I am not a very big crier. The last time I cried was in a movie theater, swaddled in a blanket, and watching Pooh ask if Christopher Robin had let him go. Before that, it was during Love, Simon when he was talking to his mom after coming out. Hmm. So, it turns out that I may be a big sap and the first sentence of this paragraph is a lie. It still holds true, however, for video games because the only video game that has ever made me cry is NieR:Automata.



There are two things you need to know before we proceed. One, there’s definitely going to be spoilers. And two, Automata is probably (definitely) my favorite game. If you all could remember, I mentioned how one game has showed me that compassion is still alive and there are still good people in this world. This is it. This is the game.


NieR:Automata is video game director Yoko Taro’s brainchild, released 8 years after the first NieR game. Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, it tells the story of three androids: 2B, A2, and 9S. Anyway, I’m not here to tell you what a technical marvel it is. I won’t tell you how GREAT the music is. I’m not here to talk about the five real endings and the twenty-one gag endings. I certainly won’t tell you how absolutely amazing the story is. I am here today to tell you how it made me cry…which was during the credits.


The credits scene for ending E provides you with a choice. I won’t tell you what it is but it’s a phenomenal choice. Should you choose to go with it, the credits scene turns into a bullet hell mini game where, well, you essentially need to defeat the makers of the game as they run along your screen. It gets harder as the credits progress and you will die. You will die a lot. Die enough number of times and the game taunts you if all the effort is worth it. It will ask you if you want to just…give up. And because I am a stubborn idiot powered by spite who has spent 75 hours in this game, you’d have to pry the controller from my cold, dead hands. Die a few more times and a window pops up: a rescue offer from another player who has beaten the game somewhere else in the world.



It seems insignificant but as the credits go on, more players will join you, more players will die, and I eventually found myself screaming apologies (and expletives) at my TV as I see names disappear because I was a buffoon with bad hand-eye coordination. I found myself getting attached to these usernames as the credits trudged along, bringing us closer to the game’s true and final end.


After the final cinematic, the game demands another choice—probably the most significant decision in the game. It asks you if you would like to help another player beat the game in exchange for your save file.


The first time I played the game (I’ve finished it three times), I was dumbfounded. Not because of the price I had to pay but because of how clever it was. Never has a game posed me with a moral question so real I had to take a breather. I mean, of course, I’ll give you my save file. It doesn’t matter if I had logged 70+ hours in it. I am not a monster. Stop asking me if I’m sure because I am.


The act of turning the credits—an oft overlooked part of a game—into a mini game that is integral to acquiring the ending is already genius in itself. But adding an emotional factor to it by making the mini game virtually unbeatable on your own—without the help of those who have sacrificed before you—is just *clenches fist*. The moment the game asks you that final question, you realize that those who have helped you have been in the same situation and chose to have their file erased to help someone. It enforces the game’s overall theme of cycle, purpose, the search for meaning, and taking the future with your own hands, and transforms it into a personal experience. The ordeal instills a sense of gratitude that is real and organic because the credits scene was transformed into an exercise of camaraderie and paying it forward all for one goal. If the player wants the true ending, they have to fight for it—but it does not mean that they have to go at it alone.


The game doesn’t joke around about deleting your file, too. It will make a big show of opening the menu and removing all the items in your inventory, all the hard-earned and upgraded weapons, all the side quests you’ve completed, all the endings—everything. And you know what? I don’t even feel bad about it at all. It just gives me a reason to experience the game all over again.