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I was thinking about picking up the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy while it's on sale on steam, i.e. these games:

  • Final Fantasy XIII
  • Final Fantasy XIII-2
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

(correct me if those are in the wrong order)

However I was wondering if the story of those three games is self-contained? That is, if I play the three games from start to finish, will I have finished the entire story or are there connections (events, characters, the world) to earlier or later games in the Final Fantasy franchise? And if so, do I need to play those games as well to understand the story of the three games in question or does it make sense on it's own?

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They are self contained.

In fact, it's not even true* that all final fantasy games take place even in the same universe - they are normally connected by having similar story lines and morals. There tends to be guest appearances and other bits that carry on between games such as item names but nothing that would reduce your experience of the games without prior knowledge.

Lightning returns is even a distance relative of the other two, that being while the same characters appear in in L-R you don't need to have played the first two to follow the story. It's 1000 years in the future after all!.

If you were to start with XIII-2 - it does have a 'What happened in XIII' bit where you can remind yourself/learn what happened prior to the beginning of the game, explaining enough that you can just start at this point.

*Some fans have 'proven' they are all in the same universe, but there's nothing cannon to prove it.

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    Thank you! 1000 years in the future? Doesn't the character Lightning herself appear in all three games? (Don't answer if the answer is a spoiler to the game's story of course) °v° – MoritzLost Mar 6 '16 at 17:30
  • She does. It's explained in the intro of the 3rd game IIRC, if not, it's explained as you play though, tho if you've played the first 2, you might know why anyway I can't recall if it happens during game play, or at some point after. – djsmiley2k TMW Mar 6 '16 at 17:50
  • Alright, thank you! – MoritzLost Mar 6 '16 at 17:52
  • @MoritzLost I'd argue XIII is self-contained but XIII-2/LR go together. They reference the events and characters from XIII, but the XIII story could stand alone. Also, there's the Requiem of the Goddess DLC for XIII-2 that partially serves as a bridge between that game and LR, though it's not required. – Troyen Mar 6 '16 at 23:56
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While there are exceptions such as X and X-2, most Final Fantasy games are completely independent, sharing only common mechanics like element-based magic, Moogles, Chocobos, etc, or recurring character and item names like Cid, Wedge, Biggs, etc.

Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2, and Lightning Returns are among these exceptions, where they share characters, environment, and even have continuity from one to the next (they are true sequels). Additionally, they are not the only stories that take place in this universe. They are part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis mythos, which also includes XV and Type-0. However, the other Fabula Nova stories use separate characters and environments and are not part of the XIII story arc.

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