A blond boy stands gripping a sword strapped to his back in "Final Fantasy 7 Remake"
(Square Enix)

Which ‘Final Fantasy VII’ Games Are Worth Playing Before ‘Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth’?

So, you’ve been hearing all the hype around Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth. You’ve seen the nearly universally enthusiastic reviews. If you’ve been online in the gaming sphere, you’ve seen the pictures of a cooler version of Simba riding a big, fluffy bird, or heard people heatedly arguing in favor of their favorite ships.

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You’ve seen meme after meme involving Sephiroth. And yet … you’ve never played a Final Fantasy VII game before. What to do?

As a whole series, the various installments within Final Fantasy are completely unrelated to each other. But the more popular entries—like VII and X—have direct sequels. Actually, for VII, it’s even more complicated than that. There’s a lot of games just within the realm of Final Fantasy VII. There’s prequels, there’s sequels, and then, there’s the Remake series, of which Rebirth is the second installment. But Remake is in some ways a remake, and in some ways a direct response to the original 1997 game—very similar to the Rebuild of Evangelion film series, but more widely beloved.

There are so many games within the world of Final Fantasy VII that there’s a name for them as a set: Compilation of Final Fantasy VII. Several of them are currently unplayable, such as mobile games First Soldier and Before Crisis. Dirge of Cerberus, which is a side-story about Rebirth’s new party member Vincent Valentine, was panned and is ridiculously difficult to find, even though it was technically remastered for the PS4.

Fortunately, the games you can actually find are the really important ones. Which of them—if any—should you deeply consider playing before picking up Rebirth?

Final Fantasy VII: Remake (2020) — Highest Possible Recommendation

Cloud Aerith and Tifa together in FF7 remake
(Square Enix)

Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy VII: Remake. The good people at PlayStation and Square Enix will say that playing Remake isn’t necessary before playing Rebirth—it’s a standalone game, they say. There’s a recap, they say. But doesn’t the fact that a recap is necessary kind of say that playing the first game is important?

Remake beautifully introduces you to the core cast of characters and the highly developed world they live in, which in turn grounds you when it comes time to play Rebirth. Remember, Rebirth’s storyline takes place in the middle third of the original game, after Remake covered the first section—the story is very much already in progress. The first major set piece of Rebirth is a climactic character-building moment for several main characters, and Rebirth throws you into the thick of it immediately, jumping between multiple points in time while assuming you’ve got a solid grounding with who’s who and what’s what. You’re going to want that grounding.

Fortunately, Remake is still an excellent game that’s absolutely worth your time, if not just for the Honeybee Inn sequence alone. Especially for the Honeybee Inn sequence.

Final Fantasy VII (1997) — Strongly Recommended

A spiky haired boy with a sword on his back stares up at a dark tower In "Final Fantasy VII"
(Square Enix)

Ahead of the release of Remake, I played the Midgar section of the original Final Fantasy VII for the first time. I got sidetracked when Remake came out and didn’t pick it up again until this year, when I finally finished it off ahead of the release of Rebirth. With that point of view in mind, believe me when I say: I strongly recommend playing the original game before picking up either Remake or Rebirth. I guarantee your overall experience will be richer for being familiar with the 1997 original.

The Remake series is analogous to Hideaki Anno’s Rebuild of Evangelion film series, in that instead of being a true remake, it actively responds to the original work. (Although FF7′s version is less controversial within, and more beloved by, its fanbase.) It plays with your expectations, which becomes especially effective when the Remake series diverges in any way from the original story.

Yes, you can play Remake without playing the original, but the games actively assume you are familiar with the original story. Square Enix then toys with your expectations in the most tantalizing of ways. And once you know the original, there’s so much incredible detail to catch—the crew throws so much love for the original into Remake and Rebirth. These games are a detail-oriented nerd’s paradise.

So yes, I’m absolutely that snob telling you that you should play the original Final Fantasy VII. But especially if you’re a fan of turn-based RPGs, it’s still fun as hell to play. I had the time of my life, even in 2024. (And the Switch version lets you speed up movement and turn off random encounters.)

Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII- Reunion (2022) — Recommended

(Square Enix)

The very first scene in Final Fantasy VII: Rebirth focuses around Zack Fair, a member of SOLDIER who seems buddy-buddy with our boy Cloud. But who the hell is this guy, why should we care about him, and how does he tie into the original story? Rebirth has its own answers. But before that, Square Enix made an entire game to answer all of these questions, and that game is called Crisis Core -Final Fantasy VII-. While it was originally released for the PSP, Reunion is an excellent remaster that was released in 2022.

However, and I cannot stress this enough, do not play this game without playing Final Fantasy VII first. If you’ve only played Remake, this game is one giant spoiler for Rebirth, and playing it out of sequence will spoil some of the story’s juiciest turns.

Fortunately, chances are that if you follow my advice above and play the original Final Fantasy VII, you will come out on the other side being uniquely obsessed with this series and more willing than ever to delve into some nerdy homework. There are so many points in Crisis Core that have made me squeal. It dives into the biggest hole within the story of Final Fantasy VII, and it’s satisfying as hell to watch all these questions you had slowly get answered. Also, the combat—which is more action-game style—is quite fun.

Bonus round: Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children — Nah

Poster for Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
(Square Enix)

Ahead of the release of Rebirth, Square Enix very wisely engineered a rerelease of the film Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children in theaters all around the world. That might make you think Advent Children is somehow related to the action of Rebirth—but it’s not.

Advent Children is a sequel to Final Fantasy VII, which means it takes place several years after the game that will follow Rebirth. That means it contains spoilers. But then again, because the story of the Remake series might end up diverging wildly from the endpoint of the 1997 game, the events of Advent Children might not end up happening at all in the Remake timeline.

That being said, if you want to watch Cloud ride a motorcycle decked out with every single usable sword in Final Fantasy VII, you’ll have a ball. Just know the English translation is wonky, so find a Japanese sub and take it with a hefty grain of salt.

(featured image: Square Enix)


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Author
Kirsten Carey
Kirsten (she/her) is a contributing writer at the Mary Sue specializing in anime and gaming. In the last decade, she's also written for Channel Frederator (and its offshoots), Screen Rant, and more. In the other half of her professional life, she's also a musician, which includes leading a very weird rock band named Throwaway. When not talking about One Piece or The Legend of Zelda, she's talking about her cats, Momo and Jimbei.