How do you beat hard mode in Final Fantasy VII Remake? In this Final Fantasy VII Remake PS4 guide, we're going to cover what we think are essential pointers for playing on the game's often brutal hard difficulty -- or 'hard mode' as it's usually called (see also: Final Fantasy VII Remake: How to Unlock Hard Mode).
Final Fantasy VII Remake can be a tricky game to master, and things only get trickier in hard mode. Some key battles become incredibly tough, and if you haven't optimised your party and your tactics, you're going to hit more than a few brick walls. Below, we've listed a number of key points that every player should at least consider before diving head first into hard mode.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Hard Mode Help - Tips, Tricks, and Advice for Beating Hard Mode
Make the most of character switching
If you've already beaten Final Fantasy VII Remake on the normal difficulty, then you'll know how important character switching is. And on hard mode, you need to be switching as often as necessary in order to maximise both survivability and damage output.
Here's the thing: In Final Fantasy VII Remake, enemies have a tendency to target the character that you're in control of. It's not an unbreakable rule, but generally speaking, your foes prioritise the player. On a fundamental level, this is the game telling you that you should be switching characters to divide the attention of your opponents. Having multiple enemies gang up on one party member -- especially on hard mode -- is a great way to get that character knocked out in a matter of seconds.
On hard mode, we'd recommend hitting a certain rhythm in battle. Build up ATB with your current character, execute a command, and then switch. Do the same with your next character, and repeat. Keep this up to ensure that your enemies aren't targeting a single party member for a prolonged period of time.
And as alluded, switching between characters is also a great way to maximise damage. If your opponent's focused on someone else, you can use this opportunity to cast high level magic, or pull off a powerful ability, without fear of being interrupted by an enemy attack.
The bottom line is that on hard mode, you should never be in control of a character for more than two or three commands -- assuming that you're actually fighting with more than one party member. Get used to swapping between Cloud and the gang as soon as you've issued an ATB command or two, and you'll immediately stand a much better chance of seizing victory.
One healer isn't enough
In a lot of RPGs, you tend to have one character focus on healing the party and leave it at that. But in Final Fantasy VII Remake's hard mode, you're going to want to split the bill, so to speak. Because there's no way to restore MP outside of battle (items are forbidden in hard mode, and rest spots only recover HP), taking a lot of damage in a single fight can lead to disaster. Making sure everyone's healthy can quickly put a huge strain on your MP reserves, and when you run out of MP on hard mode... Well, you're not going to last long.
Having Cloud or Aerith do all the healing just isn't a good idea -- they'll run out of MP far too fast. Fortunately, you can equip everyone with Healing materia, and we recommend doing so. Switching to any character and knowing that they have Cura ready to go can be a huge help in tougher battles, and it can keep the party kicking when all seems lost.
Having said that, it's still best to rely on certain characters for primary healing, and this is where Magnify materia comes in. When linked to Healing materia, Magnify lets you heal everyone at once, which is crucial in hard mode. It's a good idea to give Magnify to your best healer, while everyone else focuses on individual healing spells.
And speaking of healing...
Heal sooner rather than later
This may seem like obvious advice, but it's very easy to forget. You know when your character display turns red because you're on low HP? Well, on hard mode, low HP probably means that the next attack is going to knock you out -- and you might not even have the time to rectify the situation with a healing spell.
Don't wait for your party's health to drop to critical levels before you heal them. On hard mode, enemies -- particularly bosses -- deal much more damage. If you're already missing a chunk of HP -- say anything above 30 per cent -- then you should be topping up with healing magic or abilities as quickly as possible.
If you're sitting on anything less than full HP, some bosses can wipe out your whole party with just one attack. Healing should always be a priority whenever you have ATB to spare.
Chakra and Pray materia can be lifesavers
On normal difficulty, Chakra and Pray materia might seem like overkill when it comes to healing. You can get by pretty well with regular healing spells -- but these ability-granting materia really come into their own on hard mode, where MP must be properly managed.
Maintaining your MP levels is crucial in hard mode, so both Chakra and Pray can be incredibly useful when it comes to topping up your party's HP. Chakra restores the user's HP based on how much damage they've taken, while Pray restores the HP of the whole party. Both are abilities, so they don't cost any MP to use.
Making good use of both Chakra and Pray can really help you save on MP -- but there are drawbacks that you need to be aware of. For starters, neither of these abilities can be used outside of battle. And to get the most out of Chakra, a character already has to be quite low on HP, which is a risk in hard mode. What's more, Pray requires two ATB bars, which can be a tall order during tougher fights.
In other words, you need to use these abilities wisely. Chances are that they won't replace your usual healing magic, but they can still prove to be invaluable tools when your party's taking a beating.
Never stop exploiting weaknesses
Enemies have weaknesses for a reason, and you absolutely must exploit them in hard mode. You can get through the normal difficulty without paying too much attention to things like elemental weaknesses, but in hard mode, you can't show any mercy to your enemies.
If you know an enemy's weakness, hit it. Pressure them as often as you can and keep them locked down. If they can't move, they can't deal damage. And if they can't deal damage, you're on the road to victory.
But as we've already discussed, MP is an invaluable resource in hard mode. And casting powerful elemental spells like Firaga and Thundaga can drain it very, very quickly. With that in mind, when it comes to hitting a specific weakness, you may want to stick with medium level spells like Fira and Thundara, which are usually enough to pressure foes while costing around half as much MP. In some situations, you can even get away with low level spells like Fire and Thunder.
Generally speaking, it's best to save your high level spells for dealing big damage, as opposed to exploiting weaknesses.
Know your pressure moves
Deal enough damage to an enemy, or strike a weakness, and you might put them in a "pressured" state. When a foe's pressured, they're rendered defenceless for a small amount of time, and your attacks will deal more stagger damage than usual. On normal difficulty, you can get away with hammering your opponent with your most damaging spells and abilities, but in hard mode, you'll want to make the absolute most of pressure situations.
This means learning and utilising abilities that focus primarily on stagger damage. Fortunately, most attack descriptions will point out whether something does increased stagger damage, so it's mostly a case of memorising which abilities work best. For example, Cloud's Focused Thrust ability is great for building stagger, and the same is true of Barret's Focused Shot ability.
The key is using these abilities before your opponent recovers from being pressured. As such, actually saving your ATB for when a foe is pressured isn't a bad idea. Store up enough ATB on multiple party members and you can fire off multiple stagger-based attacks all at the same time.
Of course, the whole point in taking advantage of a pressured enemy is to eventually stagger them -- and staggering your foes in hard mode is vital.
HP Up is essential
In Final Fantasy VII Remake, you can build your party however you want, and that's a great part of the experience. But there are several materia that we think are pretty much invaluable on hard mode -- and the most important of all is HP Up.
Ideally, you should have HP Up slotted on every party member -- it's just too good to ignore. At maximum materia level, it gives your characters a huge health boost, making them far harder to kill.
But it's not just about making your characters tougher -- it's about straight up survival. Some bosses in hard mode are capable of wiping your party out in one attack if your HP isn't as high as possible. As such, HP Up is essential. Without it, your natural max HP may not be enough -- it's as simple as that.
Don't sleep on Steadfast Block
Steadfast Block is one of our favourite materia in Final Fantasy VII Remake, and we just want to give it the attention that it deserves. Put simply, Steadfast Block is extremely useful in hard mode. Blocking is, without a doubt, your best form of defence. Not only does it lessen incoming damage -- even from spells -- but blocking attacks increases your ATB bar.
Steadfast Block is so good because it makes your best defensive option -- the simple act of blocking -- even better. At maximum materia level, it noticeably reduces taken damage and greatly accelerates ATB gain. And in hard mode, having a steady ATB supply is huge. Being able to stock up on large amounts of ATB, just by holding down R1 to block, shouldn't be overlooked.
If you're looking for advice on weapons and materia in Final Fantasy VII Remake, be sure to check out our Final Fantasy VII Remake All Weapons: Character Builds and Best Materia guide.
As part of our Final Fantasy VII Remake guide you can also find out: How Long To Finish The Game?, How Many Chapters Does It Have? as well as information about New Game +, Chapter Select, Endgame, and How to Unlock Hard Mode. For help with side quests, check out our Chocobo Search Side Quest Locations and Corneo's Secret Stash Locations guides.