No fantasy world is complete without a tavern. From Middle Earth's Prancing Pony to Harry Potter's Hog's Head, all the way to the Mos Eisley Cantina in a galaxy far, far away. Every good adventure must, at some point, have a pit-stop in a pub.
For me, no worlds are more fantastical than those of the Final Fantasy series. While the plot to some of these games might drive you to drink the in-game pubs certainly help along the way, serving up frothy pitchers of story, atmosphere and minigames. Using the highly scientific method of getting drunk and thinking very hard about it, I therefore offer this tribute to the top pubs of Final Fantasy. If you don't like it then I only say: did you spill my pint?
Maagho (Final Fantasy XV)
Located in idyllic Altissia, Final Fantasy's answer to Venice, our first entry is the most hipster-friendly on the list. More of a gastropub than a traditional RPG tavern, Maagho offers up overpriced food with purportedly massive benefits, although I can't see much point in spending 300,000 gil on a single dish other than to feel virtually decadent. Still, it's nice to have a Final Fantasy equivalent to lighting your cigar with a twenty-pound note. This place stuck out in terms of the pub immersion factor, as it includes a limited edition mini-game where Noctis works as a waiter. Loses points for not letting him constantly take smoke breaks or get drunk on the job, though.
Tule Pub (Final Fantasy V)
Tule is the first town you visit in Final Fantasy V and, like every town in the game, it has a pub. As well as being a pirate hangout, it has a trio of dancers who offer the party leader a “special performance”, essentially an awkward 16-bit lapdance. This dubious distinction of being the only strip bar in the series means it had to make the list. Of more interest is how the pubs in Final Fantasy V tie into the class system: playing the piano in every one teaches you the ultimate skill for the Bard job class, though sadly this is not the ability to inspire a cockney knees-up.
The Luca Cafe (Final Fantasy X)
Final Fantasy X's Luca Cafe is the obligatory sports bar. With a nice round serving area in the middle of the room and plenty of screens to watch Blitzball on, this recreates the atmosphere of a generic high street sports bar so well that you can practically hear a drunken punter shouting at Sky Sports News. The best thing about The Luca Cafe is the barman. He's into Blitzball. In fact, he's so into Blitzball that if you win five games and show him a mirror you found via a contrived sidequest, he'll give you “The World Champion”, a blitzball that has been in his family for generations that happens to be part of Wakka's Celestial Weapon.
Lali-ho Pub (Final Fantasy IV)
This pub is located underground, inside a castle, and frequented by a notoriously hard-drinking fantasy race. I don't even feel like I need to qualify anything else: who doesn't want to get battered with a bunch of dwarves? When the party visits, sadly, the lone patron is a drunken dwarf who offers to do you a little dance. To be frank, it's pretty depressing, but bonus points for the Ken Loach-style social realism.
Lindblum Industrial District Bar (Final Fantasy IX)
A haunt in Lindblum's Industrial District, this pub is frequented by the salt-of-the-earth, including IX's protagonist Zidane. As well as a cool ska beat that plays as you sit at the counter, and a flirtatious barmaid our monkey-tailed friend can't resist, this pub apparently does the best meal in the city, as evidenced by the fact that Zidane ditches a royal banquet in favour of the grub here. The steak pie is killer, sure, but it's also a little story beat showing that Zidane's more comfortable among normal people than stuffy royalty.
Turtle’s Paradise (Final Fantasy VII)
Considering the series is Japanese, it would be criminal not to have Turtle's Paradise from VII on our list. Located in the pan-Asian island nation of Wutai, Turtle's Paradise is the perfect spot for a warm glass of sake. My favourite thing about this place is that it's the holiday drinking spot for antagonists-turned-frenemies The Turks, and if any group in Final Fantasy knows pubs it's this lot. If I remember right, there are only two points in the game where you see them off-duty (in Junon and Wutai) and both times they're just sitting getting absolutely hammered and ignoring their orders to sabotage your quest. Fine by me folks. Turtle's Paradise also gets bonus points for having an entire sidequest dedicated to it — finding six flyers for the bar scattered across the world will impress the barman into giving you performance-enhancing drugs. Seriously, straight over the counter, like The Jockey in Shameless.
Dollet Pub (Final Fantasy VIII)
Nestled in the cobblestones of Final Fantasy VIII's Dollet lies one of its greatest pubs, simply known as the Dollet Pub. No-nonsense, this is an old-school boozer. The key feature of this pub is that it's excellent for players of the Triple Triad mini-game, with the entire upper floor dedicated to cards, as well as an invitation-only secret room where you can play the owner for rare cards and gain an inflated sense of importance. One point I love about the Dollet Pub is that you can duck in for a quick pint while being chased by a giant mechanical spider during your SeeD exam, and actually lose 20 points for doing so. But I'd rather have a pint than a few points any day.
Seventh Heaven (Final Fantasy VII)
Located in the slums of Midgar, Seventh Heaven is Sector 7's lovable dive bar. With Tifa's theme playing as you're in the place, and the fact that it's used as a base early game, Seventh Heaven feels like home. Even when you're bumming around in an airship and exploring the ocean, Seventh Heaven remains your local. Points for the fact that Tifa likes making her cocktails extra strong, and judging by the size of Wedge from AVALANCHE, the food must also be something special. Seventh Heaven narrowly misses out on a higher spot on the list due to the fact that you get kicked out whenever some bunch of eco-terrorists want to have a meeting.
Galbadia Hotel Bar (Final Fantasy VIII)
This hotel bar in Final Fantasy VIII's Deling City holds a special place in my heart, as we take our initial visit here during the first Laguna flashback sequence. Before this point in time, Galbadian soldiers seem more like cartoon baddies than real people — a mindless evil threat. During this flashback, however, we get to know a few of them personally, hang out where they drink, and listen to the piano. This one also gets bonus points for the layout, I'm a big fan of a drinking booth, and love the shape of the stage. It misses out on the top slots because, honestly, it's just a tiny bit too posh: bet they don't do real ale.
Albrook Pub (Final Fantasy VI)
I know what you're thinking: where is Albrook, and what's so special about this pub? This place adds nothing to the plot of Final Fantasy VI, nor does it provide you with anything particularly helpful in terms of items or gameplay hints. What it does have is the greatest atmosphere of any pub in the series, period. It is constantly kicking off in Albrook: drinking and whooping soldiers flirting with dancers, women on stage twirling around like the Paris cabaret, gorgeously jazzy piano music, this place is a dream. I've never been able to get it out of my head, not least because there's a sombre flashback to it when the world is in ruins, and one NPC wistfully thinks back to the greatest pub that ever existed in his world. This moment genuinely hit me harder than the death of Aeris in Final Fantasy VII. See, the idea of a once-great drinking den that just isn't the same these days: there's something we can all relate to.