NieR Retrospective: a look back at one of gaming’s most distinctive series

The game that started it all is making a return - here’s the journey so far.
By Duncan Heaney

There are few game series quite like NieR.

Since 2010, these incredible games have presented gamers with wonderful worlds, full of talking grimoires, existential androids and amazing music. Now, we’re going back to where it all begun with the return of the first game in the series: NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…

This new release be a great way for new fans to experience the title that started it all - or for those who played the original to revisit a one-of-a-kind RPG.

To celebrate the return of this landmark game, we wanted to take a brief moment to look back at the origins of the NieR series - and celebrate how far it’s come.

2010 - NIER launches

NIER first launched around the world way back in 2010.

Directed by YOKO TARO, (it’s actually a spin-off from his earlier Drakengard series), the game put you in control of the titular Nier. Along with a growing list of allies, including a foul-mouthed warrior and a talking book, he searches for a cure to the Black Scrawl - terminal illness that threatens his closest relative, Yonah.

Interestingly, two versions were released in Japan. Xbox 360 owners could play NieR Gestalt, which featured an older NieR, with Yonah as his daughter. PlayStation 3 users got NieR RepliCant, where the main character was younger, and Yonah his sister.

In the West, NieR Gestalt was the only release (and just called NIER). While it wasn’t a bestseller, it quickly gained a following thanks to its soulful story, emotive soundtrack, and unapologetic refusal to be even remotely predictable.

For example, rather than sticking to a traditional action RPG format, the game regularly switches gameplay styles, moving seamlessly from 3D exploration and combat to 2D sections and back again. You’ll step from up close melee combat to an intense ‘bullet hell’ scenario, inspired by classic top down shooters, and more.

In essence, it combined elements from lots of different games and gameplay styles in a way that felt completely new and unique - an approach that would be refined further in 2017’s Nier:Automata.

2017 - NieR:Automata

NieR fans had a bit of a wait for the next entry in the series, but in 2017 NieR:Automata launched for PS4 and PC.

Director YOKO TARO and Producer Yosuke Saito returned, working with action experts Platinum Games, to create an unforgettable game that won acclaim from critics and gamers alike.

In NieR:Automata, humanity has been driven from the Earth by mechanical beings from another world. In response, the humans created android warriors to reclaim their planet from the invaders, and the war has raged since.

You take the role of a number of these androids, including soldier 2B, and hacker-scout 9S, as they embark on a mission that will challenge their assumptions about the world, the war, and their very existence.

As with its predecessor, NieR:Automata is a willfully unconventional game - both narratively and in terms of gameplay. The gameplay is constantly shifting, with 2D shooter sections, intense hacking minigames, and incredibly punchy and rewarding combat.

The game definitely struck a chord, picking up numerous awards, including Best Narrative and Best Score at The Game Awards, as well as many others. It was, in other words, a hit!

Following the successful release of the game, an Xbox One version, NieR:Automata BECOME AS GODS Edition, was released in 2018. It included the DLC, a few exclusive items, as well as visual enhancements for Xbox One X.

Then, in 2019, NieR:Automata Game of the YoRHa Edition released for PS4 and PC. It combined the game and its DLC into a single package, giving new players on those platforms a convenient way to get the full experience.

2020 - NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…

Which takes us up to today. We’ve announced that NieR RepliCant - the very first game in the series ( and a version previously only available in Japan) is coming to the West! We’ll have more to share in the future, so keep your eyes open for news!

Of course, the story of the NieR series doesn’t stop with the games…

The legacy of NieR

The NieR universe has really taken on a life of its own - it’s inspired books, concerts, merchandise - it’s even made a recent guest appearance in FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringers!

The music of NieR

We can’t talk about NieR without calling attention to the incredible work of composer Keiichi Okabe and his team at Monaca.

The NieR series has some of the most beautiful, evocative game music ever written. These award-winning soundtracks are beautiful, exciting, emotional, unique… basically they’re very, very good.

So good, in fact, that they’ve even inspired multiple albums and even concerts, such as the NieR:Orchestra Concert re:12018 tour, which came to Los Angeles, London, Chicago and Bangkok earlier this year.

If you want to immerse yourselves in the sounds of the series right now, a selection of soundtracks is available on Spotify.

You can also find CDs and Blu-Rays featuring soundtracks, concerts and more on the Square Enix Store:

NieR merchandise

Following the release of NieR:Automata, many fans wanted merchandise - and they got their wish. From books to BRING ARTS figures of 2B, 9S, and A2, to machine lifeform coin banks, there’s lots of cool stuff available. You can check it out on the Square Enix Store:

Guest appearances in other games

In the last few years, the world and characters of NieR:Automata have leaped from the game into other titles - such as 2B’s guest appearance in Namco Bandai’s Soulcalibur VI, or costumes for Sony’s Gravity Rush 2.

More recently, FINAL FANTASY XIV: Shadowbringers launched a brand new raid series – YoRHa: Dark Apocalypse. Inspired by the NieR series, and guest-developed by Producer Yosuke Saito and Director YOKO TARO, it pits 24 players against machine lifeforms in a whole new dungeon.

It’s a really great raid in its own right, but for NieR fans, it will feel particularly special.

As you can see, it’s been an amazing journey for the NieR series so far, and with NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… on the way, there’s so much more to come.

To stay up to date with all the latest news and information about the game, and the NieR series as a whole, make sure you follow on social media: