WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Nier: Automata
No, seriously, this one is a massive spoiler as I’m writing about a good chunk of Nier: Automata‘s ending here. So, please, if you have any intention of playing this game, stop reading and go do that now because this is an ending that I feel nearly everyone should experience for themselves. I daresay that it’s unequivocally one of the best videogame endings ever. If you have already played it, then you already know why and don’t need me to tell you, but I’m gonna write about it anyway just because I can.
The C and D endings are, quite frankly, depressing and neither provides a wholly satisfying closure. After clearing one, you clear the other in the hopes of finding something more uplifting, but there simply isn’t. And as the credits roll once more, it looks like that’s all that’s left. But then, something strange happens with the Pods – the two constant companions you and the main characters have had throughout the entire adventure.
With Project YoRHa’s ultimate goal finally achieved, Pod 153 states that they must now delete all of the data left pertaining to the project. But then the credits start to glitch out slightly. A prompt appears asking if you wish to temporarily halt the process and, if you do, the credits freeze. Pod 042 refuses to comply with the plan. It’s been hinted at, but now it has somehow managed to develop and grow a personality and emotions. Much like you, it’s not satisfied with this outcome and wishes to see 2B, 9S and A2 – the three that they’ve travelled with – survive, and even says that Pod 153 must feel the same. But any attempt to try and recover their data is described as high-risk – it’s basically a suicide mission with an incredibly low chance of success. Another prompt appears. Though you know the risks, do you still wish to see them survive? You pick yes, and the true ending plays out.
This time, the credits play out as a top-down shooter, much like the hacking mini-games you’ve been playing (it also explains why the credits scrolled from the top to the bottom the last couple of times). You are now shooting and destroying every credit, with them firing their own projectiles back at you. You are literally fighting back against the game’s creators to try and override the ending. Pod 042 mentions how while they may have been created to help execute Project YoRHa, something changed when the six of them connected.
… Wait, six? There’re the two Pods and the three androids; that makes five. So who’s the sixth? … You, the player. You connected with these characters and, as such, helped the Pods develop a consciousness of their own. How? Well, as Pod 042 says “… not everything has to have an answer.”
You carry on through the swarm of credits, all the while a retro, 8-bit remix of Weight of the World – a heart-wrenching song all about how one person struggles to save everyone on their own and how they can’t achieve it alone – plays, gradually transitioning into a mixture of the other three versions of it; the vocals shifting back and forth between English and Japanese.
But with every credit you destroy, only more come at you, gradually overwhelming you. It is possible to clear, but chances are that you will eventually die. But it doesn’t end if you let it (assuming you’ve got the online connections turned on, which the game gives you the option to do if you die). One more prompt appears:
GIVE UP HERE?
Obviously no you don’t. You pick up where you left off and try again. You die. This time, you receive a message. A message of hope and encouragement, along with another prompt.
DO YOU ACCEPT DEFEAT?
With every death, you are given the option to quit, the prompts almost mocking and teasing you to do so. And in the background, more and more messages appear telling you to keep going. Messages from other players who got to this point and made it through. Die enough times, and then you start to receive offers of rescue. Other players offering to help you.
While it is possible to clear this sequence solo, it ultimately doesn’t fit with the tone or the message of this scenario – it’s okay to ask for help, and things become much easier and achievable when they’re done with others. If you accept these offers of assistance, your little cursor is joined by many others, firing off swarms of bullets to decimate the credits. And if you get hit, one of the other players is destroyed and another comes in to take their place, which may not seem much until you get to the very end and learn that all those players were only able to help you because they deleted their save data. They gave up all their progress so some random stranger could make it to the ending as well. And once you make it to the end, you are given the option to do the same.
My favourite bit, though, is when you receive help, the music swells and a chorus begins to chant; an uplifting harmony of voices to further push you forward, perhaps symbolising all the players who are uniting to make this happy ending happen.
And when all’s said and done, not only do both Pods survive, but they managed to save 2B, 9S and A2. While it’s acknowledged that they will retain all of their memories and potentially lead to the same conclusion as before, there is still the possibility that they’ll make a different future; one completely their own. It may be rather ambiguous but there’s something oddly hopeful about it, which honestly makes everything worth it.
I mentioned before in my review of the game that Nier: Automata was an experience; this sequence is one of the key reasons why. It’s clever in its use of the videogame medium and, while this may be a bit over-the-top, it’s a beautiful conclusion that I don’t think can ever be replicated.