Play or Pass: Final Fantasy VII and The Last of Us

Welcome to the first post in my new year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!

Week one: (1) Final Fantasy VII and (2) The Last of Us

Wow, we’re starting out this series with two heavy hitters, and two games that could not be more different from each other. Though actually, they’re both PlayStation games, so that’s something. I guess. And nope, I have no idea why I’m stalling.

First up, Final Fantasy VII.

Which means we should stay right here. FOREVER.

When I first wrote about Final Fantasy VII, I don’t think I really knew just how to write about it. I even said in that post:

It’s difficult for me to put into words my experience with FFVII because, at the time…it was a little like finding religion.

Everything about the game was so new to me that I had nothing to compare it to. Maybe that was a good thing, and maybe it wasn’t. All I knew then was that I was playing an amazing game with an amazing story. It’s true that I’ve yet to beat the game after all this time, and I’ve come to terms with that. Because honestly, though I am interested to see what comes of the upcoming remake of the game, I’ve no strong desire to play through the original. When the the game was re-released a couple years back, I was enthusiastic for everyone else who’d get to experience it, but that enthusiasm didn’t spill over into in my own camp. Regardless of how and why my feelings about the game have changed since 1997, the question remains, is it a game to play before you shuffle off this mortal coil?

Bear in mind that with this series I’m attempting to remove the rose-colored glasses and examine each game as a standalone entity, praises and flaws and all. Concurrently, I remain cognizant of any strata within which any given game resides, so primarily I’m thinking of FFVII has an RPG and secondarily as a “Final Fantasy” game. With that said, yes, FFVII is a very good RPG. As Cloud, you are immersed into a grand and complex story that’s bigger than is possible to comprehend in full. (Like life.) The more you explore, the more people you meet and befriend, and the more power you gain, the better the experience becomes. The game flows well from one plot point to the next, and the battle and skill systems are easy to manage and fun to utilize. The game simply works. And it works both in your favor and, sometimes, against it. (Grinding, grinding, grinding…) It’s easy enough to get caught up grinding away or working on side quests or just roaming around the environments. And as a game that marked the transition from 2D to 3D RPGs, the results are pretty astounding. And it’s easy to look past the blocky characters when you’ve got a rollercoaster of a story to manage.

I’m less compelled to answer the question of is FFVII as good “Final Fantasy” game, because I just don’t know since I’ve not played the full compendium of games. I know I like it more than FFX, and I appreciated FFIII and FFIV more because of it. I’m sure that it’s extreme popularity set the benchmark for what one thinks of as a “Final Fantasy” game.

So, now’s time for the questions and answers.

Have I played Final Fantasy VII?

If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why?
Yes. As a fan of RPGs generally, I know there’s bias in this response, but the game’s pedigree speaks volumes above it. Granted that not all games will appeal to all people, but if you harbor interest in attending to gaming’s history — understanding the past to better understand the present and future — FFVII is a must-play.

If no, do I want to play the game before I die?

Now for The Last of Us.

[insert thoughtful dialogue here.]
TLoU is an interesting case, and one that I’m sure will appear again as I work through this list. For though I didn’t not complete FVII, I logged enough hours with the game that make me feel comfortable passing judgement. I can’t do the same with TLoU because I really don’t have enough hours with it under my belt. Truth be told, since I made that TLOU video ages ago, and I was only then in Chapter 3 (or was it 2? Hell if I remember), I haven’t progressed much further. I can’t say why, except that other games have peaked my interest more. While I can’t make any claims about the game as a whole, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played so far. I’m usually pretty wary about survivalism in games (I’m just not that patient), and I encountered a few stressful moments where I had to make do with low ammo, but nothing made me want to throw a controller out of frustration. And the devastated world looked great. The graphics were very strong and there was no glitchiness to speak of. Combat felt very visceral, whether I was engaging someone face-to-face or shooting from afar. I The story is interesting enough…though I already know how it ends (can’t avoid spoilers forever), so that may be the main reason this game is on the backburner. Maybe I’m hoping that someday I’ll forget what I know.

I don’t have much more to add, so how’s about those questions?

Have I played The Last of Us?
Yes, but only minimally.

If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why?
Can’t say. Maybe I’ll return to this once I finish the game.

If no, do I want to play the game before I die?
As my first answer was an almost-no, I’ll say yes here. As I just said, I would like to complete the game before too long.



  1. Having played through The Last of Us, I don’t know if I would consider it a “must-play”. It has a great story, no doubt about that, but I’m not sure how well it holds up as a game. In terms of gameplay, I found the stealth sections to be either annoying (when easy) or frustrating (when hard) and the combat felt somehow toned down from Uncharted in terms of its complexity. Going back to the story, I found the plot and characters to be good, but I didn’t find the world to be all that compelling (beautiful visuals aside).

    The Last of Us is a great digital experience, but I don’t really think it’s a must-play video game.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. When I first heard of The Last of Us, I was like “Eh, another zombie game. Pass.” It was only after my husband raved about it once he had played it that I thought maybe there was something more to it. It’s…okay, I do want to finish it, but the impetus behind that just isn’t strong enough. It’s in the the “maybe, someday” category right now.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked FF7, although I’m not sure if it is a must play title given that some people will find the visuals dated. Last of Us looks cool, but I have avoided it because sneaking around has never been my strong suit. Like you I tend to lose patience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy stealth in games, but I don’t like it when you get penalized for taking too long. (Especially if you have no clue as to how long is “too long!”) That’s how things went a couple times in The Last of Us. I’d be there sneaking, planning out a strategy, and then BAM! Dead from an unseen attacker or some suddenly speedy jerk of a monster. Not. Cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. FFVII is one of my husband’s favorite games, and he’s really hoping I’ll play the original before the remake comes out. I’ve started it several times, but never got as far as open world. I do like RPGs, I guess I’ve just always had other games I wanted to play more. Hopefully this year I’ll get around to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good luck with it. Once you do get into FFVII, it’s hard to let go. At least, that’s how it felt for me. I just had to play it whenever I could! But if it turns out to really not be for you, then I’m sure your husband will understand. 🙂 (Mine *really* wants me to complete The Last of Us, but he might be waiting a long time for that to happen at this point!)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Very amusing reading the comments on the original BuzzFeed article. For me, I’ve been umming and ahhing with both of these games. FFVII I’ve had sitting on shelf for over a year at this point and haven’t touched it. VIII was my first JRPG and it left a huge impression on me at the time, and playing IX a few years ago was pretty enjoyable, if longwinded. I do intend to play it at some point, if only for the “historical interest” angle, as you say!

    The Last of Us is a game Maya really wants to play, and I’m less keen. Going on Red Metal’s comment above, it doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that will immediately appeal to me. I don’t mind a game being narrative/character heavy, but when a game sounds like it could’ve been made by Quantic Dream, I’m inclined to react negatively 😛 Anyway I’m sure I’ll get to it – after all one of the reasons I got a PS3 recently was to find out if any of these blockbuster-type games live up to the hype!

    Liked by 2 people

    • See, that’s just it. When some games get soooooo much acclaim and are talked about soooooo much for whatever reasons, like both FFVII and The Last of Us, it makes it hard to flat-out ignore them. Are there better games? Yes. Are there more enjoyable games? Certainly. But nothing can compare to experiencing accolade-heavy games on your own, even if the results turn out for the worse. As I said to Red Metal, part of me wants to complete The Last of Us just so I can say that I finished such an award-winning game, and yes I had to make the hard choice, and yes it looked beautiful and gritty, and so on. But none of those reasons are strong enough yet to make it an absolute “must.”

      Since you mention the PS3, I’ve been considering picking up a multitude of missed “best games ever” for it and Xbox 360 since they are so cheap right now! Of course, I’ll then have enough games to play into old age and STILL not enough time, because that’s life. 🙂


  5. By the time I got around to trying Final Fantasy VII, I had already played Chrono Trigger and Persona 4, which I still consider some of the best JRPGs of all time (along with Earthbound, but I wouldn’t play that until a bit later). I think it’s because the apex of 2D gaming has held up better with time than the early 3D era, which as trailblazing as those titles were, generally suffers from what’s now considered a prototypical feel both in terms of aesthetics and control. It doesn’t help that the big twist was heavily spoiled to the point where even people who have never played a Final Fantasy game know of it. That said, I’ll give the remake a try if it turns out to be good.

    Meanwhile, my experience with The Last of Us was sort of strange in that, unlike Final Fantasy VII, I played it in the same year it was released, but I still had the feeling that I played it too late. In this case, it wasn’t an issue of whether or not the game aged well as that can’t even be considered at this point in time, but rather it had nothing new to offer me. It was touted as a huge landmark in storytelling in video games, but I had already played the first two Zero Escape visual novels, Planescape: Torment, Earthbound, and Persona 4. All of these games had much more memorable casts with better-written stories that complement the medium far more effectively than The Last of Us with its non-interactive, if beautifully presented and acted, cutscenes, which feel like misguided attempts to compete with the film industry. It also doesn’t help that the story uses every tired Oscar-bait trope in the book to generate critical acclaim, content to play them all straight and not put an original spin on any of them (and the rare time they do, it comes across as a token effort).

    Despite this, I understand why people like it even if I don’t. It’s an example of a game that relies heavily on subjective traits, so people could make equally strong cases for the game being either good or bad. Contrast with games such as Super Mario World which rely on objective traits such as control and level design, making it difficult to make a strong case that it’s bad. At the end of the day, whether or not it’s destined to become one of your favorites depends entirely on you. If you like it, that’s great. If not, that’s fine too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Since I’m now playing Chrono Trigger, I do wonder what it would have been like to play that game before FFVII. Thinking retroactively, I’m betting that I would have enjoyed the hell out of Chrono Trigger and found FFVII too large and unmanageable. Then again, I was in a wierd age range when Chrono Trigger first came out, and by the time I got into FFVII, I was ready to take on a large-scale game. The aging graphics are a big selling point these days in NOT playing the original, and its too bad that we’ve become trained to equate “ugly” with “bad,” because the game does offer up a rather unique experience (if not a perfect one), even if you already know the story. I have my eye on the remake as well, but I’m not waiting on the edge of my seat for it.

      Many people have egged me on to finish The Last of Us. “That story!” “Those graphics!” is what they tell me. I’ve seen it and I believe it, but I kinda don’t care, because like you say, it doesn’t *really* offer anything new. Granted that it’s all wrapped up in a very pretty package, but it’s mostly survival and zombies (not really zombies, but still), neither of which are my cups of tea. Still, I do feel a slight compulsion to complete “one of the best games of the current generation” for that fact alone. Maybe when I have nothing else better to do, haha.

      Liked by 1 person

      • To be fair, I’m not really one to judge games based off of graphics alone; I played Planescape: Torment twelve years after its release and I was still completely blown away by its well-written story. With Final Fantasy VII, it was more like I lost interest. It wasn’t bad; I just wasn’t engaged enough to make it to the end. To be honest, I think it was more of an issue with the spotty translation than the outdated graphics.

        With The Last of Us, I think my antipathy mostly stems from the fact that it was the creator’s ambition to change the gaming industry as we know it while also providing an experience that barely takes any risks. The few times they did throw out risky ideas, they didn’t pay off, were superfluous, or the development team didn’t go full tilt with them. To put a spin on a cliché, it’s like they tried making an omelet, but every time they broke an egg, it ended up on the floor.

        Personally, I think Zombieland is one of the few good works that featured zombies released within the last ten years, so I totally get you not caring for them.

        Liked by 1 person

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