NieR is an action-rpg that was developed by Cavia and published by Square Enix. The game was originally released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2010. However, there’s more to NieR than a single video game.
NieR can refer to both a single game and a larger franchise that is still in active development.
The game series is known for innovative storytelling and immersive design. However, it’s also known for a somewhat confusing release history.
In fact, most people interested in the series aren’t sure where to start or in which order to play the games.
In this article we’ll show you the best order to play NieR games along with brief description of each title below:
Table of Contents
Best Order To Play NieR Games
The confusion around NieR typically stems from two main points. The first is the fact that the series has a number of remakes, rereleases, and somewhat confusing choices for localization efforts.
And the second issue stems from the fact that NieR is itself a follow-up to another game series called Drakengard.
All of these factors can make the series chronology a little confusing at first. However, there is a definitive order to play the NieR games. The following list will take you through the story of NieR in the proper order.
1) Drakengard 3
Yes, you read that correctly. If you want to enter into the NieR series then you should actually start out with Drakengard 3. Not Drakengard 1, but Drakengard 3.
At this point it should become clear why there’s so much confusion about NieR’s chronology.
The third game in a different franchise is an odd point to begin with. But it is where NieR’s story begins. Drakengard 3 is the third Drakengard game. However, it serves as a prequel to Drakengard 1.
Drakengard 3 is the story of an intoner named Zero. She and other intoners can use songs to create any number of magical effects.
However, Zero discovers the blessing is closer to a curse and could herald the end of the world.
She sets off to destroy the other intoners, and then herself, in order to save every other living being in her world. The aftereffects of this war set the stage for Drakengard 1.
Drakengard 3 gives players a mix of several different gameplay mechanics. This includes ariel combat, RPG elements, and frantic hack ‘n slash mele.
2) Drakengard 1
Drakengard 1 has an important place in gaming history. It’s the second game created by Cavia. And it’s the very first game published by Square Enix after the merger between Squaresoft and Enix.
In fact, it was originally going to be published by Enix but wound up moving to Square Enix along with Enix themselves.
The game defies expectations with more than just its publication and development history.
It begins by putting the player in the shoes of a man named Caim who seeks revenge on the imperial black dragon who killed his parents.
But soon after setting out, he begins to become embroiled in political struggles and even more desperate battles. One of which leaves him with an uneasy bond with one of his most hated foes – a dragon.
Drakengard 1 presents players with a fantastic subversion of common video game tropes. It’s a darker and more brutal take on the fantasy genre than most games that came before or after it.
But in the midst of that despair, it also portrays a world that does have striking moments of intense beauty.
Drakengard pulls people into its narrative. And people drawn into that world got their wish for more. One of the possible endings for Drakengard 1 leads into NieR.
The gameplay in Drakengard 1 is similar in most respects to Drakengard 3. However, it’s slightly less polished in comparison.
3) NieR Replicant
NieR Replicant continues from one of the endings in Drakengard 1. However, the setting changes dramatically between the two games. Trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with the new world is one of the major plot points of NieR Replica.
Players are initially presented with a near-future Earth only about 30 years out from the present day. However, time skips and vastly changing environments ensure players will never know exactly what’s going on until fairly late in the story.
NieR Replicant is certainly enjoyable on its own. But part of the fun comes from seeing how both the gameplay and storyline evolve from Drakengard to NieR.
NieR’s third-person multi-weapon combat is a huge improvement over what’s found in Drakengard. But at the same time, the roots can clearly be seen within those older games.
4) Nier Automata
NieR Automata is the direct continuation of one possible ending of NieR Replicant. It takes place thousands of years after that game ends.
Players take control of various human-created androids as they face off against an alien threat. Along the way, players who’ve enjoyed previous games will note a number of direct nods to them.
The rich worldbuilding is one of the main reasons why so many people are interested in playing the games in the order of their narrative chronology.
NieR Automata was a recent hit that brought the games to a lot of players’ attention. Even starting from here it’s obvious that the setting has a rich history. It truly feels like a living world.
The actual gameplay also highlights the fact that the games have seen continual development for so long.
The game can cleanly shift from the standard third-person view to top-down and even side-scrolling views.
The huge world is presented in an open-world format that invites continual investigation and discovery.
And in general NieR Automata revolutionized the series by giving players the most immersive interactive experience seen within it to date.
Is NieR Replicant the Same As NieR?
We’ve brought up how the series naming scheme and localization have made it even more confusing to enter into. And one of the most notable examples comes from the relationship between NieR Replicant and NieR.
In Japan, the series began with two versions of NieR. These were NieR Gestalt for the Xbox 360 and NieR Replicant for the Playstation 3.
The two versions were similar in most respects. There were some very minor differences in what year they took place in and the age of the main character.
Replicant had a younger main character and an older one was featured in Gestalt. Some relationships were also altered, for example, a child might become a sibling in order to make the age differences match up.
NieR Gestalt is the version that would be released in English on both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. However, it was simply called NieR in most countries. But the story doesn’t end there.
NieR Replicant would eventually receive a full remake. This was released as NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 in Japan, the US, and all other regions. This version maintains the younger perspective found in the original NieR Replicant.
In short though, NieR and NieR replicant are functionally the same game. The original NieR Replicant and Gestalt in Japan, NieR in America, and the NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139 remake are all roughly the same game with some tweaks to suit different times and locales.
How Is Drakengard Related to NieR?
The connections between Drakengard and NieR aren’t easy to see at first glance. After all, Drakengard is set in a fantasy world while NieR takes place in the far future of Earth. But the events of Drakengard are what sets up the apocalyptic events which make NieR such an intriguing environment.
But more than a specific chain of events, it’s also important to keep the thematic elements in mind. Drakengard presented a very different take on fantasy when compared to most of its peers.
It offered players a chance to experience something more emotionally complex than most games of the time. And it’s this complexity more than anything else that really links all the games together.
There’s a solid chain of events linking all of the games mentioned up to this point. But it’s the thematic link in storytelling style that really holds them together as a cohesive whole.
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