Aerith’s death in the original Final Fantasy VII is the most iconic passing, not just in the Final Fantasy franchise but inarguably all of gaming. The iconic status of this death, however, does tend to overshadow the other deaths that have occurred in the franchise.
Whether its to give the main party an extra bit of motivation, or to set up some sort of deus ex machina near the end, or most likely a combination of both, Square Enix (or just Squaresoft back in the day) has been known to kill off characters as a way of driving the plot forward.
While Aerith’s passing may have been the most memorable and iconic in the franchise, other characters in other Final Fantasy games have also given up the ghost over the years, giving our heroes some extra motivation, while traumatizing us players along the way.
Without further ado, here are five other important character deaths from Final Fantasy games.
Tellah – Final Fantasy IV
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: A playable character in a Final Fantasy game makes the ultimate sacrifice to lend their power to something having to do with a meteor. If you have, it’s because Tellah’s death in Final Fantasy IV arguably serves as the prototype for Aerith’s in FFVII.
For much of the game, Tellah is driven by his love for his daughter Anna, who ends up taking an arrow for her lover Edward. This initially results in a fight between Tellah and Edward (resulting in the infamous “spoony bard” phrase), before a dying Anna steps in and reveals that it was erstwhile big bad Golbez who was behind everything. Anna’s death causes Tellah to swear vengeance against Golbez.
Tellah’s story culminates in a high-stakes battle, where the fates of main character Cecil’s lover Rosa and best friend Kain are at stake. Here, Tellah tries attacking Golbez but finds that none of his spells have any effect. Seeing this, he decides to use his life force to cast Meteor, which successfully injures Golbez, forcing him to run away while freeing both Rosa and Kain in the process.
But there was a price for this success. Tellah is now dying, having used his own life force to cast Meteor. With his final breath, Tellah asks the rest of the party to avenge his dead daughter Anna in his stead.
Galuf Halm Baldesiom – Final Fantasy V
Serving as the prototype for a lineage of aged mentors such as Cyan and Auron in future titles, Galuf is one of the mythical Warriors of Dawn in Final Fantasy V. These four warriors defeated the game’s big bad Exdeath 30 years prior to the game’s main storyline. With the latter’s return, Galuf is once again called into action to join the Warriors of Light.
In addition to being the prototype for certain character archetypes, Galuf is also the prototype for another character’s death. Yes, Galuf pulled an Aerith years before she met the pointy end of a big bad’s impossibly long sword. When Exdeath kills Galuf, the player loses one of the character’s they’ve been leveling up all this time.
Granted, the blow is softened a bit as his granddaughter Krile takes his place. His spirit even has the sense to imbue her with her granddad’s knowledge and skills in battle to soften the blow to the player.
That doesn’t take from the tragedy of Galuf’s death, however. With his granddaughter Krile in trouble after she tried to save him from Exdeath (it’s a long story), Galuf overcomes the spell holding him back and confronts Exdeath on his own, tanking multiple powerful spells from the latter in the process. His resolve causes the big bad to waver and eventually flee; however, the barrage was too much, causing Galuf to collapse into his granddaughter’s arms. He implores her and the other light warriors to continue pursuing Exdeath, before finally passing.
Tietra Hyral – Final Fantasy Tactics
Tragic deaths aren’t only limited to the mainline Final Fantasy games. The spinoffs have them too. Final Fantasy Tactics, with its highly political story that would make George RR Martin green with envy, kills off a lot of people.
Tietra—or Teta for those who remember with original 1997 localization—was the sister of the main character’s best friend, the commoner turned soldier Delita Hyral. Her death happens at the end of the first chapter, where she and main character Ramza’s sister Alma get caught up in a false flag operation, resulting in her death when things went awry.
While the death of a commoner woman is treated as a trivial thing by the nobility warring for the throne in FF Tactics, its effect on Delita has wider ramifications for the game. It sets him down a dark path of betrayal and death, as he works to both have his vengeance on the nobility and secure his status in Ivalice.
Interestingly enough, Delita doesn’t actually become the big bad of the game—that honor falls to Altima and the demonic Lucavi that control Ivalice’s church. His story instead serves as a foil to that of main character Ramza, with Delita playing the nobles around him for status and power while Ramza only tries to do what he feels is right.
In the end, Delita stands at the top of the heap as King, having married the crown princess after killing all other claimants along the way. And all this wouldn’t have happened, had his sister not been at the wrong place at the wrong time on that fateful day at Fort Ziekden.
Cid – Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI is a masterpiece of RPG storytelling, with a cast featuring over a dozen characters, many taking the role of “main character” at certain points in the game.
For the game’s second half, taking place in the post-apocalyptic “World of Ruin,” role of “main character” arguably falls to Celes Chere. Though she almost doesn’t become it, thanks to all the tragedy surrounding her circumstances.
Having failed to stop the mad clown, and “best Joker expy ever,” Kefka from causing the end of the world as we know it, Celes wakes up to find herself alone in an island, having been nursed from her injuries by Magitek researcher Cid. Seeing themselves alone on an island, presumably the only people left alive, Celes and Cid decide to live out their days on said island, with the form calling the latter “grandfather.”
However, Cid soon catches a cough and falls ill. Here’s the ringer: Depending on the player’s actions, they can actually save Cid. Should they fail, however, then we’re treated to one of the franchise’s most heartbreaking scenes. Facing with both the loss of her “grandfather,” as well as the thought of being the only person left in the entire world, Celes decides to end her life, climbing to the highest point on the island and jumping off.
It’s only the sight of a seagull with a wing bandaged with the scarf of fellow party-mate Locke after having washed up on the beach (having failed her suicide attempt), that she regains hope in the world and decides to find a way off the island and find her friends.
Sure, you can save Cid, but it deprives you of one of the most heartwrenching and powerful moments in the game—one that shows that even the smallest shred of hope can be enough to bring people out of the deepest depths of despair.
Vivi Ornitier – Final Fantasy IX
This one hurts because we can see it coming. About a third of the way through Final Fantasy IX, players learn that black mages, of which Vivi is a part of, have a very limited lifespan.
This short lifespan is something that Vivi learns to deal with throughout the course of the game, with Vivi continuing to search for his place in the world. Eventually, Vivi does seem to finally come to terms with his short life and does seem to find a modicum of happiness and peace.
That doesn’t make his passing during the game’s ending any less sad, especially as the monologue taking place is implied to be Vivi sharing his last words with his friends.
That said, not everything is all sad. The monologue shows that no matter how short if was, Vivi’s life was still a full one. On top of his adventures with friends, he was even able to start his own family.
In a way, Vivi’s death is more about learning that death is just as inevitable in the worlds of Final Fantasy as it is in real life and that instead of feeling sad about them, players should just enjoy the time they’ve spent with these characters.
As Vivi says in his parting monologue: “But I guess we all have to say goodbye someday. Everyone… Thank you. Farewell. My memories will be part of the sky.”
So that’s it, our five important Final Fantasy deaths that aren’t Aerith’s. That’s not to say that these aren’t the only important deaths in Final Fantasy, there were a few more that were considered (Auron’s almost made the cut, if not for the technicality that he’s already dead by the time of the game).
If you think other deaths in the franchise are just as important as the ones we chose, tell us in the comments below.