Actually, as I seem to recall it Cloud was in his twenties - 21 if I'm remembering right. He was only an adolocent during his days in the military. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the last FF to have had an adult main character. You're right though, the way they're used is more important than their actual age, but it's just very, very unusual to me when DQ1 started the japanese RPG back in... 1987 I believe. It's been nearly 20 years since then, and we're still with teenage heroes. Do most of the players from way back then prefer to be 'young at heart', or are the developers just that resistant to changing their stories? :P
Though I'll admit, it seems the older teenager character is better for the 'going on an adventure' tale than someone who's older. But I don't see why a hero in their early 20's wouldn't be just as good.
Well then if we think carefully about it there are not that many RPGs using young teenagers as lead. They’re simply looking young and healthy, that's all :)
The average video game player is estimated to be 25-30 years of age.
Heh we should draw a list of all the RPGs wilt all the main characters, this way we’ll know if teenage characters are really invading RPGs.
Here are popular heroes that are certainly above 20;
Cloud from FFVII (now that you're mentioning it, he wasn’t a teenager)
Squall from FFVIII (he’s looking at the end of his teenage period to me)
Tidus from FFX
Yuri from Shadow Hearts
Fei from Xenogear
Shion from Xenosaga, a woman protagonist
Aya from Parasite Eve
Ash from Vagrant Story
Valkyrie from Valkyrie Profile, it was a woman protagonist
Digital Devil Saga, I never played it but the heroes seemed to be mature.
Calintz from Magna Carta, a virile travesty above all :P
In a strange way, a lot of silent protagonists are actually teenagers;
Crono from Chrono Trigger.
Serge from Chrono Cross.
Hero from Breath of Fire 3 (and probably the other episode of the series, I don’t remember)
Main hero from Dragon Quest VIII
Main hero from Suikoden
Hero from Dark Cloud
The other young characters are from series like “Tales of” or Grandia, or very manga-ish games.
Anyway I think too it would be nice to have a old protagonist someday.