The near-immediate success and adoration of the Final Fantasy franchise made it all but certain the series would branch out into spin-offs and side games. Sure enough, the very first spin-off game for the series, Final Fantasy Legend, arrived just two years after the release of the original Final Fantasy on the Game Boy. Essentially, as long as there’s been mainline Final Fantasy games there have also been spin-offs, though the quality of these titles varies much more wildly than that of the main-numbered entries. The Final Fantasy spin-off games are a bit of a mixed bag, but among the plethora of titles available are a selection of hidden gems that stand the test of time as some of the best games to feature the Final Fantasy name.
The 10 Final Fantasy spin-off games on this list represent the best of the best. These are the titles that meet the same standard of quality synonymous with the main series, all while experimenting with different genres and eventually becoming legendary franchises in their own right. It speaks to the quality of the titles on this list that each of them would go on to spawn their own franchises, whether as strictly multiple spin-off titles or otherwise. These aren’t just the best Final Fantasy spin-offs, these are some of the best spin-offs in video game history. In some cases, the games on this list even outdo certain mainline entries.
10. Final Fantasy Legend
As the first spin-off from the main series, Final Fantasy Legend (and its two sequels) make good on the proof-of-concept from Final Fantasy II on the Famicom by refining that game’s unique progression mechanics and RPG systems. The result is Legend marks the birth of its own franchise, the SaGa series, which is still running to this day (including a new entry set to release next year). But aside from the pedigree it establishes, Final Fantasy Legend is just a great RPG and one of the better ones available on the Game Boy. At the time of its release, there really wasn’t anything else like it available on the system.
9. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
Final Fantasy IV features one of the best stories in the series, so it was only natural that Square saw fit to introduce a follow-up in the form of Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. Taking place 17 years after the events of Final Fantasy IV, the game focuses on the child of Cecil and Rosa — Ceodore. This sequel largely follows the gameplay and mechanics of its predecessor, including featuring some of Final Fantasy IV‘s cast as playable characters, and has both a 2D and 3D version available just like the original Final Fantasy IV. It might not reach the heights of the original, but The After Years is a solid spin-off title that is absolutely worth the time of any diehard Final Fantasy IV fan.
8. Final Fantasy Adventure
Just like Final Fantasy Legend, Final Fantasy Adventure is responsible for birthing its own RPG series over at Square — that of Seiken Densetsu, known in the West as the Mana series. Unlike Final Fantasy Legend, though, the Mana games are action-RPGs, meaning that Adventure is much closer to The Legend of Zelda than Final Fantasy. Considering this game came out years prior to fans getting an official Zelda game on the Game Boy, Final Fantasy Adventure represented the best ARPG on the system for a long time. It still holds up as a tightly-paced and well-balanced adventure, and is now easily available as part of the Collection of Mana.
7. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
For all the love that Final Fantasy Tactics earns from longtime Final Fantasy fans (see later on in this list), it’s surprising that the series has so few spin-off games across the franchise’s history. The second game in the Final Fantasy Tactics series is itself a spin-off of a spin-off, tackling a meta-narrative in which the game’s heroes discover a book detailing the events of the first game and then magically transports them into the realm of Ivalice. Despite its more cartoonish visuals and bright color palette, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is an excellent tactics RPG, and the inclusion of unique jobs and a worthwhile story make it one of the better Final Fantasy spin-off games.
6. Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Out of all the games on this list, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is one of the very few to get its own remaster years after its release, signaling the fondness fans have for this charming GameCube classic. Crystal Chronicles is mostly important in the history of the series for marking Final Fantasy‘s triumphant return to Nintendo hardware following years of PlayStation exclusivity, but it doesn’t hurt that the game itself is a lighthearted low-stakes affair with some unique Game Boy Advance connectivity and co-op gameplay. Cooperative multiplayer is not something that most fans associate with Final Fantasy (with that honor belonging instead to the Mana series), but Crystal Chronicles is an absolute blast when teaming up to adventure with three other friends.
5. Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest
Perhaps no other game on this list gets as bad a rap as Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, but this SNES gem is far better than most fans give it credit for. Taking the Final Fantasy format and greatly simplifying it for beginners, Mystic Quest is tantamount to “baby’s first RPG”. It scales the difficulty of Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II (FFIV‘s naming in the West) back to something much more manageable for those unfamiliar with the tenets of the genre, and it features automatic progression and equipment upgrades to streamline some of the minutiae of the series’ party management. Tying it all together though is an incredible score and charming visual presentation, as well as a lighthearted plot that tells a very simple, but endearing, story.
4. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin
Breaking into the top titles in the list of Final Fantasy spin-off games is where you’ll begin to see a massive jump in quality, with each of these entries capable of standing on their own two feet regardless of their connection to the lauded Final Fantasy franchise. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin is an interesting retelling of the story of Final Fantasy, albeit done so in the framework of an action-RPG akin to Dark Souls. Adapting the characters, classes, and settings of Final Fantasy into a competent soulslike from developer Team Ninja, Stranger of Paradise doesn’t necessarily tell a great Final Fantasy story but it is an incredible action game. Being able to go toe-to-toe with the iconic Final Fantasy bestiary as a plethora of switchable jobs, each with their own equipment and abilities, is practically a dream come true.
3. Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
In terms of genres that most would consider for a Final Fantasy spin-off, its doubtful that “3D arena fighter” would show up on the list, but here we are, and here’s Dissidia. There are multiple Dissidia titles, each of them allowing fans to face off against iconic heroes and villains from the Final Fantasy franchise complete with its own “elseworlds” style narrative and lore. That said, Dissidia 012 is the best of the bunch, having the most satisfying roster of characters and improving on nearly every facet of gameplay introduced in the original. Square Enix would bring Dissidia NT (a port of an arcade version of the game) to modern hardware after 012, but it’s practically criminal that fans haven’t gotten a follow-up to the best of the Final Fantasy fighting games.
2. Theatrhythm: Final Bar Line
Theatrhtyhm is a series that makes so much sense that it’s hard to believe it took so long for Square Enix to develop a music/rhythm game based around the Final Fantasy franchise. The best part about the Theatrhythm games is how they highlight the importance of each game’s score in establishing fans’ memories of and love for their favorite entries in the series, specifically calling to attention the absolute brilliance of longtime series composer Nobuo Uematsu. Final Bar Line is the best of the bunch, with the most complete playlist of tracks and an absolute truckload of collectable characters, museum artifacts, and bonus songs. That it can be played with a controller rather than needing a plastic peripheral a-la Guitar Hero is just the icing on the cake.
1. Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy Tactics isn’t just the best of the Final Fantasy spin-off games, it’s quite possibly one of (if not the) best games to feature “Final Fantasy” in its title. Coming from Tactics Ogre mastermind Yasumi Matsuno, Tactics is still one of the absolute best games in the tactical RPG subgenre nearly 30 years later. Not only is the gameplay on offer in Final Fantasy Tactics nigh-flawless, the complex and mature narrative the game weaves throughout its almost 100-hour runtime is one of the best stories of any game on the PlayStation and single-handedly introduces players to the realm of Ivalice. That Ivalice would go on to be the setting of multiple other Final Fantasy games is a testament to the richness of Final Fantasy Tactics‘ world-building and character development.
Of course, that’s before even mentioning the depth and strategic potential present in the game itself. Players have the ability to recruit and train their own cadets in a virtual army, carrying them across the game’s four chapters. In the unforuntate, but likely, event that players lose one of their longtime soldiers during battle, the feeling of loss that incurs is staggering. Few, if any, other games can make you care as much about your party as Final Fantasy Tactics, and it all rests on how rewarding it is to craft the perfect battalion to take into battle. A timeless classic among timeless classics.