Of course you can play Final Fantasy VII and VIII offline on PC.
Either in Steam offline mode (download version) or the retail version on CD-ROMs.
Hmm, I looked it up a bit more and turns out you're... sort of right. Sounds like you need to disable cloud saving, after which you can play offline after you've played played it online once... and maybe registered a Square Enix account? So it's basically an online activation plus some extra hassle if you want to play offline after the activation. Steam Cloud ought to be good enough for the game, and as far as I know, it doesn't require you to be online always when you play, so this game probably shouldn't either. Anyway, that makes it a bit better, but it still sounds pretty bad so I think I'll pass for now.
That's a good one about the original PC release! Well, it looks like availability is actually pretty good and prices aren't too bad either, but I shouldn't have to buy a 20-year old retail release that probably requires some tweaking in 2019 if I want to play a game.