by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
“Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, which teammate sucks most of all?” – Snow White, I think
Not all party members are created equal in RPGs. Some are S-Tier, must-pick choices if you like to stomp all over your enemies. Characters like Sabin in FFVI, Frog or Magus in Chrono Trigger. Karn in Breath of Fire 1, and Bleu in Breath of Fire 2, Rosa in Final Fantasy IV, or Rei in Breath of Fire 3. These are characters that stand above most of their brethren in terms of strength, usefulness, and unique abilities. Nobody wants a character that’s never around, or can do what everyone else can, but weaker. That’s just disappointing, right? This was going to be a top 5, but someone else ultimately deserved to be on this list, and so since I could not winnow it down any lower, it becomes a Top 6! I probably could have just made it a top 10, but I like the challenge of 5 too much, except in this instance. There are some honorable mentions though, characters that maybe should be on here, but are not. Gobi of Breath of Fire 1 is absolutely useless unless he’s being used in a Karn Transformation (which he always is), as is Mogu in Breath of Fire 1. His damage always just seemed to be sub-par, and his only use was to dig for powerful items on the world map.
Goof-Off in Dragon Quest 3 could be on the list, except if you suffer through 20 levels of it, you can transform it into a Sage, making them badass. BeDragon? Come on, it was amazing, don’t lie to me. Dagger/Garnet in Final Fantasy 9 was just the poor man’s Eiko. She was very clearly the superior caster in every single way. Final Fantasy VI was an all-star cast of characters, but some of them were just … not as good. If you could game Setzer’s Slots ability you could destroy bosses in one hit. But if you couldn’t? Enjoy Lagomorph heals, dork! Umaro has lots of physical damage, but there are parts of the game he’s just not viable in, because he can’t cast magic. There’s at least one entire area where he’s an anchor holding your boat down (Proverbially speaking, of course) by having a party member that stands around and does nothing. But how could I mention slots and not bring up Cait-Sith? You absolutely have to have a master of timing to win matches via slots, and one tiny mistake can ruin everything. Slots runs of FF7 (Speedrun) are wonderfully clever and entertaining, but if you fail, that’s it.
So let’s get started!
6: Aerith/Aeris (Final Fantasy 7): Yes, Aeris is absolutely damn useless. The character with the most useful Limit Break in the entire game, and almost no one uses it/bothers trying to get it after their first playthrough. Why? Because Aeris dies. A wonderful healer, the only real “pure healer” in the game, and for 2/3rds of the game, she’s dead and doesn’t come back. So times when you have her in the party, it’s taking away Materia AP/Character growth for characters that could use it. Is she handy to have on the squad and could make several Disc 1 boss fights a bit safer? Yes, 100%. But why would you take her, when you could take someone that’s going to be around forever? Aerith, you just barely make the list, but you are so damn disappointing, despite being incredibly useful. I feel like Aerith and another character on this list suffer from possibly not originally being planned to be playable (at last in my suspicions).
5: Edward (Final Fantasy 4): Sure, Edward is useful in Paladin% and a few other Speedrun categories, but that’s not the main game, the normal story. Sure, every other version of Final Fantasy IV other than the SNES version sees Edward being useful, spreading consumables across the whole party and having better Songs for Bardic Magic. But the regular Edward, the few times you have him in the main party, he probably will spend most of it using “Hide”, where he is off-screen. When he’s Hiding, all you can do Un-Hide, and if he’s too low when his turn comes back around, he dives back into the background again, having a party member who does absolutely nothing. Now, his weapons are amazing and have a high percentage chance (so it seems) to inflict status ailments. Far better than his stupid “Song” ability.
4: Tia (Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals): Tia, for a lack of a better term, is “temporary Selan”. Selan’s your final Magical Girl in the party, and you know that if you played Lufia 1 before Lufia 2 (and why wouldn’t you? Well, that’s another story for another day). Her damage in melee is inferior to Selan, her Magic is almost as good, and she’s frankly, a boring character. She’s your placeholder, your “love interest” until Selan shows up, and it seems like as soon as Selan comes into the picture, Maxim falls head-over-heels and a few dungeons later, they’re married and have a kid. Tia’s big “character growth”? Being able to cry, because she couldn’t cry. She spent a lot of her time being bullied because her name means “Tear”. She’s basically Lufia from Lufia 1 and doesn’t even stick around the whole game. It was a weird choice, and I don’t really understand. Boy, I’d like to talk to the writer of Lufia 2 to ask about this.
3: Mallow (Super Mario RPG): Ugh. Mallow. Mallow’s useful trait is that he can heal and that he is a Tadpole. Yes, totally a Tadpole and not something we’ll learn is false later in the game. His magical damage is pretty good until you get Geno. The instant you get Geno and Peach, Mallow immediately becomes disposable. You can also glitch some of his useful magic away to another character (like Peach) but he’s weak, and ultimately just kind of bland. Why would you use him, when every single other character you get after him (Geno, Bowser, Peach) all do his job much better. Even Bowser, with his absolutely terrible spells still fills a better spot on the Squad. Even Mario is a better spellcaster with his cool physical jump/fireball powers! Mario is a better spellcaster than you: Hang it up.
2: Meliadoul (Final Fantasy Tactics): Now now, I love Meliadoul as a character. Meliadoul Tengille has an awesome sprite for her character panel, the daughter of Vormav (one of the major villains), and is a goddamn Divine Knight, one of the broken, infuriating Church Knight classes, as a member of the Glabados Church. But why is she #2? Her powers are only useful if the enemy has human characters with equipment. Otherwise, none of her attacks deal damage. My first time playing FFT, I brought her to the final battle, expecting humans to be alongside Ajora, but alas, I have a character instead, that stands around and takes hits, and never attacking, because nothing she had was worth a damn. Not to mention, why would you break gear? Now you can’t steal it! Some of the late-game characters have incredible gear that you should want to steal, and not … you know, obliterate it. Isilude/Izlude, her brother, has a cooler title (Nightblade) but sadly, has the same dumb skills.
1: Marle/Nadia (Chrono Trigger): Yeah, that’s right, you heard me! Nadia is the biggest waste of space in any party ever, and I don’t even feel bad saying it! Let’s start at the beginning, she shares a magical element with another character in Frog. Sure, she can heal, but so can Frog. He can arguably do it better, with a better teammate in Ayla. Robo can heal too, and he’s got Shadow Magic! Bows do absolute garbage damage, so you get a character with sub-par damage, with magic that someone else could use (who has great physical damage/high crit rate), and is a part of some incredibly powerful abilities. Sure, Antipode 3 is great, and Poyozo Dance is a fun Triple Tech when you don’t have Chrono. But why on earth would you run Nadia, when you can run Frog? I have a feeling that Nadia wasn’t going to be playable, and when the choice was made, they didn’t want to add yet another element (like wind, for example) and no matter what you think, Water and Ice are the same Element. She has one use: Haste. I can get that on Equipment. You hear that Nadia? You can be replaced with a hat.