Final Fantasy XVI is a bold new direction for Square Enix’s 35-year-old franchise. The prestige tv inspired story and high-octane real-time action combat have earned high praise from fans and critics alike, but you can never please everyone. For some, these changes make Final Fantasy XVI too detached from the games that made people fall in love with the franchise in the first place.
Thankfully Square Enix still has something for everybody, as the company’s most recent games add up to a collection of titles that gives Final Fantasy fans their choice of RPG, even if it doesn’t have the Final Fantasy name on the box.
One of the biggest departures Final Fantasy XVI makes from the longstanding tradition of the series is doing away with turn-based combat. For many, complex turn-based combat centered around a party is the core of what makes a good Final Fantasy game, and for those people, Final Fantasy XVI has nothing to offer. But Square Enix already released the perfect game for those people this year — Octopath Traveler II.
A sequel to the already wonderful nostalgia-filled RPG from 2019, Octopath Traveler II is the modern ideal of classic Final Fantasy games. The break system of combat is an exciting evolution of the turn-based ATB battle system used in Final Fantasy IV-IX. The HD-2D art style also recreates the feel of the SNES era of Final Fantasy games with a modern flare. This is all tied together in Octopath Traveler II’s globe-trotting narrative centered around eight characters growing together. Even the many tropes the game leans on feel nostalgic in the best way. For any Final Fantasy fan that feels the franchise never got better after Final Fantasy IX, this is the perfect RPG to play.
Similarly, 2022’s Triangle Strategy is a tactical RPG that lives up to the legacy of Final Fantasy Tactics by offering a deeply complex strategy RPG with a high-stakes political narrative.
But Square Enix does not only deal in nostalgia outside of the mainline Final Fantasy games. Even 2022’s Harvestella, which in many ways feels like a classic Final Fantasy game, livens up the formula with farming sim elements. Taking cues from genre heavyweights like Stardew Valley, Harvestella makes itself more than just another old-school RPG by interweaving gameplay mechanics like managing a farm and building relationships with the residents of the world.
This experimentation can be seen to its fullest extent in farther corners of Square Enix’s catalog. Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin may be linked to the franchise’s very first title, but the Souls-like combat is unlike anything else in the franchise or its spinoffs. Square Enix even started 2023 out with the all-new RPG Forspoken, whose open-world magical parkour has its good moments even if the game doesn’t fully stick the landing. These two titles are perhaps more of a departure from traditional form than Final Fantasy XVI is, but it feeds the fans that want something new and gives Square Enix a place to experiment.
Of course, for those who just want the hits, Square Enix has been no stranger to remakes and remasters in recent years. Final Fantasy I-VI are available on all modern platforms with pixel remasters, as well as the likes of Crisis Core.
The Final Fantasy name will always hold a special power and lend importance to any new game with that title attached. But Square Enix has been hard at work creating some of the most interesting and varied RPGs currently available, and odds are one of them is the perfect game for you.