The Final Fantasy gaming series is one of the most iconic video game franchises in the world, with a long and storied history that spans over three decades. It all started back in 1987, when Square (now Square Enix) released the original Final Fantasy game for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). At the time, the RPG genre was still in its infancy, and the game was a breakthrough hit that set the standard for the genre and established Square (now Square Enix) as a major player in the gaming industry.
Over the years, the Final Fantasy series has grown and evolved into a massive multimedia franchise that spans not just video games, but also other forms of media such as anime, manga, and feature films. The series has sold over 130 million copies worldwide, making it one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time. Here’s a brief look at the history of the Final Fantasy gaming series and how it has evolved over the years.
The Early Years: Final Fantasy I – VI (1987 – 1994)
The original Final Fantasy game was released in Japan in 1987 and quickly became a hit thanks to its innovative gameplay, deep story, and stunning graphics (for the time). The game was later released in the United States in 1990 and went on to become a commercial success, setting the stage for a long-running and beloved franchise.
Over the years, Square (now Square Enix) released several more installments in the Final Fantasy series, each one building on the innovations of the previous games. Final Fantasy II (1988) introduced a more complex leveling system, while Final Fantasy III (1990) introduced the now-famous job system, which allowed players to switch between different character classes (such as warrior, mage, and thief) throughout the game.
In 1991, Square released Final Fantasy IV (known as Final Fantasy II in North America) for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). The game was a massive hit, thanks to its intricate story, fully developed characters, and groundbreaking graphics and sound design. The next game in the series, Final Fantasy V (1992), introduced even more complex gameplay mechanics and a wider variety of job classes for players to choose from.
Finally, in 1994, Square released what many consider to be the pinnacle of the series: Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in North America). The game featured an epic story that spanned multiple continents and involved a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique abilities and motivations. The game also introduced the “esper” system, which allowed characters to learn new skills by equipping magical creatures called Espers.
The Golden Age: Final Fantasy VII – X (1997 – 2001)
In 1997, Square released the game that would change the Final Fantasy series forever: Final Fantasy VII. The game was a massive leap forward in terms of graphics, sound design, and storytelling, with a sprawling narrative that spanned multiple discs and a cast of characters that became beloved by players around the world.
Final Fantasy VIII (1999) and Final Fantasy IX (2000) continued the trend of epic storytelling and innovative gameplay mechanics, with the former introducing a new battle system that relied on “junctioning” spells to characters’ stats, and the latter featuring a more lighthearted tone and a return to the series’ roots.
The series hit another high point in 2001 with the release of Final Fantasy X for the PlayStation 2. The game featured stunning graphics and a fully voiced cast of characters, as well as an innovative battle system that allowed players to swap out characters on the fly. The game also featured a beautiful narrative that explored themes of loss, love, and redemption.
The Modern Era: Final Fantasy XI – XV (2002 – present)
With the advent of online gaming, Square (now Square Enix) saw an opportunity to take the Final Fantasy series in a new direction. In 2002, they released Final Fantasy XI, the series’ first massively multiplayer online game (MMO). The game was a huge success, allowing players to explore a vast and immersive world alongside other players from around the world.
Over the next few years, Square (now Square Enix) released several more online games in the series, including the online multiplayer spinoff Final Fantasy XIV (2010), which was initially met with mixed reviews but was later relaunched as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn in 2013 to critical and commercial success.
Finally, in 2016, Square (now Square Enix) released the highly anticipated Final Fantasy XV for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The game featured stunning visuals and an epic story that told the tale of a young prince named Noctis and his loyal friends as they journeyed across a vast and dangerous world to reclaim Noctis’ rightful place as king. The game also featured an innovative battle system and a wide range of side quests and activities for players to explore.
Throughout its long and storied history, the Final Fantasy series has remained one of the most beloved and iconic video game franchises in the world. From its humble origins on the NES to its stunning modern installments on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the series has always pushed the boundaries of what a video game could be, telling epic stories and introducing innovative gameplay mechanics that have inspired countless other games in the genre. Whether you’ve been a fan since the beginning or are just discovering the series for the first time, there’s no denying the impact that Final Fantasy has had on the world of gaming and on the millions of players who have journeyed through its worlds over the years.