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The best spin-off games, books and more to experience before Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth

If you, like me, wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat wondering how to best prepare yourself for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (pictured), read on!
Square Enix
If you, like me, wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat wondering how to best prepare yourself for Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth (pictured), read on!

Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth comes out in just over a month — the second in a trilogy of games reinterpreting the 1997 hit. While 2020's Final Fantasy 7 Remake ended on a cliffhanger that diverged from the original story, we have clues about where Cloud, Sephiroth, and the gang are going from over two decades of media that include spin-off games, short stories, novels —and even a feature film.

I poured through this expanded universe, called the "Final Fantasy 7 Compilation" by Square Enix. While its quality varies widely, it contains some gems and some excellent character development penned by series veteran Kazushige Nojima. If you're a franchise fanatic like me or merely curious, here's our ranked list of Compilation titles in order of what's most worth your time:

10. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy 7

Taking place one year after the events of the Advent Children movie, 2006's Dirge of Cerberus feels like Square Enix developers played Metal Gear Solid and questioned all their artistic decisions. The Tsviets, the game's maniacal super soldier antagonists (where Weiss and Nero from the Remake INTERmission DLC come from), are basically Dead Cell from Metal Gear 2 or Cobra Unit from Metal Gear Solid 3. Protagonist Vincent Valentine's wonky shooting controls don't do the game any favors, but if you're interested, here's a great recap.

9. Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis

Angsty teenage Sephiroth from his Ever Crisis chapter. He just wants to live a normal life and have friends after tearing through dozens of enemies with remorseless ease. Aww!
/ Square Enix
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Square Enix
Angsty teenage Sephiroth from his Ever Crisis chapter. He just wants to live a normal life and have friends after tearing through dozens of enemies with remorseless ease. Aww!

It'd be hard enough to recommend a gacha game and its customary predatory monetization scheme, but 2023's Final Fantasy 7 Ever Crisis just doesn't offer enough unique story content to merit the time (or money) investment. It's got a new story for main villain Sephiroth called First Soldier, which took me 30+ hours of free-to-play grinding to unlock — but it definitely didn't feel worth it. Just watch a playthrough if you're interested.

8. Before Crisis: Final Fantasy 7

Aside from an admirable fan remake, this ancient mobile game is nearly impossible to play since it never came out in North America. But it's on this list because of its compelling story that revolves around the war between megacorp Shinra and an earlier incarnation of the eco-terrorist organization AVALANCHE. Check out this recap video to learn more about some of the most notorious incidents in franchise lore and, weirdest of all, get introduced to the potential mother of Red XIII's children.

Cloud and Sephiroth, locked in battle in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade.
/ Square Enix
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Square Enix
Cloud and Sephiroth, locked in battle in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade.

7. Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Traces of Two Pasts

Taking place right after the events of Final Fantasy 7 Remake, this book is for Tifa and Aerith megafans. It delves into both heroines' complicated and tragic lives and includes a random short story loosely tied into First Soldier. Tifa's section goes into great detail about her childhood relationship with Cloud (including the only mention of Cloud's father in the Compilation) and her martial arts training, while Aerith's section focuses on her harrowing escape from Shinra and her upbringing with her adoptive mother, Elmyra.

6. Final Fantasy 7: Advent Children Complete

Set two years after the events of the original Final Fantasy 7; this movie brings Cloud and friends back together to save the world from some Sephiroth wannabes, Sephiroth himself, and a curse known as geostigma. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Square Enix luminary Tetsuya Nomura claimed that the remake trilogy will tie into Advent Children. The film's even getting a limited theatrical run the week before Rebirth's release — but while it might prove helpful to watch as a guidepost, you shouldn't expect it to match the highs of the best titles on this list.

5. Final Fantasy 7: The Kids Are Alright: A Turks Side Story

/ Yen On
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Yen On

If you enjoy charming Young Adult novels with heart-warming teen romance and want to learn why a random henchman of Don Corneo's named Leslie got his own backstory in Final Fantasy 7 Remake, you should get this book. While not strictly essential, it provides helpful context for story beats in Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Advent Children.

4. Final Fantasy 7: On the Way to a Smile

Written by original game scenario writer Kazushige Nojima as an epilogue to Final Fantasy 7 and a prequel to Advent Children, On the Way to a Smile collects stories told from the perspectives of Tifa, Barrett, Red XIII, Yuffie, Denzel, and our pals in Shinra — thoroughly rewarding fans with some of the Compilation's best-written character development.

3. Crisis Core: Final Fantasy 7 Reunion

Zack Fair from Crisis Core. Often goofy, occasionally unbearable, and undeniably lovable, if it wasn't already clear that he'd be important in the remake trilogy, it sure is now that he's on the box art for Rebirth.
/ Square Enix
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Square Enix
Zack Fair from Crisis Core. Often goofy, occasionally unbearable, and undeniably lovable, if it wasn't already clear that he'd be important in the remake trilogy, it sure is now that he's on the box art for Rebirth.

If you spend time on anything in the Compilation other than the remake trilogy or the original Final Fantasy 7, you should play this recent, much-improved edition of 2007's Crisis Core. Zack Fair's journey from annoying teenager to ace SOLDIER is an enjoyable experience on its own, and it provides crucial backstory for characters like Cloud, Sephiroth, and Aerith. If you must skip it, you can watch this recap video of the original, as no story changes were made for the new version.

2. Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade and INTERmission

Would you watch The Empire Strikes Back without watching A New Hope? Would you watch The Godfather Part 2 without watching The Godfather? The Integrade edition includes the INTERmission DLC, which is also well worth it. Beyond offering key scenes that stitch together Remake and Rebirth, it accomplishes something I previously thought impossible – making Yuffie Kisaragi a likable character!

1. Final Fantasy 7 (1997)

Final Fantasy 7 isn't just the most important game on this list; it's also a landmark in video game history. There are many reasons why Square Enix is going all-out-ham on this remake trilogy: masterful pacing, loveable characters, god-tier music, and unforgettable plot twists solidified it as an essential role-playing game that influenced generations of designers.

James Perkins Mastromarino contributed to this story. contributed to this story

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Andy Bickerton
Andy Bickerton contributes to NPR's gaming coverage and acts as digital strategy analyst for the newsroom. Data is his forte, video games are his passion. He's based in Anchorage, Alaska, and really doesn't mind freezing temperatures.