A game writer has to do what a game writer has to do and, sometimes, that includes sharing some pretty unpopular opinions. Square Enix is undoubtedly one of the leading game developers in the world, especially when it comes to RPG titles... but their history hasn't always reflected as such. On the other hand, they have released some titles that were recognized to be the best RPGs of all time, and both the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts franchises are the most significant proof of that.
Over time, their games have been a bit of a mixed bag — most of them have come out on top but when one of their games fails, it really fails. They seem to know no middle ground, but that's just something we've come to expect from our beloved franchise. Not every game can be a winner, and critic review and fan reception can't always be helped.
What we can do, though, is go over every game that sticks out in a gamer's mind when they think of Square Enix. We're tossing this countdown all the way back to the days when Squeenix was nothing more than Square, and when game developers were still fighting to come out on top with the latest innovation in graphics, gameplay, and story. This journey wasn't always pretty albeit mildly amusing, but it was a fun one.
25 Worst: Dawn Of Mana
The Mana series is one that topped charts when it first premiered on the gaming scene. The first game was widely accepted by the community to be one of the greatest RPGs for the time, a complete win for Square Enix. However, when news of a sequel came out, fans were hyped for a game that absolutely did not meet their expectations. Unlike the first of its kind, Dawn of Mana was not fluid and featured controls that were glitchy and a bit of an annoyance to gamers who simply wanted to enjoy the story. From there, everything seemed to fall short, from the story to the music and everything in between.
24 Best: Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger will always be hailed as one of the greatest RPGs in existence from Square Enix. There wasn't much to not like about it and it's one of the rare games where even its successor was also hailed as a great addition — something Square Enix is not known for getting right on the first shot (hello, FFX, we're looking at you). This game, while not an easy one to complete (as was the way with many games released during the golden days of Square; after all, this is where most of us learned how to be good gamers) but it was worth it. If the story didn't get you, then it was likely that either the characters or the music would.
23 Worst: Dirge Of Cerberus
Final Fantasy VII was a brilliant masterpiece and anyone who disagrees is wrong. Just kidding, but they would be disagreeing with millions of gamers worldwide. It's by far one of the most highly regarded games in the franchise and one that was successful from the start — enough so, that we're expected to see a remake within the near future. Unfortunately, the spin-off games did not do as well as the main story. Dirge of Cerberus was a shooter-style game that simply flopped on its performance and while fans loved the idea of Vincent Valentine, they weren't so crazy about his solo game debut.
22 Best: Secret Of Mana
In stark contrast to its sequel, Secret of Mana excelled as far as RPGs go. It was very highly received and got excellent reviews from both fans and critics alike. In fact, the game was so successful, that it warranted a reboot that has still been successful over the last few years. The story was captivating and the real time gameplay style was nearly flawless, something that is just beginning to come back in games such as the Tales series. This game will always provide a nostalgic feel with just enough emotion to warm even the coldest gamer's heart.
21 Worst: Final Fantasy Dissidia (PSP)
While the new Dissidia game still has mixed reviews, the very first of its kind simply was not well-received. In theory, the idea was great — a one-shot fighter game that allowed the player to take on the personas of their favorite Final Fantasy characters. Upon execution, though, the game fell terribly short. The overall consensus was that Dissidia was a great way for fans to see their favorite characters in upgraded graphics, but there were common complaints about the choice of said characters as well as the order in which they appeared. While much of it is personal opinion, there was just too much personal opinion going around to make this game fully successful.
20 Worst: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Oh, Square Enix. So many games have started out with the best of intentions and ended with... well, not much in response. While it's true that Square has tried to ride the Final Fantasy wave more than once when they should have just allowed it to roll past, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles is known for its failure. This Square creation has been critiqued on nearly every aspect regarding the battle and gameplay, including leveling up and adding party members. The mechanics just don't seem to make sense and, in fact, make the game seem far harder than it should be when it comes to the overall battle system.
19 Best: Kingdom Hearts (Entire Saga)
There's not much that really needs to be said about a game franchise that has literally exceeded sales records worldwide. What was intended to be the final installation in the series (which, spoiler, was obviously not) generated so much hype that people were actually stealing the third game in order to release spoilers early. It also had nearly every fan page on lock-down for a solid two months to allow for everyone to play the game, causing a worldwide hush among fans as they said goodbye to their social lives and hello to the world of Kingdom Hearts once more. There are very few, if any, complaints about this saga.
18 Worst: Chocobo Tales
That's right, when we talk about Squaresoft/Square Enix games, we include those on every console... including Nintendo DS. Some games should just never be played no matter how many questions they raise, and Chocobo Tales is one of them. While it intrigued gamers with its title, evoking images of the oversize chicken that we all love so much, the game itself fell (very) flat. The problem was that this game was kid-centric, catering to a younger demographic than those who were used to Square Enix's previous Final Fantasy-related titles. While the music was regarded as good, the gameplay left something to desired.
17 Best: Final Fantasy VI
The golden age of Final Fantasy, if you want to get technical, was anything from VII all the way up to IX. However, we can't discredit the fact that Final Fantasy VI paved the way for the aforementioned games to truly shine. The sixth game in the franchise was hailed for its story as well as its villain and many would agree that Kefka was a formidable opponent, not to mention creepy af. The music from this game simply stunned players especially when they heard 'Dancing Mad' for the first time and realized that the final boss fight would be no walk in the park. It's still viewed as one of the greatest.
16 Worst: Final Fantasy XIII
A personal favorite pastime is loving to hate Final Fantasy XIII. There is simply nothing redeemable about this game. There will be a few hardcore fans who defend the game and its honor but, as far as most fans are concerned, XIII was a mistake from the get-go. With a flawed battle mechanic that left little room to be creative, an automatic leveling-up system that made little sense in the way of EXP, and enemies that needed perfectly-combined attacks in order to be stunned, it was more stress than fun. This was one series that got worse as it went along and would be hailed as a massive waste of time.
15 Best: Final Fantasy VII
Hailed as the single greatest game to ever come out of the franchise, Final Fantasy VII certainly lived up to the hype. Although an alternate version was released in North America that excluded certain details from the version Japan saw, it was still a hit worldwide. Between the characters, music, environments, and nearly flawless battle system, this game is still well-loved by Final Fantasy fans today. The love for this game was great enough to reward fans with a remake, which we will hopefully see sooner rather than later. At least, according to Tetsuya Nomura, but that could mean anything.
14 Worst: Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time
The entire Star Ocean franchise has been widely debated and caters to a select group of fans. While the games have improved over time and generated much more hype than the earlier games, Till the End of Time simply just didn't have the level of engagement that gamers were seeking. The most common complaint about the game is that it was fairly boring which isn't the worst criticism, but it's certainly not good. This led to mixed reviews overall and a mark on the Star Ocean series that developers would need to overcome in order to continue to successfully add games to the timeline.
13 Worst: The 3rd Birthday
The 3rd Birthday was the third game in the Parasite Eve series and while the first game was well-received, the games that followed had a bit of a mixed reaction. For the most part, the third game wasn't overly popular but it was long-awaited for fans of Parasite Eve and its sequel. The strange thing about the game is that it wasn't a mess to play like some of the others on this list, there was nothing overwhelming annoying about it, but it just seemed lacking in a way that other RPGs aren't. While we wouldn't necessarily consider it one of the absolute worst, it certainly wasn't up there with the best, either.
12 Best: Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX is a bit underrated compared to the hype that followed FFVII. The game went back to Square's roots in fantasy lore and contained elements that were fun, engaging, and emotional, to say the least. The story follows Zidane, a likable character who's a part comedian and part immature ruffian, a character that fans fell in love with. His love interest is strong, independent, and genuine, much like many other characters in the game. The beautiful thing about FFIX was that it told each character's story in a unique and interesting way, without feeling as though the game was lengthy or 'slow'.
11 Worst: Unlimited Saga
Unlimited Saga is regarded as likely being the worst Saga game in the series and we'd have to agree. It seemed that not much made sense about this game, let alone the gameplay mechanics or story. It turned out to be more of a hassle for gamers to play rather than something to be enjoyed and it was an attempt at recreating a series that started on the Game Boy but just did not translate well in later versions. The mechanics left much to be desired as far as an RPGs goes and the most common complaint was that nothing felt cohesive enough to make the game enjoyable.
10 Worst: Final Fantasy X-2
There are mixed feelings about the sequel to Final Fantasy X. While many did enjoy the first game despite its few minor flaws, the hype wasn't nearly as high for the second release. Final Fantasy X-2 tells the story of Yuna, Yuffie, and Paine as they search for Tidus. The story was fine enough, but the gameplay was a bit strange and quite unusual in comparison to the first game. Many thought that the story was unnecessary and, speaking of the story, there were multiple endings — in order to get the 'true' good ending, the player had to go through a series of rigorous events that would grant them the canon ending.
9 Best: Super Mario RPG
When most think of the Super Mario franchise, many think of the original platformer that we all played as kids with our friends. However, when Square got their hands on this game, their collab with Nintendo was nothing short of brilliant. The RPG was pleasing to long-time fans of the series and newcomers alike, and it was just a fun game to play overall. The controls were simple yet did their job and it was a nice, uncomplicated RPG with a unique story, perfectly fitting of Mario and company. This was hailed as a success overall and it's still a game that fans talk about to this day.
8 Worst: Ehrgeiz
When it comes to fighter games, Square Enix should probably stick to their strong suit — RPGs. Ehrgeiz was a strange crossover because it contained characters from their most popular RPGs, but was simply not cohesive enough to be considered anything close to a good game. This fighter-style game is still talked about as one of the worst to come from the developers at Square Enix, from style to mechanics and all that lies in between. It's wasn't even fun to play which was a major complaint of gamers, especially when going up against classics such as Tekken and Street Fighter.
7 Worst: The Bouncer
Yet again, we have another fighter-style game that's intended to be a crossover RPG. The Bouncer, while intended to be a fun game, was not. Squaresoft was still trying to figure out where they fit at this point and the biggest comment from gamers is the fact that this game felt sorely out of place. Similar to Ehrgeiz, the fighter style just did not work for Square's intended purpose and ended up falling completely flat with gamers in response. Granted, this game was developed fairly early on in Square's career so it's expected that they'd have a few flops, but this one was a solid 'no' from almost every fan.
6 Best: Xenogears
Xenogears is still talked about as one of the greatest RPGs that ever came from Square, so much so that fans are pushing for a remake. The story was solid from the get-go, with human-machine interaction that's comparable to the tale of NieR Automata. The gameplay was a blast and a big hit among fans who picked this game up and despite its early creation and mediocre graphics by today's standards, it's still a fan favorite. The story was captivating and brought to life issues that few RPGs had seen up until that time, making it interesting and bold simultaneously.
5 Worst: All The Bravest
When we said that no games were excluded from this list despite which console they were played on, we meant it — which is exactly why All The Bravest made the list as one of the worst games from Square Enix. This game, designed for mobile play, was largely regarded as a total flop. It's no secret that Square Enix hasn't exactly found their rhythm when it comes to games on mobile platforms but this one, in particular, was ripe for disappointment. The most common complaint was that among all the hype that came with this game in allowing players to choose fan-favorite characters, it was utterly boring when it came to battle mechanics.
4 Worst: The Early Days Of Final Fantasy XIV
The early days of Final Fantasy XIV, for those of us who remember purchasing the game immediately, were played either on PC or PlayStation 3. However, fans would find out rather quickly that the game had much work to be done before becoming the polished MMORPG that it is today. While the game is a masterpiece now, back then, it was nothing short of glitch-city. There were many complaints about the game early-on and plenty of things that Square Enix developers needed to fix before it would gain a solid following. The second phase of this online RPG far exceeded the expectations that gamers originally had and proved to be a complete 180 from its original version.
3 Best: Dragon Quest XI
Dragon Quest XI is still considered one of the best in the franchise to date and is considered one of Square Enix's babies in terms of major games. With stunning graphics and flawless gameplay, this PS4 installment won over the hearts of not only Dragon Quest fans, but newcomers to the franchise as well. The story is enjoyable and doesn't drag on and the turn-based battle mechanic is a blast to play with, making it a fun playthrough. The one and the only complaint from gamers is the soundtrack, which leaves a little to be desired, but not enough to ruin the game's reputation.
2 Worst: Lightning Returns
That's right, not only was the first game terrible, but the final installment in Final Fantasy XIII was pretty awful, too. With timed quests and no option to save progress or restart from an earlier point in time, this game was unbelievably frustrating to gamers who were constantly restarting the main mission. Additionally, it seems as though the final boss was unnecessarily difficult, rendering the game completely challenging and leaving no room to actually have fun with it. By this point, the story had become a bit convoluted and strange, and many gamers didn't bother to see it all the way through, which was such a shame for a modern FF RPG.
1 Best: Final Fantasy XV
While some gamers have mixed feelings about the new direction that Square Enix has taken the Final Fantasy franchise, the fact is this: There were few options other than allowing the games to evolve and become fully active in gameplay, simply because turn-based games are no longer the trend in RPGs. This game was solid in its story, stunning in character development, and though fans had to wait some time for every DLC, it was well worth it to see the outcome of each episode. With the patches installed and glitches fixed, there's simply nothing to dislike about this modern RPG.