Final Fantasy games are known for their occasionally convoluted plots, thanks to their fantastic, memorable characters. However, you never really feel that you’re too lost to continue the story, and you might even understand it along the way. Almost all the characters are interesting in some way, even if they can be a little one-dimensional.
The best characters, though, are the ones who grow through their story arc, and usually this tends to be something that the main protagonists of each game experiences. However, this isn’t always the case, as some characters overshadow the main character in this aspect — either because they have a more interesting narrative arc, or the protagonist doesn’t have much of one at all.
There are some major spoilers for multiple Final Fantasy games ahead, so read with caution.
7 Cid Highwind (Final Fantasy 7)
When you first meet Cid in FF7, he’s a gruff jerk with a chip on his shoulder — one he takes out on his former colleague and housemate, Shera, who takes his verbal abuse good naturedly.
You later find out the reason for this odd relationship. They were both scientists in Shinra’s Space Division, and Cid was forced to choose between saving her life and realizing his dreams of going to space. He chose the former, but blamed her for Shinra cutting funding to the space program — only to find out later that she actually saved his life. Presumably, he treats her better later on, because he names his airship after her in Advent Children, and they’re even married in Dirge of Cerberus.
Comparatively, though Cloud's story puts an interesting spin on the amnesic hero schtick, it’s still played out. Even though he grows as a character in FF7, he’s still a bit flat in games set afterwards.
6 Garland (Final Fantasy)
The very first Final Fantasy protagonists, the Warriors of Light, aren’t much more than what the players make of them — just a name, a character class, and a blurb about how they’re destined to defeat the Four Fiends. Garland, who is both the first and last boss of the game, is far more interesting. He’s a powerful knight of the Kingdom of Cornelia, but has been corrupted by his power. He kidnaps Cornelia’s Princess Sarah, only to be felled by the Warriors of Light.
However, the power of the Four Fiends sends him into the past, where he in return sends them to terrorize the future. This essentially creates a stable time loop that makes him eternal, something that's more of a character moebius strip than an arc. In any case, he’s an interesting enough character that Square Enix went ahead and made a game about him.
5 Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
Though Tidus is the main protagonist of FFX, his arc doesn’t have much to it outside of being a fish out of water and having daddy issues — likely because he’s also meant to represent the audience. The best parts of his narrative arc are the ones that intersect with the most interesting character in the game: Yuna.
Yuna is a summoner, someone who uses their magic to fight Sin and ultimately bring forth the Calm, a period of time where the world is at peace — at the cost of her own life. Though she grapples with the cost of her pilgrimage throughout the whole game, Tidus and the audience only find this out halfway through the game. She is rich in character, and willing to give her life for a better world, but is still terrified by her responsibility. This makes it all the more satisfying when she and her companions refuse to give her up for death, and instead end up breaking Sin’s hold over Spira permanently.
4 Edea Kramer (Final Fantasy 8)
Edea is already an interesting character when she’s introduced to Final Fantasy 8, because of her enigmatic and dangerous nature — seemingly positioned as the main villain at the beginning. As you progress through the game you essentially learn about her arc in reverse order. First, seeing her as an evil sorceress, then working backwards to find that she's a kindhearted matron and unwilling actor, controlled by a greater evil.
When you get to the end of the story, you see the beginning of hers, finding out that she’s part of a stable time loop instigated by Squall. She trains mercenaries for the purpose of killing her, should she become a villain — the same group to which Squall and co. belong.
3 The AVALANCHE B-Team (Final Fantasy 7 Remake)
Though it might be an unfair comparison, given that Cloud’s story is incomplete in FF7R, Wedge, Biggs, and Jessie are collectively far more interesting characters than our protagonists. This is likely because they were never fleshed out in FF7 proper, but in FF7R, they all get full story arcs before they (seemingly) die.
However, it’s not like they just win by default. Their stories are genuinely moving, especially Jessie’s struggle with her guilt in regards to the more violent aspects of her role as an eco-terrorist, and the people she may have killed. Also, these iterations of Wedge and Biggs are probably the most interesting in all of Final Fantasy.
2 Almost Everyone Else (Final Fantasy 12)
Though Vaan isn’t necessarily lacking in personality, he’s very clearly meant to be the audience surrogate. He's basically the Final Fantasy 12 equivalent of Tidus, but turned up to 12. He takes the back seat to most of the main playable cast, most notably Ashe and the accurately self-titled leading man, Balthier.
At the beginning, his motivations seem to be an Aladdin-like rags-to-riches story, paired with some unresolved issues with the death of his brother — which he pins on fellow party member Basch. The latter are resolved pretty quickly when he finds out that Basch isn’t responsible, and the former remains an ongoing thing.
It's no wonder he got his own game, Revenant Wings, as well as a prime guest starring spot in Final Fantasy Tactics A2. It seemed like he was overshadowed as a character, rather than just boring.
1 Vivi Ornitier (Final Fantasy IX)
Final Fantasy 9's Zidane — master thief, professional actor, and lady charmer extraordinaire — is a fantastic character and protagonist. However, he doesn’t actually have much of a story arc. He starts the game as a quintessential rogue with a heart of gold, suffers a 15-minute identity crisis three-quarters of the way into the game, and then goes back to being himself.
Vivi, on the other hand, deals with some of the heaviest themes covered in all of Final Fantasy. His journey through the game is a rough one, finding out that not only he is an artificial being created for war, but that he has a limited lifespan. However, the journey isn't all doom and gloom, as he figures out who he is with the help of the party, and that he is not defined by the circumstances of his creation. Though his life is short, it can still be full of joy.
Vivi has one of the most moving and bittersweet story arcs of any character in any Final Fantasy, and he will not soon be forgotten.
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