NieR: Automata is, in my opinion, the most important thing to have happened to the video game medium in 2017. It has fun gameplay and a suitably convoluted JRPG plot, but its most essential aspect is how it plays with the conventions and the limitations of the art form to bring across its themes and messages. Since I am not nearly qualified enough to perform a deep-dive analysis of said themes and messages, but fortunately, there are smarter and more knowledgeable people on the net who did. In this post, I put together a reading/viewing list of comprehensive analyses that helped me form a deeper understanding of the game. Needless to say, all of them contain plot-shattering spoilers of the game's story.
- "Lore summary - From Drakengard to Nier: Automata" (ValkyrieAurora, 27:18). Automata is the fifth (!) game in the Drakengard/NieR franchise, and while it is mostly standalone, I found this comprehensive summary of the previous games' plot and lore to an interesting insight into the series' developers' creative philosophy.
On Ending E
- "Sacrifice and the Meaning of Kindness" (Extra Credits, 8:37). A discussion of how Ending E elicits the emotional impact it strives for, and of how games can facilitate true sacrifice and kindness, rather than just handing out "light side points" for the karma meter.
- "Automata Ending Explanation and Meaning" (Aboveup, 14:41). A breakdown of the game's endings and how they can be interpreted in the context of the often-overlooked details from the game itself.
- "Why NieR Automata's Ending Matters - Extradiegetic Suicide: 2B or not 2B" (clearandsweet, 17:35). A beat-by-beat account of the emotional rollercoaster that is Ending E.
- "Most Philosophical Game Ever?" (Wisecrack, 16:09). A rundown of the game's Nietzschean and existentialist themes.
- "Nier: Automata's Uplifting Existentialism" (Super Bunnyhop, 20:50). An examination the game's treatment of existential horror, complete with a Marxist reading of its themes and theorizing on how it all may be Yoko Taro's deconstruction of both existentialism and the Japanese spirit.
- "A Comprehensive Reading of Nier Automata" (Adam Millard, 1:00:38). A complete, in-depth analysis of the entire game's plot and its central question of how to find meaning in a fundamentally meaningless world, explaining how exactly Ending E paradoxically arrives at the answer that it gives us.
On Gameplay and Story Integration
- "Why NieR: Automata Could Only Work as a Game" (Writing on Games, 10:45). An analysis of how the mechanics of the game support its themes and narrative.
- "Nier Automata Is The Anti Assassins Creed" (Pliny The Welder, 26:00). An examination of how clear design priorities let the developers use the medium to express the game's central themes, such as the lack of choice and the necessity of viewing things from different perspectives.