Spoilers are pretty much guaranteed in this list. Every step is another Caterchipillar, Fang or Hell House!

Can you believe it? On the 18th of December 1987, Squaresoft released the original Final Fantasy, a moment that people at the time would never have guessed would leave a legacy that caused a seismic shift in not only the RPG genre, but the gaming industry as a whole. Lauded for its graphical capabilities, its music, its iconic locales and characters and exceptional level of the detail, there is little wonder why people, including myself, absolutely adore this series, and today I bring you the second in what will be a three part anniversary special celebrating Final Fantasy, and seeing once and for all who truly is the greatest character in each of the main eras in the series' history. Now, we have reached the PlayStation era: an era which finally allowed to this titanic series to reach mainstream success worldwide.

The Voting Process

Due to the size of the series, I decided to split up the voting so that not too many games would come under consideration at any given time. For this vote, the following games were eligible: FFVII, VIII and IX and Tactics on the original PlayStation. This therefore covers the 32-bit era between 1997 and 2000. I decided to limit this particular list to these four games as arguably this period is the most popular in the entire series, and therefore there is more scope for a varied and more open list. However, this will be a controversial list for some as I have also included Tactics; the popularity of this game has exploded over the years, and is now considered as highly, if not more so, than the numbered titles, and therefore its inclusion was essential. However, I have still decided not to include spin offs of these games that would debut on future systems: essentially, this boils down to the Compilation of FFVII and the sequels in the Tactics series. In the event of a tie, the first character to reach the number of votes gained the higher place.

I asked the good people over on the Final Fantasy Record Keeper board, a game which celebrates all things Final Fantasy, to simply give me a list of their ten favourite characters in no particular order, either playable or NPC, with voting open for one month. Moreover, for this list I also asked members of the Final Fantasy UK Fans page on Facebook to support too, so thank you all kindly who voted! The exciting results are detailed below. Firstly, however, I want to detail those unfortunate characters who just missed out on being featured:

#15 Quistis (13 Votes) - One of the most significant characters of the early part of Final Fantasy VIII, but suffering from the same fate as the other characters not named Squall or Rinoa in the plot, Quistis nevertheless remains popular due to her penchant for whips and tight clothing. No wonder the Trepies existed...

#14 Cid Orlandeau (15 Votes) - Want a character who is the very definition of overpowered? The affectionately named Thunder God Cid of Tactics fame is so strong that his reputation for devastating enemies has made him a legendary playable character.

#12= Zidane (16 Votes) - His design may come replete with beautiful 90's boyband hair and a handy tail, but Final Fantasy IX's protagonist and resident thief-with-good-intentions doesn't need a reason to help people, but may need to learn how to not let his heart rule his head...

#12= Rinoa (16 votes) - Shadow may have done the whole dog-as-pet-thing already, but Final Fantasy VIII's heroine takes it a step further by strapping her canine companion onto her arm and launches her at the enemy. The RSPCA would have a field day.

#10= Aerith (17 votes) - Agonisingly close to making the list (especially when you see who made it just above her), Final Fantasy VII's flower girl and everyone's favourite church-going sweetheart is just too pure of heart for a world so cruel. And the world just hasn't forgotten her fate...

Right, let's get to it! Here's the Top 10 Final Fantasy Characters of the PlayStation Era!

#10: Vincent

Name: Vincent Valentine

Debut: Final Fantasy VII

Number of votes: 18

Personality: A former member of the Turks nursing a twenty year grudge against the man who destroyed his life, Vincent's torment and anger know no bounds.

Memorable quote: "That was my sin, and this...this is my punishment."

Defining moment: Finally being reunited with his love in an isolated cave, Vincent must lie to cover the truth about what her son has become...

Comments: I will be brutally honest here; I never really "got" Vincent. I mean, I understand why the series' fans love him: his design is pretty awesome, a quasi-vampiric human with a dashing red cape, piercing eyes, a golden claw and massive rifle topping off a brooding seriousness. However, as an optional character, I never really saw the point of him in the original game, especially as his Limit Break was pretty awful in the grand scheme of things. Nevertheless, his character must have been incredibly popular, as is testament to a central role in his own PlayStation 2 spin-off title... which I also didn't enjoy. Ho hum.

However, as much as I didn't personally like Vincent, there is still a lot to give him credit for. His story - what there is of it in the original game, at least - reveals a torturous back-story that gives juicy context to the overall battle for the Planet (can Yuffie say that?), and he has potential to be the most powerful in the party, if only you are able to kill enough enemies to power up his Death Penalty. His deep brooding may be parodied to death across the internet, and he may be derided in some quarters as simply being a vampire rip off, but you have to admit this - getting to him in the first place is one the highlights of the first disc. Watch out for Dorky Faces!

Trivia: Apparently, when the game was initially in development, Vincent was going to be wielding a scythe instead of a gun. How that would have worked I don't know. How much more Gothic can you get?

Name: Sephiroth, SOLDIER First Class

Debut: Final Fantasy VII

Number of votes: 18

Personality: Once a proud and respected member of the SOLDIER force, the discovery of truths and half-truths surrounding his creation turned him mad. His only desire from then on became the destruction of the Planet...

Memorable quote: "Out of my way. I'm going to see my mother."

Defining moment: Surrounded by the burning remains of the town of Nibelheim, he turns and walks without feeling into the flames...

Comments: In my previous list, I mentioned how his predecessor in the "ultimate evil" stakes, Kefka, is often regarded as a rival, and which is better is fiercely debated. While I objectively prefer the mad clown myself, Sephiroth will always hold a special place in my heart due to the mystique surrounding him: the build up, the horror, the music, the actual tragedy surrounding his life that we as players get to see. And of course, his enormous, lady-piercing sword, the Masamune...

Many gamers have in the past criticised his design as being overly feminine and unthreatening, but I think its his unassuming frame that is perfect for what Sephiroth is - his strength is unparalleled in the game's world, and makes murder and devastation look effortless. However, the early part of the game emphasises that Sephiroth does have a professional and almost placid demeanor, especially in the Kalm flashback, which makes his descent into the Messiah complex far more effective, perhaps, than with Kefka. The very fact that, despite being incapacitated, he is able to manipulate the events of the opening act of the game behind the scenes is so subtly brilliant that I am sure many gamers in their first playthrough did not see it coming. Whatever your opinion, Sephiroth deserves the praise he gets.

Trivia: The production notes for Final Fantasy VII note that Aerith and Sephiroth's relationship changed multiple times - they could have been lovers or siblings - yet their subtle connection remained through the similar hairstyles given to them by Nomura. That's... pretty damn clever.

#8: Laguna

Name: Laguna Loire

Debut: Final Fantasy VIII

Number of votes: 20

Personality: Clumsy, impulsive but effortlessly likeable, Laguna turns from bumbling soldier to aspiring journalist to leader of a rebellion, all in the name of rescuing his beloved Ellone...

Memorable quote: "It's like killing two pigs with one stone."

Defining moment: Seeing the state of affairs in the secretive country of Esthar, Laguna takes it upon himself to end the tyranny of the Sorceress Adel once and for all...

Comments: Final Fantasy VIII may not be everyone's favourite in the series, but how I adore Laguna. He is the relatable everyman in a game that lacks truly deep characters. We view his experiences in flashbacks, through magazine articles and side quests, until we truly care about how Laguna develops as a character; miraculous, as he is only playable for such brief moments. The way this is managed, however, is genius: the set up of the connections between Squall and Laguna are so subtle, but so perfect.

However, it's not just that that makes Laguna so likeable. His relationships with Julia, Raine and Ellone are so understated and real that they pack quite a lot of emotional heft regardless of how little we see. Selphie's hero-worship through her blog is pretty cute. His unbreakable loyalty to Kiros and Ward is absolutely hilarious: their dialogue is among the most funny in the entire series. And what's more? He packs a machine gun. He's a clash of ironies and contrasts and that's what makes him absolutely brilliant. Who doesn't love his battle theme, either?

Trivia: Seifer's battle pose within the game is reminiscent of Laguna's pose during the scene where he acts for a film in Trabia Canyon. The film casts Laguna as a sorceress' knight... the inspiration for Seifer's own dream to become one himself.

Name: General Beatrix

Debut: Final Fantasy IX

Number of votes: 20

Personality: Feared across the Mist Continent for her ruthless prowess in battle, her loyalty to Queen Brahne is unflinching. That is, until the Queen's lust for power becomes irredeemable...

Memorable quote: "Allow me to shatter your delusions of grandeur."

Defining moment: Having only heard whispers of her power up until the party arrives at Burmecia, Beatrix lives up to her reputation by decimating the party in the ruins of Freya's home...

Comments: I love how Final Fantasy IX plays this character. She stalks the party for the first quarter of the game, each time offering a battle where she is unbeatable. Then almost immediately after learning the undeniable truth about her queen's evil, she says "oh dear, better turn traitor" and just like that, she's on the party's side. Some may say this is too anti-climactic, but I think this is actually perfect as it gives Beatrix three dimensions: a powerful warrior loyal to a fault, but filled with doubts, vulnerability and compassion when it counts. A perfect foil to Steiner, then.

She also takes a central role in three of my favourite moments in the game: the battle of Burmecia, the destruction of Cleyra and the battle of Alexandria, as it demonstrates all sides of her character. It is a shame, therefore, that she did not make it as a permanent playable character, although I suppose having access to all the Paladin abilities in the early game would have been overkill... regardless, I love Beatrix, as does pretty much everyone else, it seems.

Trivia: Beatrix was not originally going to be in the game, according to the production notes. I could not imagine a situation without her present. It would have changed everything.

#6: Tifa

Name: Tifa Lockhart

Debut: Final Fantasy VII

Number of votes: 21

Personality: Having had her life destroyed by the Shinra in the Nibelheim incident of five years prior, Tifa's resolve is unbreakable. Supportive, loyal and caring to a fault, Tifa will do anything to protect her loved ones.

Memorable quote: "Quit slapping me! You old wench!!!"

Defining moment: Having fallen into the Lifestream with Cloud, we watch her as she selflessly helps to piece together the fragile remains of her old friend's broken psyche...

Comments: Right, we have to address the elephant in the room. Well, two elephants. Right away, some of you reading may know why Tifa has been given such a high rating by the community. Well, all I can say is this: her fists are amazing! She is so powerful! Who else in any game can possibly unleash 7 consecutive limit break attacks (in before Zell)? Who else can decimate any enemy with an unassuming Powersoul glove while on the brink of death? Who else can threaten a sexual deviant with having their unmentionables smashed to a pulp?

Of course, I jest. She is of course designed in such an oddly proportioned way, but Tifa is still a very well developed character. She maintains a motherly edge across the game, caring and nurturing everyone around her in spite of being a member of a terrorist organisation. Another one with a tragic backstory, her selflessness as a character is clear, which has endeared her to a generation of gamers. Not to mention you get the opportinity to play her piano... and root through her drawers. What's not to like?

Trivia: Tifa's outfit design boiled down to two choices: "long pants or a miniskirt", according to Tetsuya Nomura. I wonder why they chose the latter? Who can say.

#5: Agrias

Name: Agrias Oaks

Debut: Final Fantasy Tactics

Number of votes: 22

Personality: A powerful warrior and fiercely loyal to the Princess Ovelia, she will do anything to protect her from harm and the corruption of the world.

Memorable quote: "Our lives are as fleeting as a dream. What a somber thought."

Defining moment: Finally confronting Cardinal Delacroix, she watches on as he transforms into the horrific Lucavi demon Cuchulainn...

Comments: Agrias is Beatrix before Beatrix was even a twinkle in the eye of Squaresoft. For this reason, Agrias' popularity in this poll is possibly unsurprising; yet, considering the characters she beat into fifth place, I cannot help but be surprised. However, people do love a knight, especially when they are female and powerful!

Agrias' role is as the Princess Ovelia's bodyguard, and as the Holy Knight who hires Ramza amongst others as extra support at the beginning of the game. Although you cannot control her for much of the early part of the game, she is nevertheless capable of decimating enemies with her powerful abilities, and as such is an important ally. Loyal to a fault, she saves the party on a number of occasions, culminating in the battle with Cuchulainn wherein she finally becomes permanent as a party member. Where she then permanently starts kicking all sorts of backside. Sharing a common thread with Ramza - her role increasing dramatically from a one-track-goal to one of saving the entire world, Agrias is now enshrined as a character tied in popularity with another character of a similar vein, Cloud Strife. Who knew!

Trivia: Agrias' voice actress in the English version of the re-release War of the Lions is none other than Hedy Burgess, who voiced Yuna in Final Fantasy X.

#4: Cloud

Name: Cloud Strife

Debut: Final Fantasy VII

Number of votes: 22

Personality: Initially a cold, arrogant and distant mercenary, he soon becomes driven to reunite with his old adversary, Sephiroth. However, at what cost? And is this truly the Cloud that Tifa once knew?

Memorable quote: "Let's mosey!"

Defining moment: Having finally uncovered the truth surrounding the Nibelheim incident, we see the moment that Cloud, despite having been stabbed by the Masamune, manages to send Sephiroth plunging into the heart of the reactor...

Comments: And here he is. GameFAQ's former winner of the character battle is here at number four. One cannot deny the legacy that Cloud has left on the gaming community: his spiky blonde hair, his questionable sanity, his tiny, sausage arms which wield an uncomfortably large sword and his foray into dressing in drag have seared him into the collective consciousness of gamers, but is he a good character? Without question he is a great protagonist, but I will leave it to the fans to have that debate.

For me, the game itself was so important in my formative years that Cloud still remains one of my favourites. His sword designs and Limit Breaks in particular I hold with particular affection, as do a number of the oft-forgotten moments of hilarity linked to his character such as the aforementioned Don Corneo experience and being a terrible parade marcher. Likewise, his being confined to a wheelchair and losing access to him is one of my favourite twists in the series period, as well as him finally discovering his true self; whatever you may think of him, his status cannot be disputed.

Trivia: In the Kalm flashback, if you check Cloud's materia, he owns a Pre-emptive Materia, which, he says to Sephiroth, he "cannot wait to use". Hmm. That won't become important later in the reactor...

#3: Squall

Name: Squall Leonhart

Debut: Final Fantasy VIII

Number of votes: 28

Personality: A cold, distant but immensely talented "lone wolf", Squall pushes everyone who cares for him away due to a long-forgotten childhood trauma. Eventually, however, he must learn what it means to become a respected and caring leader...

Memorable quote: "...whatever."

Defining moment: Having had to take control of Balamb Garden upon the Sorceress Edea's militaristic takeover of the rival Galbadia Garden, Squall finally learns to take charge and inspire his classmates with a rousing speech...

Comments: Squall may be high on this particular count, but his character is polarising. Originally conceived as a very different type of hero to contrast Cloud, Terra or Bartz, his insular character and almost "miserable" behaviour have long been a source of discussion. The thing is, when considering the journey he takes throughout the game, he is written absolutely brilliantly, and his story arc is up there with the rest of the series' heroes. Well, the writing had to go somewhere, because it certainly wasn't used for the majority of the cast!

His introduction is still the best in the series. With Liberi Fatali blasting away, his duel with Seifer is operatic and simply gorgeous. With that, we are thrust into the academic banality of Balamb Garden and the beginning of Squall's journey from surly teenager to competent leader of the SeeDs. Spouting classic lines such as "I dreamt I was a moron" and ".......", he may not initially say much but he soon learns to accept what he is and control his own destiny. Just a shame the gunblade isn't an actual gun in a sword, but a sword that just vibrates a bit... sort of ruins the epicness, doesn't it?

Trivia: It seems that the game made its way into the film Charlie's Angels, as two children are seen playing it. I never knew this before I researched this list, as I heard the film isn't exactly stellar.

#2: Ramza

Name: Ramza Beoulve

Debut: Final Fantasy Tactics

Number of votes: 29

Personality: Initially fighting to uphold his family's honour, Ramza's intentions become truly selfless and heroic, emphasising justice and true heroism regardless of reward.

Memorable quote: "Surrender or die in obscurity!"

Defining moment: After a long journey, he finally meets and destroys the High Seraph, Ultima...

Comments: Now this was a surprise. Considering the other games that Tactics was going up against, I did not begin to imagine that Ramza would be so highly rated, but here we are. I suppose what people love about Ramza, however, is what makes many protagonists across media loved: he is relatable; possibly the most relatable in the series.

A squire of noble birth but with a commoner mother, Ramza abandons his noble heritage after realising how awfully the common folk were being treated by those with power, Ramza is the personification of justice and honour. What emphasises this is that - in the original release at least - he remains a squire, never becoming a knight which reflects his modesty and insecurities. Nevertheless, he is a balanced yet powerful fighter, and the core of the battles the player faces within the game. Despite being branded a heretic by the powerful Church of Glabados, Ramza remains an idealist who does what is right, and is given a character arc that is believable and honest. Ramza is a fascinating hero who quite rightly is rated highly.

Trivia: Similar to Agrias, Ramza's voice actor in War of the Lions is a veteran of the series: Phil LaMarr, who voices Reddas in Final Fantasy XII.

#1: Vivi

Name: Vivi Ornitier

Debut: Final Fantasy IX

Number of votes: 37

Personality: The stature and age of a child, the wisdom of an elder; Vivi may be young but his power with magic is unmatched. Innocent yet naive; strong yet intensely vulnerable, Vivi must discover the truth about who, or what, he is...

Memorable quote: "Everyone... Thank you. Farewell. My memories will be part of the sky..."

Defining moment: Having reached a village deep in the forests of the Outer Continent, Vivi finally learns the truth about his kind. What he learns is deeply unsettling...

Comments: Wow: just look at that vote tally. Pretty much everyone who made a vote put Vivi somewhere in the mix, and I have to say just how happy I am. Without a shadow of a doubt Vivi is my favourite character in the series, and to see him having made such an impact is absolutely fantastic.

When I first played Final Fantasy IX I was only 10 years old. From the moment Vivi first appeared on screen, I loved his design, I loved his personality and I loved many individual scenes - but a lot of what made Vivi special went straight over my head. Namely, his struggle with mortality and the absolute tragedy of his character. As I have gotten older, I now appreciate the nuances of his arc, and how beautifully written he is. The fact he also harks back to the glory days of the series with his Black Mage outfit is also fitting, as it was if the series was waving goodbye to the old waving in the new with the absolutely heart-breaking ending. That monologue is magnificent.

His relationships with the other characters is also a point of endearment. The stuffy Captain Steiner respects him all the way through; Eiko pretty much forces him to be her friend; the rest of them look out for him and make sure he doesn't come to harm. Moreover, seeing him talk about his "grandfather" Quan so naively as he is unaware of his possible fate as a meal is so funny and sad at the same time, as is his optional wedding to Quina... possibly the best moment in the game. Just a wonderful character through and through, really.

Trivia: Vivi is often noted to be 9 years old, but officially he is only 6 months old - the youngest playable character in any game, I would imagine.

There you have it! Thank you for reaching the end of what is now a relatively conclusive Top 10 of the best Final Fantasy characters from the PlayStation era. A big thank you to the Record Keeper board for voting, as this list would not have been possible otherwise, especially those members who helped me on a couple of the entries for Tactics.

I thought it would be interesting to note a few statistics from the vote tallying process. FFVII characters received 161 votes altogether, FFVIII received 120 votes, FFIX received 116 votes and Tactics received 85 votes. In all honesty, it's unsurprising, but VII and VIII always do get more love!

Perhaps, if you have a little time to spare, you could go to the Top 10 List board and tell us who you would have voted for? I don't know when my next list will be, but as Barret would say, when I start writing "there ain't no gettin' offa this train we're on, till we get to the end of the line. See you later!

List by sirloinestake (03/05/2018)

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