The story begins with Cloud Strife, a mercenary and ex-member of Soldier (Shinra’s army), joining a rebel group Avalanche in an assault on Shinra’s Mako Reactor No. 1 in the city of Midgar. Shinra is a huge corporation that has taken over the world by building power plants to mine the “mako” (in Japanese, “magic light”) energy from the ground, but in doing so it is slowly depleting the planet’s life force and eventually every living thing will die. After the successful mission, Cloud agrees to join Avalanche again for another bombing mission on another reactor but they were ambushed and he was separated from the group. He meets the flower-girl Aeris and finds out that Shinra is extremely interested in her for some unknown reason.
After saving Aeris from the clutches of Shinra, Cloud and the gang find out that something more sinister than Shinra is coming, and the end of the world may come much sooner than they expect. This new discovery leads them on a hunt across the world for the mysterious ex-Soldier Sephiroth, a man with legendary abilities, and with a hidden agenda for the fate of the planet. But Shinra is searching for Sephiroth too, for reasons unknown, and they are out to stop the party from reaching Sephiroth first. Along the way, questions arise about the past, and about Cloud’s real identity. Who exactly is Sephiroth? The Ancients? Why does everything seem to hinge on one seemingly unimportant photograph? What is the mysterious voice that plagues Cloud’s mind? Their search for the truth eventually leads to the Northern Crater, into which they descend for the final showdown with Sephiroth.