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Choose Your Party: Ranking the Characters of ‘Final Fantasy VII’

One of the key elements of Final Fantasy is the strength of its characters, a strength best embodied by Final Fantasy VII.

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Who is the best character in Final Fantasy VII?

Undoubtedly one of the key elements of the Final Fantasy series and its success as a franchise is found in the strength of its characters. If you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time with these people as your main driving force for going through a 40+ hour journey, you had better be interested in them, and you certainly are in Final Fantasy VII.

Perhaps this is a central reason to why Final Fantasy VII still holds such an enduring place in gaming culture. Sure, there is a bevy of other reasons why FFVII has remained so iconic and everlasting for RPG fans (not the least of which is that it finally made them seem sort of cool) but when most people talk about what they love about this game, it usually has to do with the spectacular cast of characters and the journey of self-discovery they undertake in their quest to stop a certain androgynous test-tube baby.

With that in mind, if a fellow were to, say, rank the characters from a whole bunch of Final Fantasy games, this would almost certainly be the game to start with right?

9) Yuffie Kisagari

Yes, Final Fantasy VII in general has a very strong cast of characters but obviously someone had to come out at the bottom of this list. That person is Yuffie Kisagari.

Despite the fact that many a young man has obsessed to an absurd level about this fictional woman (more on that as this list develops), Yuffie is easily the weakest of your main party members in terms of characterization.

Essentially her entire character boils down to a one note joke: she wants that materia! Even when the end of the game looms, and every other character delivers a heartfelt speech about what this clash with ultimate evil means to them, Yuffie is still just obsessing with all of the materia she might be able to take home with her.

Being a character that has little, if any, significant growth throughout the game, Yuffie is the clear party member to put at the bottom rung of this ladder.

8) Cait Sith

Though Cait Sith is given a bit more relevance in the adventure once his true identity is revealed as Reeve, an undercover Shinra operative, that doesn’t change the fact that this character still spends much of the journey as little more than an afterthought to the overall plot.

Cait-Sith does force the player to re-examine some of the things they’ve been party to over the course of their adventure, including the opening reactor bombings, but even that relevance is more or less canceled out by the awful character design and truly odd lineage of the Cait-Sith robots.

How exactly is a megaphone a weapon? Isn’t Reeve controlling the whole works anyway? Someone should’ve reined Nomura in on this one.

7) Barret Wallace

Barret is the first of the nine Final Fantasy VII party members that the player meets and, as such, tends to occupy a pretty strong place in a lot of folks’ hearts.

However, underneath the pretense of an eco-terrorist/surrogate father figure is some of the most offensive writing of a character in RPG history. Much of Barret’s dialogue translation reads like a white guy’s reinterpretation of the sort of jive talk that was often featured in the blaxploitation films of the 1970s.

Unfortunately this isn’t just a PC police situation as the increasingly silly dialogue the character is given robs Barret of much of his emotional gravitas, even during his most pivotal moments.

“Dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyne!!!”

6) Cid Highwind

The gruff, curmudgeonly Cid of Final Fantasy VII may be the most popular iteration of the character in Final Fantasy history.

While Cid Highwind is a truly memorable character with one of the best back story’s in the game, his truly awful treatment of his underling, Shera, has never really sat all that well with this writer.

Still, one would be remiss not to point out the importance of having an older, more seasoned warrior as part of the group, and a chainsmoking sea captain type is certainly a unique archetype for the series to draw from in establishing this character.

5) Aeris Gainsborough

That’s right, I still call her Aeris, and I ain’t changin’ it now. Her name was Aeris in the game I played and, to me, Aerith just sounds like I’m saying her name with a lisp.

Though she is probably best remembered for her untimely demise at the end of Final Fantasy VII‘s first disc, Aeris is also a fairly rich and well-developed character in the grand scheme of the game’s narrative.

As one of two possible love interests for Cloud, and a hefty lynch pin on which much of the plot hangs, Aeris is given plenty of screen time to build into a memorable member of your party, and her memory lingers in the minds of players long after she has found herself on the wrong end of Sephiroth’s sword.

4) Vincent Valentine

Now we’re on to the really cool, and totally ridiculous, characters of Final Fantasy VII. Vincent Valentine sleeps in a coffin in a haunted mansion. He also has the ability to turn into JRPG versions of the classic Universal monsters of yore. All of that nonsense aside, he’s also got a very cool outfit.

In truth though, what makes Vincent such an effective character isn’t all of the theatrical elements, it’s his more human struggles. As we learn through his various side quests, Vincent once worked for Shinra where he was betrayed and murdered by Shinra’s resident creep in chief: Hojo. His love interest, who would eventually commit suicide, gave birth to Sephiroth in a laboratory.

The shame and regret that Vincent holds onto, for all of his unwitting parts in the terrible state of affairs the world currently finds itself, leads to the coffin bound exile he is in when you first find him. The strength and resolve he finds in himself to get out of that coffin and finally do something about it is what makes him a great character.

3) Tifa Lockhart

Remember when I said we’d get back to the internet nerds overly obsessing with a fictional woman? Well, look no further than Tifa Lockhart. As a simple Google image search will plainly show there are, ahem, a couple of key “character” elements that people tend to focus on when it comes to this ridiculously endowed heroine.

Move away from that though and you have one of the most compelling and well-developed (no pun intended) heroines in the entire Final Fantasy series. As one of the only survivors of the Nibelheim disaster, Tifa was well aware of the horrors of the world from a very young age, and instead of resting on her laurels, she decided to do something about it.

With her fierce yet compassionate demeanor, only Tifa can see Cloud through the mental breakdown and identity crisis he suffers in the second half of the game, and her steadfast loyalty to him is shown time and time again, even if she does play second fiddle to Aeris depending on your choices.

2) Cloud Strife

As we’ve seen time and time again in this series, Final Fantasy protagonists tend to come with a whole lot of baggage. Cloud Strife takes the cake in this regard.

It would take several paragraphs to tell his entire back story so let’s settle for the short version, shall we? Cloud told Tifa he would leave their home town of Nibelheim and become an elite soldier when they were both kids… only he failed. After the traumatic events that followed he adopted the persona of his friend, Zack Fair, who had actually been the elite member of SOLDIER that Cloud aspired to be.

This disparity leads to the mental breakdown Cloud suffers during the second half of the adventure. But far from taking away from Cloud’s characterization, these plot twists only add to the depth and scope of his character. Essentially Cloud fully embodies a dozen heroic archetypes when we first meet him, and as they are slowly stripped away one by one we begin to see the real man hiding beneath.

What is eventually revealed is the true essence of a hero: a man who faces his demons down, and comes out on the other side stronger than ever.

1) Red XIII

At last, we come to the end. I’m not sure everyone else is quite as enamored with Red XIII as I am. In fact, he may be my favorite character in the entire series.

So what makes him so special? Well maybe it’s the fact that I, like many others, grew up with a faithful family dog. As such I tend to attach strongly to pet-like characters quite a bit.

Still the coolness of Red XIII fully supersedes whatever complex I might have in regard to animal characters in JRPGs. For starters he’s a wolf crossed with a lion, which pretty much makes him the gnarliest animal in the history of the world. Also, like Cloud, he’s motivated by a back story that turns out to be mostly false.

Red XIII was told from a young age that his father, Seto, was a coward who abandoned their tribe when it was attacked by a neighboring tribe. As it turns out it’s just the opposite: not only did Seto give his life to protect the tribe, his body still stands vigil there today, petrified atop a cliff by poisonous arrows.

The scene in which Red XIII learns of this truth might be the most powerful moment in the game, as he howls out his grief for a father he despised. As the small, sparkling tears appear to fall from his dead father’s statue, you’d have to have a heart of stone yourself not to squeeze out a tear or two of your own.

Even the FFVII team itself must have known what a strong creation they had in Red XIII as when the final moments of the adventure come to a close after the credits, it is a 550-year-old Red XIII that we follow to the final revelation of the 60-hour journey.

****

Editor’s Note: We also recommend checking out our ranking of the Final Fantasy VII villains.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone.

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. John Cal McCormick

    January 29, 2018 at 3:25 am

    This list is not as awful as I was expecting it to be.

    I don’t like using Red XIII in my party (although I did the last time I played when I was getting the platinum) but I really like the character. And yeah, Yuffie is well last.

    • Mike Worby

      January 31, 2018 at 7:24 pm

      Yeah I totally was going purely on characterization. Red’s final limit is not great.

  2. Me

    March 1, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    Lucrecia isn’t Vincent’s mother tho. This list sucks ass. Let a good player write it next time, better yet, I should write it.

    • Harry Morris

      March 1, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      Everything is subjective. Where would you rank the characters? 🙂

  3. Yikes

    May 13, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    …You cry about Yuffie barely getting anything, but you put Vincent before her and Red XIII before everyone else and
    She has her own mini quest about her and Vincent almost has nothing, until all the way
    until his own game, Dirge of Cerberus. I’m shocked Aerith isn’t at least 2nd place.

    I like Red XIII but this placement is lol.

    • Mike Worby

      May 13, 2019 at 6:58 pm

      I didn’t cry about Yuffie. She’s just the weakest character in a cast this good.

  4. Garet C

    June 23, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    this is just an all around bad writer. this list is political garbage, i’d be surprised if you actually played the game

    • Mike Worby

      June 24, 2019 at 6:24 pm

      Hey Garet, you’ve got us, this was all an elaborate conspiracy to make it seem like I’ve played one of the most popular RPGs of all time. In truth, the independent web site I write for offered me a host of money, in conjunction with the royal order of SJW Media Co, in order to pretend like I’ve played the game, do a pile of research on the characters, and then deliberately put them in the wrong order! What a wild, topsy turvy world we live in huh?

  5. guy you censored

    June 23, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    i’ll just use dissenter nvm agenda censoring

    • Mike Worby

      June 24, 2019 at 6:26 pm

      Also, we use a spam filter you clod, and important though you might think your little bit of internet criticism is, no one is going to rule over in bed at night just to make sure it goes up post-haste, within 2 minutes of you writing it. Good luck with the rest of your life, if these comments are any indication, I’m sure it will be a life well-lived.

  6. Cake Fahts

    January 20, 2020 at 4:00 am

    Uh, Aeris is the only who sees through Cloud’s BS.

    Tifa is straight up aware of it and just keeps it a secret.

  7. Travis k

    January 23, 2020 at 8:01 pm

    This Roster is so wrong ! No no no . Yuffie is deff not the worst character. If anything she should belong at the Top. Aeris is deff the Worst character. Weak character . 9)Aeris 8)Cait Sith 7)Vincent 6)Tifa 5)Redxlll 4)cid 3)Yuffie 2)Barrett 1) Cloud !! Aeris and cait Sith I can deff do without !!!!! The rest I use and care for

    • Mike Worby

      January 28, 2020 at 12:43 pm

      The joy of rankings is that everyone ranks differently for different reasons amigo.

  8. Ja

    April 23, 2020 at 1:12 am

    Probably the stupidest list to date lol. The justification is terrible. For example it’s clear this writer ranks Barret low despite his unique character and emotional input within the game. Then we have red as 1st who is by far the bland character. This due to his child writing, making his sentences bare and pacing slow. But hey, it reminds the writer of his dog so let’s but him at 1# lmao.
    Sorry dude but you severely need to learn biasy because it’s a poor habbit and I’d you want to speak to an audience (being a writer) I’d definitely ditch that asap.

    • Mike Worby

      April 25, 2020 at 12:27 pm

      Well, given how well written your critique is, I’ll take your points with a noted grain of salt.

  9. Steve

    August 8, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    This list is perfect, anyone who has a problem doesn’t understand life. Do I agree with it…Maybe but maybe not.

    Its not my post, its yours. Good Job!!!!!

  10. Natalie

    October 3, 2020 at 10:15 am

    Aerith is the official spelling, confirmed in the remake, it’s anagram of Earth and it’s fitting Aerith’s Cetus abilities. I don’t fucking get how people can be so stubborn and prefer Aeris, a bad mistranslation. Also this article is just poorly written, Barret wasn’t a racist representation. Sure he’s impulsive but he shows a lot more compassion and determination in the story. Also has a lot of growth, compared to Vincent who just decided to hide in a coffin and not do much about his situation, Barret at least adopted Marlene and decided to do something with Shinra’s authoritarianism. If you assign impulsiveness to a race, then you have a huge problem on your personal side. Any character of any race can be impulsive. Red’s top place partially justified with being compared to a personal pet? Seriously who approved this article? This ain’t gaming journalism. Cloud’s story has more twists and overcoming false impressions about your own identity or story.

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