the cutting edge and appreciate the strides that were being made, however imperfect they were. These turn-based role-playing games were more about grinding out levels than expansive and engaging stories.”
Final Fantasy III
Here’s where the Final Fantasy timeline gets a little tricky. Final Fantasy III wasn’t available in the US until 2006, when Square Enix released an overhauled Nintendo DS version that this app is based on. It’s not the same as the Final Fantasy III that console gamers might remember from 1994– that’s actually Final Fantasy VI in Japan. History aside, what you need to know is that Final Fantasy III on iOS is a 3D RPG, with more turn-based battles and a fairly generic storyline. It’s challenging, but the new class system opens up multiple possibilities for gameplay, and the brand new visuals are very appealing.
Key Quote: “Even with a fresh coat of paint there is no hiding that Final Fantasy III is a very cut-and-dry RPG experience that doesn’t stand up to the cinematic epics of today. You’ll spend a lot of time level grinding against enemies, and this is made all the more aggravating by the fact that you can’t skip battle animations.”
Final Fantasy IV
Another DS port of a game that American audiences didn’t have access to in the 90s, Final Fantasy IV is one of the most polished and complete RPGs on the App Store. With a strong plot that follows Dark Knight Cecil as he seeks atonement for his past deeds, Final Fantasy IV also introduces new gameplay tweaks, like adjustable difficulty modes. If you think you’ve memorized Final Fantasy’s enemy patterns and attacks, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the adjustments Square Enix has made.
Key Quote: “The adjustments to Final Fantasy IV iOS are small, but significant– and definitely welcome. They make an already great game a little more accessible. Even though the 3D environments aren’t very traditional, this is still a good title for Final Fantasy IV newbies to jump in on.”
Final Fantasy V
Although it doesn’t have the 3D graphics of Final Fantasy III and IV, Final Fantasy V does have an affecting story and incredibly deep gameplay. The story is about a growing evil that the characters themselves accidentally have released into the world. Similar to the class system and proficiency system of earlier games, Final Fantasy V’s job system lets you adjust your characters as they gain new skills. You can also switch to different skills, and come back to them later. Like Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy V on iOS is a Must Have.
Key Quote: “Final Fantasy V is a gem of a game that is worth a revisit, and this is an incredibly well done port that’s had a lot of love and care put into it. It features a story that has more depth and craftiness then people originally gave it credit for, and gameplay that excels at drawing the player into the humongous world and lures you on to explore every nook and cranny.”
There have been multiple Final Fantasy spin-offs on iOS outside of the main series. We highly recommend the retro-styled Final Fantasy Dimensions, but not the music-rhythm game Final Fantasy Theatrhythm or the freemium Final Fantasy All The Bravest.
Next week, the final five in our 50 Best Game Series kicks off with the mobile-social hit, Draw Something.
This article is part of a series about the best games on iOS, 2008-2013. You can read the rest here.