Most would agree that FF4-10 were good Final Fantasy games, and the pinnacle of the series was FF6-10.
But what do most of them games have in common that FF11-14 dont (or lack)? Discluding the online games we can observe that FF6-10 all have the following (in order of least importance):
(9)Excellent graphics & presentation for its time e.g FF6 has a lot of character animations for a SNES game and a good intro, FF7 8, 9 & 10 had excellent CGI and graphics
(8) Beautiful Music: To Zarnakand, Clash on the Giant Bridge, The Love of me, Man with the machine gun....the list goes on
(7)Loads of Mini games, FF6 has the coliseum & that moogle mini game, FF7 has the gold saucer, FF8 & 9 had those card games i.e Tetra Master, FF10 had blitzball.
(6)Big world map or world to explore. FF10 didnt have a world map, but still you could return to areas, it would be better if it hard a world map.
(5)Loads of hard secret bosses e.g FF6 has the Dragons, FF7 & 8 had the weapons, FF9 had Ozma and Hades, FF10 had Dark Aeons (pal version).
(4)Lots of customization & choice: FF6 lets you equip multiple items & multiple espers, and you learn skills by equipping the espers for and going into battle. FF7 has a similar system but with materia. FF8 also has a similar system. In FF9 you learn skills from items. FF10 has a lot of customization and you can choose what abilities and effects should be put on your equipment e.g HP+20%.
(3)Likeable and memorable characters and villians e.g Kefka & Shadow, Cloud & Sephiroth, Squall & Seifer, Vivi & the Black Mages, Auron & Jecht
(2)Turn based type ATB battle system (not exactly turn based) but they all seem turn based, no one attacks at same time, like they do in FF13. FF10 does not have the ATB system, but still has a strategic battle system.
(1)Excellent stories (the story is what shines most in FF): they always have plot twists, mature stories and at many times its very emotional. Ask anyone who played FF, what do they like most about the series. They will say the story. Now FF12 was lacking in 1, 3, 6 & 7. FF13 & 13-2 was lacking in everything except 9 & possibly 8. Today Square Enix has turned this list upside down and they think good graphics is most important, which is just wrong ! The newer FF games now have mediocre or average stories, and the story is the most important ingredient for an FF game, and one may argue its most important for JRPG's in general.