13 – Final Fantasy VII
Initial Release Date: September 7, 1997
Why it’s one of the best RPGs: While it’s not the best Final Fantasy title on our list, Final Fantasy VII may be the best-known. We’ve all heard about Aeris’ fate, and seen the screenshots of Cloud, with his hair touching the sky and a huge sword in hand. Final Fantasy VII’s sheer popularity easily earns it a spot on this list, but its placement is high for the excellent strides it took toward improving the genre. Final Fantasy VII allowed for customizable abilities via Materia, which could be slotted into weapons or armor to add magic, summons, or abilities to characters. Limit Breaks, too, were new, allowing for powerful attacks unique to each character that could win a battle in a pinch. Then there are the visuals, which seem clunky and odd now, but were excellent in their time. Realistically scaled environments? Yes, please. And some of those backdrops are pretty, too.
Of all its high points, Final Fantasy VII’s story may be its strongest. It combined the best of fantasy settings and modern day ones, threw in a romantic subplot that fans are still arguing about to this day, and (spoilers, I guess) killed off one of its main characters in one of the most memorable video game cutscenes ever to move the plot forward at a key moment. Containing one of video games’ most iconic bad guys and inspiring spin-off movies and games, a prequel, and now a remake, Final Fantasy VII is one of the best and most successful RPGs to date.
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