Aerith's death scene in Final Fantasy VII is a pivotal moment. As a central character, Aerith Gainsborough's death is considered one of the notable events in the history of the Final Fantasy series and video game history due to its shocking and unexpected introduction.
Occurring at the end of the game's first part, this scene acts to motivate Cloud Strife to further pursue his nemesis Sephiroth. Aerith's "ghost" can be seen in the Sector 5 slums church in Midgar after the scene that ends Part 1 of Final Fantasy VII.
- 1 Story
- 2 Gameplay
- 3 Other appearances
- 4 Behind the scenes
- 5 Merchandise
- 6 Gallery
- 7 References
Sephiroth intends to use the Black Materia to call the Ultimate Destructive Magic—Meteor—to heavily injure Gaia. By placing himself at the center of its impact zone, Sephiroth intends to merge with the lifestream as it emerges to heal the planet's wound, and become a god.
Cloud acquires the Black Materia, but Sephiroth exerts his influence over Jenova's cells that reside within Cloud, and takes control of him, forcing him to hand the Materia over. Realizing she may be the only one able to stop Sephiroth, Aerith ventures to the Forgotten City to use the White Materia to summon Holy, the only power able to counter Meteor.
In a temple underneath the city, Cloud and the party find Aerith praying on an altar. As Cloud approaches her, Sephiroth attempts to take control of him and kill her with the Buster Sword, but Cloud resists. As Aerith finishes praying, Sephiroth descends from the ceiling and impales her with the Masamune. Dying, Aerith collapses into Cloud's arms as her hair ribbon unravels, the White Materia bouncing off the altar into the water below.
...Shut up. The cycle of nature and your stupid plan don't mean a thing. Aeris is gone. Aeris will no longer talk, no longer laugh, cry... or get angry... What about us...what are WE supposed to do? What is this pain? My fingers are tingling. My mouth is dry. My eyes are burning!Cloud Strife to Sephiroth
Enraged, Cloud turns on Sephiroth, who turns out to be another disguised part of Jenova. Cloud and his allies fight Jenova∙LIFE, and after Jenova is dispatched, Cloud carries Aerith to the pool of water in the center of the city, and lays her body to rest beneath the water.
When the player arrives in Forgotten City the path that leads to the sections beneath the city is blocked by a large simulacrum of a fish. In one of the abandoned houses on the east side of the city the player finds beds where the party can sleep for the night. During the night Cloud wakes up, claiming he can hear Aeris calling for him. If the player then enters the middle path from the entrance to the city, the fish is missing and in its place stairs lead down. The stairs lead to a section underneath the city where the player finds a save point and Aeris praying on the altar. Cloud's party members stay behind while he approaches her alone.
The player must jump across the platforms to the Water Altar, but as Cloud approaches Aeris he begins to act strangely, as he is under Sephiroth's influence. Whenever the player presses the confirm button Cloud comes closer and closer to attacking Aeris, until his team mates' protests stop him in the nick of time. This triggers the FMV where Aeris is killed by Sephiroth, and the White Materia falls into the water beneath the altar. Cloud mourns for Aeris's death while Sephiroth gloats and then flies away dropping a piece of Jenova's body that transforms into Jenova∙LIFE.
Jenova∙LIFE is a boss battle where "Aerith's Theme" plays in place of Jenova's battle music. The battle is one of the easiest boss battles, and it was likely planned so for the player not having to view the scenes of Aeris's death again, which would happen if they were to lose the boss battle, as this may have lessened the scene's emotional impact. After the boss is defeated, the player gets a cryptic message assigned to Jenova saying Cloud is just a puppet, and Sephiroth will be gone.
Depending on who is in the player's party during Aeris's final moments, each character pays their respects in their own way:
- Barret - Barret looks at Aeris's body and mourns, shaking his head. He approaches Cloud and lays a hand on his hair, trying to console him.
- Tifa - Tifa approaches Aeris's body, kneels down and strokes her hair before running away crying.
- Red XIII - Red XIII shakes his head and walks away, stops for a brief moment and howls.
- Cait Sith - Cait Sith begins to perform a dance to cheer the others up but stops mid-motion and bows down his head, looking at Cloud, then quietly skulks away.
- Cid - Cid approaches Aeris's body, looks up and then walks away.
- Yuffie - Yuffie looks down at Aeris's body and walks to Cloud. She begins to cry in Cloud's arms who attempts to console her.
- Vincent - Vincent walks over to Aeris's body and looks at her. He goes to Cloud and looks at him, then silently walks away.
Cloud picks up Aeris's body, which triggers the FMV where he lays her to rest in the lake. Afterwards Cloud and the others return to the house with the beds. Cloud vows to avenge Aeris's death and settle things with Sephiroth. The scene ends disc 1, or part I in the PC version re-release.
The weapon and armor Aeris had equipped when she left the party are lost, as it is not possible for a player character to not have something in these slots. Her Materia and accessory return to the player's inventory as she leaves. The last possible moment to de-equip her weapon and armor is actually after the boss battles at the Temple of the Ancients, so the player can still equip her the best gear and swap them out before she is gone, however the window of opportunity is narrow: It is possible to open the menu during the moment Cloud lunges at Aeris at the bottom of the pit, and change her equipment.
Two years after the events of Final Fantasy VII, Aerith's death and Zack's sacrifice, and his inability to prevent either event from happening, haunts Cloud to the point of crippling depression. While in pursuit of thwarting the Remnants of Sephiroth, Cloud seeks forgiveness for his self-perceived "sins". When Marlene senses Aerith's presence during Cloud's duel with Sephiroth at Midgar, a brief vision of her in her pose just before her death at Sephiroth's hand could briefly be seen. While attempting to amend, Aerith's spirit from within the Lifestream reveals she never blamed him for her death, only that she was happy he came for her in the end.
Dissidia Final Fantasy (2008)
Sephiroth's Hell's Gate HP attack consists of him leaping into the air and descending rapidly while stabbing his Masamune down, mirroring his pose when he impaled Aerith.
Aerith's animation while charging Holy mirrors her prayer stance before her death.
This scene appears in the "Aerith's Theme" Field Music Sequence track, among other scenes. The scene appears approximately halfway through FMS. The scene is edited however to not show Sephiroth impaling Aerith—as he descends there is a burst of light, which fades to show Aerith falling forward as she does after Sephiroth withdraws the Masamune. The sequence of the White Materia falling is similarly cut short: after it falls to the floor another flash of light cuts the scene to Cloud laying Aerith to rest. Aerith's descent into the water marks the end of the FMS if the player fails the Feature Drive, which extends the song.
A card depicting a Yoshitaka Amano artwork of Cloud mourning for Aerith appears on a card. As it is considered Aerith's card, it is wind-elemental.
In Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers Tesleen is mortally wounded by a sin eater, stabbing her through her torso when she shields a child. While she didn't die physically, she transformed into a Sin Eater which slowly erases her personality.
In Final Fantasy XV, Lunafreya Nox Fleuret sinks to the blue abyss at the end of Chapter 9 similar to the scene where Aerith sinks into the lake in Final Fantasy VII. Lunafreya was stabbed by the main antagonist shortly after a successful summon.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the player can unlock an Advent Children Cloud Fighter Spirit by performing a Cross Slash with a fully charged Limit Break. To commemorate the achievement, a picture is shown of Cloud holding Princess Zelda in water similarly to when he was laying Aerith's body to the lake in Forgotten City. In Sephiroth's debut trailer, "The One-Winged Angel!", Sephiroth narrowly misses a knocked down Zelda with Hell's Gate (here his down aerial) on Fountain of Dreams, alluding to Sephiroth executing Aerith in the original game.
Behind the scenes
While designing Final Fantasy VII, character designer Tetsuya Nomura was frustrated with the "perennial cliché where the protagonist loves someone very much and so has to sacrifice himself and die in a dramatic fashion to express that love". He found that this appears in both films and video games from North America and Japan. Director Yoshinori Kitase concludes:
In the real world things are very different. You just need to look around you. Nobody wants to die that way. People die of disease and accident. Death comes suddenly and there is no notion of good or bad. It leaves, not a dramatic feeling but great emptiness. When you lose someone you loved very much you feel this big empty space and think, 'If I had known this was coming I would have done things differently. These are the feelings I wanted to arouse in the players with Aerith's death relatively early in the game. Feelings of reality and not Hollywood.Yoshinori Kitase
When Kitase and his team started developing Final Fantasy VII, they saw another company give a survey to children that asked if they thought people come back to life after they die. Many kids said yes. According to Kitase, the team wanted to question that idea and thought and to depict that there is weight to life and on the loss as well. This was to be a core concept to the game. 
While reflecting on the game, Tetsuya Nomura comments that "Death should be something sudden and unexpected, and Aeris's death seemed more natural and realistic. When I reflect on Final Fantasy VII, the fact that fans were so offended by her sudden death probably means that we were successful with her character. If fans had simply accepted her death, that would have meant she wasn't an effective character".
Event planner Motomu Toriyama has said that the idea of having Aeris die had a great impact on all the development staff, and that he decided to dedicate his efforts to depict Aeris in as appealing a way as possible, so she would become an irreplaceable character to the player in preparation for that moment.
In a screenshot published before Final Fantasy VII was released, Aeris is seen facing left while she prays, but in the final game she is facing the steps. In the picture Cloud is also standing on the steps which is never seen in-game, as upon reaching the platform he is immediately transported to a close-up view of the altar. The revised position of Aeris praying may have contributed to the numerous inconsistencies within the scenes.
During the writing of the script, the development team were discussing the possibility of killing off nearly the entire cast of player characters, with only three surviving, an idea suggested by Yoshinori Kitase. However, the team eventually decided against the idea, as Tetsuya Nomura argued that it would dilute the meaning of Aerith's death. Eventually, they decided that only Aerith should die. Her death scene was written by Kazushige Nojima. Nojima later used his bonus to buy a home computer and went on to the Internet to find out what players thought of the story he had written, and was somewhat distraught to find criticism on its famous death scene. Thus the early fan criticism on Final Fantasy VII influenced the story of Final Fantasy VIII where none of the main cast would die.
Aeris's death scene in Final Fantasy VII contains numerous oddities. When she is first seen at the altar, she is facing the stairs, with her back to the railing. However, when Sephiroth comes down with the Masamune both have their backs to the stairs, yet, once the FMV ends, they are again facing the stairs. When Aeris is first seen at the altar she is kneeling on black and white tiles, yet at the FMV's end the floor is of a single color. In the scene where Sephiroth descends from above he is shown barehanded, yet in the scene he pulls the Masamune out of Aeris's back, he suddenly is wearing gloves.
Cloud is first seen lifting Aeris with her head to Cloud's right and her feet to his left. However, when Cloud is seen laying her into the lake, Aeris has changed position: her head is to Cloud's left and her feet are to his right. In the scene Cloud lays Aeris to the lake, the lake appears much too shallow as Cloud is able to stand on the spot he lays her to rest.
During the FMV, Aeris's ribbon unravels from her hair. After the FMV, her character model is still portrayed with her hair tied with the ribbon.
The original PC version has a humorous graphics glitch that occurs if Vincent is in the party at Aeris's death, where his character model is stuck with one leg extended out into the air. This glitch has been fixed to the 2012 re-release.
The player can skip Aeris's death scene via the Yuffie warping glitch and keep Aeris as a party member for the remainder of the game, although Aeris gains no new weapons and her presence in certain story scenes may trigger glitches.
Popular culture impact
The meme "Aeris Dies" is a popular spoiler taunt that refers to this scene. It is mostly seen used in videogame pop culture.
Aerith's death is referred to in the CG-animated Disney film, Wreck-It Ralph. When Ralph is entering Game Central Station, graffiti can be seen spray-painted on the walls on the sides of the entrance. "AERITH LIVES!" is painted in thick black ink to the left of the archway.
Aerith's death was listed #3 on ScrewAttack's "Top 10 OMGWTF Moments", where it was listed as everyone's first excuse to cry during a video game. Aerith's death was also listed #3 on IGN's "Top 100 Video Game Moments".
A lengthy petition asking for Aerith's revival by Japanese players was sent to Yoshinori Kitase. However, Kitase stated that, "There are many meanings in Aerith's death and that could never happen".
The scene where Cloud lays Aerith's body to rest was depicted, among other Final Fantasy scenes, as a cold cast statue as part of Squaresoft's Final Fantasy Cold Cast Collection. Only 3,000 of these cold casts were made, each coming with a card and card stand that has the statue's limited number and description. The series has been out of production since 1999.
At 2008, Kotobukiya released another limited edition Aerith sculpture, which depicts Aerith praying for Holy. The sculpture measures 43 cm or 16.92" in height and includes a stand.
- Editors of EDGE magazine, ed (2003). Edge May, 2003. Future Publishing. pp. 112–113.
- Is Squall Really Dead? Final Fantasy Producer Addresses The Series' Biggest Fan Theories (Accessed: April 21, 2018) at Kotaku
- Final Fantasy anniversary interview: Toriyama speaks (Accessed: February 22, 2019) at VG247
- Final Fantasy 7 An oral history (Accessed: February 22, 2019) at Polygon
- Kazushige Nojima Talks About Early Internet Criticism On FF7 That Influenced Final Fantasy VIII (Accessed: October 10, 2019) at Siliconera
- Top 100 Unforgettable Video Game Moments (Accessed: April 13, 2020) at IGN