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Timeline: Final Fantasy VII

1) Kingdom Hearts (PS2, 2002 - ? years before FFVII)
What?! That’s not part of the compilation. Wait, did Squall say something about Cloud being born in Hollow Bastion? Never mind. Moving on…

2) Before Crisis: FFVII (Cell phone)
Before Crisis: FFVII is set six years before the start of Final Fantasy VII. At this point in the story, the monolithic Shinra Corporation has just wrapped up its war with the nation of Wutai and has a monopoly on mako, the energy that powers

all its cool technopunk technology. An insurgent organization called AVALANCHE starts to rebel against Shinra, and the Turks - a shadowy group of elite agents in smart business suits - are called upon to put down the rebellion.At this point, AVALACHE is a bunch of no-names (the cool people don't join up until FFVII), but Tseng the Turk is around, and the game introduces a couple of original characters that appear in other compilation sections.

Through a series of downloadable episodes, the game’s story runs up until the starting point of FFVII, and it raises more questions than it answers about FFVII’s plot.

3) Crisis Core: FFVII (PSP, 2008 - 5 years and 1 year before FFVII)
Here’s where you can get your plot fix. Instead of starring second-tier characters, all our FFVII favorites are to the fore of the events of the game: Sephiroth, Cloud, Aerith, etc. The story covers most of the events that take place immediately before FFVII starts, as well as laying some groundwork for how Shinra’s mako obsession goes downhill. We can’t tell you too much more about the plot just yet (be sure to keep your eyes peeled for our review later this month), but we appeal to your sense of logic:

In this picture, we see the game’s main character, Zack Fair, holding the iconic huge sword that Cloud carries in FFVII. Now, logically, that sword has to wind up with Cloud and Zack has to magically disappear before FFVII starts. So while we won't actually tell you what happens (Wikipedia will), we can tell you that there’s a 99.9999 percent chance that Crisis Core will end in tears.