Created by famed Japanese game designer Yoko Taro, NieR is a beloved action RPG series and both a sequel and spin-off to the fantasy-inspired Drakengard games.
Boasting a multilayered approach to storytelling with an exhaustive number of endings, NieR’s timeline is among the most complicated in gaming.
As such, newcomers to the series are faced with the mighty task of figuring out how to play NieR games in orderwithout missing out on any parts of the story.
To help out, we’ve compiled a list of all NieR games in order of release, which also happens to be the recommended play order for new fans.
With that said, let’s see what this unique franchise has to offer!
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Release Date: September 11, 2003
Platforms: PS2, Mobile
While NieR may be a spin-off to the Drakengard series, the two share a close connection in terms of story and setting, depending on which ending you consider canon.
Referred to by some fans as the “joke” ending to the original Drakengard, Ending E sees the protagonist Caim battling a giant demon brought through a portal by the cult known as The Watchers.
As a last-ditch effort, Caim opens another portal to fight the creature through but the pair end up trapped in an alternate dimension set in 2003 Tokyo.
Perceiving them as a threat, the Japanese government decides to kill Caim and the demon, in turn causing their magical essence to spread across the land.
This leads to a deadly disease that wipes out most of the human race while creating a post-apocalyptic world that sets the stage for NieR’s setting.
Release Date: April 22, 2010
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Maintaining Drakengard Ending E’s continuity, the original NieR takes place on modern-day Earth roughly 1,000 years in the future where society has collapsed following a widespread plague.
Depending on the version of the game, players assume control of either a young man (Nier Replicant) or a middle-aged man (Nier Gestalt) searching for a cure to the Black Scrawl illness.
Doing so will allow either character to save their sister/daughter Yonah before she succumbs to the Black Scrawl’s effects.
Originally, the canonical ending for this game was Ending D, which sees the protagonist sacrificing their character’s existence and in turn, deleting the player’s save data.
However, this was further complicated by NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…, a remaster of the original that introduces Ending E, a continuation of Ending D leading up to the events of NieR: Automata.
Release Date: December 19, 2013
In addition to the original Drakengard, players should familiarize themselves with the events of Drakengard 3 to fully understand the NieR timeline.
Knowledge of Drakengard 2 is unnecessary as it exists in its own continuity and wasn’t directed nor written by Taro himself.
Drakengard 3 centers on Zero, a woman with the power to manipulate magic using song as she sets out to kill her five sisters who each rule over different parts of the world.
Although none of the game’s endings directly connect to the first Drakengard, it’s still considered a prequel to the original.
Release Date: February 23, 2017
Platforms: PS4, Windows, Xbox One, Switch
As mentioned at the top, NieR Automata functions as both a sequel and spin-off to Drakengard that takes place in the same universe only thousands of years in the future.
In it, androids and machines fight for control of Earth on behalf of humanity who has since fled to the moon, with aliens now presiding over the planet.
The game is experienced from the perspectives of three androids: 2B, 9S, and A2, each assigned unique battle mechanics and roles in the story.
Like NieR games before it, Automata features several endings which require you to replay sections of the game to progress.
The widely accepted canonical ending is Ending E, which requires players to unlock Ending D and accept an offer to save the remaining androids.
Without spoiling anything, this choice leads to one of the more satisfying conclusions in video game history.
Release Date: February 18, 2021
Platforms: Android, iOS
While not needed to fully understand NieR’s overarching story, NieR Reincarnation is worth picking up if you’re a fan whose interested in spending more time with the series’ characters.
Exclusive to mobile platforms, the game is set in a realm called the Cage where various NieR characters experience stories based on their own unique struggles.
Gameplay strikes a mix between narrative-driven exploration and turn-based battles against monsters trying to take over the Cage.
Despite having a very different structure and premise than previous games in the series, NieR Reincarnation is considered a sequel to NieR: Automata, securing it a spot on this list.