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Like the best RPGs, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth gets sidequests right

The mayor of Under Junon in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
Square Enix

Among its many highlights, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth makes simple sidequests a lot more engaging than I had expected. Take an early-game sidequest called When Words Won’t Do. On a surface level, it’s a simple escort mission where players must get a dog from Under Junon to Crow’s Nest unscathed. I did not initially have high hopes for this sidequest due to the poor reputation of escort missions; thankfully, Final Fantasy VII Rebirth defied that fate. To make this optional content more worthwhile, Square Enix gave it a strong narrative backbone.

When Words Won’t Do is actually a story about parents struggling to let go of their kids. Under Junon’s mayor sends players on this quest to help her son and unborn grandchild, and Barrett wonders if he’ll ever be able to let Marlene go during the mission. That’s thematically fitting for an escort mission where you can’t keep something out of your sight.

Then, as a flourish, the sidequest has its own song. Hours later, When Words Won’t Do is a sidequest that still sticks out in my mind, even though it didn’t radically shake up or redefine Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s core gameplay loops. That’s a testament to how great sidequests are the hallmark of a fantastic RPG.

Getting sidequests right

As games have ballooned in scope and more commonly featured open worlds, developers have needed to make more and more content to fill these spaces to make exploring worth it for players. That can come in the form of more checklist-based tasks like towers players must activate or items that need to be collected. These can be fun to complete at first but often get repetitive and end up ignored by players like myself after a while. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth does have some systems like those, but it also embraces sidequests in a big way, making them feel like more than checklist fodder.

Every region in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth has several narrative-driven sidequests. Each features fully voiced characters with their own motivations, well-made in-engine cutscenes, and some unique gameplay or minigame twist. Sometimes, they even take place in areas of the map or feature music that can be missed otherwise. Each sidequest in this style feels like a carefully crafted experience, deepening the relationship between Cloud and at least one of his allies.

Because of all those aspects, I felt motivated to play all these sidequests. I didn’t get burnt out, even when I eventually started skipping Chadley’s more generic open-world checklist objectives. Other small touches, like the Queen’s Blood players Cloud can face, which all have distinct personalities, made me want to engage with Final Fantasy VII Rebirth’s optional content even further. That’s a clever design for a massive RPG like this.

A shooting minigame in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth.
Square Enix

Not every minigame in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is that fun, and moving about its open world isn’t as exciting as in a game like Forspoken. Thankfully, the development team recognized that adding depth and nuance to the sidequests that populate that open world is what truly matters. Rather than feeling like I was just working my way off a checklist or picking up lore entries I’m probably never going to read, I’m meeting interesting new characters, doing something new, or appreciating small flourishes like areas, music, or gameplay systems that feel tailor-made for that specific sidequest.

Looking more broadly, I’m recognizing that this is something that all of my favorite RPGs nail. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gets well-deserved credit for doing this with things like the Bloody Barons quests, but there were even some good examples for this as recently as 2023. Baldur’s Gate 3, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, and Starfield felt so packed to the brim with engaging sidequests, too; almost anyone I spoke to in it connected to some questline or had some memorable hook to make them worthwhile.

The half elf shadowheart stares pensively in Baldur's Gate 3.
Larian Studios

Many of these questlines and conversations in those RPGs were completely optional but had a payoff later on if players took the time to do them. Seeing all that care put into the most minor content makes a game’s world feel more expansive, the adventure more event-packed, and deepens my connection to the game’s characters as a player. Just like bad sidequests can make a game like Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League dull, entertaining side content makes it difficult for me to put games like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth down.

Although I’m sure that attention to detail on content some players might ignore or miss doesn’t come cheap, memorable sidequests are a core part of why people like myself have come to enjoy massive RPGs in recent years. I’m tired of completing content for content’s sake. I want something more meaningful, whether through the story the sidequest is telling or whatever it’s having me do as a player. Final Fantasy VII Rebirth nails this approach to its sidequests, ensuring this RPG kept its hooks in me for longer than I expected it would.

Final Fantasy VII Rebirth is available now exclusively on PS5.

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Tomas Franzese
Gaming Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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