Nier is not a long-running series. It’s not a big “franchise,” either. Instead, it’s a self-contained two-part story that comes through outstanding RPG games.
Final Fantasy creators Square Enix are Nier publishers. We could say both share similarities, as both series belong to the JRPG genre.
However, Nier is a semi-linear action RPG. There’s no turn-based combat, as gameplay instead comes through hack & slash mechanics.
Either way, Nier, just as much as most of Square Enix’s IPs, has a strong focus on storytelling and characters.
The NieR Series
Nier games can be confusing. The name follows storytelling reasons, so if you’re not familiar with the series, you may get lost.
See, the first game debuted in 2010. The name is simply “Nier,” but it’s known as “Nier Gestalt” in Japan.
Square Enix released an alternative version for Japan a few months later, “Nier Replicant.” In Replicant, the titular character is younger. The year in which the story takes place is also different and the relationship between the titular duo.
Then comes an indirect sequel, Nier: Automata. It debuted worldwide in 2017 and achieved critical and commercial acclaim.
Then, there’s a remake Nier: Replicant (the alternative version): Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139. Lastly, there’s a mobile game, NieR Re[in]carnation.
That means there’re four NieR games. We’re not including the original NieR: Replicant, as it was a Japan-only title we can now enjoy as a remaster.
Either way, series creator Yoko Taro imagined Nier as a spin-off or a spiritual successor of the Drakengard series. Yoko Taro and Caia games are also behind Drakengard. So, Nier follows the fifth ending of the older RPG. The setting starts with the Earth in decay, a thousand years after the previous story.
Overall, fans praise these games because of the amazing storytelling, mesmerizing music, and engaging gameplay, in that order.
Every NieR Game in Order
NieR – 2010
NieR debuted in 2010 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. The developers are Cavia, and the publisher is Square Enix.
The title follows a protagonist duo trying to find a cure for the Black Scrawl illness. The protagonist has no name, but it’s a middle-aged man on the NieR international version (Gestalt). He’s Yonah’s father, and Yonah has succumbed to the plague.
Taking the Grimoire Weiss as a partner )(a talking book), father and daughter travel together to find a solution. The adventure takes them towards the other characters, Kaine and Emil, allies.
Soon, they discover the secret to a remedy lies in understanding the Shades. The Shades are strange beings stalking the decaying world.
It’s the year 3,465, and humanity survives in small, low-tech villages surrounded by ruins of industrial civilization. The areas in between towns are full of Shades. Many years ago, a Shade attack marked Yonah with the Black Crawl terminal sickness.
Their discoveries lead them to the answer. To save Yonah and get rid of the Black Crawl, the heroes must defeat the Shadowlord.
The setting delivers a fast-paced action-adventure game with role-playing elements. The player controls the unnamed protagonist with a third-person perspective. Nevertheless, he can swap with the other characters throughout the journey.
The world is 3D. Players visit open-ended areas to complete objectives, and they can move freely by running, walking, climbing, and jumping. In some areas, though, the camera turns 2D for platforming segments. There’re also battles where the camera pulls up for a birds-eye view and a shoot’em up combat.
Otherwise, Nier is a hack & slash. Recurrent enemies include large animals, robots, and Shades. Players can use one-handed or two-handed swords or a spear; they can customize weapons and use skills or magical spells.
As an RPG, defeated enemies drop loot and experience points. So, the characters can level up to develop more power. However, the characters can only obtain magical spells by completing unique battles.
Lastly, Nier has both the main quest and side quests in each area. Side quests reward experience points and in-game currency. Needless to say, there’re vendors where you can trade gear and other items.
Lastly, the game has five endings, and you’re free to play over and over to see every story. However, a second playthrough may feel repetitive.
Bayonetta creators Platinum Games created the indirect sequel. NieR: Automata debuted in 2017 for PlayStation 4 and Windows.
The setting introduces the Proxy War, a conflict between alien-created machines and human androids. You enter the story as Androids 9S, 2B, and A2, fighting for the human side. The world is
This story takes place thousands of years after NieR’s fourth ending, which we could say is the “canon” ending. Also, it becomes clear that NieR takes place in an alternate timeline within the Drakengard series.
So, in the year 11,945, two androids without apparent emotions have the mission of driving back the Machines. Soon, the story takes the Androids to the prime antagonists, Adam and Eve, twin controllers of the Machine Network.
However, unlocking the entire story and the true ending means playing the game various times. Each playthrough may reveal a new ending. There’re 26 endings and epilogue, but most of them are jokes or spoofs. Still, you need to unlock four endings to see the “true” closure as the fifth ending.
For instance, the first and second playthroughs happen through the points of view of 9S and 2B. The third playthrough begins elsewhere, after the titular Androids found a “Glitch” in the Network. It opens up a new plot where your decisions ultimately decide the world’s fate.
Like the previous game, Nier: Automata is an ARPG. Players control the Androids across an open world and a lengthy storyline. Players can summon wild animals to ride or pilot flying mechs into battle.
There’re also platforming segments, side-scrolling parts, and shoot ’em-up situations. Elsewhere, it’s a hack & slash title. Players can use fast attacks, heavy attacks, dodge, and counterattacks.
There’s also a support Pod flying robot. It can develop a variety of defensive and offensive skills to help you.
There’re also side quests from NPCs all around the world. They reward XP and currency you can use to buy swords, bracers, and spears.
As players level up, they increase their defenses, health, attack power, and other perks. The player customization comes via Chips, items you can install into the characters to improve and add attributes.
Then, the number of Chips a player can install is limited by the number of slots. The slots increase as the player levels up. Also, you can buy Chips from vendors or as loot from defeated enemies.
NieR: Automata Become as Gods Edition – 2018
The Become as Gods Edition is how NieR: Automata reached Microsoft’s console. It debuted for Xbox One in 2018.
This version is the same as the one on Steam for Windows. It brings six accessories apparel DLCs= players can use:
Machine Mask Accessory
Retro Grey Pod skin
Grimoire Weiss Pod skin
Retro Red Pod Skin
Valve Character Accessory
Cardboard Pod Skin
Additionally, it bundles the NieR: Automata 3C3C1D119440927 DLC. It’s a set of additional sub-quest that reward NieR: Replicant costumes and apparel.
The NieR: Replicant remaster debuted for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows in 2021. It’s also available for Xbox Series via retro-compatibility.
As I explained above, it’s an enhanced version of the Japanese version. It means the protagonist is not a middle-aged man but a young man. The new hero is Yonah’s brother instead of his father.
The story is the same nonetheless. But with its modern upgrade, you can enjoy it at 1080p resolution and 60fps. On windows, the game supports 4K resolutions as well. However, the weaker Xbox One can only handle the title at a 720p dynamic resolution (up to 792p).
NieR Re[in]carnation – 2021
The latest game in the series debuted for Android and iOS in 2021. it’s a mobile RPG by Square Enix and Applibot.
It’s a simple game that happens in The Cage. You follow The Girl of Light, guided by “Mama,” looking for redemption.
As the story moves on, you slowly uncover the story about the protagonist, Mama, and the scenario. Gameplay-wise, it’s a turn-based mobile RPG with an auto mode.
Every NieR Game in Chronological Order
NieR – 2010
NieR: Automata – 2017
NieR: Automata Become as Gods Edition – 2018
Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139 – 2021
NieR Re[in]carnation – 2021
What is Drakengard?
Drakengard is a JRPG series. The second game, Drakengard 2, debuted in 2006 for PlayStation 2. Even though NieR is a spin-off, there’s also a 2010 Drakengard 3 game.
Either way, Drakengard 2 tales are places in an unnamed fictional land. The plot takes place in a separate timeline as the first title, and so it follows similar events.
The story is about the conflict of two empires for the Seals, magical bindings that kept the dark entities at bay.
Should I Play NieR Games in Order?
You can start your Nier experience with NieR: Automata. Even though it’s a sequel, it’s also a stand-alone experience with a story that opens and closes on itself.
If you like Automata, you can then try Nier Replicant ver.1.22474487139. You may love it because of its story quality. Still, you could also not like it because of its repetitive gameplay mechanics.