Final Fantasy. The series has been going along as long as Zelda and Mario, and longer than Sonic and Master Chief. The series that deals with topics of life and death. Whether’s it’s on one cartridge, or four disks, the game demands hours upon hours of play of turn-based combat. With many hours of interactive storytelling, many characters have walked down the beaten path of defeating evil, and learning of the meaning of life.

On January 31st, the latest sequel to the latest instalment to the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy 13-2, comes out. So, I figured that we looked back at the fabled franchise. We are looking at the characters that made the game so much fun, or made it very interesting. These are the people we cheered for, we cried with, we gave the better bonus stats to. Whether it be their character, their weapons, their story, whatever, these are the people that makes the game more enjoyable.

And for clarity, we will refer them the modern common names. So the S.N.E.S. version will be called their Japanese numbers to remove any confusion.

So, let’s see if your favourites made it.

10. Cloud (Final Fantasy 7)

If I am starting this list with the most popular character in the franchise, I must be doing something either wrong or right. Cloud is just a well designed character from top to bottom. He exploded onto the scene on the Playstation 1, and became the poster child of the game that made people buy the system for. Even first impressions, you see odd hair and a huge sword, he stands out as different by comparison. He started a trend. And not only that, he’s interesting, and that’s pretty beneficial to a game where story is the focal point.

9. Rydia (Final Fantasy 4)

I think it’s safe to call her “The First Lady of Final Fantasy”. After all, she is one of the first female characters you can control. She is the character with probably the most character development in the history of the franchise. She start off as a little girl, and comes back in the middle to become a young woman. You literally watch her grow up to being a formidable black mage. Plus, she is the first to summon creatures to inflict damage, or cure the party. A true benefit in any party.

8. Sazh (Final Fantasy 13)

At first, you think that he’s a stereotype. I mean, he looks like the bad ass from Enter the Deagon that wasn’t Bruce Lee or John Saxon. But he comes off as caring and deep, and it makes for great cinematics. It also helps when he’s partnered up with Vanille, a character that starts out as a generic cog, and become an important spoke of the plot and character development. And hey, he has a baby chocobo living in his afro. That’s pretty cool,

7. Kefka (Final Fantasy 6)

Hey, I never said that all the characters on this list has to be playable. And how dare you don’t accept the presence of this great villain. Kefka is the Final Fantasy equivalent of Starscream. He comes in as the right hand man to the true leader, and intends on usurping the throne. His pixelated cackle is iconic, and his music is reflective of his madness. Plus the biggest part of it all, he actually succeeded to destroy the earth. Well, scorched it, but he changed the continents to his will. So even when he gets defeated at the end, he still wins. That’s a bad guy for you.

6. Laguna (Final Fantasy 8)

The unsung hero of this game. You play him in brief spurts, in a break into the action. He was a war veteran, a P.O.W., a resistance fighter, he was the inspiration to the only song with lyrics in the game “Eyes on you”, he’s the protector of a small village, he’s the main character’s father, and he became the president. Seriously, it’s a storybook life that becomes exciting to watch unfold.

5. Celes (Final Fantasy 6)

Product of genetic engineering, battle-hardened MagiTek Knight, with a spirit as pure as snow. That’s the description we get when introduced, and is the best way to describe her. Still to this date, the best scene in video game history, is the opera scene from Six. It’s so powerful and wonderful to watch. It’s hard to explain, but that moved me in ways I never felt in a game, and it’s all thanks to Celes. She is a great heroine in strength and leadership, she even takes over as the main character midway though the game. I’ll see your “Aeris’s death is the saddest moment in Final Fantasy history”, and I’ll raise you with Celes’ suicide attempt.

4. Cid (Final Fantasy 4)

Airships. They’re awesome. And this series has them. But the question remains, who deserves to belong to the list and owns or runs an airship. At first, you have Setzer from Six, and don’t get me wrong, he’s the quintessential awesome. Professional gambler, lives by his own rules, owns his own airship, uses cards as his main weapon, that’s the life I would want to mimic in that universe. There’s also Baltier from Twelve, a sky pirate with a sexy sidekick in Fran, there’s cool points for that one. But this list is also lacking something. A Cid character. After all, there’s a Cid in all the games in the franchise. So Cid from Four and Cid from Seven come to play in this spot. While Cid from Seven is pretty awesome on his own merit, this spot has to go to Cid from Four. Why? Because here is a man who, when leaving the Dwarven caves, decides to jump off the airship during ascension, without a parachute, but with a Grenade, plummets down the crater, blows up the opening to seal himself from the inside, lands on hard rock surface and lived to tell the story. Now that’s a manly move, puts Chuck Norris to shame. Who can survive thousands of meters of descent, blow up rocks with a grenade, and walk away from it? This. Big. Bearded. Beast. That’s who.

3. Tifa (Final Fantasy 7)

Originally, I was about to make this a tie between the two ladies of Final Fantasy 7 (Not Yuffie though, nuts to her). But after some thought, really, what has Aeris ever did for the story besides leaving halfway through by dying? When it comes down to it, Tifa became the star of the show and became one the key supporting characters in this little opera that is the seventh instalment. She’s strong willed, she doesn’t rely on weapons as she uses her fists to kick ass, she has a ton of human qualities and faults. And she becomes a key to the story that is widely regarded as the better of the stories within the Final Fantasy universe.

2. Locke (Final Fantasy 6)

Call him a thief and he’ll rip your lungs out. Locke is a perplexing character, and one of the best designed thief classes, and he has one of the best back stories in the entire franchise. He is a protector of women, and a man with a heart of gold, and fights for what he believes in. He is the reason Six is the best in the series, he brings the best out of the game. One of the highlights of the game is finding him in the Phoenix Cave, and watching the conclusion of his story touches every heart strings.

1. Cecil (Final Fantasy 4)

When asking “What is the definition of a hero”, he is your answer. Cecil is the best written character in Final Fantasy franchise, and probably the best in Video Games. He’s strong, yet fragile, he’s a leader, yet makes mistakes. You watch him evolve from a follower to a leader, from a dark knight to a paladin. You feel like he may be over his head, and comes back and proves, without a shadow of a doubt that he is a true hero. He should be the building block and the true inspiration of every Final Fantasy hero.

And there’s just 10 of the hundreds of characters that are in such a long standing series. I mean, its not like there are any bad characters out there, right?