The Final Fantasy series is home to some of the most iconic characters in gaming. Most characters will earn a player’s respect at some point during the narrative depending on how compelling their stories are. A select few, however, will gain it immediately if their introduction to the story is done correctly.
First impressions are everything in Final Fantasygames, but some stand out more than others. The best character debuts will see them conveying a snippet of their personality through their actions or even their choice of words. Most Final Fantasy characters become icons at some point during their travels, but some earn the title the instant they appear.
7/7 Aranea (Final Fantasy 15)
While infiltrating an enemy military base, Noctis and his friends encounter the most skilled combatant in the Niflheim Empire. Aranea is a Dragoon and, as such, defies the laws of gravity to engage in airborne combat. Her first appearance sees her plummeting from the sky and clashing blades with the young prince Noctis before inviting him to battle.
Though the scene is brief, it presents Aranea as a formidable foe. The battle that follows further solidifies this, but the confidence she exudes during this quick exchange is more than enough to highlight her strength. She eventually aligns herself with Noctis, but it’s difficult to forget the fear she once struck in both him and the player during her debut.
6/7 Balthier & Fran (Final Fantasy 12)
Upon successfully infiltrating the Royal Palace of Rabanastre and uncovering the palace’s treasury, Vaan stumbles upon a piece of Magicite: a magical stone that houses a baffling power. He takes the stone into his hands and begins admiring it before being interrupted by two Sky Pirates.
Balthier enters from behind and commends Vaan on his performance. Vaan, shocked by his presence, questions who Balthier is, to which the strange man responds “I play the leading man.” Fran emerges from behind Vaan and demands he hand the Magicite over before she is forced to take it by force. It’s difficult to say what makes this introduction so iconic. Perhaps it’s Fran and Balthier’s casual approach to stealing the shard, or maybe it’s because of their similarities to Han Solo and Chewbacca from Star Wars.
5/7 Ardyn (Final Fantasy 15)
Ardyn Izunia is one of the most fascinating villains in the Final Fantasy series in that he initially presents himself as an ally, referring to himself as “A man of no consequence.” He later reveals himself to be an Imperial Chancellor to the Niflheim Empire, but Noctis would never have guessed this during their first meeting.
Noctis first meets Ardyn on his journey to Altissia where Ardyn informs the young prince that the boat service has stopped. He claims to be nothing more than a frustrated traveler, before tossing a coin at Noctis and departing. The party spares little thought on this encounter, only to later learn of Ardyn’s sinister intentions.
4/7 Cloud (Final Fantasy 7 Remake)
Cloud’s introduction in the original Final Fantasy 7 was iconic, but the Final Fantasy 7 Remake‘s graphical upgrade made it a far greater spectacle. Cloud is first seen crouching atop a speeding train. The train stops at its destination, prompting Barret and his fellow AVALANCHE members to attack the guards on board.
Once all the enemies are dealt with, Barret shouts up to Cloud, commanding him to get down. In response, Cloud effortlessly spirals down to the station platform with his iconic Buster Sword in hand. He stands up slowly before sheathing the blade and glaring into a nonexistent camera. This introduction reveals so much about Cloud’s personality and skills. By the time the scene ends, the player will see Cloud as an experienced yet quiet mercenary capable of destroying all threats that lay before him.
3/7 Kimahri (Final Fantasy 10)
After barging into the Summoner’s Sanctum in Besaid, Tidus sets off on a journey to defeat Sin. He joins Yuna’s pilgrimage and gains some much-needed allies, but not all of them immediately accept him into their company.
While leaving Besaid, Tidus is confronted by Kimahri, a frightening creature who he later learns to be a Ronso. Kimahri jumps from pillar to pillar before landing in front of Tidus and growling at him. He is immediately set up as a bafflingly powerful foe, that is until the player gains control of him and sees how weak he truly is.
2/7 Sephiroth (Final Fantasy 7)
Cloud spends the opening of Final Fantasy 7 only hearing whispers of Sephiroth, the greatest SOLDIER in Shinra’s military. Little is learned about the elusive swordsman until the party reaches Kalm and Cloud recounts the time he spent at his side.
The next segment of the story is told through a flashback that documents Cloud’s time as a SOLDIER. The player will likely already deem Sephiroth as a terrifying presence, but watching as he deals a staggering 3,000 points of damage to a Green Dragon while Cloud struggles to reach triple digits cements the One-Winged Angel as humanity’s greatest threat.
1/7 Auron (Final Fantasy 10)
The opening cinematic of Final Fantasy 10 is perhaps the most iconic introduction to a video game’s story ever made. It focuses on Tidus, a carefree Blitzball player during his final Blitzball match in the Zanarkand stadium. It’s nothing short of a spectacle, particularly when the game introduces Auron.
Auron is first seen standing atop a ledge in the city. He stares silently into the distance at an enclosing wave before raising his flask in its direction. Denizens of Zanarkand begin to flee from the stadium, but Auron stands out by slowly walking toward it. Without uttering a single word, the unknown man cements himself as a force to be reckoned with.