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The best Square Enix games of all time

For most people out there, Square Enix has always been around. However, for those more seasoned gamers out there, we remember a time when there was both SquareSoft and Enix. These two Japanese companies were the biggest rivals at the time. SquareSoft had their flagship Final Fantasy series, while Enix was keeping pace (in Japan anyway) with their legendary Dragon Quest games. When these two titans merged, it was one of the biggest deals in the entire industry. The result was essentially all the biggest JRPG franchises coming under one roof and going by the name Square Enix. Since that merger in the early 2000s, this developer and publisher has expanded to include many western studios and franchises as well.

Between the combined histories of SquareSoft, Enix, and the two merged companies, Square Enix may have one of the most impressive track records of all time. These two have been putting out some genre-defining titles almost since video games first began and show no signs of slowing down to this day. With that many impressive games under their name, it can be easy to just call Square Enix the JRPG developer, but they are responsible for so many more amazing games than that. It was no easy task, but we’ve come up with our list of the best Square Enix games of all time.

Note: We’re going to limit ourselves to one game per franchise to avoid a list full of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games. Also, we will include some games that were released by just SquareSoft or Enix that are too important to leave out.

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Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII
90 %
T
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation, Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Turn-based strategy (TBS), Adventure
Developer Square, Square Enix
Publisher Square, Eidos Interactive, Square Enix, Sony Computer Entertainment
Release January 31, 1997
Why not start with the big one, right? Of all the Final Fantasy games out there, everyone has their preferences and favorite, but there’s almost no one who can’t at least admit that Final Fantasy 7 was a game-changer for the genre, as well as a conduit for so many people in the west to even pay attention to JRPGs. This was the first game in the series on the PS1 and took full advantage of the new disk-based console by packing in tons of content across its three disks. From, at the time, unreal CGI cutscenes and music to just the sheer size and scope of the game, Final Fantasy 7 was like nothing ever seen before. On top of the production values, Final Fantasy 7 didn’t hold back on story or characters, either. Even the designs of this cast remain iconic, from Cloud’s spiky hair and buster sword to Barret’s gun arm and Sephiroth’s long silver hair and wildly proportioned katana. But on top of all of that, the narrative and characters have also remained some of the best in JRPG history, to the point where Final Fantasy 7 has had more extra content in different media, spinoff games, and an incredibly fantastic remake that no other game has received. If you can only play one, we have to give it to Final Fantasy 7 from the legendary franchise.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger
94 %
E10
Platforms Wii, PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation, PlayStation 3, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Nintendo DS, Android, Super Famicom
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Developer Square
Publisher Square
Release March 11, 1995
The SNES was almost too full of amazing games for a single console, and even if you narrow down the list only to include JRPGs, you’d still have a hard time sorting through all the amazing experiences you could find there. Chrono Trigger has become known for bringing together a dream team to create it, the likes of which we may never see again. We have Hironobu Sakaguchi, who created Final Fantasy, Yuji Hori, the creator of Dragon Quest, and world-famous mangaka Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball. Between these three genius talents, Chrono Trigger wound up being nothing short of astounding. The active battle system, party dynamics, double and triple techs, side quests, attention to detail, and dozens of endings are all still impressive to this day. Considering it’s a game from long ago that not only took on a time travel plot but actually nailed it without breaking its own rules or getting too convoluted, makes it impressive alone. We did get a pseudo-sequel in Chrono Cross, but this original far and away blows that, and most other JRPGs, out of the water. It’s a game you can spend as little as 20 or so hours with or go for everything and double that time easily.

NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata
91 %
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 4
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Hack and slash/Beat 'em up
Developer Platinum Games
Publisher Square Enix
Release February 23, 2017
The first game in the NieR series had a rough reception here in the west. To be fair, it was a clunky game with some odd choices early on that turned a lot of people off. However, beneath the surface was something truly special from writer and Director Yoko Taro. For that small subset of fans, seeing the announcement of a sequel called NieR: Automata felt like a miracle. What made this miracle of a sequel hit in a way the original couldn’t, was the combined efforts of Yoko Taro’s unorthodox writing and game design philosophies and also being grounded in smooth, tight, deep, and extremely compelling combat designed by Platinum Games, who are best known for the Bayonetta and other character action titles. Let’s start with the combat. You have two primary weapons equipped at a time, of which there are around a dozen or so to swap between, ranging from giant heavy blades to swift spears, plus your support pod that can also be equipped with different ranged options. You can combo light and heavy attacks, perfect dodge for a time slow effect, and perform flashy finishers. Or, sometimes the game is a top-down shooter or a bullet hell or all at once. The story, without spoiling anything, is incredibly well crafted. It deals with everything from the meaning of life, what it means to be human (or not), purpose, and so much more. Don’t let people write it off as bad because you “need to replay the game four times” or whatever. Each replay either completely recontextualizes the events you saw, puts you in a new perspective, or isn’t even a replay of the same events at all. You won’t expect it in the first few hours, but by the time you reach the final ending, NieR: Automata will have you in tears.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Deus Ex: Human Revolution
84 %
M
Platforms PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac
Genre Shooter, Role-playing (RPG)
Developer Eidos Montréal
Publisher Square Enix, Feral Interactive
Release August 23, 2011
Our first shakeup on the list is a game not developed by Square Enix, but rather published by one of their western studios. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a very different title from anything coming from the Eastern studios and is all the better for it since it adds some much-needed variety to their offerings. The choice to create a prequel to one of the most beloved PC titles, however, was a big risk. In a lot of ways, Deus Ex: Human Revolution can’t quite stack up to that original but does a very admiral job in its attempt. There were some clear concessions that had to be made, but taking it for what it is, this is an amazing experience. You can approach this game from many angles: stealth, non-lethal, fully lethal, hacking-focused, and even through speech skills. Granted, you can’t use a single tactic for every situation, especially the very disappointing main boss fights, but the majority of the game does allow for a great amount of freedom in your approach. The overall story and world-building, more than the moment-to-moment plot, is also incredibly gripping and thought-provoking. This game is set right on the cusp of human augmentation, leading to tons of discussions — philosophical, economic, practical, and ethical — on how this technology will impact the world. Deus Ex: Human Revolution touches on just about every angle of the issue in some way but never with too heavy of a hand, asking you to ponder your own morality when it comes to these issues. It’s a little clunky today, and the series is once again back on ice, but there’s a lot of fun to be had going through Deus Ex: Human Revolution and even more deep conversations to have after the conclusion.

Kingdom Hearts II

Kingdom Hearts II
88 %
E10
Platforms PlayStation 2
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Adventure
Developer Square Enix
Publisher Buena Vista Games, Square Enix, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Release December 22, 2005
The first Kingdom Hearts was the very last game release by Square Soft before the merger with Enix and was an almost unbelievable collaboration. Somehow, Square managed to convince Disney, not quite the media empire it is today but still a massive company, to let them use some of their most beloved and valuable IP to create a game that remixed their stories and characters with new and existing Final Fantasy characters in an action RPG crossover the likes of which gamers had never seen. By all metrics, this should never have happened, and even more surprising than it becoming a reality was how good it was. Kingdom Hearts 2 was a given right from the start. It was teased in a secret movie included with the first game, which left many threads open for future entries. We got the interstitial Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories between the two main games, but this was still before the series really went off the rails with spinoffs, and Kingdom Hearts 2 represents that perfect balance in the series of incorporating Disney worlds, plots, and characters in a larger narrative, expanding the original lore without getting too convoluted, and the absolute best feeling gameplay the series has ever had. There were not only more worlds to explore, but you visit each of them at least twice for a new story and events. Add in new mechanics like the various drive forms and completely revamped Gummi ship sections, an even more heartfelt and touching plot and perhaps the most climactic and satisfying conclusion in the series, and Kingdom Hearts 2 remains the high bar other games in the series will always be compared to.

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
87 %
T
Platforms PlayStation 2, Android, iOS
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Strategy, Adventure
Developer Level-5, Square Enix
Publisher Square Enix
Release November 27, 2004
We hit our Final Fantasy game already, so it’s about time we highlight the best the other, only slightly less popular JRPG series, Dragon Quest. Of the 12 mainline games released so far, there is a more agreed-upon consensus as to which is the best compared to Final Fantasy, which you can make arguments for many. In this case, Dragon Quest VIII is the one most often held up as the king of the series. A fantastic cast of well-rounded characters is by no means exclusive to Dragon Quest VIII, and while tastes differ, the core crew you adventure with are some of the most memorable. This was, in part, thanks to great voice acting that really helped bring their quirks and nuances to life, as well as made learning each of their histories a real treat. That world you would be adventuring in was also massive. It felt like a real, entire world was waiting to be explored, but no part of it felt like it was there just to fill space. There was always something new to see, a secret treasure to find, or a new enemy type to encounter. Speaking of which, combat in Dragon Quest VIII remains faithful to the most classic turn-based JRPGs of the past, but polished to a near-perfect shine. You gathered up tons of equipment for your party, leveled up and learned tons of new skills to vary up your strategy, and even used a new psyche up mechanic to give up a turn to power up your next move. It would be a crime to not mention the always great soundtrack, as well as the amazing character and monster designs from Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame.

Final Fantasy Tactics

Final Fantasy Tactics
85 %
T
Platforms PlayStation, PlayStation 3
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Strategy, Turn-based strategy (TBS), Tactical
Developer Square
Publisher Sony Computer Entertainment, Inc. (SCEI), Square, Square Enix
Release June 20, 1997
Okay, hold your horses. Yes, if you want to be super technical about it, this game does have the Final Fantasy label on it; however, it exists as its own series with a persistent world and story, plus mechanics, that make it distinct enough from the core series. Besides, Final Fantasy Tactics was as influential a force on tactical RPGs as Final Fantasy was for JRPGs in many ways. Even to this day, every new tactics style game is compared to this 1998 PS1 classic. While it didn’t invent the grid-based combat system, it certainly managed to perfect it. Not only were the concepts of how to move, attack, and position characters easy to understand, but they were also deep enough that a thoughtful player could pull off crazy moves to end fights without taking a single hit. The roster of characters was scaled up, leading to way more variety, plus the Job system that let any character learn tons of new abilities and fit different roles, made your team composition choices essentially endless. Then, as to be expected in this era of Square RPG, there’s the story. Rife with political intrigue, division among classes, church and state power struggles, and more, Final Fantasy Tactics is everything you would want from a fully fleshed out fantasy world. Thanks to the cast of likable and evolving characters, you will quickly get personally invested in both the small and large-scale issues of this world.

The World Ends with You

The World Ends with You
76 %
T
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Developer Square Enix, Jupiter Corporation
Publisher Square Enix, Ubisoft Entertainment
Release July 26, 2007
The World Ends With You is the Neir game that never got it’s due. It should have, even getting a proper sequel with NEO: The World Ends With You, and yet this insanely stylish and rocking game seems forever cursed to be a true cult classic. The original was a DS exclusive; however, it has since seen some ports to make it more accessible now that that line of handhelds is long in the tooth and mostly abandoned. Describing The World Ends With You as an action RPG would be easy, but there’s so much more unique to how this game works. You control two characters at once, initially taking advantage of the DS’s dual-screen setup, in what is called the “Stride Cross Battle System” where both characters are synchronized to your inputs, but one is controlled with the touch screen and the other with the face buttons. You swap a green disk between each character, and whichever one it is on will take more damage if hit. It all sounds complex, but once you get into the flow, which is helped by the amazing soundtrack, it becomes intensely satisfying to master. The plot is also a riveting tale set in modern Tokyo, where certain deceased people are brought to a different reality to play the Reapers’ Game. This game offers them a chance to return to life if they can complete all the objectives in a week but are also able to interfere with each other to cause them to fail. If a player fails, they will be erased from existence. The World Ends With You never got the widespread appeal it deserved, but we can at least give it some praise here.

Vagrant Story

Vagrant Story
84 %
T
Platforms PlayStation, PlayStation Portable
Genre Role-playing (RPG), Adventure
Developer (Archive) Square Product Development Division 4
Publisher Square, Square Electronic Arts
Release February 10, 2000
For whatever reason, Square loved to make brand-new JRPGs rather than slap the Final Fantasy label on everything they made. Vagrant Story, in another reality, could’ve been a Final Fantasy game. But instead, it got to stand on its own as a brand-new IP, most likely due to how experimental the gameplay was at the time. Most of the time you play in a standard third-person perspective doing action RPG combat; however, you can also freely go into first person to get a full view of your entire surroundings. Combat is a mix of real time and turn-based and just as much about exploration and puzzle-solving as it is fighting. When you enter combat, everything moves in real time until you press the attack button to pause combat. From here, a sphere appears around your character where you can queue up your Chain Abilities into combos by hitting the correct sequence of buttons in time, almost like a fighting game combo or rhythm game. In terms of plot, it would sound like generic fantasy fair to explain in short, but it is still a well-executed tale of old kingdoms, civil war, and world-threatening plots. Vagrant Story is a not often talked about game, but it’s easily one of PS1’s standout games from Square.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
87 %
E
Platforms Wii, Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), Wii U, Super Famicom
Genre Platform, Role-playing (RPG), Adventure
Developer Square Enix, Square
Publisher Nintendo
Release March 09, 1996
While not quite as outlandish as the idea of Final Fantasy and Disney crossing paths, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars was almost on that level for those in the know at the time. Notoriously, Nintendo is quite precious with their big IPs, and none is bigger than Mario, which made it all the more surprising that they would allow Square to take full control and create not just a Mario game, but a Mario JRPG. By now, Mario has been in plenty of RPGs in different series, but this was his first time dealing damage in numbers and managing equipment and party members. It all began with this game, but since this collaboration would never happen again, Nintendo has never quite been able to reach the same level of satisfaction in the Mario RPGs as Square was able to hit with Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. The combat, while basic, was the real innovation. This game introduced the action command system, where timing your button press on attacks or when you are getting attacked could lead to more damage or additional hits or reduced damage on block. That kept battles engaging the whole way through, with each attack and special move having different timings to learn. The story is a similar length to something like Chrono Trigger, making it a nice, breezy game that never gets stale that even newcomers to JRPGs can get through. You get a great cast of familiar Mario characters, plus new creations fans have clung on to like Geno — all wrapped up in a very visually unique isometric style. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is the gold star of all Mario RPGs.

Xenogears

Xenogears
89 %
T
Platforms PlayStation, PlayStation 3
Genre Role-playing (RPG)
Developer Square
Publisher Square Electronic Arts, Square
Release February 11, 1998
The whole Xeno franchise is a little confusing for outsiders, but Xenogears was the first and is still easily the best place to start. Somewhat like the later Final Fantasy games, Xenogears combined fantasy elements with sci-fi; in this case, mechs known as Gears. In fact, Xenogears was originally pitched as Final Fantasy 7 but instead turned into a brand-new franchise that is still going on today. Aside from the world and sci-fi elements, Xenogears stood out for having essentially two battle systems. It all works in the familiar active time battle system that would be familiar to most JRPG fans, but with a distinction between fighting with your human characters on foot and another for when you’re controlling Gears. Human characters fight mainly using martial arts, which translates into inputting specific button combos you learn that all have different point costs you need to manage, while Gears function on fuel rather than action points, along with having their own set of skills, attacks, and so on. In terms of story, Xenogears is heavy on religious and philosophical themes, to the point where it almost wasn’t translated outside of Japan. We’ll leave it at that since so much of the experience of the game is uncovering all the details, relationships, and conflicts between the major forces in this world. After this game, you can jump to the spiritual successors in the three Xenosaga games and Xenoblade Chronicles titles.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider
82 %
M
Platforms Linux, PC (Microsoft Windows), PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mac
Genre Shooter, Platform, Puzzle, Adventure
Developer Crystal Dynamics
Publisher Square Enix, Feral Interactive
Release March 04, 2013
Just like Dues Ex: Human Revolution, you would probably think it was a weird choice for Square Enix to take control of the iconic Tomb Raider franchise. Still, that’s what happened, leading to the fantastic reboot simply called Tomb Raider. In a somewhat circular series of inspiration, Tomb Raider took many cues from Sony’s hit Uncharted games, which themselves were evolutions of the original Tomb Raider. Regardless of which series deserves credit for what, this reboot showed that Lara Croft can absolutely work in the modern gaming landscape if done right. Gone are the dinosaurs, and instead, we get a far more grounded and human game (at least as far as games with regenerating health can be) that gives this hero a fairly believable origin story. Yes, the pacing of how she goes from hesitant to kill a wild deer for food to instantly shooting people in the head should’ve been handled much better, but otherwise the story of Lara getting shipwrecked and forced to learn to survive is a compelling one. There is a bit of supernatural twist in there, too, that we find fun and kind of important to keep alive in the series. Tomb Raider has a very fun progression system, light Metroidvania elements, and a cool take on raiding tombs. The sequels took the ball and ran with it where this one left off, but neither are quite as tight and focused in our eyes as this original.

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