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Nier 3 Has Been in Front of Us All Along, Per Series Creator's Tease

If you've ever dipped your toe into the Nier/Drakengard games, you know that their plotlines can get...pretty wacky. Technically, all three Drakengard games and both Nier games take place in the same timeline, but spaced thousands of years apart, and with a bunch of alternate timeline wackiness thrown in for good measure. While the ending of 2017's Nier: Automata could easily be read as a definitive conclusion to the whole business, for years, fans have been wildly speculating about where the story could go from here. Could there be a Nier 3? Will there be?

It turns out, Nier 3 may already exist. In fact, it may have been released way back in 2021, and in true Yoko Taro fashion, it also may be about to officially disappear forever.

Yes, I'm talking about 2021 mobile game Nier: Reincarnation.

Credit where it's due: I was first caught up on this theory when I read a
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positing this exact thing earlier this year. In the moment, I thought there was no way the connection was as explicit as the article made it sound, but I gave the game a shot and was totally floored. While on its surface, Reincarnation appears to be totally unrelated to the rest of the Nier universe, its most recent updates have started dovetailing pretty heavily with the ending of Nier: Automata, and with the final chapter looming, it's starting to look more and more like Nier: Reincarnation has quietly been the sequel fans were waiting for all along.

Even series creator Yoko Taro seems to be suggesting as much:


— yokotaro (@yokotaro)
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Warning: I'm about to get real deep into spoilers for Nier: Automata, Nier: Replicant, the recent Nier Orchestra Concert (yes, that's something that can be spoiled), and the current ending of Nier: Reincarnation. If you don't want to know about the endings of all of that, go play Nier: Reincarnation and come back later.

You were warned!

The Stories So Far

So, to understand what's going on in Reincarnation, we need to recap exactly where Nier Automata and the recent orchestra concert leave the game's heroes. To oversimplify the heck out of the ending of Nier: Automata, the game's true and final ending (Ending E) essentially leaves androids 2B and 9S in a pretty lonely spot. Humanity, which the androids were told lived on the moon and which they were instructed to protect from aliens and machines at all cost, has been completely extinct for thousands of years. The androids, too, are almost all either dead or insane from a logic virus, and basically everyone who knew or helped the main characters (Devola, Popola, Emil, basically all of YoRHa) is dead.

Despite all of this, Automata ends on a hopeful note, with Pods 042 and 153 defying orders to destroy all YoRHa data in the hopes that 2B and 9S will be able to reconstruct themselves and create a future for themselves on their own terms. The Nier Orchestra Concert, which I had the pleasure of attending in Chicago earlier this year, adds onto this a bit. It ultimately leaves 2B and 9S in the same place as they were at the end of Automata, but with the added bonus of informing them about the entire plot of Nier: Replicant and giving them some emotional closure with one another as a bonus.

So with all that in mind, we come to Nier: Reincarnation. For the last few years, Nier: Reincarnation has seemed, for all intents and purposes, to just be a spin-off game with only vague connections to the Nier and Drakengard universes in the form of some of its subplots. Reincarnation takes place in a mysterious, maze-like location known as The Cage, and follows a number of characters' efforts to reconstruct the plots of various short stories that seem to be stored there as data, all while working through their own respective issues and ultimately coming to new revelations about themselves. The first arc followed a little girl and a monster going through a body swap, and the second arc was about two siblings, Yuzuki and Hina, dealing with parental trauma and ultimately reconciling with one another. All the main characters are guided by mysterious little ghost-like creatures, led by one in particular known as Mama that seems to know more about all of them than she lets on. It's all very weird, and very Yoko Taro, but for the most part it seemed to have very little to do with the Nier universe.

Until recently.

The third and final story arc, The People and the World, brings together all the main characters from the first two arcs as well as all the characters from the stories they pieced back together in The Cage. Together and guided by Mama, the entire group works to stop an attack on The Cage itself that threatens all of them. However, in the most recent few chapters, the group has come together only to learn that The Cage is actually a digital server on the Moon, where humanity's history and data has been preserved. Everyone within The Cage is technically just data, with the exception of Yuzuki and Hina, who are actual human beings pulled out of an alternate reality where the events of Drakengard (the ones that kickstarted the disaster that led to Nier: Replicant and Automata) never even happened. And then we meet a new character: 10H, another YoRHa android who has been protecting the moon and its data this entire time with the assistance of her pod...aka Mama. The most recent chapter ends with 10H sacrificing herself to allow Yuzuki, Hina, Mama, and all the data characters from the Cage to travel to Earth, where an enemy machine force is poised to attack.

If all of that sounds absolutely bonkers, I'm totally with you. But the point of it all is that Nier: Reincarnation takes place in the same universe as all the other Nier games, and its characters are on the cusp of smashing right into the middle of whatever it is 2B and 9S are doing. And critically, Reincarnation completely transforms the ending of Automata: humanity may be extinct, but the implication is that the data stored on the moon might hold the possibility of resurrecting them. Hence, "reincarnation." Blammo. Mind blown.


Which brings me back to Taro's
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, which seems to be alluding to this exact thing. Fans were
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about what they thought was a Nier 3 tease at the Orchestra Concert, when the word "R3PENT" was briefly shown on screen with a 3 in place of the E. This could have been a purely artistic choice, but it does tie in quite nicely with the themes of Reincarnation. Like the concert's plotline, much of Reincarnation's story is heavily focused on repenting for past sins, reflecting heavily on the guilty conscience of humanity writ large and whether or not humans deserved their end.

And sure, Taro's "r3incarnationan" tweet is mispelled, a little silly, and immediately followed up by a
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. Maybe both of these are nothing! But even if both these teases are just Taro being a goober, it doesn't make Reincarnation's twists into a direct Automata follow-up any less mind-blowing.

So Nier 3 is already out! It's Nier: Reincarnation! You should play it! If you're hesitant about jumping into a free-to-play mobile game with gacha mechanics, don't be. Reincarnation has been piling on the free currency for players in its final months. I was able to start the game, acquire and level up multiple powerful teams of fighters, and catch up to where the story is now in about ten total hours of play. I paid nothing.

And it's a good idea to jump in and try it now, because Reincarnation won't exist forever. Reincarnation's final story chapter comes out on March 28, and will hopefully see all the Nier characters from both Earth and Moon come together for one big final clash of destinies before the real, definitive ending. The game is shutting down on April 29, and won't be available at all after that point. It's a fitting end, given that Nier: Automata asks players to delete their save data at the end of Ending E to help other players complete the challenging credits sequence.

After that, it'll be time to stop asking Yoko Taro about Nier 3, and start bothering him about Nier 4.

Rebekah Valentine is a senior reporter for IGN. Got a story tip? Send it to [email protected].

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