Explaining and analyzing what happens in the Final Fantasy VII Rebirth Ending

It’s going to be a long few years. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth picks up where Remake left off, but the story curiously doesn’t actually progress all that much. We see a key chapter of the original game - but as far as the game’s all-new elements as introduced in Remake go, you’ll probably leave FF7 Rebirth with more questions than answers. 

We’ve been thinking about the FF7 Rebirth ending pretty much non-stop since finishing the game. We’ve poured over captured footage of all the key scenes, replayed the game, and gone back to cross-reference with Remake. Now the time has come for an ultra-nerdy attempt to offer up a handy FF7 Rebirth ending explained article. But buckle up - because it’s complicated.

This article, naturally, is a bunch of theorycrafting and ending analysis - none of what is presented here is 100% guaranteed to play out in game three, because Square Enix has deliberately left the ending quite vague and open-ended. We think this is a pretty strong swing at what happens, though. It’s a long piece, so go grab a coffee and settle in…

This article contains full spoilers for every aspect of FF7 Rebirth. You have been warned.
SPOILERS ahead as we analyze and explain the ending of FF7 Rebirth... as best we can, anyway.

Does Aerith die in FF7 Rebirth? Well... what's your perspective?

If you were expecting a straightforward recreation of one of the most famous death scenes not just in gaming but in all of entertainment, I’ve got news for you: nothing so big and iconic in this remake series is so simple. 

We don’t get the iconic death as it was presented in the original, for instance. In a last-minute act of heroism, Cloud actually parries Sephiroth’s Masamune and sends the blade flying. Rather than impaling Aerith, it ends up stuck in the floor of the Forgotten Capital’s altar. But then, Aerith appears bloodied and dies anyway. 

Aerith shows up in what appears to be a spiritual plane to assist Cloud in the final-not-final battle with Sephiroth. Then she fades - and when Cloud is back in the Forgotten Capital, she lays dead. The others cry over her body. But then Cloud cradles her, asks her to open her eyes, and she does.

Later, after the body is buried, Aerith appears again - but only to Cloud. He can see her, and talk to her - but nobody else can. Red XIII seems to sense her presence, but is still mourning her death. The final scenes of the game features an Aerith that nobody but Cloud can see hanging out with the mourning party. 

Is this simply another case of Cloud’s sanity slowly shattering - is he in denial about what happened? Or is there something more to it? What does this all mean? 

This is all deliberately left quite ambiguous, but there are tasty clues hidden away in FF7 Rebirth and in Remake that give a good idea of what is probably going on. To do so, we have to talk about the narrative at large - so let’s get to it. 

This is a Multiverse story - and it’s all about the dogs

“Behold… the true nature of reality. When the boundaries of fate are breached, new worlds are born.” - Sephiroth

At the end of FF7 Remake, when Zack is revealed to have survived the onslaught that should have killed him, we see one small hint that it’s a parallel world: an image of Stamp, the kid-friendly Shinra Mascot dog. Except, in ‘Zack’s world’, Stamp is a different breed. 

We can take the Stamp not only as the kid-friendly mascot of Shinra’s military, but as the Mascot for the universes FF7 Rebirth and Remake take place in. This is a detail that is largely hidden - but if you look closely, you’ll be able to see that this game takes place across a few different universes, and an easy identifying factor is the Stamp that appears in the scenes. Here’s a breakdown:

1. Beagle Universe:

Stamp is highlighted multiple times in FF7 Remake, making a point of ensuring you recognize his Beagle design.
Stamp is highlighted multiple times in FF7 Remake, making a point of ensuring you recognize his Beagle design.

The 'main universe' Cloud & Party are in features a Beagle Stamp. This character featured prominently throughout FF7 Remake - the developers wanted you to take notice. This Stamp appears in the background of their FF7 Rebirth adventure, too.

This is what we're going to call the Beagle Universe, though in Star Trek terms you might also think of it as the 'Prime' universe for the Remake titles. Prime meaning Primary; the universe where the story begins and where the majority of its characters are from.

2. Terrier Universe:

Back in FF7 Remake, a different design of Stamp was one of the first indications that we'd universe-hopped.
Back in FF7 Remake, a different design of Stamp was one of the first indications that we'd universe-hopped

Zack's universe initially has a Terrier Stamp. This is seen in Remake, where a chip packet featuring the character flutters past during Zack’s non-death scene. This is the first major clue in Remake - other than Zack’s survival - that a multiverse has been created.

But the Terrier crops up again in Rebirth. When Zack is making a decision between saving Biggs or Cloud, he's in the Terrier Universe, as graffiti of the character appears on the walls of Midgar behind him.

Barely visible in the darkened background of Shinra HQ is a small confirmation this branch takes place in Terrier universe.
Barely visible in the darkened background of Shinra HQ is a small confirmation this branch takes place in Terrier universe.

When Zack decides to go to the Shinra Bldg to try to find a cure to save Cloud, he remains in the Terrier universe, as shown by a sign behind him when he goes to Shinra HQ.  This Zack faces off against a whole Platoon of Shinra Soldiers in a scene reminiscent of Cloud on the bike in FF7. His fate is unclear.

As a note, in the review version of the game, a single Terrier Stamp can be found in the Junon Area. I’m not sure if this has been patched, but given it’s only one instance, contradicts the rest of the game, and features in the open world rather than a cutscene, I feel it’s a developer accidentally using the wrong Stamp asset and not a specific hint. 

3. Pug Universe:

Biggs is eating Stamp-branded chips that happen to confirm this is yet another different branch.
Biggs is eating Stamp-branded chips that happen to confirm this is yet another different branch.

We then see a Zack that decides to save Biggs instead. Biggs is eating the same Stamp-themed potato chips that show up in Jessie’s house (Beagle) and Zack’s survival (Terrier) in FF7 Remake, but here we have a Pug Stamp. This Pug Universe doesn’t last long - Biggs is shot dead and Zack chooses to not face the soldiers as he did in his intended death, but runs away. His fate is unclear.

The branch was presumably created when Zack made his choice of who to save. Back in Terrier, in the tunnels, Zack heads right at a branch to save Cloud. When he does this, a magical rainbow light washes through the left-hand path he didn’t take, which might indicate the universes branching. It could also indicate Aerith's influence, too - when Aerith opens portals, we see a similar sparkly rainbow magic on multiple occasions.

4. Shiba Universe:

Johnny's Shiba Inu plush has - you can just about make out - Stamp's military bandana.
Johnny's Shiba Inu plush has - you can just about make out - Stamp's military bandana.

There’s a third Zack in this sequence: one that fails to make a decision. He seems to return to the Sector 5 Church, where he’s still agonizing. “Cloud… Biggs… or Aerith. How the hell am I supposed to choose?” At this moment, Johnny walks past. He slows to look at Zack, and he’s center frame - meant to be noticed. Johnny is carrying a Stamp plush - a Shiba Inu Stamp; so let’s call this the Shiba Universe.

This universe was seemingly created by Zack not doing anything at the branch that created Pug and continued Terrier.

Before this version of Zack can do anything, the universe-hopping Sephiroth arrives and sends him flying into a void between universes. This is presumably the Zack that gets ‘rescued’ from that void - most likely by Aerith - and ends up fighting in FF7 Rebirth’s final battles.

5. Spitz Universe:

Blink and you'll miss it, but Aerith and Cloud's little dimension-hopping date features a cameo of yet another Stamp on yet another chip packet.
Blink and you'll miss it, but Aerith and Cloud's little dimension-hopping date features a cameo of yet another Stamp on yet another chip packet.

After the events at the Temple of the Ancients, the Beagle Universe Cloud and Aerith appear to have their consciousness transferred into the comatose Cloud & Aerith we’ve seen with Zack all-game. However, this doesn’t appear to actually be Terrier Universe - because when in the slums, Cloud and Aerith buy candy - and this universe features a Spitz Stamp.

At the end of this section in the Spitz Universe, this universe’s Aerith gives her Holy Materia to Cloud to take, and sends him back to the Beagle universe right as Sephiroth finds her, presumably to kill her - though her fate remains unclear. 

The boundaries between universes are now being routinely broken

In the Spitz universe, Aerith pushes Cloud through a portal to send him back to Beagle.
In the Spitz universe, Aerith pushes Cloud through a portal to send him back to Beagle.

What’s clear is that the boundaries between universes are now paper-thin, where previously they were impenetrable. It’s not clear what caused this - it may be Sephiroth’s influence, or it may be the party’s act of defeating the Whisper Harbinger at the end of FF7 Remake. 

The reason doesn’t matter as much as the fact that it is definitely the case; multiple universes are now actively in play. Here’s the probable cases of universe-hopping and boundary breaking we see in Rebirth:

  • After the events at the Temple of the Ancients, somehow our Cloud and Aerith appear to end up in what we above named Spitz Universe, a world on the brink of ending. Cloud, at least, appears to have taken over the bodies of that universe’s natural versions of themselves - maybe Aerith too. It’s a world on the brink of death - people are enjoying their last days before the end. 
  • At the end of the above Spitz universe sequence, Aerith physically opens a portal underneath Cloud and sends him back to the ‘prime’ Beagle universe, helping to escape before Sephiroth arrives.
  • In Shiba universe, Zack encounters Sephiroth outside the Sector 5 Church. Sephiroth appears to be on his way into the church to attack this world's Aerith, as we see in Spitz. With a slash of his sword and a flurry of Whispers, Sephiroth opens a portal into a void that Zack falls into. Zack appears to be rescued from this void, and ends up in a sort of ‘Final Destination’ battlefield alongside Beagle universe Cloud. While this could be a dream state, at the end of the game Zack states it “felt too real” to have been a dream. What we don’t know is what universe this is in, or if it's something like a pocket universe. 
  • After being defeated by Cloud and Zack on Final Destination, Sephiroth splits their universes again, saying “Just as worlds unite, so too do they part”. Cloud remains where he is, while Zack is sent back into the void.
  • Zack emerges from the void onto a tiny outcropping of the Sector 5 Church with nothing else around it. The sky is ablaze with a huge fireball/portal/possibly Meteor above. It appears this is the end of this world - nothing else is left. Zack battles a form of Sephiroth here.
  • Sephiroth appears to be straddling all the worlds. In Beagle, the main party fights him. Cloud fights him in the space-like ‘Final Destination’ space. Zack battles at the end of a world. Damage done to Sephiroth in one world is reflected in the other. In Beagle, the party notices this - when Cloud and Zack slice off one of Sephiroth Reborn’s horns, that same horn spontaneously flies off him in Beagle universe’s battle at the Forgotten Capital, and the party notes it feels like “someone is helping” them to fight. 
Zack faces the end.
Zack faces the end.
  • Zack and Cloud appear to be able to sense each other’s presence despite being in different places and having been ‘separated’ by Sephiroth - and can even perform a Synergy Attack together.
  • After Sephiroth is defeated, Zack appears to be at the true end of his world, about to be engulfed. He’s ready to say goodbye. White Whispers appear around him, and a portal opens beneath him and saves him, spiriting him away from that world as it is destroyed. 
  • Later, Zack awakens back in the Sector 5 Church - presumably in yet another world. What world this is will have to wait for the third game - could this be Beagle? Could he finally be in the same universe as everyone else?  “Who’s to say that [worlds] can’t unite again?” Zack muses - his final line of the game. 

The Scar in the Sky Heralds the end 

Every universe FF7 Rebirth visits except its main universe appears to be a doomed world with a scarred sky.
Every universe FF7 Rebirth visits except its main universe appears to be a doomed world with a scarred sky.

“The planet encompasses a multitude of worlds, ever unfolding. Some quickly perish… while others endure. Yet even the most resilient worlds are doomed to fade.” - Sephiroth

Throughout Zack’s ‘A World Apart’ interludes in Terrier Universe, we see that the sky is scarred; a great crack in the world that looms above Midgar. What is made clear by the actions of those around Zack in this time is that this is the end of the world. People in the slums are bemoaning things they’ll never see or do, or fighting to do things before the very end.

In Pug Universe, which spinters directly from Terrier, Biggs notes that all the Mako Reactors have run dry - there is no Lifestream left. The planet is in the final throes of its death. 

When Aerith and Cloud are hiding in the sky-scarred Spitz Universe, Sephiroth taunts Aeirth: “So this is where you’ve been hiding - in a world that has accepted its fate.” That world, too, is on the brink of collapse.

When Cloud is rescued from Spitz and travels back to Beagle, there’s a between-worlds lore drop of mysteriously-worded information from Sephiroth. From this I take that when worlds die, the worlds themselves also return to a sort of multiversal lifestream, in the same way that on individual worlds the souls of its inhabitants return to the lifestream. 

One thing is clear: all the doomed worlds have one thing in common - the scar in the sky. Which brings us to…

Cloud, the Wall of Whispers, the Sky, and Aerith’s ‘Ghost’

"I'll be damned, it's like we're back on the Expressway," Barret comments - drawing attention to the similarities of the situation in Rebirth's final stages.

At the very end of FF7 Rebirth, Cloud encourages the others to not look up to the sky - echoing Aerith’s comments to him in the dying Spitz Universe. When the others look up, they see a normal sky - but when Cloud looks up, he now sees the world-threatening rift that was present in other worlds.

This could mean a few things. For one, it could mean that the ‘prime’ Beagle universe is now in danger - but this doesn’t really track with what we see earlier in FF7 Rebirth’s story. In Terrier, Spitz, and Pug, it’s clear that everyone can see the rift in the sky and can see that it heralds the end of days. So it doesn’t make sense that Cloud can see it and the others can’t. 

This all ties into Aerith dying but not dying, too. To understand, we need to return to the end of FF7 Remake.

Cloud & The Wall of Whispers

In Rebirth, it takes the whole party to hold open the Whisper Wall - so only Cloud can pass through.
In Rebirth, it takes the whole party to hold open the Whisper Wall - so only Cloud can pass through.

At the end of the Midgar Expressway in Remake, Cloud and the party encounter a Wall of Whispers. By pushing past it, they enter a ‘singularity’ and have a chance to change their fate. By defeating the Whispers it’s very possible the party sets all the multiversal shenanigans in Rebirth in motion. Crucially, at the end of FF7 Remake, the entire party crosses the whisper wall together as a group, after Aerith seemingly uses her power to ‘calm’ the Whispers and make the wall passable. 

In FF7 Rebirth, a similar wall appears at the entrance to the Forgotten Capital, preventing the party from reaching the praying Aerith. In Rebirth, Aerith is not with you - and so the whispers cannot be calmed. In the end, it takes the whole party to open the portal enough - enough that only Cloud can pass through.

If the logic is the same as in FF7 Remake, then only Cloud can create a new future at this point, because only he has passed the whispers, which are trying to maintain a certain series of events. Once Aerith is ‘killed’, the whisper wall falls, and the rest of the party can join Cloud.

Or to put it another way, if say Red XIII had stayed on the expressway and not crossed into the Singularity in Remake, he wouldn't be with the party in the changed future of Rebirth. He did, so he is. But in this instance... Cloud breaks off from the others. Barret even repeats the logic of the whisper wall from the end of Remake when the party encounters the one at the Forgotten Capital - a little nudging reminder to players of how ‘the rules’ work. 

So does Aerith Die, really?

Throughout Aerith’s death scene, the visuals flicker back and forth between a bloodied Aerith and an uninjured one. We even get snippets of Cloud talking, without audio, that seem to be delivering his pained eulogy from the original game, which doesn’t feature in Rebirth. When the party walks in, it’s clear from their reactions that they’re seeing the worst version of events - that Aerith is dead. 

It seems quite possible that what we are seeing here is the difference between the party’s perspective - having not passed the wall - and Cloud’s partial perspective, having done so and parried Sephiroth’s blade. 

There’s a cute hint towards this in the battle with Jenova Lifeclinger, too. When the battle begins, every party member enters the fight with a full Limit Break gauge - something that otherwise never happens.

This is meant to represent their heightened emotional state, having just witnessed the death of their friend, and is something FF7 Rebirth creative director Tetsuya Nomura has in the past said he intended to do in the PS1 original but couldn’t. Cloud, however, enters with an empty Limit Break meter. Which is suggestive he didn’t quite see the same as the rest of them.

There appears to be a mismatch in what Cloud sees and what the others see in general. At first, as Cloud approaches Aerith’s body, we see the scene from his point of view - the entire party around her, Tifa and Yuffie kneeling over her body sobbing. When the party is alone, without Cloud, there are no whispers present. When the scene is seen from Cloud’s perspective, white whispers circle Aerith’s body ominously.

Furthermore, when the party is around Aerith, without Whispers, she is laid on her side in a lateral recumbent position. When Cloud approaches her, she is laid on her back in a supine position - like she ended up landing in two different ways. Entering the final fight, Cloud places her into the supine position. 

When the scene is seen from a general perspective, Whispers are not present (Top). When seen from Cloud's perspective, White Whispers circle Aerith (bottom).
When the scene is seen from a general perspective, Whispers are not present (Top). When seen from Cloud's perspective, White Whispers circle Aerith (bottom).

Quickly, without anyone moving away, it cuts to Cloud - suddenly alone but for the whispers, standing over the body. Cloud cradles Aerith and asks her to wake up; she does. They share a smile. But the next cut shows the aftermath of her water burial, which is not directly depicted in Rebirth - a move that feels designed to foster even more ambiguity. 

Come the end of the game, this is what we have: a Cloud that can see two things everybody else cannot: a surviving Aerith, and the scar in the sky. Furthermore, the Aerith talking to him is now openly talking about future events - referencing stopping Meteor when it hasn’t even been summoned yet. 

What this means remains completely unclear and probably will remain so until game three - but one possibility is that Cloud is now sort of straddling worlds, with one foot in a world where Aerith survived (which based on previously-established logic would be enough of a divergence to cause the scar in the sky and trigger the end of the world) and one foot in a world with his friends where she died, as intended.

Any other Ending Business

The final moments of FF7 Rebirth tease a few other ongoing events that aren’t seemingly as tied into the mystery of Aerith, but are worth noting:

Cloud has the Black Materia

In the final moments Cloud discovers that somehow he still has the Black Materia in his possession. This is a break from the original game. While the party does get it back in the original, that doesn’t happen until the Northern Crater’s Whirlwind Maze. This suggests a slight change in the ongoing story direction, but it isn’t that big a change from the original game. In the end, it’s likely Cloud will give the Black Materia to Sephiroth again in Part 3, allowing for the summoning of Meteor.

Two Holy Materia - or a transformation

Through the multiversal shenanigans, before her ‘death’ Aerith obtains a ‘working’ and complete version of the Holy Materia from another universe’s version of herself, which is used to pray and then bounces off the altar at the Forgotten Capital. Cloud is meanwhile given the ‘hollow’, empty White Materia by Aerith. He still has this at the end of the game.

The scene direction is ambiguous, but this empty Holy Materia either transforms into the Black Materia, or Cloud has both. If there’s no transformation, this means there could be two copies of the world’s most powerful Materia out there: Aerith used one (full) Holy, and Cloud has the other (empty) Holy. While Sephiroth has one Black Materia that was handed to him at the Temple - and Cloud now seemingly has another.

Sephiroth and Wutai

Up until now, the Wutai side plot has seemed like just that - a side plot. But in the final scenes, we see Glenn - who has been taunting Rufus about Wutai all game - turn into Sephiroth. It’s clear that the Wutai War is a key element of the third game - a minor and optional side area of the original game turned into a major story beat - but this seems to suggest how it’ll fit in.

During Rebirth, Sephiroth talks about harvesting negative energy and emotions to help his plan - and what else creates more negative energy and emotion than a war? It’s clear now that as well as all his other machinations, Sephiroth is trying to engineer a reignited War between Shinra and Wutai. 

Whispers in Black and White

In FF7 Remake, Whispers appeared only in black - and appeared to be relatively 'neutral' observers of events, simply trying to keep the known timeline as it appeared in FF7 on track. In Rebirth, we now have two types of Whispers - Black, and White. 

The Black Whispers appear to be now directly under the control of Sephiroth, and generally act more maliciously on the few occasions they appear in the game. The White Whispers appear to also want to keep fate intact, but are less malicious. It appears to us that the White Whispers are allied with and under the control of Aerith, while the Black Whispers are under Sephiroth's control.

At several points in the game, we see the White and Black whispers quite literally doing battle. And at the very end of the game, we see Black Whispers accosting and seemingly doing battle with two new WEAPON creatures, which were created by the planet in an act of self defense. It's clear the role of the whispers is far from over.

The Tiny Bronco Flies

The final CG cutscene of the game features the party - Aerith ghost and all - repairing the Tiny Bronco. In the original game, after being shot down, she never flies again. This is a significant story divergence, as it means the party will have air travel and essentially access to the entire planet in part 3 long before they typically gain control of the Highwind.