I’ve been a Final Fantasy fan for many years now, and, despite the less-than-stellar entries in the last 10 years or so, the series remains dear to me. Games like Final Fantasy VI, VII and Tactics are among the best I’ve ever played, and not even Square’s recent problems can take away from their greatness. It is undoubted that Final Fantasy has plenty of awesome characters, but it’s usually the male ones that get all the attention, with some small exceptions. In this list, I have decided to give some credit to the great female characters in the series. Admittedly, there aren’t as many of them, but they still add a great amount of quality to their games. One of them is even my favourite video game character of all time, and you’ll see her on top of this list.
This time, the order is by my own preference, as opposed to the chronological order of the previous lists. Please be warned that there will be some mild spoilers for the games these characters appear in, as each girl’s role in her respective story is important for her to rank here. Therefore, I recommend not reading the write-ups for girls from games you’ve not yet beaten.
10. Yuffie Kisaragi (Final Fantasy VII)
The spunky ninja from Wutai opens the list. Yuffie has plenty of fans and haters alike. Some people just can’t forgive her for stealing their Materia… Other embrace her youthful outlook on life. Her dynamics with her father Godo are one of the many high moments of the masterpiece that is Final Fantasy VII. She’s also an optional character, albeit harder to miss than the other one. Yuffie’s nationalism is her quality that I like best – she’s determined to have her revenge for her country’s defeat at the hands of Shinra, and she’s going to do whatever it takes to help her country get its strength back, even if she has to steal and deceive to achieve it. She adds a lot of personality to Cloud’s party in Final Fantasy VII, participating in several memorable little moments. Her role in Crisis Core further enhances her character, making her even more likeable. I know she also plays a major role in Dirge of Cerberus, but I haven’t gotten around to playing that one yet.
Yuffie’s design is pretty cool, and her gigantic shuriken is one of the more memorable weapons in the series. The design “upgrade” she gets in Dirge of Cerberus and Advent Children also works in her favour. I’m also not the only one who thought she had a wooden leg for a long time… Admit that you did, too.
9. Rinoa Heartily (Final Fantasy VIII)
Rinoa is the lead girl in Final Fantasy VIII, and the one most responsible for the change we witness in Squall, which is one of the main points of the game’s plot. She’s a rare character in that she actively works to make Squall fall for her, eventually succeeding with flying colours. Love interests in JRPGs usually take passive roles in relationships, and she’s a big exception – even if she’s pretty much forced to be due to Squall being such an asocial knucklehead. Like Yuffie, she has the rebellious charm about her – in the beginning of the game, she’s working to liberate her country, Timber, and is the mastermind behind one of the most fun parts of the game – the train kidnapping mission. Another thing she has in common with Yuffie is that she is not on particularly good terms with her father – at least initially.
Rinoa is quite beautiful, even if her design being so close to Tifa’s from FFVII, especially as far as facial features are concerned, doesn’t necessarily speak well of Nomura’s creativity. Her long blue dress is her one quite memorable and distinctive feature. Aside from her dog Angelo, of course.
8. Lenna Charlotte Tycoon (Final Fantasy V)
Lenna is Tycoon’s princess, who sets out to find her father when he doesn’t return from the Wind Shrine. On her way, she meets the protagonist Bartz, and that’s where Final Fantasy V’s adventure begins. While she exhibits many qualities typical for princesses, not only in the series, but also in other JRPGs and games as a whole, she’s also one of the first to start breaking the mould, displaying rash judgement and general impulsiveness on multiple occasions. Nevertheless, she often tries to act as a mediator, and brings an air of peace into the party. Her royal heritage does not get in the way of her being a kind-hearted and yet tomboyish young woman who is not afraid to do what needs to be done herself.
Lenna’s design is quite interesting, what with her pink hair. I’m quite fond of it, though her CG render isn’t quite as funky, being based on the Amano art. She also has an incredible theme, probably my favourite song in the Final Fantasy V soundtrack. It’s also a big reason for her appearance on this list.
7. Ovelia Atkascha (Final Fantasy Tactics)
Ovelia is a central figure in one of Square’s finest games, Final Fantasy Tactics. While she’s only present in certain episodes in the game, she’s one of the most important characters in the overall plot. Being a half-sister to the king, she is to succeed the throne of Ivalice, until the queen suddenly conceives a child that moves Ovelia to second in line. Nevertheless, she is still important enough and subsequently used as a tool by the nobles plotting to hold power over the Ivalician throne. Her relationship with Delita is quite interesting, as his love for her is quite genuine, and not just pretended because of her political usefulness. While she is rather passive throughout the game, her actions at its very end, when she’s become simply too overwhelmed with being manipulated, as well as the realisation they bring to Delita, are the thing that mostly earns her a place on this list.
Ovelia’s design is not particularly special – she’s a rather typical princess, she’s blonde like most of the Final Fantasy Tactics characters, and her distant, deep-in-thought expression reflects her fate and worries well. She has a nice theme, with a motif that repeats in several songs in the FFT soundtrack.
6. Elena (Final Fantasy VII)
Elena is one of the least noticeable Turks in Final Fantasy VII, but she is quite memorable nonetheless. Being the only girl in the organisation (that gets screen time, at least) helps, of course, but the big reason why I like her is her kind-heartedness and the fact she doesn’t let her line of duty get in its way. That is a very important human quality – to not ever let your job get in the way of your humanity, and Elena demonstrates it nicely in a particular episode in Icicle Village. In a confrontation with Cloud, she prepares to punch him, but gives him time to evade her punch. If you evade, you trigger a “hilarious” moment of poor Elena rolling down a hill due to the momentum of her punch. But, if you fail to evade, Cloud gets knocked out cold and then you see Elena worrying about him and wondering why he let her hit him. She carries him to a nearby house to help him recover.
Elena has a really cute design, with relatively short blonde hair and big eyes. Like all Turks, she’s dressed smart, in a suit.
5. Garnet til Alexandros XVII (Final Fantasy IX)
Garnet is the princess and heiress of Alexandria, and also one half of Final Fantasy IX’s love story between her and Zidane. A true princess fleeing from her mother in the beginning of the game, Zidane slowly, but steadily teaches her how to behave and talk more like a commoner. She tends to blame herself for much that happens with her kingdom, and her great concern for the chaos that is soon laid upon it even causes her to lose her speech. Later she regains it and cuts off a great part of her hair to show that she’s leaving the past behind and moving on with her life… She and Zidane do get together at the end, like one would expect from a Final Fantasy that goes back to the series’ fantasy roots… But even before that, the influence they are on each other is one of the driving forces of the game’s plot.
Garnet is quite beautiful, despite the odd art choices of her game (characters look a bit chibi/deformed). Her hairstyle (at least before she cuts her hair off) almost exactly mirrors Tifa’s from Final Fantasy VII with the low ponytail. Her theme is serene and enjoyable.
4. Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
Despite what Tidus says in the very beginning of the game, Final Fantasy X is really Yuna’s story. She and her pilgrimage are the center points of the plot, with everything else happening on the side. We shall not talk of Final Fantasy X-2 (sounding cool aside, I haven’t played it yet). She willingly follows in the footsteps of her father, despite being well aware of the immense danger of doing so, which ultimately caused her to lose him. Her concern for the people of Spira is far greater than her fear, and she thus becomes a summoner and starts the pilgrimage. Soon enough, she realises the church she’s so devoted to isn’t as pure as it has people believe (gee, where have we seen that before?), and firmly decides to follow her own path to defeat Sin. The other appealing thing about her is the love between her and Tidus, which develops in a natural and sweet way, unlike most game love stories. Their exchanges and the process of understanding each other are among the most memorable parts of the game.
Being half-Al Bhed, Yuna’s design is just a bit strange, though of course not as much as Rikku’s. She has beautiful shoulder-length brown hair, and her face is also really cute. Like Garnet’s, her musical theme is quite serene, reflecting her personality.
3. Selphie Tilmitt (Final Fantasy VIII)
Selphie is the “token young girl” in Final Fantasy VIII, except she’s not nearly as young in comparison to the other characters as Relm, Yuffie or Eiko. She’s the optimistic one of the bunch, she believes in the power of friendship, and she’s just full of energy. She doesn’t break out of that stereotype all that often, but she still does do it, which helps her earn such a high spot on the list. The most particular examples are her Trabia Garden worries, and the Galbadian facility infiltration, where she also shows that she can be a fine leader. There’s so much about Selphie that’s just adorable, I particularly enjoy her train song:
“Train, train, take us away,
take us away, far away.
To the future we will go,
where it leads, no one knows!”
I know it by heart! Her little blog on the Garden intranet is also quite cute, as is her adoration of “Sir Laguna”.
Selphie has a cool, youthful design, with shoulder-length hair, curled up at the end. She’s quite nice in her school uniform, too. Her weapon, an oversized nunchaku, is also awesome. The Trabia Garden theme, which I’d say could be considered her own, is one of the best songs in the game.
2. Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI)
Final Fantasy VI was the very first Final Fantasy game I beat, and, back then, Terra was my favourite character in it (I have since come to really like Kefka), and still is among the best character in the series in my eyes. Terra is the main character of Final Fantasy VI and the first female main character in a Final Fantasy, despite Square’s recent claims of the opposite in a desperate attempt to hype Final Fantasy XIII and Lightning. The story revolves around her, she is the link between humans and espers, she is the one whose power makes the Returners’ goal to topple the evil empire achievable. Terra suffers from amnesia early in the game, and she is quite hesitant and unsure about the purpose of her powers. Once she learns she’s half-esper, she again begins to doubt herself, thinking she may never be able to feel love as humans do. In the second part of the game, she takes care of orphaned children and doesn’t want to reunite with her friends because she’s lost the will to fight. However, having realised that this feeling she has for the children is true love, for their sake, having found new strength, she returns to the fight and leads the party to the eventual success. The development she goes through during the course of the game is quite realistic and a big reason why I like her so much.
Terra’s design is a bit unclear, particularly concerning her hair colour. In the game, her sprite has green hair, but she’s blonde in FMVs and the like. She also has an esper form, which is rather scary… but effective in battle. Her theme is easily one of the best songs in the FFVI soundtrack, it’s also used as the overworld theme.
1. Tifa Lockhart (Final Fantasy VII)
Tifa is my favourite game character. It’s not just because she’s beautiful (and, really, one of the first sex symbols in gaming, and especially RPGs), it’s her personality, as seen through Final Fantasy VII (and even Advent Children – she’s a rare case where a FFVII character wasn’t ruined by the “extended universe” stories – which certainly cannot be said about Cloud!), that has really captivated me. Tifa is a dangerous fighter, aware of her abilities. She doesn’t even need a weapon – as a kung fu master, she fights with just her fists and feet. And inside that tough shell, we have a really wonderful, compassionate, caring person. Despite her own doubts and worries, she often cheers the other party members up when they’re down, and she always does her best to help.
Tifa is hopelessly in love with Cloud, and that is her driving force throughout the game. Nevertheless, she is also a really shy person, and doesn’t convey her feelings until the very end of the game – she couldn’t do it even during their Golden Saucer date. Having seen the shape Cloud was in when she initially found him shortly before the game begins, and then Cloud’s frequent blackouts, Tifa does her best to help him keep his sanity, she doesn’t want to break the harsh truths she’s aware of to him because she knows it would cause him to lose the thin strings that keep his mind together. Eventually, Sephiroth makes sure to achieve that, but then Tifa shows incredible dedication and carefully reassembles Cloud’s mind, revealing all the little details to him, helping him remember his childhood and everything else up until the events of the game. While the rest of the party goes off to continue the struggle, Tifa remains by Cloud’s side until he recovers fully, her love for him taking precedence. And then, the culmination of her and Cloud’s love story in the game, the romantic night spent under the airship…
“Cloud, words aren’t the only thing that tells people what you’re thinking…”
Back in the day when I first played Final Fantasy VII, I thought about how much Tifa represented my “dream girl”. Beautiful, of course, but also kind-hearted, shy, affectionate, one who would help others selflessly. A strong fighting spirit, yet one that takes care not to hurt those around her. I consider her to be the most human-like video game character, a mix of strength and weaknesses rarely seen in fictional characters. Her theme is not my favourite in Final Fantasy VII, but it’s still very enjoyable and suits her nicely.
We often read game journalists and fans complain about how there are very few good female characters in gaming, about how they’re shallow and one-dimensional. I’d say this list speaks quite well of the opposite. With Tifa being my favourite game characters over all the male ones, I obviously do not quite agree that female game characters are that bad – although it’d be nice to see more good ones (and more good male ones, too, please!). All 10 girls on this list are memorable, with distinct personalities, with their strengths and weaknesses. The Final Fantasy series is a source of quality stories and characters. One thing still stands out – the newest entry on this list is Yuna, her game having come out over 11 years ago… Square seem to have lost their magic, what with the Final Fantasy XIII characters being little more than cardboard cutouts. But a list such as this one can at least celebrate their former glory.