Final Fantasy VII has long been a fan favorite in the eyes of many. From the captivating story which stole our hearts to the depth of the characters involved, it might feature the best pure storytelling in gaming history. Add to that foundation the depth of sequels and you have a classic which will live on forever.
What doesn’t get much consideration when thinking back to the 1997 hit is the level of depth that went into worldbuilding. While the planet is as much a part of the story as any character, the geography isn’t usually as appreciated as much as it deserves. With that in mind, here are the 10 best areas in Final Fantasy VII, ranked.
10 Gongaga Area
While this area won’t be at the top of many lists, it definitely deserves consideration for a variety of factors. For starters, Ultimate Weapon has a chance to settle in Gongaga. Completionists will appreciate this, as this optional boss is one of the true tests of mastery in the game. Another nod goes to the possibility of encountering the Mystery Ninja here, which is critical in the acquisition of Yuffie.
Aside from optional tests and potential acquisitions, this area feels perfect. It’s a desolate area in a desolate world. It connects to the Temple of the Ancients and feels antiquated and forgotten, just as such an area should.
9 Grasslands Area
The Grasslands Area is the first location you will enter after leaving the Midgar Area where you begin the game. While the Chocobo Farm is certainly an attraction, it isn’t game making in the Final Fantasy franchise. What warrants the inclusion of this area on this list is a certain frustration you will undoubtedly encounter in your first playthrough.
Before the player can enter the Mythril Mine and head to the Junon Area, they will have to move through the Marshes. A player riding a Chocobo will be able to avoid the encounter which awaits; however, many will have to face the horrifying Midgar Zolom. If you’ve ever attempted to face this opponent without grinding first, you will understand why this area makes the list.
8 Icicle Area
Jumping forward from the start of the adventure to the very end, the Icicle Area is a beautifully crafted portion that takes up the most landmass of any area on your world map. All sorts of great fun await in the Icicle Area, including the summon materia for Alexander, the Great Cave of Wonders, and the final battle against Sephiroth in the Northern Cave.
Much like the Gongaga Area, it isn’t the abundance of fun to be had in this area which makes it so great – it’s the desolate design which makes it feel authentic. Players will likely spend enormous amounts of time simply wandering around the Icicle Area, looking for the next place to go. That’s fine because there is certainly plenty to discover.
7 Cosmo Area
Cosmo Canyon will hold a special place in fans’ hearts. In the storyline, it is where Red XIII learns the truth of his father, who he had previously believed to be a coward. The entire village adopts a Native American feel which creates the authentic aesthetic for re-enacting this tribal portion of the story. This is also where players will learn about the source of materia and its connection to the lifestream.
What makes the Cosmo Area most special will come after players have defeated Ultimate Weapon and gained access to the Ancient Forest. Players who breed the proper Chocobo may access this area sooner, but anyone who successfully navigates the area will be rewarded with several powerful items including the Minerva Band, Apocalypse, and the Supershot ST.
6 Rocket Launch Pad Area
In terms of pure story content, there is so much packed into the Rocket Launch Pad Area that it could warrant its own list. Only two areas exist in this area, Rocket Town and Shinra No. 26. The player encounters Rocket Town on their hunt for Sephiroth. It is here that Cid is also acquired as a party member. The depth of the story involved with Shinra No. 26 is too great to explore here, but it is truly masterful in its execution.
Beyond simple story elements, this is the location where players will acquire several useful gameplay elements. Cid has already been mentioned, but the Tiny Bronco is acquired here from the player’s first visit. During this visit, they can also pick up the Drill Arm for Barrett, and a Huge Materia on their second visit.
5 Nibel Area
Speaking of story elements, nothing in the game is more central than Cloud’s backstory, and there is no better place to explore that element than in the Nibel Area. This area includes Nibelheim, Mt. Nibel, the Nibel Reactor, Shinra Manor, and more. This is the area where players can recruit Vincent, learn about Sephiroth’s backstory, and the location where Cloud begins to question his identity.
Much of Cloud and Tifa’s relationship is uncovered in this area, and it is truly the centerpiece for FFVII’s storyline. The Nibel Reactor is also of note, as it is the original resting place where Jenova can be found.
4 Gold Saucer Area
Moving away from story aspects, the Gold Saucer Area is a location in the game where players can take a well-deserved break from the dystopian aesthetic of FFVII and engage in various lighthearted minigames. While players will initially encounter this area as prisoners, they will soon come to encounter the heart of this area: The Gold Saucer.
The Gold Saucer is a nice break from the norm which still incorporates story elements. While there are some definite points of interest in that regard, including a bit of depth to Barret’s character and the recruitment of Cait Sith, this location is best for the time players can lose in the multitude of mini-games.
3 Junon Area
Moving back to the story again, the Junon Area includes two main areas of interest: Fort Condor and Junon.
Fort Condor features an interesting story sequence that requires a bit more strategy than is present in the rest of the game. This area requires players to protect an egg at the top of the mountain and awards the Phoenix Materia for their efforts.
What vaults this area so high on the list is the sequence of events that occur in Junon. The player's party infiltrates the Shinra military during President Rufus’ inauguration celebration. There are several fun instances in this sequence, but the cutscene which follows the player’s second visit is what truly sets up some of the more challenging points in this game.
2 Woodlands Area
The Woodlands Area only features one location of interest: The Temple of the Ancients. This location alone deserves recognition in that it is a work of art containing several story elements critical to the continuation of the game.
Upon obtaining the Keystone from Dio, players will advance to this location in search of Sephiroth and the Black Materia. The location encountered is a maze of levels featuring several Sephiroth clones, and an ultimate confrontation which sees Sephiroth take control of Cloud and turn him against his party. The dream sequence which follows sets the stage for Aeris’ sacrifice and presents a wonderful depth to Cloud’s character which has been building at this point for some time.
1 Midgar Area
Where the game begins is where this list will end.
Despite all the story which follows, possibly nothing in the Final Fantasy series compares to the level of depth presented in Midgar. It is the perfect foundation for such a robust game. While the area itself features other locations such as Kalm, Midgar itself takes the spotlight.
Each sector has a unique feel. Most of the characters are found here. The entire story is laid out in this area. In truth, Midgar feels more like an area, and it succeeds in creating a setting for this game all on its own.