Cloud's childhood thus far has only been covered in Final Fantasy VII, in flashbacks. Cloud was born in the sleepy mountain village of Nibelheim, and was neighbors with Tifa Lockhart. His father died when he was young and he was raised by his mother. Cloud grew up isolated from the rest of the village children, feeling himself somehow better than them, though it is implied he longed for the others' friendship. He developed a crush on Tifa, but hated her friends. Although the two consider each other (and are considered by others) to be childhood friends, by Tifa's own account they were not that close growing up, despite the fact he was her neighbor.
When Cloud was nine, Tifa's mother died, and Tifa insisted she could meet her mother again by crossing Mt. Nibel. Cloud followed, and when Tifa was injured, the townsfolk believed the expedition up the mountain to be Cloud's idea, and Tifa's Father forbade Cloud from approaching her. Cloud blamed himself for what happened to Tifa, thinking it was because of his own weakness that he failed to save her. As a result, Cloud developed a bit of an anger problem, always getting into fights, not even caring who it was with. Yet in spite of this new show of aggression, Cloud was still just a quiet kid who rarely had much of anything to do with the other kids in the village.
At the age of thirteen, Cloud learned of Sephiroth and his exploits. Resolving to become a hero like him, Cloud decided to set out and join SOLDIER. He called Tifa out to the water tower to tell her about his departure, hoping to impress her. Upon her request, he promised to save her if she ever found herself in trouble. The following spring,he left for Midgar in pursuit of his goal, as did Johnny, another Nibelheim youth trying out for SOLDIER.