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Best Main Villains From The Final Fantasy Series, Ranked

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Best Main Villains From The Final Fantasy Series, Ranked

Highlights

  • Final Fantasy
    has had many iconic villains throughout its franchise, with some enduring more than others due to their interesting motivations and backstories.
  • The shift in newer games towards developing more nuanced and dynamic antagonists has been well-received by fans.
  • While some villains, like Kefka and Sephiroth, are considered among the best in the series, others, like Garland and The Emperor, have not left a lasting impact.

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There have been many, many games in the Final Fantasy franchise over the decades. Final Fantasy 7 is, so far, the only one to receive the “remake treatment”. But other epic tales in the series, such as Final Fantasy 6, could eventually blow the minds of fans all around the world. Though players often take on the role of hero, villains are what keep fans coming back.

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The first games in the series all featured unique designs, but the bad guys often lacked interesting motivations or backstories. The newer games developed more sophisticated antagonists with nuanced and dynamic personalities. Due to these differences, some of them have endured more than others. So, which villains in the Final Fantasy franchise are the best?

Updated on March 6, 2024, by Ritwik Mitra: Final Fantasy games feature many iconic elements that fans remember long after they’ve finished playing one of the amazing titles in the franchise. Characters, spells, enemies, settings, stories, and — last but certainly not the least — villains. The antagonists that players must tackle in each Final Fantasy game are wildly iconic in their own right, making it clear why these games have such a loyal fanbase who love these villains and how they up the stakes for the heroes time and time again.

20 The Emperor

The Final Boss Of The Series’ First Attempt At A Story-Driven Experience

The Emperor in Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy 2

Released
December 17, 1988

Developer(s)
Square

Genre(s)
JRPG

Final Fantasy 2 is easily the worst game in the series by a country mile. Switching up the leveling mechanic was a brain-dead move that hurt the overall longevity of what could’ve been a great game.

That being said, the game did feature a decent enough story, albeit the cliched one. Due to the poor gameplay mechanics, most people aren’t aware of The Emperor’s presence, although he wasn’t the most intimidating protagonist around.

19 Cloud Of Darkness

A Challenging Boss Fight To Cap Off One Of The More Underrated Games In The Series

Cloud of Darkness in Final Fantasy 3

Final Fantasy 3

Released
April 27, 1990

Genre(s)
Adventure

Final Fantasy 3 was a game that never really received a worldwide release for the longest time. So, when players finally got their hands on this title, they were slightly disappointed at the by-the-numbers approach taken by the plot.

This was a shame, especially given that the previous game made one good change with the inclusion of a cohesive story. As a result, the reveal of the Cloud of Darkness was less impactful.

18 Garland

The First And Final Boss Of The Very First Game In The Series

Final Fantasy I Garland

Final Fantasy (1987)

Released
December 18, 1987

Developer(s)
Square

Genre(s)
JRPG , Adventure

Since the first game obviously had to work from scratch, it’s easy to see why Garland wasn’t the strongest protagonist around. After all, he’s the first boss of the game and a highly easy one at that.

While he does absorb the power of the Fiends and becomes the final boss, Chaos, he’s still not an engaging antagonist in the slightest. However, due to the long-running nature of the series, he has become pretty iconic in his own right.

17 Exdeath

Serves As A Thorn In The Side Of The Party, Even Killing Off One Of Them Permanently

Exdeath's final boss form in Final Fantasy V

Final Fantasy 5

Released
December 6, 1992

Genre(s)
JRPG

Final Fantasy 5 is a game that many people remember mainly for the brilliant innovations it made with the job system. However, the story was a bit too light-hearted to have any lasting impact.

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The fact that Gilgamesh is remembered more fondly for his silly antics than the evil of Exdeath clearly showed what Final Fantasy 5 was focused on. That being said, this villain still has his moments, and the final fight against him is pretty satisfying.

16 Golbez

Cecil’s Misunderstood Older Brother Who Was Being Manipulated By Zemus Into Performing Many Heinous Acts

Golbez reaches out in Final Fantasy Dissidia series

Final Fantasy 4

Released
July 19, 1991

Developer(s)
Square

Genre(s)
JRPG

Golbez is Cecil’s brother who served as a major thorn in the party’s side for the longest time. However, it’s near the end of the game that players realize who the true antagonist of the game is.

It turned out that Golbez was being controlled by a malicious entity named Zemus all along. This is the major reason why Golbez doesn’t rank so high on this list — he wasn’t a bad buy, to begin with.

15 Hugo Kupka

Economic Advisor Of The Dhalmekian Republic And Dominant Of The Eikon Titan

FF16 English VAs- Hugo Kupka

Final Fantasy 16

Released
June 22, 2023

Genre(s)
Action RPG

A character who personifies the Monk class in Final Fantasy 16, Hugo Kupka is a heinous villain who serves as a serious thorn in Clive’s side every step of the way. The Dominant of Titan also serves as a financial advisor who holds a ton of power and relishes in his authority instead of making things better for the less fortunate.

The fight against him is a cinematic spectacle that is very much in line with the battles against most Dominants in Final Fantasy 16. Players need to employ all their skills to ensure that they can take out this powerful entity, only for players to realize that there’s an even stronger antagonist waiting in the shadows who was manipulating events all this time.

14 Ardyn Izunia

A Charismatic Figure Who Ends Up Being Noctis’ Brother Who Usurped The Throne

Ardyn in Final Fantasy 15

Final Fantasy 15

Released
November 9, 2016

Genre(s)
Action RPG

The main antagonist of Final Fantasy 15 makes for a great villain on paper. His brother betrayed him, he made a sacrifice unknowingly, and he will never know death since he’s immortal. Though a fantastic manipulator and tragic character, Ardyn exemplifies everything wrong with the game. He just doesn’t quite fit into the road trip journey of Noctis.

His abilities and backstory act as a foil for Noctis, but to a lesser degree than past attempts at this. Instead of getting Cloud and Sephiroth, fans got a prince, his bros, and a sad boy with mind powers.

13 Vayne Carudus Solidor

A Manipulative, Cold-Hearted Villain Who’s The Heir To The Archadian Empire

Vayne in Final Fantasy 12

Final Fantasy 12

Released
October 31, 2006

Genre(s)
JRPG

Vayne is the heir to the Archadian Empire, an antagonistic force in Final Fantasy 12. He dresses well, speaks verbosely, and kills his own father. Like many other Final Fantasy characters, Vayne wants to get rid of the gods, but also rule the world himself.

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But Vayne is a prince and princes don’t get their hands dirty. Instead, he manipulates everyone around him, portraying a facade of nobility and decorum. The biggest flaw about this villain is that he isn’t as good as the other antagonists in the game. But it’s difficult to compete with the emotional trappings of fighting a teammate’s father and another one’s brother.

12 Edea Kramer

Manipulated By Ultimecia Into Performing Heinous Deeds For The Majority Of Final Fantasy 8

Edea from Final Fantasy 8

Final Fantasy 8

Released
February 11, 1999

Genre(s)
JRPG

For the majority of Final Fantasy 8, players pursue and try to thwart Edea’s nefarious plans. Her impalement of Squall during the Deling City parade is a major turning point in the series, to the point where most people have made fan theories that Squall died at that point and dreamt up the rest of the game’s events before breathing his last.

She was perfectly serviceable as the game’s major antagonist, but it wouldn’t be Final Fantasy without the reveal of a true big bad who brings forth a wealth of power that players can’t even fathom at that point. The revelation that Edea was manipulating Ultimecia was fine, but some fans deemed it unnecessary since it undermined a character who was pretty menacing up till that point.

11 Solus Zos Galvus/Emet-Selch

The Architect Of The Ascians

Emet-Selch from Final Fantasy 14

Technically, Lahabrea is the longest-reigning main villain in Final Fantasy 14. He leads the Ascians and can possess people whenever he pleases. But the main villain in the Shadowbringers expansion, Solus zos Galvus, or Emet-Selch, is a better villain.

Emet-Selch is the Architect of the Ascians, incredibly intelligent, manipulative, and patient. He has engineered and overseen genocide and even created a delusion for himself of the past he misses so dearly. Something between a god and a human, Emet-Selch is everything fans would expect from a Final Fantasy villain.

10 Ultima

The Final Boss Of Final Fantasy 16 Who Fuelled All The Conflict In The Game

Ultima in Final Fantasy 16

Final Fantasy 16

Released
June 22, 2023

Genre(s)
Action RPG

The name UItima holds a ton of weight in the Final Fantasy series, serving as the moniker for the most powerful Magic spell along with Holy that players can use in the game. Seeing this spell cast against the party in most Final Fantasy games instills a feeling of dread that is hard to describe, with this single attack leading to a game over more often than not because of just how powerful this attack really is.

So, the fact that the true antagonist of Final Fantasy 16 is Ultima himself makes for a truly bitter pill to swallow. This entity is the reason behind the wars that are ravaging the continent, with Clive and his friends needing to take him out to bring a period of much-needed stability to the world once again.

9 Delita Heiral

A Merciless, Power-Hungry Anti-Hero

Delita in Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics

Released
June 20, 1997

Developer(s)
Square

This entry may be a bit of a contentious one due to the fact that Delita is technically a protagonist in the game. Despite his associations with the actual hero of the game, Ramza, Delita’s intentions are not pure of heart. He seeks to infiltrate the nobility to take the crown for himself to prevent needless bloodshed. This seems a kind-hearted enough goal, but Delita is merciless in his pursuit.

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He spares some people as he challenges the Lucavi, but never wavers from attaining the throne. In fact, Princess Ovelia learns of his deceit and stabs him for it. In response, he stabs her right back, and she dies, but he lives. He reigns for a long time after and executes a historian named Orran Durai for trying to reveal the truth. Not very heroic, eh?

8 The Turks

A Group Of Comical Villains Who Are Surprisingly Sympathetic, Despite Them Fighting On The Wrong Side

The Turks from Final Fantasy 7

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade

Released
June 10, 2021

Genre(s)
JRPG

The Turks serve as Shinra’s lackeys who serve as a thorn in the heroes’ side time and time again. Despite fighting for the corporation that is actively sucking the Planet’s energy, it almost seems like the members of this group are halfway-decent people who are just being paid by the bad people.

Fans can’t wait to see their eventual face turn in the modern Final Fantasy 7 trilogy, since this group will have grown on players by that point. It helps that each and every boss fight with them is as spectacular as can be.

7 Ultimecia

A Time-Bending Mage Who Wants To Destroy Everyone And Everything In Sight

Ultimecia in Final Fantasy 8

Final Fantasy 8

Released
February 11, 1999

Genre(s)
JRPG

Though the player fights a number of villains in Final Fantasy 8 (Seifer, Adel, etc), the true villain is Ultimecia all along. Not only is she a powerful sorceress from the future, but her plan also involves compressing time in order to become a god. She can project her consciousness across time and space to possess others like a Mind Flayer Elder Brain on steroids.

Despite getting taken down by some teenage soldiers, Ultimecia remains one of Final Fantasy’sbest villains of all time. Her ability to possess others made for a story full of intrigue, red herrings, and unique fashion statements.

6 Professor Hojo

A Mad Scientist Whose Depravity Knows No Bounds

Professor Hojo from Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Final Fantasy 7

Released
January 31, 1997

There are many villains who are dislikable in their ways in Final Fantasy, but not many come close to the sheer heinous nature of Professor Hojo. This mad scientist had no problem experimenting on live creatures and torturing them for his amusement. He even goes so far as to experiment on his own body as well, with the boss fight against him showing just how twisted his real visage is.

The manner in which he manipulated Lucrecia to inject her unborn baby with JENOVA cells while also turning Vincent into a human-monster hybrid is truly evil and shows just how depraved this man is. Ending his life in Final Fantasy 7 is a truly satisfying endeavor, and fans can’t wait to reexperience this magical moment in the modern remake of this title as well.

5 Seymour Guado

A Vile Sorcerer Who Never Stops Houding The Party, Even After His Demise

Seymour Guado in Final Fantasy 10

Final Fantasy 10

Released
December 17, 2001

Genre(s)
JRPG

Seymour kicks off the section of this list that might be called the “Lonely Hearts Club” or something similar. As a half-human, half-Guado, Seymour was rejected at every turn even as a child. He was immensely lonely and that isolation furthered as he grew up. As a result, he became hardened, cruel, and apparently capable of transforming into strange, semi-mechanical monsters.

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But, from his perspective, becoming Sin is a blessing and so is killing people. All he has known in life is loneliness and pain, so everyone in Final Fantasy 10 must have had the same experience, right? Seymour wanted to spare Spirans the pain of living. It may not justify his actions, but this context makes his villain status more understandable.

4 Kuja

The Main Antagonist Of Final Fantasy 9 With Surprisingly Well-Written Motivations

Kuja in Final Fantasy 9

Final Fantasy 9

Released
July 7, 2000

Genre(s)
JRPG

Some Final Fantasy 9 fans have criticized Kuja’s appearance over the years, but he fits as a foil for Zidane while also being a sort of version 1.0 of him. However, that purple skirt and feathered hair hide a great deal of pain and a little boy who just wants to be loved.

Not only can players relate to the feelings of rejection Kuja exhibits, but they can also relate to the rage that his hurt becomes. These are very real emotions manifested into a couture, manipulative video game villain. If only his robot dad Garland had just played some catch with him once in a while.

3 Sephiroth

A Legendary Ex-SOLDIER Who Went Mad After Learning The Truth Of His Existence

Sephiroth in Final Fantasy 7

Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Released
April 10, 2020

Developer(s)
Square Enix Business Division 1

Genre(s)
Action RPG

Sephiroth is yet another in a long line of Final Fantasy series villains who really just need a hug. He is deeply traumatized and has no one to go to for guidance or understanding. Pair that with the call of Jenova and his insane combat skills and that’s how to write an epic antagonist. He also serves as the perfect foil for Cloud Strife — a rookie recruit from a small town village and no real skills.

Players can relate to Sephiroth’s pain and loneliness while also realizing that his actions were unjust and wrong. Then they can help rectify things vicariously through Cloud. But the joke of the whole thing is that Sephiroth isn’t even the “real villain” of the piece. From the perspective of the Ancients, it’s Jenova and from the perspective of people like Tifa, it’s the next entry on this list.

2 The Shinra Electric Power Company

A Company Full Of Greedy, Opportunistic Hedonists Who Are Willing To Suck The Planet Dry For Their Own Benefit

President Shinra in Final Fantasy 7

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

Platform(s)
PlayStation 5

Released
February 29, 2024

It isn’t often that an entire corporation functions as a primary or tandem antagonist. Even in games like Borderlands where corporations do unequivocally terrible things, it is just played for laughs. Final Fantasy 7 instead directly portrays Shinra as a shadowy cabal of power-hungry, selfish, and greedy oligarchs.

Even Rufus, the son of the company’s founder, isn’t motivated by good things. He funds Avalanche privately just to destabilize the power his father holds in order to take it for himself. However, the people are powerless to rise up due to the stratification of wealth and power in their society.

1 Kefka Palazzo

The Greatest Mad Villain Final Fantasy Has Ever Concocted

Kefka Palazzo in Final Fantasy 6

Final Fantasy 6

Released
October 11, 1994

Developer(s)
Square Enix , Square

It is very rare — in any video game series or story — for the villain to succeed in their overarching goal. In the case of Kefka Palazzo, that goal was to destroy the world and become the supreme overlord. Halfway through Final Fantasy 6, he achieves this and the player starts over with an amnesiac character on a beach.

Beyond this, his design is so specific and unflinching (much like his resolve). He is loud without being brash, kitschy without feeling cheesy, and delightfully mad while still calculating and cunning. He also bridges the problem many villains face of not having a motivation for their actions. Some people just want to watch the world burn and dance while it happens.

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