Top 8 Greatest Story Scenes in the Final Fantasy Series
The Final Fantasy series of Japanese RPGs has been going on since the 80s, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. Whether it is set inside a classic medieval fantasy world, or a more modern or even futuristic take on the world of swords and sorcery, each Final Fantasy brings with it an intriguing tale, filled with twists and turns and awesome plot sequences.
In this list, I’d like to share with you eight of my favorite story scenes in the history of the Final Fantasy series. As a general rule, I will be restricting this list to only contain one scene per game, so if your favorite scene isn’t here, it’s very possible that I just preferred another scene from that particular game. Also keep in mind that this list will contain major spoilers for each game. I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling them in the titles, but be warned that each entry may very well contain game-ruining plot spoilers!
Now, with that warning out of the way, here’s my picks for the top eight story scenes in the Final Fantasy series!
#8—Final Fantasy V – Galuf vs Exdeath
Things are looking pretty bad for Bartz and the rest of our heroes. They’ve accidentally broken the seal that the big bad, Exdeath, wanted broken, and now Exdeath is using the power of the crystals to assault them with incredible magic power. They’re rendered helpless and it seems that they will certainly be killed by Exdeath’s newfound power.
Then, Galuf’s granddaughter, Krile appears and blasts Exdeath with some magic, which allows the party to be freed from the attack–though there isn’t much they can do in their injured state. Exdeath then attacks Krile with a different spell and slams her around the room. This makes grandpa Galuf angry. Very angry. Even after Exdeath resumes his attack, Galuf gets up and begins to force his way through the lightning blasting the party, then frees Krile from the spell assaulting her, and finally makes a bum rush at Exdeath.
In the ensuing battle, Galuf fights Exdeath alone. Exdeath blasts Galuf with all manner of powerful attacks, but nothing phases him. Even at 0 HP, Galuf is able to keep on fighting until Exdeath is defeated, though the villain will live to fight again another day.
Alas, it was too much for our hero, and Galuf passes away from the wounds sustained during the battle. If not for his noble sacrifice, the party as a whole would have died there, and Exdeath would have succeeded in his evil plans.
#7—Final Fantasy VIII – The Sorceress’ Parade
At the climax of the first disc of Final Fantasy VIII, Squall and his fellow SeeD members are tasked to assassinate the evil sorceress Edea, who is about to have a grand parade in her honor. Their infiltration of the city goes amazingly poorly, pretty much from the very start, including being locked out of places they need to be at, the enemy basically taking a hostage, and their sniper getting cold feet and being unable to deliver the killing shot (to be fair, Edea had a barrier anyway).
With just about everything else gone to hell, our hero Squall decides to break through the parade crowd himself and confront the sorceress and her bodyguard directly. Given the SeeD members’ poor luck thus far, it should come as no surprise that this doesn’t go exactly as planned. After a futile battle against Edea, she decides that she’s had enough and generates a series of gigantic icicles, which she then impales Squall straight through the chest with. This definitively ends their botched assassination plan, landing the crew in prison, and depending on whether or not you believe the popular fan theory, watching Squall’s mind slowly fade away in a strange fever dream that encompasses the entire rest of the game, up until he finally dies at the end. Or maybe the game was just written really badly and that’s why things get so strange after that point and Squall actually lives. Who knows.
#6—Final Fantasy X – The Sending
When the giant monster Sin first attacks Zanarkand at the start of Final Fantasy X, the destruction is overwhelming and intense, but there’s… something missing from all of the chaos. A first time player doesn’t really have any idea what’s going on. They don’t know what the source of that destruction is. It isn’t until the party arrives in Kilika that the real scope of Sin’s terror is understood by the player.
Sin wipes the seaside city of Kilika almost completely off the map in mere seconds, leaving only broken planks and the shattered remains of the city’s people. But the horror isn’t over. In the world of Final Fantasy X, the dead are restless, and if a Summoner does not send their spirits to the afterlife manually, they will become monsters that will terrorize the living.
Our secondary protagonist and resident Summoner, Yuna, is then tasked to perform her first Sending of the departed. In this graphical spectacle of a scene, Yuna performs a dance while walking atop the water, as the spirits of the departed swirl around her and then fade away into the afterlife, as the families of those who are lost cry in mourning. Our primary protagonist, Tidus, looks on in awe. As an outsider of this world, this is the first time he’s seen anything like this, and it is in this moment that he–and the player–come to truly realize the gravity of the pain that this world suffers from.
#5—Final Fantasy VI – The End of the World As We Know It
The party is ready to face off against the evil Emperor Gestahl atop the Floating Continent. It looks like the final battle is really and truly upon us. And then the strange clown-like right-hand-man to Gestahl, Kefka, throws Gestahl off the edge of the Floating Continent and claims the powers of the three Goddess Statues for his own.
It is then you realize that you’re only halfway through the game.
Using the mighty power of the Goddesses, Kefka reshapes the world, twisting the face of the land as his twisted mind sees fit. The party is utterly defeated and scattered around the world, and Kefka declares himself the new God of the planet, smiting down anyone who opposes him with the might of the Goddesses.
The world is in ruin. The heroes lose. It is not something you usually see in fiction–a story where the villain actually achieves his ultimate goals and destroys the world, but Kefka did it. He succeeded where most villains in fiction have failed. Though, in the end, Kefka does get defeated by the reunited party and the world returns to relative peace… things are never really the same again after Kefka has his way with the world.
#4—Final Fantasy IX – I Want to Be Your Canary
While most of the entries on this list take place a ways into the game, Final Fantasy IX’s entry actually takes place at the very beginning. A group of bandits named Tantalus has been hired to kidnap Princess Garnet of Alexandria. They plan to achieve this by masquerading as a theater troupe, performing the hit play “I Want to Be Your Canary” and whisking the princess away while everyone else is occupied with the show.
The player is then treated to three separate stories–the story of main character Zidane, who wants to kidnap the princess, the story of Steiner, an old knight who wants to find the now-missing princess, and the story of Vivi, a strange little black mage kid who really just wants to watch the play. Various things happen to each character, but things all intertwine when, by one method or another, they all end up center stage in the middle of the play, along with Princess Garnet, who as it turns out actually wants to be kidnapped so she can warn neighboring countries of an impending war.
All of this culminates in a battle on stage that the cast tries to pass off as just another part of the show, but Queen Brahne figures out that the troupe is out to steal the princess and decides the best way to stop the troupe is to blow their airship to smithereens. The airship that her daughter is currently on, mind you. The airship crashes down into the dangerous and aptly named Evil Forest, and the stage of the rest of the game is now set. Yes, that is only the intro sequence to the game, and it is amazing.
#3—Final Fantasy XV – Leviathan & Lunafreya
As much as I loathe this game overall, I have to hand it to Square Enix for absolutely knocking it out of the park with this scene. Noctis and Lunafreya seek the power of Leviathan, but she is none too happy about being awakened from her slumber by mere mortals. She threatens to annihilate the city of Altissia, but Lunafreya manages to temporarily repel her. Negotiations break down and it’s up to Noctis to assert his dominance over Leviathan by trying to beat the crap out of her. It doesn’t really work as well as he hopes it will. Noctis is knocked to the ground, heavily injured, and things are looking really bad for our heroes. Unfortunately, things are about to get much, much worse.
Resident big bad Ardyn Izunia casually shows up out of nowhere, as he often does, and simply walks up to Lunafreya and stabs her in the abdomen, as a horrified Noctis looks on, helpless to stop him. With the last of her strength, Lunafreya calls upon the kings of the past to grant their strength to Noctis so that he may subdue Leviathan. What results is an absolutely incredible curb-stomp of a boss fight, where you fly around and shoot magic swords from your hands at a giant sea serpent that is tearing the city apart.
But all of that isn’t quite enough to bring Leviathan down. It isn’t until Titan shows up to defend Noctis that Leviathan finally gives up. But it is all too late. In a sort of dream sequence, Lunafreya says goodbye to Noctis, as she succumbs to her wounds. The battle is won, and Noctis has gained great strength… but at what cost? The whole sequence is incredible from beginning to tearful end. It’s a shame the whole game wasn’t this good.
#2—Final Fantasy X-2 – 1,000 Words
Though opinions are widely divided on whether or not Final Fantasy X-2 is a good game, there’s one thing that almost everybody can agree on: “1,000 Words” is an amazing scene.
Yuna has a couple problems to deal with. The first is that there’s a war on the verge of starting between two rival factions, and the other is that an evil spirit that looks like her lover is trying to blow up the world with a giant robot. Yuna’s brilliant idea to solving the first problem is to perform a concert for all of the people of both factions, to try and get them to realize that war is bad. Or something like that.
Yuna and her crew set the stage on top of their airship in probably the worst location for a concert ever (a place known for constant, unrelenting thunderstorms) and plan to use some sort of holographic machine for special effects. Yuna starts the song, but something weird happens – her magic clothes (yes, you read that right. Magic clothes) cause some strange interference with the hologram machine, causing the memories of the person who used to wear the magic clothes a thousand years ago to appear all around the concert. Okay, I know it sounds really stupid. Stay with me here.
The memories that get broadcast around the concert are actually those of Lenne, the girlfriend of the previously mentioned evil spirit, Shuyin. In this scene, we learn about Lenne and Shuyin’s tragic deaths. Despite trying to destroy the world at this point in time, Shuyin was actually once a hero. Or at least, he tried to be one. In order to try and protect Lenne during a time of war, Shuyin tried to steal the superweapon robot Vegnagun from the enemy, but the two of them ended up getting shot to death by enemy soldiers, and now he curses the world who let her die, while she only wants for the two of them to be able to rest in peace, as they should have done a thousand years ago.
The direction of this scene is incredible. Everything about it, from the plot, to the animation, to the accompanying song itself is brilliant. It tells the player more of the story in just a few minutes than the entire rest of the game does in dozens of hours, and does so without one single word of exposition dialog. If you didn’t cry during “1,000 Words”, then I’m sorry to inform you, but you have no soul.
#1—Final Fantasy VII – Returning to the Planet
Oh come on, you knew this was going to be here. Don’t even act surprised!
Undeniably one of the most iconic and heart-wrenching scenes in video game history, the death of Aerith Gainsborogh at the end of disc 1 in Final Fantasy VII absolutely must take the top spot in this list.
Though it may be common knowledge today–so common in fact that some people argue that it shouldn’t even be considered a spoiler at this point, back when the game first released in 1997, it was an earth-shattering moment when a character that you’ve grown so close to over the course of the game is suddenly and viciously murdered by the game’s main antagonist, Sephiroth. Unless some jerk spoiled it for you ahead of time, anyway. Thanks a lot, Danny.
But it isn’t just about Aerith’s death. It’s not the single act of the sword plunging through her body as she goes limp. It’s every single thing that comes after the death, up until the end of the disc that makes the scene as iconic as it is. It’s Cloud trembling, not knowing how to cope with what has just happened. It’s the sudden fight against Jenova-Life, accompanied by Aerith’s theme instead of the standard Jenova boss fight music. It’s every single one of your party members having a different reaction, a different way to grieve. And it’s most certainly about Cloud slowly lowering her lifeless body into the waters, to finally put her to rest.
With the Final Fantasy VII Remake on the horizon, I can only hope that they do this scene the justice that it deserves. I want Square Enix to bring their A-team when designing this scene in the remake. I swear, Square Enix, if you screw this one up, your fans will never forgive you. I will never forgive you.