NieR Timeline Explained: Games and Anime

NieR Timeline Explained: Games and Anime
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As NieR fans will know, the series has one of the most complex timelines in popular culture. The overall structure of the NieR games is not that complex, but if you dive deeper into the story, you’ll notice that it is exceptionally difficult to follow. It’s not just the alternative endings and the branched plotlines, but also all of the additional content revealed throughout the story and the side quests.

The story of NieR encompasses a period of more than 10,000 years, and although we don’t know all the details, it’s still a lot to take in. This is why the NieR timeline constantly confuses people and that is why we wanted to help you understand how it all works so that you can have a general idea of what you can expect from the upcoming anime in terms of its plot.

NieR timeline overview

In this section, we are going to bring you a quick overview of the complete NieR chronology, without diving into too many details (at least here). So, here is the NieR chronology at a glance:

  • Drakengard 1, 2 and 3
  • The Song of Fourteen Years (Novella)
  • Drakengard (Game)
    • Branch E: the End of the dragon sphere
      • The Stone Flower (Novella)
      • And Then There Were None (Novella)
      • The Red and the Black / A Little Princess (Novellas)
      • Witches’ Sabbath (Novella)
      • NieR Replicant  / NieR Gestalt (Games)
        • The Magic Mountain (Novella)
        • The Narrow Gate (Novella)
        • The Little Mermaid (Novella)
        • The World of Recycled Vessel (DLC)
          • Ending A: Call Her Back
          • Ending B: Lingering Memories
            • Around the World in Eighty Days (Novella)
          • Ending C: Thank You
          • Ending D: Something Very Special
          • Ending E
            • The Lost World (Novella)
            • The Space War (Drama CD)
            • The Fire of Prometheus (Novella)
            • YoRHa (Stage Play)
            • YoRHa Boys (Stage Play)
            • NieR:Automata (Game)

As you can see, two titles are not on the list, and they are NieR: Automata Ver1.1a, the upcoming anime, and the NieR Re[in]carnation video game. As for the former, the anime is by all means set during the events of the NieR: Automata video game but is a new take on a familiar plot, whereas the latter’s place in the timeline is completely unknown, as no other NieR work makes any reference to any concept from NieR Re[in]carnation, although it is definitely set within the same universe. Now that we have clarified this, allow us to give you some additional details about the chronology.

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NieR timeline explained

2003

The story of NieR actually starts with Drakengard, the first game in the series, whose final ending actually led to the events that happened in the world of NieR, which thus became an alternative reality related to the main Drakengard timeline. In that ending, Caim and the dragon decide not to sacrifice Seere and throw themselves against the Queen-Beast, with which they are absorbed in a space-time distortion. They find themselves in modern Tokyo, which the Dragon assumes to be the land of the gods. The two begin a battle against the Queen-Beast; with the monster defeated, Caim and the dragon are immediately killed by the rockets of a Japanese air force fighter. The Dragon’s charred corpse remains impaled on Tokyo Tower. From this ending continues the story in NieR. The Queen-Beast is from there referred to as The Giant, while the Dragon is known simply as The Dragon.

Several months after the incident, several cases of an unknown disease that breaks humans down into sodium chloride appeared in Tokyo; the mortality rate is 100% and scientists are initially optimistic because it is a rare disease despite its unknown origin. While the scientists are investigating the disease, an explosion of new cases is observed in Tokyo in February 2004.

2004 – 2033

As the number of cases increases, two things happen – Japan isolates parts of Tokyo and more and more cases that go into a berserk state with psychotic fits emerge. In June 2004, the researchers present their findings so far, calling the disease “White Chlorination Syndrome;” no cure is in sight as the scientists still cannot explain the origins and mechanisms of the disease. In October, the so-called Wall of Jericho is built around Shinjuku, where the disease started, and the location is physically sealed off to stop the spread of the disease.

Some members of the media remained in Shinjuku, and in December, a video appeared that shows a media member screaming as a giant white being appeared behind him. This was the last transmission from within Shinjuku and although the government tried to censure it, it leaked online. In January 2005, the Japanese government announces that the number of infections is steadily decreasing.

In May 2006, scientists revealed that the issue with WCS is genetic and that people with irregularities within their chromosomes have a higher rate of going berserk. This was later revealed to be false, as it was based on falsified data; the government continues to conduct its research in secret, not revealing anything to the public. In February 2008, Shinjuku and the wall are destroyed from the inside as an army of white creatures breaks out and slaughters all the people they come into contact with. The Legion, as they are dubbed, are led by a red-eyed creature known as Red Eye, and are successful in repelling the army’s attempt at stopping them.

Soon after, WCS re-emerges and the number of cases increases rapidly, with the appearance of the first cases outside of Tokyo. In the meantime, the remains of the Dragon are relocated from Japan to another secret location. The number of cases and Legion members continues to increase, as the army is unsuccessful in stopping the Legion’s advance. It is only in January 2009, when Japan allies itself with the United States, that the Legion is slowly halted, but not stopped. In August, an agreed nuclear attack is launched on Tokyo, with Shinjuku becoming “Ground Zero”. In November, the Legion is confirmed to have been destroyed by the nuclear attacks.

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It is now February 2010 and the first WCS case emerges in China, with Legion members appearing in other parts of Asia as well. Soon, it spreads all over the world; it is also confirmed that Red Eye survived the nuclear attack on Tokyo. In June, the horrible truth is revealed. Namely, scientists have confirmed that the Dragon and the Giant came from a parallel universe and that WCS is caused by an unknown particle from that universe, dubbed Maso, that should not exist in our universe. No known technique or element is able to destroy the Maso particles and there is no way to cure WCS; the nuclear attacks on Japan actually helped spread the Maso particles around the world, as WCS is spread very easily.

As the disease spreads, research into Maso’s nature continues. In 2011, the secret facility storing the Dragon’s corpse is attacked and destroyed by an unknown group; the corpse vanishes and the government decides to cover it up. In March 2014, the Gestalt Project begins. The goal of the project is to separate the human soul from its body in order to stop the spread of WCS; the initial experiment is successful – the separation and re-merging are done without any consequences. The project is revealed to the public in 2015, but the public rejects it. In 2016, a medicine that should halt the spread of WCS called Luciferase is developed.

Using the medicine, an elite unit called the 1st Crusade Squad is formed to fight the growing legion but are ultimately wiped out. It is soon revealed that Luciferase is more effective on children, who are then taken and experimented on. The Hamelin Organization is founded for the purpose of “cultivating” such children. The ensuing battles plunge the world into even bigger chaos in the upcoming years, as the economy practically collapses and we see a rise in civil unrest.

In January 2025, the Replicants become a part of Project Gestalt as a way to remedy the issues with the original process. The Replicants are empty shells created using a Gestalt conversion of a patient’s genetic data. The problem of a Gestaltized soul losing its physical body is resolved by these shells and the first integration of a Gestalt and Replicant is successful. In 2026, an incident occurs in which a weapon to fight the Legion – actually a weaponized child – is lost. IN 2030, Red Eye is slain in Jerusalem and the Legion loses its leader, ceasing to be a physical threat, but the WCS is still spreading all over the world.

In 2032, it has become clear that the world is doomed. The full scope of Project Gestalt is revealed to the public as the surviving people are transformed into Gestalts, while their corresponding Replicants are also created. Androids are placed around the world to control the Maso particles and are put in charge of controlling the unmerged Replicants, who are immune to WCS and are sent to defeat the Legion. Once the disease is going, the Gestalts would be merged and humanity would continue to live. In 2033, the Grimoire project is also launched, with Grimoire Noir and Grimoire Weiss being the first examples of such Gestaltized books.

NieR Gestalt / NieR Replicant

Now, this is where the timeline becomes tricky, as the original Japanese game started in 2049, while the Western version started in 2053, so all of the events depicted here have to be viewed in accordance with that fact. In the beginning, it is discovered that Gestaltized souls lose their self-awareness over time and go berserk, which was labeled as a relapse. In order to stabilize the process, Maso from a stable Gestalt is needed; this Gestalt was named the Original Gestalt, and it was determined that using one of the Grimoires would be the best way to produce it. Using Grimoire Noir, experiments on children are conducted in order to find the one attuned to Noir’s power. Nier is tricked into entering the experiment and is attuned to Noir’s power but runs away when he senses that something is amiss; he also needs to protect Yonah.

In an abandoned supermarket, Nier is attacked by relapsed Gestalt and he offers himself to Noir and becomes the Original Gestalt; at the same time, Yonah is also – by accident – subjected to the project and she begins to relapse immediately. The Government offers Nier to put Yonah in a deep sleep until the project is over, but he has to provide Maso for them; Nier agrees and this continues for the next thousand years. In 2764, the Replicants begin to develop sentience and by the year 3000, they are completely sentient beings completely unrelated to their original Gestalts, who are still in a state of sleep. The Replicants begin to develop a civilization of their own and begin rebuilding the planet, but are still under the control of the androids and are destroying the Legion and the relapsed Gestalts.

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In 3276, Red Eye is reborn in Jerusalem, and in 3287, he amassed the remaining Legion and launched a final attack on the Replicants. An Android and four Replicants unite and manage to defeat him, thus ending the Legion once and for all. The remaining Maso is sent away and the world is finally purified of the White Chlorination Syndrome. In 3288, with the disease eradicated, the final phase of Project Gestalt is put into motion, but the Replicants begin seeing their original Gestalts as monsters, dubbing them Shades, and begin attacking them. The full merger of the Gestalts and their Replicants is present in some parts of the world but is rare. Around 3300, Nier, the Original Gestalts, begins to suspect that Yonah won’t be revived because even the stable Gestalts begin relapsing very soon. He then obtains Noir once again and wants to save Yonah, and this is where the plot of NieR actually starts.

The plot is set 1300 years after the fifth Drakengard ending and focuses on a man named Nier (whose name, however, can be customized by the player, and who is either a young man or a middle-aged man, depending on the version) intent on seeking a cure for his younger sister or daughter Yonah (again, depending on the version), affected by the terrible disease of the Black Scrawl which decimates entire villages and is apparently incurable. The population is reduced to the bone and people always need a hand, also due to the constant attacks of shadow monsters known as Shades; therefore Nier often offers himself as a worker to be able to obtain treatment that will alleviate his daughter’s pain.

One day Nier discovers that Yonah has ventured out of the village in search of the Lunar Tear, an imaginary flower capable of granting any wish. After a short time, he manages to find her in the Lost Sanctuary where at the same time he meets Grimoire Weiss, a bizarre and know-it-all talking tome who, after being freed from a spell, offers to help Nier in his mission.

Weiss is in fact able to cure the Black Scrawl by obtaining the Sealed Verses and defeating the Grimoire Noir, his dark counterpart allied with the Shadow Lord, the cause of the presence of the Shades and the Black Scrawl in the world. Accompanying him on his journey will also be Kainè, a young warrior who dresses and expresses himself in a promiscuous way, and Emil, a sensitive boy with the power to petrify anything simply by looking at it. Almost all the main bosses have names of famous characters from fantasy and fairy tales (Hook, Hansel & Gretel, Geppetto…).

In addition to the main plot, Nier includes numerous secondary quests that are rewarded with experience or money if completed, in addition to quests there are hobbies such as fishing or farming. Some of the side quests are required to unlock the additional endings, which together complete the NieR story. These are:

  • Ending A: Finish the game normally until the credits sequence.
  • Ending B: At the end of the credits of the first phase, continue with the last saved game. The story will begin late in the initial plot and will include new scenes and dialogue throughout the adventure. Additionally, all weapons, items, and texts will be retained.
  • Ending C: Like Ending B, the story will begin late in the plot. To achieve this ending, it is only necessary to complete A and B and get the “Weapons Collector” trophy that is obtained by getting 100% of the weapons in the video game. Fulfilling this requirement, at the end of the plot an election will be presented that will decide the future of the main characters.
  • Final D: Obtaining this outcome consists of making the choice opposite to Final C. When making this choice, the system will alert us several times that it will completely eliminate the saved games from our platform, therefore it is recommended only after viewing the previous outcomes.

The Replicant Nier is reconstructed in 3474, which was revealed in the remaster of the original NieR game. After several attempts to preserve humanity, the last humans die in 4198, and humanity is wiped out. The Replicants had also died out by that time and Androids are the only ones left in the world.

NieR: Automata

Not long after that, the number of Androids started decreasing. Around 4500, the Androids split into the more conservative ones, loyal to humanity, and the “Independists”, who garnered no loyalty towards the humans. A short civil war broke out but was quickly settled and the “Independists” formed a sovereign state in Australia. In 5012 aliens arrived on Earth and organized a series of attacks all around the world; the Androids formed an army to fight back, but the Aliens also began producing machines and they soon overpowered the Androids. Interestingly enough, when they conquered 80% of the planet, they stopped expanding, although the number of machines kept increasing. The Androids also expanded to space, building space bases for preserving human culture, living, and fighting.

In 5112, Emil, who survived the events of NieR, created a total of 85,943,258 clones of himself to fight the aliens.

The Androids manage to land a few victories here and there over the years, but no decisive ones. On the other hand, the aliens start building large, Goliath-like machines that also wreak havoc on Earth, thereby increasing the aliens’ authority. This happened for the next 6,000 years, until – around 11,000 – the aliens’ presence begins to slowly decline. In 11,306, the machines created by the aliens rebelled and exterminated all the aliens.

The Army of Humanity, actually the official Android army, launched several wars against the machines, but was unable to wipe them out and would always end up losing. More gigantic machines would also appear in the upcoming centuries, appearing and disappearing after a while. In 11,689, a Goliath-class machine called Ernst declared independency from the other machines and formed the Forest Kingdom, where his successors would continue reigning as sovereigns. In 11,932, YoRHa was approved for construction; the first model was constructed in 11,937 and deployed to Earth.

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In 11,939, the 14th Machine War began; the following year, the Bunker was constructed. In 11,941, the Pearl Harbor Descent Operation was carried out with devastating results for the Androids, with A2 being the only surviving member of the attack. In 11,942, 9S awakened in the Bunker for the first time, and these events lead us into the story of Nier: Automata. What happens next? We won’t be revealing that.

Namely, with the anime coming up, we won’t be spoiling everything for you, so we urge you to check the anime out and then find out what happens after Automata’s final ending. And with this, we are going to wrap up our overview of the NieR timeline and its most important events. This is only a small part of the whole series and we hope that we’ve made it easier for you to understand this large and complex universe before the anime actually begins.

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