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The real architecture behind FF7 Remake’s Midgar

Square Enix’s city of mako is an intricate masterpiece

Final Fantasy 7 Remake isn’t just “the original game, but prettier.” Recreating the world of 1997’s Final Fantasy 7 as it had first appeared was actually impossible, according to co-director Naoki Hamaguchi.

“Converting the 2D backgrounds of the original game into 3D actually revealed a lot of structural contradictions,” he wrote on Square Enix’s blog.

So the team had to rebuild Midgar. In doing so, they drew architectural inspiration from all over the world. Examining the infrastructure and design of Midgar helps us understand what the city is all about. Everything we need to know about the setting is channeled through the developers’ use of materials, light, and space.

When I was started digging into the design of Midgar I was tickled by how many details I recognized. Midgar’s bus signs, for example, are clearly inspired by New York City’s bus signage.

A side-by-side image showing Midgar and New York City’s bus signs. Both are round blue signs depicting a white bus, with a red band following the lower curve of the sign. Both show bus numbers on the left, and bus route names on the right, with a white sign with the name of the street below.
Comparing Midgar and New York City’s bus signs.
Image: Square Enix via Polygon

If the bus signs referenced New York City, I wondered, what other inspirations was Midgar hiding in plain sight, and what were they trying to tell us?

I combed through every sector in Midgar and wrote the video above, a love letter to Midgar’s design. There was a tremendous amount of thought put into making the city feel lived-in and real, but also like a patchwork dreamland of recognizable pieces from all over the world.

Come with me on a trip to the rotting pizza, as I dig into the juicy details of Midgar’s incredible world design. And make sure you subscribe to Polygon for more videos like this!