I wanted to say some things about Final Fantasy XIII. I don't think it is a bad game. I had a lot of fun with it in fact. However, it soured my view of the Final Fantasy series going forward (and later FF games also contributed to that). Let me explain.
I remember seeing some Square-Enix development video during the PS2 era where they said their goal was that any year where they released a mainline Final Fantasy game, that was going to be the absolute best game released that year. That was their goal with every Final Fantasy release during that time period. And that had also been my experience with Final Fantasy up to FF XII.
I fell in love with the series from the very first game. If you had asked me the day before the SNES launched, what my favorite NES game was, I would have said Final Fantasy. And yet I consider the SNES/PS1/PS2 era to be the best years of the series. They took a game series I already thought the world of and just made it far better than I could have imagined. This was especially true of the first FF game on a new system. FF IV blew me away with it's intricate narrative and fleshed out characters like I had never seen before in a video game. FF VII left me speechless with its cinematic storytelling, that I had never seen previously, and also it's cutting edge graphics. Before FF VII, RPGs were thought to have sub-par graphics on a system, but with FF VII those FMV's blew away anything else at the time. And then FF X was completely voice acted which made for a complete immersive experience of being in a fantasy world.
What would they do with FF XIII? I couldn't wait to find out. The #1 reason I got a PS1, PS2 and PS3 was to play Final Fantasy games. I was more of a PC gamer during most of this era, but I would drop whatever I was doing either on the PC or in RL whenever a new Final Fantasy game released. (And the main game I played on the PC was FF XI.) On top of that, I bought my first HD TV a week before the release of FF XIII, so it was the first game I truly experienced with HD graphics.
To say that I was disappointed with FF XIII would be a huge understatement. There is just no excuse for the first 20 hours of this game. It's shit. I bought the game day 1, and I just kept playing it for catharsis. It was like a car crash that I just couldn't look away from. I'm glad I kept playing though, and after about 20 hours or so the game gets pretty good. The battles get more challenging, the leveling system opens up and gives choices, and the open-world area is extremely fun. I ended up playing FF XIII for over 100 hours, completed over 99% of the content, and was left wanting more. However, none of that excuses the first 20 hours. They just suck. And 20+ hours is too much of a time investment in order to get to the "good part" of a game.
More importantly, FF XIII marks a permanent shift in the Final Fantasy franchise. I no longer believe they are trying to release the very best game in any year a Final Fantasy game releases. After FF XIII, I would describe FF games as "fun but disappointing". FF XIII was fun but disappointing, but I was left wanting more at the end, so I played FF XIII-2.
FF XIII-2: Fun but disappointing.
Lighting Returns: Fun but disappointing.
FF XIV: Very fun. However, I am aware that the 1.0 version was extremely disappointing.
FF XV: I played this game for 1 hour and I couldn't keep playing after that. The game may very well be fun, but it doesn't feel like Final Fantasy.
FF VII Remake: Fun but disappointing.
FF XVI: I haven't played this yet, because I don't have a PS5. I will probably end up playing this game at some point, and I respect Yoshi-P as a developer. However, I don't believe he is as talented as Sakaguchi (creator of FF).
Final Fantasy used to be my favorite series, but that changed with FF XIII. Now if I buy a Playstation it's for FromSoftware games, and even then, I may get an XBox or PC going forward. Final Fantasy games stopped being "must play" games for me after FF XIII even though I mostly enjoyed myself. It marked a noticeable and permanent decline in the quality of Final Fantasy games going forward.