Over the course of the Final Fantasy franchise, summons have moved from being a simple attack to serving pivotal plot points within their games’ stories, as seen in Final Fantasy X and XV. Over time, summons have evolved from their humble origins in Final Fantasy III, to as most recently seen in Final Fantasy VII: Remake, much more sophisticated designs and animations. Here, I will explore some of the best versions of summons and summon cutscenes in the FF franchise.
Note that this is not a list of summons’ best graphical cutscenes. Just because Ramuh is huge and incredibly detailed in FFXV, does not mean that that is his best form. I factor in the summons’ rank by their usefulness/strength, character, cutscene length, story significance, and Number of times they’ve appeared throughout the series. Summons that can only be summoned in one game, such as Ark, or Knights of the Round, are omitted. For simplicity, only main series titles will be counted, excluding the MMORPG titles and FFXII. Without further ado, let’s get to summoning!
12. Chocobo (FF7)
Chocobos are one of two mascots of the FF franchise, with moogles being the other. Both come together in a wacky summon in Final Fantasy VII. which shows a chocobo running from the hills to bonk into your enemies. The animation shows the moogle, riding on the chocobo, with dizzy eyes before the chocobo picks it up and disappears.
The Chocobo summon is usually categorized as either wind or non-elemental damage, and is typically one of the weaker ones. A bottom-tier summon, it’s usually one of the first the party obtains with lowest MP to cast. Honestly, Chocobo is more of a joke than a summon, but it’s cute! Series Appearances: 5/12
11. Fenrir (FFIX)
Loosely based off of the demon wolf of norse legend, Fenrir is an oft-forgotten summon in the Final Fantasy series. Depending on the game, he can either cast buffs on your party, or deal damage to your opponents. In Final Fantasy IX, he does the latter. While his basic appearance is kind of goofy, with a certain item equipped he can cast the ability “Millennial Decay.” During this attack, Fenrir howls to the moon from a peak before jumping down and splitting into several spectral wolf heads. They form a tornado upon contact with the opponent, dealing wind damage.
If I were to be honest, my favorite iteration of Fenrir is in Final Fantasy VII’s extended universe. Though he doesn’t actually appear as a summon, Cloud’s wolf insignia and specialized motorcycle both bear Fenrir’s name. But, in terms of summon significance, FFIX’s version is the best we’ve gotten so far. Series Appearances: 3/12
10. Siren (FFVIII)
Siren has been the source of localization controversy in almost every installment she’s in, and for good reason. Based off of the monsters of Greek legend, Siren is a beautiful and angelic singer who always has a harp at her side. However, the harp often has more strings than her clothing, as she is often unfortunately mostly nude. Her best iteration is in Final Fantasy VIII. There, she plays her harp on an oceanic rock, causing a wave of water and sound to crash down on opponents. Unlike some of her other iterations, this one damages enemies and silences them.
Before playing Final Fantasy VIII, I would likely have placed Siren last. However, because most monsters in FFVIII can cast magic, I used her often when I played that game. I would argue that Siren is essential to have in FFVIII, due to additional abilities she gives the party, such as “Search-Find,” a skill that allows the party to see hidden save points and items. Series Appearances: 2/12
9. Diabolos (FFVIII)
Diabolos is an interesting summon. Rather than dealing a fixed amount of damage, Diabolos deals damage according to the opponent’s current HP. Basically the strongest iteration of the Demi spell, his “Gravija” attack will never kill an opponent, but will cut their HP down by a certain fraction. In FFVIII and FFVI both, he emerges from the void and throws a gravity ball at the enemy, before vanishing in a swarm of bats.
Diabolos is another summon I wouldn’t have considered very highly until playing FFVIII. His abilities include giving decreased chances of random encounters (Something that was very important in the vast and confusing maps of FFVIII) and strength buffers. Plus, he just looks awesome. Series Appearances: 2/12
8. Carbuncle (FFIX)
Now we’re getting into the regulars of Final Fantasy summoning. First up, Carbuncle has begun to pick up quite a bit of popularity among fans for his adorable character design. Most recently, however, the poor thing got some bad rep with a poor redesign in FF7 Remake. However, in Final Fantasy IX, he hadn’t had that happen yet. He was just getting cuter. He emerges from the ground in a flash and casts a beam of light to the sky, raining down blessings to your party. Pretty typical stuff for his summons.
Admittedly, I’ve never found much use for Carbuncle, as his ruby light ability usually casts “Reflect” on the entire party. Because I often use healing magic, this proves disastrous because I inadvertently heal the enemy. That’s why FFIX’s Carbuncle is his best form: depending on your equipment, he can give a bunch of other benefits instead of reflect; like making you invisible!
Series Appearances: 6/12
7. Phoenix (FFVIII)
Throughout the series, Phoenix has remained pretty much the same– it revives your party members all at once. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” as the saying goes. However, its appearance has changed throughout each of his iterations. Phoenix’s best series cutscene is from Final Fantasy VIII. For Phoenix to even be summoned in FFVIII, the party has to be completely wiped out. Then Phoenix’s outline suddenly appears on the ground, before he rises from it and takes to the sky in a burst of light and flame. Phoenix literally comes in clutch when hope is lost and all else fails, giving you a second chance to succeed.
Phoenix is grimly useful in most any reincarnation it has, but frankly, its design usually isn’t great. When I think of a Phoenix, I think of a huge bird entirely composed of fire, not a peacock with wings on fire. It is worthy to note, though, that Phoenix does have an incredible appearance in Final Fantasy XIV, and has a beautiful, tragic role in Locke’s story of Final Fantasy VI.
Series Appearances: 5/12
If you scroll just right, Phoenix looks like he’s rising. Kinda cool!
6. Leviathan (FFVII)
Always the serpent of water, Leviathan has also stayed pretty similar in all his iterations. His move, Tidal Wave, has always been the same thing: Leviathan emerges, a tidal wave is cast, Leviathan disappears. However, the later the Final Fantasy titles go, the longer the animation for this summon becomes. Too long, in my opinion. That’s why I feel Final Fantasy VII has Leviathan’s best cutscene. In it, Leviathan first appears from a huge orb of water. Then, while staring down the opponent, he lets out a wail, and from the enemy’s point of view you watch as the tidal wave appears on the horizon and engulfs you. It’s only 15 seconds long, but gets the point across in a cool and simple way.
Leviathan has some interesting story connections within the series. He first appears as early as Final Fantasy II, before summoning was even possible within the games. In Final Fantasy IV, he is even the king of summons. In Final Fantasy VII, a patron deity. Leviathan’s latest mainline appearance is in Final Fantasy XV where he, now a she, is the largest of the summons in the game. Though he/she is water elemental, which is rare/difficult to obtain in many Final Fantasies, I haven’t used Leviathan much, myself. I can’t seem to summon her in Final Fantasy XV if I wanted to! Series Appearances: 10/12
5. Odin (FFVII)
It’s dark; you see the moon in the background and a silhouette in front of it. Suddenly, a six-legged horse rears and jumps from a mountain peak, its rider a mysterious figure with a sword. With a flurry of sword slashes, the figure dices opponents in your path before disappearing. What you just witnessed was Odin’s summon. And through the series, it’s remained pretty much the same.
In a way, Odin is similar to Diabolos. He doesn’t deal a fixed amount of damage in most instances. Instead, he instantly kills your opponents with his famous Zantetsuken attack. Except, it often doesn’t work (another similarity to Diabolos). That’s why Odin’s Final Fantasy VII appearance is his best. Final Fantasy VII features an appearance where he is either guaranteed to cleave something in two, or will bring in his gunge lance for damage as an alternative. The lance’s light literally splits the sky apart to rain judgement on your opponent. With his instant-death element, I’ve used Odin a decent amount across the series, especially in the titles that guarantee it won’t be a total waste of MP.
Series Appearances: 8/12
4. Alexander (FFIX)
If we’re looking for an actual player-chosen summon cutscene, FFVI takes the cake. Emerging from the ground, Alexander doesn’t waste any time. With a quick pass of a beam of light, all areas around the opponent spontaneously explode into flames.
Those who have played Final Fantasy IX will know why Alexander is here, even if he isn’t summonable. Alexander is crucial to FFIX’s story, defending Alexandria and it’s castle. While the idea of being a holy, living castle has always been pretty cool, the connection of Alexandria, one of the main cities of FFIX, having a sleeping Alexander as its castle is incredible. To add to that, Alexander fights Bahamut in Final Fantasy IX, and wins. Throughout the series, Alexander has always been Holy-Elemental, using beams of light to leave destruction in his wake.
Series Appearances: 6/12
3. The Trio (Ramuh, Shiva, Ifrit)
This one may be kind of cheating. In all reality, Ramuh, Shiva, and Ifrit are all singular, very different summons. However, throughout the games they’re either always seen together or are close together story-wise. They also have roughly the same power levels, almost always being early summons. That makes these three iconic; they are THE fire, ice, and lightning elemental summons. Because they are iconic as a trio, they deserve equal rank in this list.
Ramuh’s best iteration is in Final Fantasy VI. While his summon itself is pretty aged (flashing light from staff… woohoo), his story significance is timeless. When Terra accidentally awakens her powers and is bedridden, terrified of herself, Ramuh is the one who takes care of her. He is also the one who assists the Returners to find out how to help Terra to accept herself. Get that Valefor and Quetzalcoatl nonsense outta here.
Series Appearances: 8/13
Ifrit’s best iteration is in Final Fantasy VIII. Ifrit is only the second summon to be obtained within the game, where Squall must defeat him to become a SEED. However, because of FFVIII’s unique summon system, Ifrit really doesn’t get outgrown in that game. His summon sequence in FFVIII is also one of his best, as he hurls a huge meteor of fire down upon his enemies. Series Appearances: 10/12
Shiva has a similar issue as Siren in that she’s usually got next to no clothes on. Regardless, her best iteration is in Final Fantasy X. Oozing with sass, Final Fantasy 10 is the first where she has more of an attitude with her power. In Final Fantasy X, Shiva doesn’t simply freeze opponents and shatter ice. She makes like Thanos and shatters her opponents with a snap. Awesome. Also, her hair is honestly more distracting than her lack of clothes, so that’s a plus.
Series Appearances: 10/12
2. Titan (FFXV)
Yep, I have Titan as #2. In terms of strength, Titan’s earth powers are usually among the lowest. And unfortunately, he sports little to no clothes. However! What Titan lacks in clothes, he makes up for pure toughness. Look at this guy! Even in his earliest instances, he causes earthquakes with just his bare fists alone. In Final Fantasy IV, he absolutely annihilates Cecil and Kain while defending poor young Rydia. Square Enix epitomizes his awesomeness in Final Fantasy XV. In XV’s world, legend has it that he saved the world single-handedly by literally catching a meteor, he will later help your party by throwing boulders the size of small cities. What a guy.
I use Titan frequently in my playthroughs of Final Fantasy games. Though he isn’t the strongest damage-wise, he’s reliable as long as the enemy isn’t flying. When I think of Titan, my mind immediately goes to FFVII’s Titan, who groans in effort while picking up a slate of Earth, and flips it back on an enemy’s head, crushing it. Number 1, though, makes FFVII Titan look like a wimp, in the very same game.
Series Appearances: 7/12
1. Bahamut (Neo, FFVII)
If you had any experience in the Final Fantasy series, you likely have had Bahamut in the back of your mind as soon as you graced your eyes upon the sub-title of this list. No surprises here, but Bahamut is among the best of the best, no matter the Final Fantasy title. His main attack, Megaflare, is a staple of Final Fantasy ultimate attacks. From King of Dragons to humanoid guardian with swords for wings, Bahamut has taken many forms over the years. In some cases, he can even turn himself human, if need be. While my personal favorite interpretation of the dragon is the stronger Bahamut ZERO from Final Fantasy VII, it’s Neo Bahamut that takes the crown as the best summon in the series. Why the difference? Nothing but cutscene length. Bahamut Zero’s cutscene is just too long and over-the-top.
Bahamut Neo’s attack, Gigaflare, starts with enemies being lifted on a piece of land, towards the sky. The clouds roll back like a scroll to reveal Bahamut Neo waiting for the enemy to arrive. Once it’s there, he charges up a beam so powerful that it blasts the enemy and disintegrates the ground beneath the enemy, causing it to plummet back to Earth. The piece of land Titan had so much trouble lifting? Bahamut Neo lifts it with ease, and proceeds to blow it to smithereens.
Series Appearances: 11/12.
We’re Not Done Yet!
That concludes my list of top summons and appearances in the main installments of Final Fantasy. However, there are many cutscenes and interpretations of these characters still worth mentioning.
-Any and all of the summon cutscenes from Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core. Seriously, these are some of the best in the series. It contains Ifrit’s best cutscene by far, and an appearance of another new Bahamut, Bahamut Fury.
-Bahamut SIN. This bad-guy version of bahamut only appears in Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, but it is very thrilling to see the heroes fight him.
-Odin’s transformation into Raiden. In Final Fantasy VI, Odin is found via a sidequest, exploring a castle destroyed in an ancient war. There, you find out about a forbidden love story between the esper and the queen of the land. If the story is seen to completion, Odin will transform into the more powerful Raiden.
It bears repeating that, if you haven’t seen Alexandria summon Alexander in FFIX, and don’t mind the spoilers, it’s definitely worth a watch.
Lastly, Bahamut appears as King of Dragons in the very 1st game in the Final Fantasy series, and was incredibly important for your characters’ strength. If Neo Bahamut doesn’t count as #1, this version of him definitely does.
Looking to the Future
These summons have played a strong and important role in the Final Fantasy series. As the games move onward, I look forward to seeing all of the future innovations Square Enix has in store for these beloved beings. Though series summons have been a bumpy road (seriously, what the heck FFXII?!) in recent years, their call-to-form has been great. Final Fantasy VII: Remake has had a strong start with their summons, and I wait in anticipation to see who I’ll meet next.