Nier: Automata is an Action RPG, Hack and slash game with an anime art style with an excellent soundtrack and atmosphere. Set in a dystopian world, you play as an android battling it out with other machines, but the story is much deeper than that.
While Nier can get repetitive in terms of its gameplay loop, it delivers a fascinating yet sombre tale that can make grown men cry. It is rather challenging to find games like Nier: Automata, the developer PlatinumGames is known to service a very particular audience and has a pretty hardcore fanbase.
Related Read: 15 RPGs Like Golden Sun
However, we can find similar games in terms of story, art style or gameplay loop. While none of these games will be a 1:1 of Nier (and I don’t think there ever will be.), there is undoubtedly a little something for Nier fans to enjoy in all the titles.
1. Persona 5
Persona is the next step for the JRPG genre; while turn-based combat might make some gamers hesitate (including me), players soon figure out that the action is not the game’s highlight. Instead, the relationship mechanic is. Persona deals in making the player care more for their character, making them charming so they can build better friendships as you venture out into the world fighting bad guys and collecting “Personas”.
Personas are the equivalent of Pokemons in this world. However, instead of throwing a Pokeball at them, you must defeat and then negotiate with them, which involves knowing what personality type likes.
Hardcore ARPG fans might not see the value of playing a game where the action does not take center stage, but I believe that’s the beauty of it. Like Nier, Persona is a unique and engaging experience that can make you play for hours on end without realizing it.
2. Horizon Zero Dawn
HZD is another highly polished Action RPG set in a lush-green post-apocalyptic world. Players take control of Alloy from when she is a child to when she grows up to be an able survivalist. Fighting all kinds of monsters, man and machine alike, Alloy’s journey takes the players through a roller coaster of emotion. The graphics are phenomenal, and the gameplay is as crisp as it comes. Although like any game of such scale, there are bugs that can frustrate, they are few and far.
The game sadly went unnoticed by most Playstation players. However, it managed to make a resurgence in the PC market thanks to Sony allowing their exclusive on a different platform. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with HZD and sometimes boot it up just to walk around in the open world.
Yakuza is a relatively mature franchise dealing in the Shenmue style gameplay of exploration and beat them up combat and hasn’t strayed much from its course as time has passed.
There are multiple protagonists with access to vastly different activities and combat styles spread across various cities in the world. Like Nier, Yakuza has a hardcore fanbase, and the developer is well aware of that. As such, it is better to experience the game chronologically due to recurring characters and cities.
It is always fun to see how the world has changed, and characters have grown as time has toiled away in their binary virtual world. Yakuza excels at both story and combat while bringing some new and fresh changes to the open-world genre. It is sure to please many fans of Nier with its rich, atmospheric world and character development.
4. Final Fantasy
Like Persona, Final Fantasy is a JRPG title. However, the latest entry, Final Fantasy XV, will surely attract ARPG fans as it lets go of its turn-based combat mechanic and allows players to hack and slash as they please. It is not short of the action set pieces like Nier and tells a story that mainly revolves around the four main protagonists and their growth and maturity.
The latest title is more ARPG than JRPG, I guess in an attempt to gain new players. Thankfully, this hasn’t lead to an uproar from the loyal fanbase that we’d expect. Fans of Nier will definitely like FFXV.
Although the story is not as serious and the characters are, for the most part, one dimensional, they still bring personality and charm to the table. The combat is stylish, and the story is passable.
5. Monster Hunter: World
Monster Hunter is one of those games that the gaming community has taken to call souls-like. Unseasoned players might get stuck in tutorials for hours on end until they let go of their instinct to spam attacks and learn the move sets of their enemies. A souls veteran will have no trouble until the end game when it becomes a little unfair. The entire gameplay loop revolves around killing monsters, collecting resources from them to make better gear and weapons, and proceeding to the next monster.
Like any other souls-like, you have to choose your fighting style. Do you want to be a tanky greatsword wielding bad-ass or a tactical, agile, dexterity based character? The game has a lot of content, and it is very satisfying to beat an enemy that has been ruining your run for the last hour. The game frequently goes on sale, and I’d recommend anyone looking for challenging gameplay with an anime-esque art style should check it out.
I’ll be honest, prototype and Nier have very little in common. Prototype doesn’t have the best story; it’s not the same setting of post-apocalypse machine ruling mad world as HZD. But, if you enjoy the hack and slash combat, Prototype has it in aces.
It’s not a very innovative game in the story department, but falling off a skyscraper onto a tank leaving a shockwave blast killing everyone in the vicinity, is fun. In Prototype, you don’t essentially play a good guy; the protagonist is more of an anti-hero as he goes on his rampage to attempt to fix himself. He has the body count of a psychopath, as he consumes innocent bystanders to replenish his HP.
The game doesn’t want you to ponder on how you’re leaving a trail of bodies to achieve your goals which is not uneasy in the world of Prototype. When you have the power of the devil, sometimes you just have to act the part.
7. Mass Effect
I don’t think anyone needs an introduction to this masterpiece trilogy and the let-down of the 4th instalment. Mass Effect has an interesting story about interstellar space, and alien civilisations try to co-exist in the same universe, however as it happens in stories like these, not everyone wants to play by the rules.
While the combat might seem a little clunky at first, it takes very little time to get used to issuing commands and choosing equipment for your teammates. As you journey through space, your actions will garner reputation. You can either be a virtuous paragon or a devious renegade. Just remember your reputation precedes you.
Before I begin talking about Biomutant, I’d like to put a disclaimer. If you want to enjoy the game, turn off the narrator audio. I subscribe to the show don’t tell mentality when it comes to movies or video games, and Biomutant does just that when the narrator allows it. Other times the narrator drones on and just makes the entire experience unpleasant.
Biomutant is your standard RPG game with crafting and looting mechanics. It is not a AAA title, and while that is no excuse for any game to be less quality than we expect, in my personal opinion, Biomutant is well worth its $30 tag. I only wish they hadn’t spent so many resources on the narrator.
9. Darksiders 3
Darksiders 3 is Metroidvania style hack and slash that borrows more from souls games in this instalment. With precise dodge windows and formidable opponents, it increases the skill necessary to play at harder difficulties.
Darksiders allows players to move in a semi-open world, and players have to move back and forth as they unlock new areas a la Metroidvania. However, the exploration is so straight forward it’s honestly more hack and slash beat them up kind of game than an open world.
But it’s still a delightful game. I recommend picking it up on a sale. If hack and slash is your thing, this game won’t disappoint.
10. Genshin: Impact
I must admit I have very little experience in Genshin, I haven’t played any previous titles, and what little I played of Impact didn’t resonate with me. It’s a Gacha grinding online coop game with an anime art style that many of my friends seem to be having fun with.
The gameplay loop is quite simple you grind for in-game valuables, which you can then trade in for better characters for your team. Unfortunately, I could not get into the game, but I am sure people who enjoyed Nier because they like anime will love Genshin and its Gacha gameplay.
11. Jump force
While Jump Force shares the anime art style with Nier, I am afraid that’s where the similarities end. I cannot recommend Jump Force to anyone unless they’re into the whole anime, weeb culture and have other friends with similar interests. There is nothing good I can honestly say about this game other than the combat looks cool and flashy enough.
The game is heavily monetised to the point that you can buy the most expensive version and still have to use in-app monetisation to get 100% content. Honestly, even if you love anime, stay away from this one, don’t give them more money cause that would make the developers think they did something right and just keep re-releasing the same thing in the guise of a sequel.
12. Naruto To Boruto: Shinobi Striker
NTB: SS is an online multiplayer game that not unexpectedly features the same anime art style as the source material, and while it has the same monetisation as Jump Force, it is not nearly as forced or expensive.
The game is fairly well balanced and pits players in a 4 v 4 situation. There is a lot of fun to be had, but the player count is not a lot. I suggest researching if the game is still alive in your region before spending any money on it.
13. Atelier Ryza
This is perhaps the last title I’ll have to repeat the words for, but here I go again. Atelier Ryza is another anime art style RPG that revolves around collecting and crafting to make your character more powerful. While it has very well written and deep lore, sadly, most of it will be missed unless you pay attention to the game.
It’s another title I couldn’t wrap my head around primarily due to being showered in what I could only describe as NSFW anime ladies, but the game is still pretty good aside from that. I just wish they showed a little restraint when it comes to the portrayal of female characters. Not everything has to be about cleavage, guys.
14. Deus Ex
Does this game even need an introduction? The first instalment is still called one of the best games ever to release, and rightfully so. Deus Ex set a strong foundation for immersive sims.
Deus Ex deals in a similar future dystopic society, with a well-written story that branches out based on the dialogue choices you make, but it’s not limited to that. How you build your character and which augmentations you choose to apply and upgrade significantly affect the outcome of every mission, and thus the story.
Although not an action game, you can choose to play it as such later in the story when you’ve grown accustomed to the gameplay and have some cool augmentation modifications in your character.
Deux Ex is primarily a stealth game that engages in themes of dystopic capitalistic future while allowing the player to have a significant outcome to the story through the dialogue options and the actions they take in-game. This franchise is a gem, and barring the sequel to the original, all of them are entertaining and unique experiences.
Machinarium is perhaps the odd-one-out in the list. A 2d point and click adventure with graphics that look hand-drawn, it is not action nor RPG.
Machinarium is a puzzle game that puts you in the shoes of a robot trying to save his kidnapped girlfriend.
The only thing Nier and Machinarium share is the dystopian setting with robots, and that’s it. However, that in itself is such a niche setting and Machinarium as a game is so innovative and one of a kind that I didn’t find discounting it from the list to be a good idea.
The puzzles aren’t tough but still might make your mind boggle for a minute before you come to the obvious conclusion and ask yourself how you couldn’t spot something so obvious straight away. It’s a fun game that you can play on your mobile devices during your daily commute.
Unlike some of the games on this list, Nier doesn’t need its audience to be anime fans to enjoy it. The story is well written and appeals to your sense of humanity.
While not all games in this list are like Nier, they are all titles with their unique spin on the open-world RPG genre. Some do it better than others, but if you wish for a carbon copy of Nier, you’ll just have to wait for a sequel.