Role-playing games often take you on great journeys, and on those adventures you’ll often run across a number of individuals who eventually join your growing party. These additions are varied in a way to give you every asset you need to beat the game, and experience every facet of combat, from magic and specialized attacks, to just plain ol’ hitting someone with a sword.
Sometimes, though, you need to call in some extra firepower. This is where summons come in; by invoking powerful beasts and historical beings, gods and demons, summoning brings an extra bit of “oomph” to the table. Some heal your party, some damage your enemies with different elements or status effects. Summons are the extra flair to your party, and no one does them better than Final Fantasy, the grandad of summoning. Final Fantasy’s pantheon of summoned units have become as recognizable as the main cast themselves, and tend to be one of the only through-threads that persists through each new entry. So with Final Fantasy XV out today, let’s reflect on Square’s biggest and brightest, with some of our favorite summons in the Final Fantasy canon.
Eric Van Allen is a Texas-based writer. You can follow his e-sports and games rumblings @seamoosi on Twitter.
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20. Cait Sith: One of the only summons who has crossed the line into full-on party member, Cait Sith is a recurring side-character throughout Final Fantasy as a whole. Ranging from riding a giant stuffed moogle in Final Fantasy VII to summoning a Cat Rain in VI, this feline fighter is on the lighter side, providing more comic relief than actual battle prowess. It's not the heaviest hitter on the team, but not everything can be dragons and elder beings; sometimes, you just need a rainfall of kittens to win the battle, and that's what Cait Sith brings to the party.
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19. Atomos: Though Atomos has appeared in several games, it's most recognizable from its role in Final Fantasy IX as a weapon used by the antagonist of the game to decimate an entire city. Resembling something like a giant evil portal to another dimension, Atomos can create Wormholes that permanently remove a character from battle. Most summons just kill you with deific power, but Atomos sucks you into an alternate dimension, like the stone angels from Dr. Who. That's really Atomos' only trick, besides summoning the occasional comet or some occasional G-force pressure. Atomos is cool, but not the most memorable of the bunch.
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18. Asura: Asura is one of the most-overlooked summons, with her only appearance in a mainline Final Fantasy being IV. Heavily drawing on Buddhist and Hindu religion, Asura is a protective summon that has multiple aspects relating to each of her faces. Depending on which face gazes upon the party, you'll receive different benefits, from a Protect spell to a massive heal. Her artwork, created by longtime Final Fantasy illustrator Yoshitaka Amano, is striking, and it's a shame she goes underutilized in the main series. Besides an appearance in the Dissidia games, she goes mostly unnoticed, and could be a great being to revive for some of the new Final Fantasy games going forward.
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17. Ixion: Due to the story centering around summoners and summoning, Final Fantasy X had no shortage of impressive summons, including several entirely new creatures to the series. Ixion is one of those, and though it gets a little less limelight than others, this electric unicorn is still a highlight of the mid-game summons. Besides being a fresh face for electric-elementals (usually left to more iconic characters like Ramuh), Ixion is a really awesome concept: a unicorn that uses its horn as a lightning rod to conduct lethal levels of electricity. Sadly, Ixion gets overshadowed, as you get some more iconic summons before and after it; nonetheless, this horse provided some nice variety to the summoning stable for X, and will hopefully get more chances to shine in the future.
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16. Doomtrain: In what almost takes the top prize for craziest summon concept in any Final Fantasy, Doomtrain is literally a demonic train. You learn to acquire its power from occult magazines, and is speculated to be a reference to the Phantom Train boss from VI. Only summonable in VIII, Doomtrain might make the best use of the game's Boost, as you smash the Square button to power up the steam-powered vehicle as it rockets down a fiery set of tracks towards its target. Incredibly over-the-top, Doomtrain still lands in the lower end of this list due to it not being a high-impact summon, mostly causing status abnormalities (apparently, being hit by a train can poison you).
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15. Fat Chocobo: Though there's many iterations of Chocobo, as both a summon and general wildlife, special credit goes to the surprise Fat Chocobo that appears randomly when summoning other Chocobo attacks. Somehow appearing from the heavens, the jolly Chocobo falls from a massive height, annihilating all enemies underneath it. In VIII, it's one of the few abilities able to break the damage limit, causing enormous harm to enemies—hopefully, the Chocobo is alright, too, after all those giant drops. It's unconventional, but the randomness of it appearing, often completely unexpected, makes it hilarious, and sometimes brutally effective in combat.
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14. Angelo: Though Angelo might fall closer on the "ability" side of summoning, Rinoa's pet dog operates similarly to many other summons in Final Fantasy, coming to the aid of the party when needed. This very good dog starts out knowing how to rush at an enemy's face to attack, but can learn more talents and abilities from dog owner magazines found throughout Final Fantasy VIII. In one of its moves, called Angelo Cannon, Rinoa latches the dog onto her wrist and fires it at the enemy like a missile, where Angelo then explodes and causes massive damage, emerging unscathed. This is one smart, talented, extraordinary companion and a very good dog.
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13. Titan: A massive being of immense strength, Titan is simply the strongest there is, able to punch through the solid earth and throw boulders with incredible force. An Earth-elemental who specializes in brute force, Titan isn't the most compelling on paper, but even in early clips of Final Fantasy XV, his appearance is impressive. Running across the land in several great strides and then slamming the enemy 6000 feet under, Titan does one job and does it very well. Given that, and how often he shows up in the Final Fantasy canon, it's hard not to give the big guy some respect.
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12. Valefor: A newer summon created for Final Fantasy X, Valefor is the signature summon of Yuna. A massive bird that can delay enemy action with a sonic gust of wind and shoot lasers out of its beak, Valefor is notable as one of the few aeons to be acknowledged outside of combat in X, coming to the rescue of Yuna in Bevelle. Valefor is one of the only newer summons to make another appearance in a later game (XIII), and is one of the most aesthetically interesting summons in recent memory, with clawed talons protruding from its wings and a sharp, iron beak sitting atop a mane of red. At least in Final Fantasy X, Valefor becomes a trusty fallback, able to help in almost any combat situation.
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11. Ramuh: The wizened elder god of thunder and lightning, Ramuh had fallen out of favor in more recent Final Fantasy games. A staple of the early entries, Ramuh could cast massive spells like Thundaga, and call down his mighty Judgement Bolt to annihilate all enemies caught in its wake. Compared to mighty kings, demonic trains and awe-inspiring dragons, Ramuh isn't too intimidating outside of his large presence. It's the lightshow he calls down, and the signature staff-plunge into the earth delivering it, that is Ramuh's calling card, and there's nothing else like it.