games / Columns

The Top 8 Square Enix Franchise Games: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy 15, More

May 20, 2020 | Posted by Marc Morrison

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week starts off with some sad news that Larry Csonka of the wrestling section passed away. While I didn’t know him personally, I did occasionally needle and joke with him on Twitter and he seemed like a good guy with an impressive work ethic. So, he shall be missed by everyone here.

With that said, I’m here this week to talk about Square Enix franchise games. Frankly, of the “Square” label, I only have like 3 or 4. I don’t think I have any Enix ones (never played Dragon Quest). The other games on this list are games that Square Enix owns other by acquiring the company, namely Eidos, or owning the game/franchise in question. Let’s begin:

#8: Gex: Enter the Gecko

I’m sure if they wanted to, Square Enix could bring back Gex. After all, they brought back Fear Effect and that turned out great, right?! Kidding aside, Gex oddly followed the same general trajectory of the Rayman games. It started 2D then transitioned to 3D. Gex generally had a bit more personality though, due to some funny voice work by Dana Gould. The second game was my personal favorite since it was basically a PlayStation (PS1 came first then N64 version) version of Mario 64, just with a lot more fog, to hide the technical limitations. And as a Mario 64 clone, it honestly wasn’t terrible.

#7: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I played through the original Deus Ex game, but probably too late. The original came out in like 1999 or 2000 and I got my hands on it around 2006. That…is too late. I still liked it quite a bit but some of the graphical and gameplay systems were odd. No one played the second Deus Ex game. But the series was somewhat revitalized with Human Revolution. The game looked great and had a cool black/gold motif to it. The plot was fine, the main character was interesting and the story went places. Also, the actual gameplay was fine, I was somewhat bugged by the energy system, but the act of shooting was solid.

#6: Just Cause 2

Just Cause 1 was a neat concept for a game but a lot of it was very half-formed. Just Cause 2 was them actually making the concept work and giving you a big open area for you to play around in. And Just Cause 3 and 4 are “there”, but not good (Well, Just Cause 3 has its moments, JC4 is garbage). Just Cause 2 just had a lot of good gameplay working together, the tether was fun, the grappling hook worked on damn near anything and it was just a series of cool moments. The only real problem is you trying to take over a big city and you were stuck at like 99% completion but had no idea where the last thing you had to destroy was. Other than that, the game was cool.

#5: Kingdom Hearts 1

I actually had a real hard time picking my favorite Kingdom Hearts game. I like KH2 because of the suit stuff and visiting Tron. I like 3 because it’s easily the best playing game in the series, the Gummi ship stuff isn’t awful and it looked great. Still though, I’d say Kingdom Hearts 1 is my favorite in the franchise. Sure, it’s very archaic to play now, but I think I just prefer the actual story and worlds you visit the most. KH1 had a few “current” worlds, but most of the worlds you visited were at least 5 years old, if not older. The later games, specifically KH3, tried to do a lot more modern Disney, and it became lame. Also, KH1 was the one with the most Final Fantasy fan service, and I appreciated that melding, even if they apparently didn’t.

#4: Parasite Eve 1

I’ve longed talked about my love of Parasite Eve, so this’ll be a tad short. While a lot of people were awed by Final Fantasy 7 graphically, I was the one blown away by Parasite Eve the next year. If you look at it, FF7 has some really odd graphical styles that don’t mesh well. Parasite Eve kept a fairly consistent visual style through its length, or at least, I don’t remember any occurrences of a chibi Aya Brea. It had a fun battle system, good story, and some fantastic music. Everything I love in a roleplaying game.

#3: Life is Strange

In the era when Telltale was cranking out licensed crap left and right, which eventually led to their downfall, I really appreciated Dontnod Entertainment trying something new. The time powers you got gave the game a different feel, especially since some puzzles made good use of them. I thought the visual style was interesting and that Arcadia Bay, full of interesting characters, just like Alan Wake or Twin Peaks. The best part about the game was actually the music, full of memorable songs by bands you might not know but are solid. I have two copies of the special edition of this game, which shows just how much I love it.

#2: Rise of the Tomb Raider

For the sake of this, I’m actually including *all* of the Tomb Raider franchise. The 360 era of Tomb Raider isn’t bad but I still never finished them. The earlier PS1/PS2 era of Tomb Raider is all junk. It wasn’t until the reboot where the franchise finally got “good”. For me, the second one is the best. It has a decent story, a really interesting environment, and some actual tombs for you to raid and explore. I liked that it was Metroidvania-esque, you got new abilities and equipment to open up paths which unlocked even more stuff. The first game had this also, but they amped it up a bit more here. This game also toned down some of the more torture-porn aspects the first game had, which was welcome.

#1: Final Fantasy 15

I know this’ll get the loudest number of comments but “oh well”. First, I haven’t played every Final Fantasy game, and second, I don’t care. Believe me, I’m not going to say that Final Fantasy 15 is perfect, the story is very incomplete, the bad guy’s motivations are rocky, and it does have some pacing issues, including at least one really bad stealth sequence. Still, this was the first “main” Final Fantasy game I was able to get into, that’s even after I played FF7, 8, 10, part of 13-2 and maybe one or two more, and beating most of those. I really dug the road trip nature of the narrative, just these four guys going on an adventure, getting up to wacky hijinks and possibly even saving the world. This was the game that got me into Monster Hunter, on a fool’s errand, since this game had great combat and Monster Hunter doesn’t. I spent at least 90 hours playing this game, completing every quest, doing every side dungeon and then doing them over again once their hard modes became unlocked. This was the FF game that got me into trying FF12, which I also enjoyed, hence why it’s on this list.

For comments, list your favorite Square Enix franchise games and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 Capcom Franchise Games