The Final Fantasy series is one of the longest-running and most successful RPG franchises in video game history. Square Enix (originally Squaresoft) has produced 16 main entries, as well as countless remakes and spin-offs. Most Final Fantasy games are one-and-done adventures, as their stories end once the credits roll (unless they receive DLC or a sequel). To facilitate this sense of finality, every Final Fantasy entry ends with all questions answered and all loose plot threads tied up. Ok, not really. Almost had you going there, though.
Many Final Fantasy games contain design elements, story beats, and even thematic elements that are never fully answered, leaving fans to scrounge for answers. And whenever that happens, fan theories aren’t far behind. Gamers have the unearthly talent to comb through insane amounts of data and use even the tiniest bits of info, from obscure NPC dialogues to cut content, to extrapolate explanations. Sometimes these theories turn out true, such as the Final Fantasy multiverse theory, while others merely demonstrate the power of our imaginations.
Shinra Connects FFX and FFVII
Might as well start with arguably the most famous theory in Final Fantasy history: the connection between Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy X.
As previously stated, the worlds of Final Fantasy are connected via a multiverse, but sometimes the connections go further than just a shared monster roster. For instance, while playing Final Fantasy X-2, gamers meet a boy named Shinra. Despite his young age, he is very intelligent and wants to try harnessing the Farplane (the underworld of Final Fantasy X and X-2) as an energy source.
The second Final Fantasy veterans read Shinra’s dialogue, they got Final Fantasy VII flashbacks. In that game, Shinra is the name of the evil company that uses the planet’s very life essence as an energy source. The Final Fantasy X-2 Shinra and his plans were obviously a reference to the Final Fantasy VII Shinra, but many gamers didn’t see it that way. Fans felt that there was a deeper connection, and they were later proven right.
In Final Fantasy VII Ultimania Omega, which is the game’s official guidebook, main scenario writer Kazushige Nojima stated that, after the events of Final Fantasy X-2, Shinra went on to produce a system designed to utilize the Farblane’s energy, but he didn’t get it to work. After 1000 years of societal and technological advancement, though, his company would eventually travel to other planets and perfect the technology, becoming the Shinra Electric Power Company audiences know and hate in Final Fantasy VII. The director of Final Fantasy VII, Yoshinori Kitase, later corroborated Nojima’s statement.
Jenova and Chrono Trigger’s Lavos Are the Same Species
On the subject of Final Fantasy VII, that game is worth a thousand discussions for its villain alone. No, I’m not talking about Sephiroth, but FF 7‘s true villain: Jenova. If it weren’t for Jenova, none of the game’s events would have come to pass. But thankfully, it’s the only one of its kind. Or is it?
While Jenova doesn’t have an active role in Final Fantasy VII, players still learn about it as the game progresses. The creature is an extraterrestrial that crashed onto the planet of Gaia countless eons ago. Nobody knows why it came, but since the ancient civilization known as the Cetra called it the “calamity from the skies,” Jenova was anything but benevolent. The running theory was that Jenova was a parasite that wanted to suck Gaia dry of its life essence and then use the husk of the planet to ferry it to its next target. While Jenova was powerful on its own, it could defend itself by infecting local life forms and turning them into monsters (or even disguising itself as normal people_. Many of these tactics allude to other popular alien parasites, including the creature from The Thing and another Squaresoft creation: Lavos.
For those who have never heard of Lavos, it is the main villain of Chrono Trigger. Like Jenova, it is an alien parasite that landed on its respective planet in caveman times with the intent of sucking its world dry. While Lavos couldn’t infect local lifeforms like Jenova, it could incorporate their DNA into itself to create hybrids that would go on to repeat the process. And according to an erroneous translation (that was later canonized in Chrono Cross), Lavos held some psychic sway over the inhabitants, influencing human evolution and technology.
While Final Fantasy VII and Chrono Trigger/Cross are seemingly disconnected, some gamers theorized that Jenova and Lavos are connected. Their modus operandi and abilities are far too similar. Some theorize the creatures are one and the same, while others believe they could stem from the same ancestor. Unfortunately, nobody at Square Enix has weighed in on the theory yet.
Final Fantasy Games Closely Follow the “Three Faces of Eve” Concept
While each entry in the Final Fantasy series features a self-contained story, they tend to share many themes and tropes. One of those themes is as crazy (and tenuous) as the belief that Fire-type starters in Pokémon games are based on the Chinese Zodiac.
While every Final Fantasy game features one protagonist that players start with, they are usually joined by a troupe of allies and friends. Most of these controllable characters are male, but a few are female )three to be exact). And, many gamers have noticed that, despite their varying personality quirks, the female characters portray traits collectively known as the “Three Faces of Eve.”
Generally, the Three Faces of Eve is a trope where three women in a story fit into three personality niches. One is motherly, another is childlike and innocent (but not necessarily immature), while the third is just the sexy seductress. This triumvirate is present in many Final Fantasy games, leading plenty of players to assume that these are intentional by design. For instance, in Final Fantasy VII, Tifa is the sensitive motherly one, Aerith is the street-wise seductive woman, and Yuffie is the child. And in Final Fantasy X, Yuna plays the role of the calm mother, Lulu is the seductress, and Rikku is the upbeat child.
Admittedly, not every Final Fantasy game supports the trope (Final Fantasy XV‘s playable characters form a four-man bachelor party) but so many do that gamers are convinced Square Enix is doing it on purpose.
Vagrant Story Shares A World With Final Fantasy XII and Final Fantasy Tactics
While some locations in Final Fantasy games pop up now and again as a reference, few have made the rounds quite like Ivalice. The world originally appeared in the spin-off Final Fantasy Tactics but later entered mainline canon with Final Fantasy XII. While Ivalice would return as a kingdom in Final Fantasy XIV, many gamers are convinced that the original Ivalice links the world of Final Fantasy XII and Tactics, and, by extension, the Final Fantasy multiverse at large, to the near-forgotten Squaresoft title, Vagrant Story.
The narrative of Vagrant Story takes place in the kingdom of Valendia, which was originally completely removed from the world of Final Fantasy. Although, the game did feature plenty of references to Final Fantasy Tactics, probably because Yasumi Matsuno directed and wrote both titles. As such, Final Fantasy XII (which Matsuno worked on for a time) is also full of callbacks to Vagrant Story. For instance, players can visit the continent of Valendia (the name of the kingdom in Vagrant Story) and encounter Leamonde Entites (which were enemies in Vagrant Story). Many gamers saw these Easter eggs as more than just Matsuno referencing his past projects. They believed he was trying to connect his projects in potentially significant ways.
The truth appears to be more complicated than that. In older interviews, Matsuno strongly hinted that he intended to unite Final Fantasy XII, Vagrant Story, and Final Fantasy Tactics. However, he has also previously said that “[Tactics] and 12 are the same world, but [Vagrant Story] is not.” One popular theory suggests that the decision to closely connect the titles occurred after Matsuno left Final Fantasy XII‘s development and was essentially made on his behalf by the company and the rest of the team. However, there is still some debate as to exactly what happened.
Marche Is the Main Villain of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
On the subject of Ivalice, we have to talk about the underrated member of the Final Fantasy Tactics family, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The game was released on the Game Boy Advance and, like other Tactics games, it takes place in the world of Ivalice, albeit with a twist that has convinced many gamers that the protagonist isn’t a hero.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance follows the main character, Marche, after he is thrust into Ivalice thanks to a magic book. Instead of Marche entering a parallel dimension full of Final Fantasy creatures, the book reconstructed his world into Ivalice, and Marche wants to turn it back. Normally, this narrative would make Marche the hero trying to restore the world to what it once was, but not all players see it that way.
In order to restore the world, he has to essentially destroy Ivalice, thereby killing everyone who lives there. On one hand, yes all the people in the world were killed to bring the Final Fantasy races to life, but the results aren’t illusions; they have their own lives, jobs, and families. Plus, while in Ivalice, Marche’s brother Doned is no longer sick and in a wheelchair, and Cid, the father of Marche’s friend Mewt, isn’t a drunkard. Overall, everyone seems to be better off in Ivalice, and Marche is trying to take that away from them, thus leading many to believe he is the villain of the story. This obviously wasn’t the intent of the developers given Final Fantasy Tactics Advanced’s ending and themes of escapism, but this theory gave players a chance to see Marche through the eyes of your average Ivalician.
The Ability to Revive Aerith Was Cut From Final Fantasy VII
Aerith’s death was one of the most impactful character deaths in Final Fantasy history. Unlike most party members in most entries, you can’t bring her back to life. Her death is 100% scripted and 100% final. This was obviously intentional and tied into the game’s major themes of life and carrying on after the death of a loved one, but many gamers assumed otherwise.
Since you only need one hand to count all the controllable characters who permanently die in Final Fantasy games, fans naturally theorized that Aerith was originally intended to survive. Moreover, Aerith probably served most players as a dedicated healer up until her death, and few gamers want to say goodbye to a crucial part of their team makeup. They likely wanted to keep her due to her usefulness and assumed her death must have been a late-development creation. Perhaps she was supposed to stick around for most of the game, or maybe the developers intended for Aerith to come back before Squaresoft ultimately cut out that idea. However, it turns out that all those efforts were no more than hearsay and wishful thinking.
During an interview with Kotaku, Yoshinori Kitase admitted that Aerith was always meant to die. According to him, early in development, his team saw a survey that asked children if they thought people can come back to life after they die, and a surprising number of participants said “yes.” This survey was a major deciding factor in the story of Final Fantasy VII and convinced Kitase to develop a story that demonstrates “there is weight to life” and “weight on the loss as well to life.” Kitase drew heavily from his own experiences coping with the death of his mother, but he ended up creating a game that showed players that people don’t come back after death. The impact of this theme probably wouldn’t have been strong if Kitase thought of bringing Aerith back to life.
Knights of the Round Were Cetra Spirits Who Defeated Jenova
Summons have been a part of the Final Fantasy formula ever since Final Fantasy III — the Japanese Final Fantasy III, not the American one, which was actually Final Fantasy IV. Many of these follow certain tropes and trends. For instance, there’s always a female ice spirit named Shiva and a dragon named Bahamut. The more summons a game has, the more they have to stand out from one another. Sometimes they are intimately tied to the lore of an individual game’s world, but sometimes a troupe of spectral knights is just a troupe of spectral knights.
Final Fantasy VII has one of the largest summon rosters in the franchise’s history, but none is more powerful than Knights of the Round: a group of thirteen knights that hit enemies for massive damage and bypass Magic defenses. Understandably, this summon is an end-game spell that is hidden on an island that players can only reach with a Gold Chocobo, and acquiring one is a feat in and of itself. Given the name and theming, the Knights of the Round is an obvious homage to the Knights of the Round Table of Arthurian legend, but many gamers thought these spirits could also represent something else in-game. Since summons are powerful spirits in every Final Fantasy game, many gamers theorized the Knights of the Round were the dead souls of the Cetra that previously fought and sealed away Jenova. On the surface, this idea sort of made sense since Cetra appeared human, and the Knights of the Round are the most humanoid of all the summons in Final Fantasy VII.
Unfortunately, Knights of the Round is an example of gamers’ imaginations running wild. During the aforementioned Kotaku interview, Yoshinori Kitase was asked about any possible connection between the Knights of the Round and the Cetra, and he said, “Everyone’s thinking too deeply, reading between the lines too much.” This is one theory that is 100% false, but it might have impacted a future game. While Final Fantasy VII’s Knights of the Round aren’t Cetra, Final Fantasy XV’s Knights of the Round are canonically spirits of past kings of Lucis.
Squall Is Dead For Most of Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII ends its first disc with a bang. Squall and his team botch their attempt to assassinate the sorceress Edea (real name Ultimecia) The plot goes off the rails and delves into oddities such as Ultimecia’s plan to compress all of time into one singular point. Final Fantasy VIII‘s narrative was comparatively grounded up until that point, so what happened? According to a fan theory, Squall died.
As the theory goes, Edea kills Squall at the end of disc one, and everything players witness after the end of the first disc is a fabrication of Squall’s mind as his brain fires his last neurons. Do you know how many people say that when you die, your life flashes before your eyes? Well, many gamers believe that Final Fantasy VIII discs 2-4 are essentially that, witnessed from Squall’s slowed-down perspective. Arguably the largest piece of evidence in support of this theory is how the game treated injuries up until disc 2. At the beginning of the game, Squall is injured during his duel with Seifer, which results in Squall having to rest in the infirmary (and bearing a scar on his face for the rest of the game). But at the end of disc 1, Edea skewers Squall with a giant icicle, yet he wakes up without any sign of the injury. Add in certain narrative inconsistencies and a nightmarish ending sequence that, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, shows Squall with a hole where his face should be, and many gamers that the latter 3/4s of the game were nothing but Squall’s dying thoughts.
Despite all the seeming evidence in favor of this theory, Yoshinori Kitase shot down this belief point blank. As he pointed out in the Kotaku interview, Squall, while definitely skewered by an icicle, was only hit in the shoulder, which should by no means be fatal regardless of the icicle’s size. However, Kitase admitted he was intrigued by the theory and might go down that route should Square Enix ever create a Final Fantasy VIII remake.
Every Omega and Gilgamesh Is the Same
While the various Final Fantasy games are primarily disconnected from each other, they all share common tropes such as elemental crystals, spells, and creatures such as Tonberries and Chocobos. However, despite any superficial similarities, every iteration of these creatures is completely removed from every other one save two.
Gilgamesh and Omega are two optional recurring bosses who have served as constant faces throughout the franchise. It’s Final Fantasy tradition to fight these enemies at least once during every game, and they almost always look the same (taking into account different artstyles). Gilgamesh, for instance, first appeared in Final Fantasy V. He is usually portrayed as a large man in a red cloak and kabuki face paint, but his most prominent characteristic is how he always appears via a rift, wields weapons drawn from other Final Fantasy games, and mentions the protagonist of Final Fantasy V, Bartz, by name. These led gamers to assume that, more often than not, Gilgamesh is an interdimensional traveler. While some versions of Gilgamesh are obviously their own characters, such as the Gilgamesh from Final Fantasy IX and XV, most drop enough hints for players to assume that most are the same character without overtly stating it.
Omega, on the other hand, is a bit more cut and dry. This Superboss is generally portrayed as a silver quadrupedal robot with a single eye and is usually the toughest enemy in its respective game. Like Gilgamesh, Omega debuted in Final Fantasy V and is associated with interdimensional rifts, which led players to assume every Omega was the same robot. Well, they were partially correct. In Final Fantasy XIV, Omega is revealed to be a superweapon created by an ancient alien civilization for the sole purpose of killing dragons. During the Stormblood expansion, players learn that in order to achieve their goal, Omega spawned copies and sent them to different dimensions to fight various heroes, gather data, and make the main Omega grow stronger. In a series first, Final Fantasy XIV made Omega a character and answered all pressing questions surrounding the robot, which semi-confirmed the fan theory that every Omega in a Final Fantasy game is connected. Unlike Gilgamesh, they aren’t the same robot fought over and over again, but they are all linked.
If There Is a Cloud of Darkness, There Must be a Cloud of Light
Many Final Fantasy veterans consider the final boss of Final Fantasy IX, Necron, to be one of the weaker final villains in franchise history. It suddenly shows up at the end of the game, is defeated just as quickly, and is never referenced again. However, this wasn’t the first time Square invented a final boss with little buildup. Unlike Necron, though, that entity spawned a fascinating fan theory.
Cloud of Darkness is the catalyst for most of Final Fantasy III’s events. She (or it) manipulated Xande into destroying the world’s crystals, thus letting her manifest. Cloud of Darkness claims she wants to bring balance back to the world, but her definition of “balance” is to destroy everything. After all, the world can’t exactly be out of balance if there’s no world, no can there? Since Cloud of Darkness was summoned due to an imbalance between light and darkness (leaning towards darkness, obviously) some people conducted a thought experiment. What would happen if the world of Final Fantasy III were to have an imbalance that leaned more towards light than darkness?
Because of the game’s emphasis on balancing light and darkness, the people who participated in this thought experiment figured that if there is a Cloud of Darkness, there must also be a Cloud of Light. What does it look like? Would it want to destroy the world like its counterpart? The theory never got that far as, again, it was only a thought experiment. We will probably learn if a Cloud of Light is possible, but it’s fun to create these kinds of theories.
Final Fantasy XIII’s Party Never Understood Their Mission
Final Fantasy XIII is arguably the most divisive entry in the franchise. One of the game’s most controversial aspects is its linear nature. For most of the game, players are funneled down corridors and can’t explore. But what if that was the point? What if players misunderstood the purpose of the game’s tunnels just like its main characters misunderstood their quest?
Early in the game, the main characters receive a “Focus:” a mission from god-like beings known as fal’Cie, which turns the protagonists into beings known as l’Cie. In Final Fantasy XIII lore, Focuses are shared through vague visions, and it’s up to the l’Cie to interpret them. The main characters conclude that they were tasked with destroying their home of Cocoon, which is a land floating above the savage world of Pulse. However, some gamers theorized that the true nature of the main party’s Focus was to not destroy Cocoon but its fal’Cie rulers, thus freeing its human inhabitants. This theory is backed up by the true nature of Cocoon, which was designed to farm human souls in order to summon the creator of the world. But what does this have to do with the game’s linear design?
As the theory goes, the winding paths of Final Fantasy XIII are less about lazy level design and are instead meant to be symbolic. Whenever someone becomes a l’Cie, they are given a lose-lose ultimatum: complete your Focus and be turned into a crystalline statue, or don’t complete it and be turned into a mindless crystalline monster. Either way, the l’Cie is destined to die in one form or another, and the protagonists of Final Fantasy XIII know this. Perhaps the game’s linear paths are possibly meant to put players in the protagonists’ headspace: They have no choice but to keep going forward. They are stuck on the path toward becoming crystal and have seemingly no way to avoid it, and the linear levels emphasize this point. At least, that’s what the theory states.
There are Multiple FF XV Timelines
Final Fantasy XV didn’t release as a finished product. The game launched with several plot holes, and Square Enix promised to fix these issues with several DLCs. However, one batch might have potentially made the game’s continuity even worse.
Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ignis is a piece of DLC that takes place during the main game’s Chapter 9 and lets gamers play through Ignis’ solo adventure through Altissia. However, after players finish the DLC’s main story, they can access “Verse 2” by reloading the save file right before the final fight with Ardyn. This new mode gives players the option to “Play Along” when Ardyn asks Ignis a question, which opens up a brand new sequence of events that diverge from the main game’s narrative. These include Ignis using the Ring of the Lucii and sacrificing his own life force to successfully defeat Ardyn, although Noctis manages to heal Ignis thanks to the power of the Crystal.
In the original Final Fantasy XV canon, Ignis doesn’t defeat Ardyn and sacrifices his sight instead of his life. While this discrepancy could easily be explained away by the video game tradition of alternate endings, some players theorized that Episode Ignis’s Verse 2 is as real as the rest of the game and that Ignis had essentially birthed a second continuity. The Final Fantasy XV: Official Works backs up this theory by stating Ignis had managed to “surpass even the intent of the gods” and created “another future.”