Because we here at TheLifestream forums are geeks, we’ve had a thread running for a little while now on who the most powerful villains and heroes of the Final Fantasy franchise are. As well, I’ve had an interest lately in doing “top 10″ lists. See this thread for my “Top 10 Games of the Decade” list. [/shameless self-promotion]
Anyway, that being the case, it was inevitable that I decide to make an article like this for the front page. Seeing as how we’re now on the cusp of Final Fantasy XIII’s release in Japan, this seems like the right time for such a list, ere we have to include another hero and villain in our calculations.
So join me, won’t you, in celebration of the most powerful heroes and villains of the first 22 years (omg Sephiroth/Kabbalah reference!) of the Final Fantasy series.
Obviously, the lists that follow are canon. If you disagree: no u!
In all seriousness, though, I’m right and you’re wro — wait. One second. Wrong script. See, this is why when you’re a newsreader you make sure to stay on good terms with the teleprompter guys.
Anyway, these lists are obviously just my opinions and not even necessarily those of the entire staff of TLS. That just means the dissenters on staff are wrong too, of course.
There will be three lists in this article — one for the most powerful villains sans end-of-game power-ups, one for the most powerful villains with end-of-game power-ups, and, finally, there will be a list for the most powerful heroes.
It should go without saying that this article is going to include spoilers for a number of Final Fantasy games, so turn back now if you don’t want them. If you continue reading and learn something you wouldn’t have wanted to know yet, it’s your own fault.
Taken into consideration for these lists were the characters’ original games, as well as their appearances in Dissidia: Final Fantasy. As well, note that only one villain or hero from the same game will be chosen, to give representation to as many games as possible. In other words, only the most powerful hero and villain from a game will be featured.
Finally, be aware that I have little knowledge of Final Fantasy XI, and — not really knowing how powerful the Shadow Lord or Promathia are — I will not be including either in these lists. That said, I encourage you to include them in your own lists should you make one and should you have more knowledge of them than I. My guess is that Promathia, at any rate, would rank very high.
Now, let us begin. Reasoning for each list is to follow.
The top ten most powerful villains (starting abilities)
10. Kuja - Respectable magical ability. Can go toe-to-toe with Eidolons like Bahamut without fear, even taking a blast from the dragon pretty much full-on without suffering more than a small cut to his head.
9. Kefka Palazzo - Easily capable of defeating Espers, even while attacking more than one at a time, Kefka presents an all around impressive magical display.
8. Seymour Guado - Like all Guado, Seymour is inherently attuned to the Farplane and adept at manipulating pyreflies. Unlike most Guado, Seymour is highly adept at the task and, consequently, is a powerful mage and summoner, even capable of banishing aeons on a whim. Unlike most villains who rely on physical power alone, however, Seymour is also very cunning. Additionally, though it’s a fairly common occurrence on Spira for one with a powerful will to refuse to allow their spirit to journey to the Farplane after death, Seymour continues to defy such a transfer even after being defeated three times. It is only with his fourth defeat that he is unable to resist the natural order any longer.
7. Emperor Mateus - A fairly powerful mage capable of summoning demons. Like Sephiroth, Zemus and Seymour, Mateus likely has an unnaturally powerful will, which allowed him to defy the natural order of life and death. Gaining even more power after being killed, he conquered both Heaven and Hell. The Emperor’s greatest asset, though, may be his cunning mind, particularly in Dissidia, where he orchestrates much of the plot.
6. Zemus - As with Sephiroth and the previous two entries on this list, Zemus was able to defy death and become more powerful after being separated from his mortal vessel. Given that he’s more powerful than either Golbez or Fusoya alone — and probably powerful than the two combined seeing as how he let them attack him and even encouraged them to hit him with all their power at once — Zemus is likely a highly accomplished mage. He’s also known to have immense psychic powers that allow him to control others, even from as far away as the inner caverns of the Lunarian moon, reaching all the way down to the Underworld of FFIV’s planet.
5. Sephiroth - Has an unrivaled will on his world and possesses the powers of JENOVA (shapeshifting, separation and reassembly of body, telekinesis, telepathy, astral projection, ability to phase own physical matter through solid objects, etc.). Need I say more?
4. Ultimecia - Can freeze moments in time and create powerful living beings out of inanimate objects (Krysta and the Iguions, for example) as well as others’ thoughts (Griever). Able to bend GFs (Tiamat) to her will, and posseses vast magical powers in general, including telekinesis and the ability to phase through solid matter.
3. Garland - Presumably extremely powerful given that he defeated summons and Omega on his world. An accomplished swordsman as well. Also known to have some control over the Void.
2. Exdeath - Powerful warlock with inherent ability to use the Void. Other known powers include energy projection and telekinesis.
1. Cloud of Darkness - Either a representative or embodiment of the Void, and in possession of vast magical ability. Presumably able to destroy the entire universe if given time, as she was the one “schem[ing] the world’s return to the Void” in Dissidia. Probably also one of the most powerful entities in existence period. One of two villains — the other being Kuja in his Trance form — to hold the distinction of killing the player’s party, albeit briefly.
- I put Cloud of Darkness first because I tend to think that the villains with a connection to the Void are the most powerful — and in her case, she’s either its representative or an incarnation of it. As such, she’s probably also immune to being eaten by it like Exdeath, so that allows her to edge him out.
- Exdeath was placed over Garland because Exdeath uses energy projection and magic. In terms of their affinity with the Void, who the hell knows who’s got the other beat there. Exdeath’s the only one we see tapping into it whenever he feels like it, though.
- I put Ultimecia above Sephiroth simply because what we see from her is more impressive to me — probably due to her being able to freeze moments in time, create monsters out of inanimate objects, and reach into people’s minds and either remove things altogether or give them physical form. Both display flight, telekinesis, teleportation and the ability to phase through solid matter, however, and in terms raw magical power, they may be even. Ulty just seems to have more going for her.
- Zemus was chosen over most of the other “mage class” villains since he not only features most of their greatest assets himself, but his psychic abilities, in my mind, outrank just about anything else they’ve done. Though it was difficult for me to choose between the Emperor and Zemus, it was Zemus’ psychic powers that made the choice for me in the end.
- Mateus is above most of the other “mage class” villains because he was able to defy nature with will alone and conquer Heaven and Hell thereby. He outranks Kuja if only because of that, and Kefka if only because he was already emperor, whereas Kefka was a really powerful flunky. He then outranks Seymour because, of the two, only Mateus successfully made the natural order his servant.
- Seymour outranks Kefka and Kuja because he’s not only able to create monsters out of free-floating spiritual energy — pretty much any Guado can accomplish this, in fact — but he doesn’t even have to fight summons: he can simply make them go away.
- Kefka outranks Kuja because he’ll not only fight summons, but he’ll fight more than one at a time — and win! Though Kuja was willing to let Bahamut get some shots off first, Kefka doesn’t seem particularly worried about the multiple Espers he kills either.
The top ten most powerful villains (end-of-game power-ups)
(Notes: Garland is excluded from this list because his power up is Chaos — who would obviously be in the top spot, if included. As well, two characters share second place. Furthermore, Seymour never acquires a traditional power-up during FFX; Sin had been the power-up he was seeking. As such, Jecht — who got more than one power-up during FFX, including the power-up of becoming Sin — will take Seymour’s place on this list. Filling the last spot will be Altima/Ultima from the Ivalice Alliance games; though not really a character with a power-up, she’s the only applicable villain.)
10. Emperor Mateus - Reasonably powerful demonic/angelic being who ruled both realms of the afterlife.
9. Zeromus - The manifestation of Zemus’ hatred, Zeromus easily defeated the player’s party within seconds, and would have likely gone on to massacare the population of the world below if the team had not been rejuvenated by outside parties. Though defeated, defied death to return yet again in FFIV: The After Years, though in a weaker form. Even so, this form was still able, with its final attack, to destroy the Lunar Subterrane and the Crystal Palace.
8. Altima/Ultima - The full power of this leader of the Lucavi/Espers from FFXII and FFTactics is unknown, but she almost certainly played a role in the Cataclysm that ended the Golden Age of Ivalice, bringing on the dark ages witnessed in Vagrant Story and FFTactics. Ironically, her human host was worshiped by much of the surviving population in the centuries that followed.
7. Kuja - Decimated the surface of a planet in seconds and destroyed a number of enormous structures in the process. Presumably could have easily defeated even Alexander at this point. Shares with Cloud of Darkness the distinction of being one of the few villains to outright kill the player’s entire party.
6. Jecht (as Sin) - Able to create a gigantic scar on the surface of a planet in an instant, and presumably split it open given time. Amazing magical ability.
5. Jecht (as Braska’s Final Aeon, and summoned by Braska) - Able to defeat Sin. No more need be said.
4. Kefka - Like Sephiroth, became a god-like being able to bend his world to his will — whether it be rending the surface of the planet or casually incinerating towns. Possessed vast magical power.
3. Sephiroth (Advent Children) - Defied his world’s Lifestream and bent the spirit of a planet to his will — and was then going to use the whole planet as a cosmic gondola. Presumably possessed all the powers from before, but even more energy. He had become a god-like being (lowercase “g,” unlike Ultimecia).
2. Cloud of Darkness and Neo Exdeath - Pretty much the same entity. Ranks up here for the reasons Cloud of Darkness was at the top of the previous list.
1. Ultimecia - Possessed God-like powers and was absorbing the entire universe into herself, becoming a singular existence.
- I ranked Ultimecia above the Cloud of Darkness and Neo Exdeath here because we actually saw her destroying the universe, and seemingly at an alarming rate. Furthermore, she wasn’t just destroying it — she was absorbing it and making it all bend to her will. Only Chaos has demonstrated a power greater than this, shattering multiple universes rather than just one. Even without finishing her goal, Ultimecia already far outclassed the other villains during that final battle.
- Sephiroth outranks Kefka if only because Sephiroth was known to be able to extend his influence to dominate more planets. As far as we know, Kefka was only able to be the god of one.
- Jecht — as Braska’s Final Aeon, and summoned by Braska — outranks Sin if only because we know he won that fight.
- I ranked Kuja over Altima in part because we already know that Kuja should have been able to defeat summons at that point — he even abandoned his quest for a powerful Eidolon once he realized the power he could gain through Trance. In addition, Kuja’s casually performed spectacle on Terra would suggest he could easily do something on the order of the Cataclysm Altima had played a role in on FFXII’s world.
- Altima outranks Zeromus as the Cataclysm that struck Ivalice must have been great indeed if it sank the island of Murond and so wreaked havoc upon the mainland that it threw technology back centuries.
- Zeromus is placed above the Emperor’s ascended forms because we at least see something of the destruction that Zeromus may be able to cause.
The top ten most powerful heroes
(Notes: As this author considers Rydia likely more powerful than Cecil, she’s included instead of him on this list. As well, given that Fran is unquestionably the most physically powerful cast member in FFXII, and the only one with any apparent magical affinity, she’s here to represent her game. Also, Squall is on this list in place of Rinoa as Squall defeats Ultimecia solo in Dissidia — Ultimecia, of course, having the same powers as Rinoa and wielding them more effectively.)
3. Cloud and Squall
2. Onion Knight
1. Warrior of Light
- The Warrior of Light is placed above Onion Knight due to the fact that he seems more consistently tapped into his great power than the Onion Knight. We’ve also seen several impressive feats from the Warrior of Light, including defeating Garland — who seemed to be giving his all during the fight at the end of Destiny Odyssey I of Dissidia — and defeating Chaos alongside just three other Warriors of Light in the original FF (counting Onion Knight as another Warrior of the Light, the final battle of Dissidia against Chaos involves two Warriors of Light and eight other warriors).
- Onion Knight presumably has pretty much the same power source as the Warrior of Light, and, for that matter, the Onion Knights of FFIII were also referred to as the Warriors of Light. That Onion Knight took down the Cloud of Darkness in Dissidia puts him in a class above most characters in the series.
- Cloud and Squall are tied for third as, even though we’ve seen more visually impressive feats from Cloud, our first list in this article ranked Ultimecia — whom Squall defeats solo in Dissidia — above Sephiroth, whom Cloud required assistance to defeat in FFVII. Though that sounds like it would put Squall above Cloud, there’s also the fact that Cloud manages to legitimately outmaneuver and physically harm Sephiroth enough in Advent Children — when Seph was more powerful than ever — to vanquish him. Given that we don’t really know how Seph and base-level Ulty would compare against each other, it seems easiest to just call these two even. Dissidia, at any rate, never attempts to put one above the other.
- Zidane, Squall and Cloud are all placed above Terra on this list. Cloud’s already been shown capable of defeating a summon (Bahamut Sin) in Advent Children, and even fought Terra during Dissidia without breaking a sweat — allowing her to expend some of her out-of-control power in the process, even while he wasn’t actively trying to harm her. For his part, Zidane was created to be more powerful than base-level Kuja, who could take on Bahamut without much concern, while Seifer — Squall’s rival, whom he defeated solo on one occasion — killed another summon (Odin) during FFVIII. Given that Terra’s only half-Esper anyway, all that leaves us with the probability that any one of these three could defeat her.
- Terra is ranked above Rydia on this list, but only by a slim margin and for the most technical of reasons. Both have access to the power of one or more summons, and both also possess an array of powerful magic — however, as a half-Esper, Terra is inherently more powerful than Rydia. Rydia has to summon an Eidolon, while Terra merely has to use her own power.
- Tidus is placed above Fran on this list as it is the opinion of this author that he’s likely both physically stronger — really, how many people do you know of who can kick a ball that far? — and probably the fastest on-foot of all the heroes in Dissidia. This is speculation based on his performance in the game’s opening FMV sequence, and the fact that he was the only one fast enough to make a move to attack Chaos when the villain showed up at the beginning of Shade Impulse — before being summarily sat on his ass nonetheless, of course.
- Fran has been placed above Bartz on this list, despite his impressive agility and power to magically generate temporary facsimiles of others’ weapons. Neither his speed nor physical strength was implied to be quite as far above the average human’s during comparable cutscenes.
- Firion is placed in last place because he’s the only one of the heroes to have no power-up — as well as no genetic, biological or anatomical advantage — of any kind. During his original game, he starts out with no known combat experience and is nearly killed in the game’s opening moments. It’s only through the course of the war seen in the game that he gains said experience, eventually becoming “the warrior with mastery over eight kinds of weapons” that he’s referred to as in Dissidia. And even then — and even with his brief, extraordinary applications of telekinesis — he’s lugging around all this gear while his comrades rely on far fewer weapons, and gets stomped on nearly as often as the Emperor. He’s also the only one who doesn’t seem to ever store his weapons in hammerspace (reserved for the wild rose apparently).
- While it may seem like Firion or Bartz should be placed higher on the list than the spots they’ve been given due to their fights with Emperor Mateus and Exdeath respectively during their Destiny Odyssey stories, it’s considered by this author that the two villains weren’t legitimately trying to kill Bartz or Firion then — as they still needed them to receive their crystals in order for Cosmos to receive an absolute death. Also, during Shade Impulse, these two villains are fought by groups of heroes rather than taken down solo.
- Though Bartz is a Warrior of Light like the Onion Knight and Warrior of Light himself, it’s my belief that he’s not on their same level. Obviously he was never able to defeat Exdeath by himself — whereas Onion Knight defeated Cloud of Darkness solo, she being ranked higher on my first villain list than Exdeath — and though he also had power provided by the crystals of his world, he only had shards which had to be divided among his whole team. Furthermore, he and his teammates have to give up the shards at the end of FFV for the restoration of the crystals. Though Bartz may have retained some heightened physical capacity or new abilities from the crystals, this is never definitively demonstrated, and — in my opinion — he’s never presented as quite as fast, agile or strong as Fran and Tidus.
And, with that, my first article posted to the front page of TheLifestream.net comes to a close. Hope you enjoyed it. Feel free to comment either below on the main page, or inside the forum in this thread. The latter is preferred, as we can then debate it out!