in Video Games

Five Favorite Male “Final Fantasy” Characters

And Why I Think They’re Awesome

I’m a pretty loyal fan of the Final Fantasy franchise. I grew up playing through every single one of the games that I could get my hands on (which was pretty much all of them) and loving every second of it. Thinking back on it now, my fascination with the games had a lot to do with the different in-depth and emotionally engaging plots and characterizations, the likes of which my young mind hadn’t yet experienced from a video game.

It took a lot out of me, but after much musing I managed to narrow down my top five male characters out of all of the single-player, non-spinoff-or-sequel type Final Fantasy games (though I couldn’t bring myself to actually rank them, so this is just going to be an “in absolutely no particular order” kind of thing).

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1. Red XIII aka Nanaki (FFVII)

I don’t like two-legged things.

Man, Nanaki is awesome. Just look at him. He’s a bright red talking lion/wolf-man with tattoos. He also happens to be a talking animal that isn’t just there for comic relief or act as some sort of gimmick; Nanaki ends up having a lot of well-rounded character development and importance to the game’s plot.

His storyline is pretty tragic: One of the last surviving members of his kind, Nanaki spent most of his life up until we meet him believing that his father was a coward who abandoned his people (though he finds out later that wasn’t true). On top of that, Nanaki ended up being kidnapped by a mad scientist who did fucked up experiments on him. Despite everything, Nanaki remains a steadfastly stoic, intelligent, fierce, and all-around great character.

And his tail is on fire. I mean literally on fire, not in a figurative “his tail is very cool” kind of way, even though that is also true.

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2. Vivi Ornitier (FFIX)

I have to find out who I am. I’m scared… What if I’m not even human?

I have so much love for Vivi it’s insane. His is the story of a shy little mage discovering the horrible truth of his birth and  purpose in life – that he was manufactured to serve as a mindless killing machine but had somehow developed a soul. With the help of his friends, he found the courage to transcend his origins and find his own reason for living.

While he’s doing all that he also finds time to be his hilariously awkward and easily embarrassed self. I also think the running gag of him tripping on basically nothing, then getting up all flustered like “oh god did anyone see that” before self-consciously adjusting his hat, is adorable.

Even though the final scenes of the game heavily imply that Vivi’s dead, I refuse to believe it. In my happy world in which nothing ever goes wrong, that cute little black mage is still puttering about somewhere tripping on things and saying “um” a lot.

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3. Seifer Almasy (FFVIII)

Listen up! Teamwork means staying out of my way.

Yes, he’s an self-absorbed, arrogant asshole, but he’s just so good at it. I find him to be a tragic antihero, because Seifer tried his best to become a member of SeeD and kept failing, which made him bitter enough to be manipulated by the Sorceress. This, of course, then led to him helping her almost destroy the world, but that’s neither here nor there.

In my opinion, he totally should have been the main character of the game, because he was about ten times more interesting, nuanced, and compelling than boring old Squall. Also a plus: we wouldn’t have had to be subject to the awkward courtship between Squall and Rinoa. (Why exactly did they fall in love again? He spent half the game thinking she was annoying, I don’t get it.)

If only there wasn’t the need to censor these games to keep it at the Teen rating, because I’m pretty sure Seifer would have had a lot more colorful things to call people than “chickenwuss” and “puberty boy.” I mean, honestly. Puberty boy?

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4. Balthier (FFXII)

Driver! Faster, if you please. I would be loath to expend any of the violence of my present mood on my companions.

He’s just so suave and snarky that it’s hard for him not to stand out, especially when compared to the cheerfully wide-eyed optimists Vaan and Penelo, and the serious, no-nonsense attitudes of Ashe and Basch. His one-liners are memorable, his grand entrance was appropriately badass, and he and his equally dry and sarcastic life/pirate partner Fran add some much needed humor to the game.

Did I forget to mention that he also used to be Ffamran Bunansa, an Imperial Judge and son of influential Nethicite researcher Doctor Cid Bunansa, and that he ran away from that life to be a sky pirate? Because there’s also that. I’m usually skeptical of  “Rich Boy runs away from Rich Boy Problems to become a thief” story lines, but considering that Balthier’s rich boy problems consisted of his completely insane father ignoring him through most of his childhood in favor of talking to invisible creatures, before unintentionally leading to a bunch of events that would nearly destroy the world, I’m gonna give the kid a pass.

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5. Zidane Tribal (FFIX)

Come on, Princess. Let’s ditch Sir Rustalot and get outta here!

This dude gets the much-coveted spot as my favorite protagonist of any of the Final Fantasy games, mostly because of his hyperactive and mischievous, but ultimately earnest, loyal, and kind-hearted personality. In fact, he’s so great that at the end of the game, he goes back to try to save Kuja – you know, one of the main villains of the game – from dying, even though he knew it meant risking his own life in the process.

Read that again. He went back into a dangerously collapsing structure to rescue a bad guy because he couldn’t stand leaving someone behind when he thought he could help him. We all probably thought he died as well until he turned up at the end to claim his rightfully won happy ending.

He’s a thief and a conman that somehow finds himself shoved into the role of the ‘hero’ – a role that he surprisingly excels at.

Also, he has a monkey tail.

Honorable Mention:

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Adelbert Steiner (FFIX)

The principle of knighthood requires that one assist his comrade in times of need. I shall accompany you as well!

If I were honest with myself (and the readers) I’d admit that Steiner is actually one of my top five. However, I acknowledge the ridiculousness that is placing a whopping three characters from FFIX into a list of five when there are a bunch of other titles to choose from, so I’m just gonna leave him here in this Honorable Mentions slot. (What can I say, IX is my favorite Final Fantasy game for a reason.)

Steiner’s awesome because he’s ridiculous. Also because, due to his unnecessarily heavy armor, he has his own CLANK CLANK CLANK sound effect to accompany his every movement that is always hilarious and never gets old. Once, during one of my many, many playthroughs of this game, I changed his official name to “Rusty” and then laughed my ass off every time he yelled “My name is not Rusty! It’s Rusty!” at a snickering Zidane, instead of “It’s Steiner.” That was probably one of the high points of my childhood, sadly enough.

What does your “top favorite FF guys list” look like? Did I leave anyone out that deserves a spot, or add someone you can’t stand? Comment below!

Photo Credits: Square Enix