NHK, Japan’s national broadcasting organization, has closed out its official Final Fantasy poll with nearly 470,000 votes. The poll surveyed for four categories: the top titles, characters, bosses & summons, and music.
Among the entire poll, 49.2% of voters were women and 50.8% were men. (The poll did not seem to have an option for other genders.) While the survey doesn’t take into account the votes of the millions of fans outside of Japan, it does offer an idea of the tastes among genders and even different age groups. Thankfully, due to NHK providing voting details, we can see which Final Fantasy games ranked highest among the Japanese women who voted.
According to NHK, the most popular Final Fantasy games among women are:
- Final Fantasy XV – 71.9%
- Final Fantasy IX – 60%
- Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII – 53.9%
- Final Fantasy VII – 53.2%
- Final Fantasy XIV – 49.2%
It’s worth noting that NHK doesn’t provide the data for several entries, like Final Fantasy X-2 — in which your party is entirely composed of women — and Final Fantasy XIII, the first mainline Final Fantasy officially led by a woman (Final Fantasy VI‘s Terra is widely considered that game’s protagonist but it’s not official). Final Fantasy XIII is also one of the entries with a very close ratio of women and men in the party. Although they’re relatively low in popularity, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII also star women.
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It’s personally surprising that Final Fantasy XV ranked so highly among women to me. Its women — namely Lunafreya, its one prominent female character — get so little screentime, characterization, and development that the game sometimes feels archaic compared to its more progressive predecessors. While you have some guest party members, your main party is composed of only Noctis, Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto.
But I can see the obvious sources of appeal. Namely, they’re just dudes bein’ dudes — but they’re all really attractive dudes. Regardless of your sexuality, it’s hard to deny they’re pretty! There’s also something to like in at least one of them personality-wise, whether it’s Ignis’ motherly nature or Prompto’s role as the group’s positive energizer.
Although the game tries to make the romance between Noctis and Lunafreya work (and it doesn’t), it’s clear from the beginning that Final Fantasy XV‘s priority lies in exploring the bonds between the four friends that lead the tale. And even though it’s a pity that it sometimes feels like it’s at the cost of giving the women extensive writing, there is merit in exploring intimate friendships between men without the machismo that accompanies those kinds of stories in other (mostly western) series. If the 24,000+ works in the Final Fantasy XV tag on Archive of Our Own are anything to go by, the bonds are compelling enough to make many fanfiction writers (a large percentage of whom are women) explore them in their own writing.
The other Final Fantasy games in the top five make plenty of sense, given that they all offer romance (to varying degrees since Final Fantasy XIV is an MMO). Additionally, even if they have few women in them like Crisis Core, they’re mostly extremely well-written. Garnet and Eiko from Final Fantasy IX are on the underrated side, but they’re genuinely two of the most complex women in the series. Aerith and Tifa from Final Fantasy VII will always remain beloved, just like their saga. Finally, Final Fantasy XIV lets you extensively customize your character (especially with really fashionable glamours), which has always appealed to those of us who have historically struggled to play as our genders in video games. It also has a large cast of main, supporting, and antagonistic women that are largely rich with depth and agency.
The lowest-ranking installments among the women who voted in the poll are the original Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy XI.