Game Theory: Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion

Game Theory: Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion

MatPat uploads video. Final Fantasy fan becomes
defensive. MatPat uses disclaimer. Final Fantasy fan pauses the video to read it. Final Fantasy
fan uses rage comment. MatPat puts up flame shield. Rage comment has no effect. MatPat
uses evidence. Doubt is terminated. Hello Internet. Welcome to Game Theory, the
show that, to put it bluntly, takes your favorite childhood video games and kicks them in the
groin. And the crotch in our crosshairs today is none other than…well you can read the
title, it’s Final Fantasy. Now, I don’t think it’s news to anyone to say that the Final
Fantasy games use a lot of religious references, but I doubt many gamers have actually taken
the time to analyze the patterns and symbolism of the way the games use those references.
So I went back to revisit Zanarkand, the White Mages, Squall, and all the rest, and let me
tell you, the patterns that started to develop were quite shocking. Final Fantasy games are
not only against organized religion, they often take a stand against the idea of God
Himself, to the point of advocating deicide, or god killing. Don’t believe me? Watch as
the pattern unfolds. Let’s start with my favorite in the series,
ten. If there’s one thing that stands out while playing Final Fantasy X, it’s that awkward
laughing scene. HAHAHAHA! That scene always makes me ROFLCOPTER. If there are two things
that stand out while playing Final Fantasy X, it’s that awkward laughing scene, AND the
extreme distrust the game has towards organized religion. Long and complicated story short,
a large part of the game’s plot revolves around the church of Yevon, a religion named after
and honoring a corrupt ruler who asked innocent civilians to kill themselves in order to give
him more power. He then used their sacrifice to take the form of Sin, a giant whale monster
that destroys attacks heavily populated areas to prevent them from advancing in technology.
The rest of the world, scared of the wrath of Sin, agreed to create a religion based
around Yevon that swore to reject industrialization, believing that this would keep Sin away.
So, let’s unpack that symbolism for a minute. The people of Final Fantasy X are worshipping
Yevon, a corrupt ruler who killed civilians, became the physical embodiment of SIN (really
subtle there), and then started destroying cities so that people would worship him. And
this religion based on lies actually holds back the technological progress of the world!
I think that sends a pretty clear message. And all that happens BEFORE the game even
starts. While you’re actually playing, you repeatedly see leaders of the church of Yevon
killing each other to rise through the ranks. Oh, and let’s not forget that the game’s recurring
antagonist is basically the pope, minus the funny hat but with an awesome set of hair.
And as one final nail in this cross of corruption, his goal is to end the cycle of death caused
by Sin by becoming Sin and killing everyone. The last time I saw logic that backwards,
I was talking to the Star Child at the end of Mass Effect 3. Needless to say, FFX might
not have the most favorable opinion of organized religion.
But maybe Final Fantasy X is just a one-off thing, right? I mean, what long-standing video
game franchise hasn’t had a storyline exploring the corruption of organized religion? Well,
Mario and Sonic at the cross-burning crusade aside, religious corruption is also the central
theme of Final Fantasy Tactics, where the Glabados Church has been using ancient legend
to fuel a war between two factions competing for the throne. This war is meant to distract
everyone from the Church’s main goal of resurrecting their savior St. Ajora. Ajora was a prophet
that predicted the coming of Paradise, a move that angered the church of Fara, the dominant
religion at the time. The Pharist priests then had Ajora declared a heretic and executed
at the Golgollada Gallows. Before we move on, can I just point out the Christ imagery
here? Jesus predicted the coming of Heaven, was declared a heretic by the Pharisees, and
was crucified at Calvary, also known as Golgotha. Coincidence? I think not. In the end, your
team kills the resurrected saint, your character goes down in history as a heretic of the church,
and anyone who tries to get the truth about the entire situation revealed gets burned
at the stake in order to keep the truth hidden. Need I say more?
But it’s not just organized religion that’s come under fire in these games. It’s the idea
of God himself. Take a look at the final battle from Final Fantasy VI. At this point in the
game, the main villain Kefka has destroyed the world as we knew it, reducing it to a
wasteland of ruin. He is now the source of all magic in the world and lives atop a high
tower where he casually kills survivors with his Light of Judgment. Then comes the final
battle, an epic four-part masterpiece loaded with religious imagery. The battle itself
actually follows the journey depicted in Dante’s Inferno, starting in Hell with a Devil-like
creature, then ascending to Purgatory, where, according to Christian teaching, souls are
kept while they atone for their worldly sins, finally rising to Heaven or Paradise where
Kefka descends from the Heavens, appearing in the form of an angel. Notice, though, that
Kefka hasn’t just become like a god. He has become the embodiment of God, specifically
the Christian God. For proof, check out the third round of the fight where the party fights
against “Lady” and “Rest,” two figures clearly inspired by Michaelangelo’s Pieta, which depicts
Jesus being held by his mother Mary immediately after his crucifixion. This connection is
made even more clear in the Japanese version, where “Lady” is actually named “Maria.” Even
the music backs this up as it is a take on Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, one of
the most famous organ pieces in music, and in church history. Kefka has incorporated
both souls waiting to be purified as well as Jesus and the Virgin Mary into his being,
and it is your job, as the player, to kill him.
And lest you think Final Fantasy is only against Christian religious structures and beliefs,
let’s go all the way back to the Gameboy, and Final Fantasy Legend, a game few people
have heard about and fewer have beaten due to its extreme difficulty. As the player,
you must climb to the top of the Tower of Paradise, only to be confronted with Ashura,
a deity appearing in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Remember the game Asura’s Wrath? There you
go! In Buddhism, the asuras are low-ranking demigods overly attached to emotions like
pride and wrath. They are usually depicted as having multiple faces with four to six
arms. Well will you look at that! At the top of the tower, he offers your party control
of one of the worlds you passed through on your journey. You refuse and kill him. In
an epic twist years before Aerith met the wrong end of Sephiroth’s sword, you fall through
a trap door and must climb the tower again, this time to confront the true villain and
mastermind, the CREATOR of everything, who devised the demon-filled Tower of Paradise
as a game to test humanity. As a reward for winning the game, your characters will be
granted one wish. Instead, the characters are angry at being manipulated and kill him,
only to return back down to earth, with the world’s god dead.
And this is only surface level stuff. There is so much more to explore, from Sephiroth’s
religious connections, in fact, the wealth of Norse beliefs throughout Final Fantasy
VII, the symbolism of using magic and pagan summon monsters to slay god-like villains,
the actual connections between FFX and the Christian/Gnostic debate. The list goes on,
and I’d be happy to cover them in future episodes if you let me know you want to see those things
covered, but for now I want to get to the question of why. Why would so many of these
games have you actively fighting against church conspiracies and god-figures? Well, luckily,
I’ve called in our resident culture expert to give us the lowdown. What say you Gaijin
Goomba? No. You’re not imaging things. There’s definitely
some truth behind this theory. Now, by all means, I don’t want anyone thinking that Japan
just hates religion. They don’t. First of all, to make a very long story short, in 1857
Shogun Hideyoshi outlawed Christianity. After all, how can you serve the emperor if you
put God first? Two and a half centuries later, Christianity was a massive minority in Japan.
But also keep in mind that Christianity fundamentally says that humans are sinful by nature. The
Holy Spirit is essential to go beyond that sinful nature. Most Eastern religions, like
Buddhism on the other hand, focus on bettering one’s self so you can transcend your own human
evils and enter into Nirvana. So, not only did Christianity not work on a political level
in Japan, its very nature defied centuries of religious belief. The other thing to keep
in mind is that while the Japanese claim to be of one religion or another, they often
practice a mixture. For example, many Japanese are born Shinto, meaning they go to Shinto
shrines to be blessed at young ages. When they marry, they have Christian weddings in
churches complete with preachers. And when they die, they go through Buddhist rites with
their remains staying at Buddhist temples and being over annually by monks and families.
So in a very real way, Japan is not against organized religion, they just interpret and
practice religion differently than the West. Thus, it can make sense to make organized
religion the “Bad Guys” because absolute focus in one religion isn’t common there. Back to
you, buddy! GG GG, GG.
So there you have it loyal theorists. With the help of our phallic-shaped friend, we
now know the how, and more importantly the why, of Final Fantasy being antireligious.
And, while many anti-gaming advocates may point to this saying it leads to the corruption
of gamers, we know the truth. Through FF’s plots, we learn just a little bit more about
new cultures. We’re educated simply by playing some of our favorite games, and who doesn’t
like to learn AND have fun at the same time? And that, loyal theorists, is why this show
exists. But hey, that’s just a theory. A Game Theory.
Thanks for watching.

100 Replies to “Game Theory: Why Final Fantasy is Anti-Religion”

  1. But this is not realy exlusive to final fantasy right? Religion is used as an enemy in a lot of games (for example morrowind, chrono trigger, kingsway)

  2. FFX has been my favorite FF game since its release. I’ve been chastised for this, but I’m glad to see that I’m not alone in my love for FFX.
    Also… can’t believe I’ve been watching your channel for over a year and never watched this.

  3. I think I remember Gijin Goomba concluding that FF series doesn't hate religion, it just came from a Japanese cutler with religions different from western organized religion.

  4. Wtf is wrong with FF i thought it was a kids games but noooo a guy whos the leader of church who ask people to KILL themselfs LIKE WTF MAN

  5. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading the comments and finding that there are intelligent people on here; smart folks that believe in Science and it's empirically verifiable information. You know as opposed to…fairy tales and magic in a sci-fi book called "The Bible".

  6. Well just look at the Dark Ages, the Inquisition, the Crusades and the Jihad. The mistreatment of women, the slaughtering of "heretics", the burning of books, the destruction of any scientific fact that happened to oppose the religious view. Look at atheists in Iran, Indonesia, Saudi-Arabia and Egypt (Sherif Gaber). They get locked up just for rational criticism of the dominant religion.
    There are lots and lots of reasons to be against organised religion, especially when the religion holds significant power. There will be no freedom of speech, there will be no acceptance of homosexuality, there will be a patriarchy and women will be treated as inferior. This was and is true for every deeply christian/islamic country that has ever existed.

  7. John 3:16 KJV
    [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

  8. Final Fantasy Legend isn’t part of Final Fantasy, it’s a game from a completely unrelated series, renamed for the west as Final Fantasy.

  9. Actually Aeris was killed by Cloud. Sephiroth didn’t stab a vital organ, and when Cloud dropped her in the water she wouldn’t have sunk if she were dead. Cloud drowned her.

  10. Correction, Purgatory is purely a Catholic creation, not in Christianity, nowhere found in the Bible.

  11. So just because God’s are fun af to kill, its anti-religious? Matpat i respect you but come on man, you can do better. Maybe do something about Mako energy.

  12. It may be suspicious of organized religion, but that's hardly without justification. Organized religion-for all its espousal of order and peace-has been used as a justification for discrimination, to stifle technological progress, and many worse atrocities. In the world of X, those themes take front and center- Al Bhed are discriminated against and Yevon isn't just the dominant religion, but also has a heavy hand in governance and policy-making. To be anything other than a Yevonite is to be viewed as the cause of Spira's degradation. To those of us actively demonized by organized religion, the lived experience of the Al Bhed is sympathetic and all too real. The fact that any one religion could potentially be used as the basis of making laws is terrifying.

    The series, as a whole though, is suspicious of institutions in general. "Final Fantasy VII" is a pretty scathing depiction of oligarchism- the dominant government is really just a shell for a corporation that has colonized much of the world for profit. War is also a prevalent theme wherein the leadership of kingdoms are often out-of-touch with the views of its citizens, such as IV or IX.

    That's "Final Fantasy" at its best, though, and when it is vastly preferable to the larger-than-life, but ultimately alien, destiny of chosen ones or crystal creation stories. That is what I feel is missing from SquareEnix as of late. Others may have an opinion of the degrading gameplay or less of Nobuo Uematsu's involvement. But in the interest of being safe and harmless, SquareEnix has chosen bland mysticism over speculative portrayal of real world issues.

  13. Religion has always been an easy add on to a plot.

    If your upset over the plot line over a game, just don't play the game.

  14. One of the most annoying things about religion is the sections of it that are constantly saying things like, "You're going to Hell because you don't believe in God!" and then expecting all atheists to convert immediately and be grateful. If I run into your house in the middle of the night, yelling that someone is going to kill you without any evidence, you're not going to be too happy. If I actually had some evidence, you might be thankful for the warning. It's the same with these people. I'M NOT SAYING THIS IS ALL THEISTS. Just a section of them.

    Honestly, Creationism and the Anti-Vax movement are way higher on my list of stupidity than most theists. It's much better, in my opinion, to adapt religious beliefs to current science, than ignore science to keep religion the same.

  15. hi MatPat I'm still waiting for you to discuss the things you left in this video including the Sephiroth imagery.

  16. Actually most of it is based on local legends and myths, where the gods themselves fought each other to the death, used mortals as pawns and some crazy strong mortals who were sick of that sometimes did something about it.

  17. This is an old video

    Also your favourite Final Fantasy game is FFX? That's my second favourite one. To me, the best one is FFIX. Come on, man! We all love Vivi :3

  18. final fantasy is not against religion, the whole aeon and jevon thing is a very promoted religion in the games

  19. These theories are very interesting and the concepts and topics are intriguing, but I wish the presentation wasn't so much geared towards 5 year olds

  20. 8-Bit Theater is the only good thing to come out of the Final Fantasy series and Square Enix in general, from which comes all thing that suck that are not Konami.

  21. Mattpat either you or gaijin goomba, our phallic shaped friend, should definitely go over the religious aspects of the final fantasy series it would be enlightening for many of us.

  22. At the end there it showed a bunch of different religions in artwork. But what does Final Fantasy have against Islam?

  23. It's not anti-religion its confusion. Most of it that stuff from ffx religion differences or organized religion is the problem

  24. All I ask is that MatPat goes more into detail with this video. I know it's been years, still though. A guy like me can be hopeful

  25. (10:00) Ah, the common "Japan is different from the West", because we all in the West does everything the same. There's just "the West" culture, and then there's the Japanese culture.

  26. in ff10 all of those people are being tricked/lied by an embodiment of the devil so u a hero chosen by god must stop that evil but that's just my impression

  27. but if ff is anti-religion why is their a spell called holy? in ff7 you can summon a monster that does holy damage

  28. Keep in mind that Purgatory is a Catholic belief only. Protestants believe that once you die, it's one or the other, not a "lukewarm" place (if you will).

  29. I miss the old days of Game Theory when the vids were actually interesting.

    Edit: After making this comment I kinda regret it because it sounds a little rude. I'm sorry to anyone who took this comment like it was a little bit harsh. I don't hate MatPat he's a nice and reasonable guy, I just don't like the direction he took game theory as I liked the theories he made pre-Mario is Mental like this one.

  30. I would love a video game to have more understanding of the bible and it teaching, and I love when Christian themes are put into games.

  31. that's another game about to get destroyed by the rage of haters . . .

    seriosly why do some people do this ??? first columbus going completely wrong way and messing everything up and then This ??? What makes some people so mad to do this ???

  32. Yes, please make more videoes about more of these kind of thematics/subjects! Very interested!! 👏 Thank you for an incredible breakdown in this vid!

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