FF8: The Best Spots For Grinding AP & Leveling Up

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As is typical within the Final Fantasy series, making your party stronger is done primarily through battle.

Finding and defeating the exotic monsters around the world rewards you with not only experience points, but also points used to learn new abilities and actions.

Final Fantasy VIII’s currency for growth is called AP – or Ability Points – and are just as important, if not more so, than experience.

You’ll be hungry for the stuff your entire time within its world. So let’s discuss the best places to farm experience and AP in the game.


5. Balamb Garden Training Center

Balamb Garden Training Center / FFVIII HD Screenshot

The Garden’s training center is the perfect place to hunt and gather experience and AP.

It’s best utilized once you’ve gotten a full party, though it can also be done solo if you’re daring.

If you take the left path from the entrance, you’ll find nothing but Grats to fight. These planetoid beasts are easy to defeat and award you 2 AP each, but you can do better.

Grats are just the steppingstone.

Going right at the entrance takes you to the part of the training center that contains the fearsome T-Rexaur enemies.

These sharpteeth are tough, especially during the early game. But here’s the trick:

They’re weak to sleep.

You can draw an infinite number of sleeps from the nearby Grats and either cast it on the T-Rexaurs, or even better, junction it so your attacks send them to snooze land.

Get into a groove to beat the T-Rexaur and you’ll be rewarded with 10 AP.

Add this to the Grats you’ll be fighting in the meantime, and you’ll be swimming in new abilities before you know it.


4. Shenand Hill

Shenand Hill / FFVIII HD Screenshot

If you head southwest of Timber (towards Winhill), you’ll come across Shenand Hill.

There’s not too much here as far as adventure goes, but the real prize is the enemies.

In the Shenand Hill area you can fight the Vysage, a dude with a half-buried head and creepy disembodied hands.

While the Vysage can put up a tough fight, they have a fairly big weakness:

They can be zombied.

If you turn it undead with the zombie spell, you can then instantly defeat it with Life or a Phoenix Down.

This is a great way to start farming them until you get strong enough to defeat them through normal means.

A Vysage, along with his two hands, awards the player with 12 AP and about a thousand experience, making them a very worthwhile bad guy to spend some time defeating over and over.


3. The Beach near Balamb Garden

Beach near Balamb Garden / FFVIII HD Screenshot

The most famous early-to-mid game grinding spot in Final Fantasy VIII are the beaches surrounding Balamb Garden.

Available just as soon as you can leave the Garden (which is less than half an hour into the game), these beaches are occupied by nothing but Fastitocalon-F enemies.

These little buried fish friends are worth 3 AP each.

And since you always encounter them in pairs, that means 6 AP per fight.

The best part about this is that the Fastitocalon-F are weak to lightning, and wouldn’t you know it, Squall comes standard with Quetzalcoatl!

Summoning the giant electric bird-boy is a quick way to clear the field.

You can clear a fight in about a minute, even less as you get stronger, so getting the AP needed to learn abilities is a breeze.


2. The Island Closest to Heaven & The Island Closest to Hell

Island Closest To Heaven Battle / FFVIII HD Screenshot

Back in 1999, the Island Closest to Hell was the coolest place to be, just because it had the word hell in it.

A silly reason to prefer a place, sure.

But there are even better reasons to like these airship-only islands.

Located on both the west and east edges of the world map, these two islands are loaded to bursting full of tough monsters worth buckets of AP and experience.

This is a very late game spot, as you’ll need the airship.

However, spending time running circles will not only award you with the dozens of hidden draw points, but also hundreds of AP by defeating all the monsters along the way.

Each enemy is worth substantial AP, with the lowest being 6 and the most valuable being 14.

And they also give lots of experience!

Hanging around so close to heaven or hell will not only make you feel really cool, but you’ll become so strong through the grind that you will actually be really cool at the end of your time there.


1. Cactuar Island

Cactuar Island Grind / FFVIII HD Screenshot

There’s a desert island on the east side of the Centra continent.

This sandy location is home to one of the most iconic Final Fantasy creatures: the Cactuar.

These little green speed demons are notorious for being wellsprings of growth – and that’s no exception in Final Fantasy VIII.

Each Cactuar is worth a tremendous 20 AP, the most from any single monster in the game.

Battling Cactuars is a tricky ordeal, though.

They have a stupidly high evasion and a solid defense, meaning those who don’t come prepared will whiff quite a bit.

Fortunately Squall has a natural 100% hit rate, making him a good candidate for knocking Cactuars over.

Keeping Squall at low HP and abusing his Renzokuken limit break is a great way to blow through Cactuars.

A good little secret about Cactuar Island is that its inhabitants aren’t just limited to the island itself.

You can also run along the desert area right next to the island to fight the little dudes, meaning you can start your Cactuar grind as soon as you can control Balamb Garden.

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Brian Conley

Brian knows more about RPGs than he does world history. Combine with his love of writing and you get somebody who can, and will, go on forever about every nuance of every game he's played.