Let's be frank, if you've played NieR: Automata (or any of the NieR games really), you'll know it's not what you would call a "conventional game." From its story to its gameplay, there is a lot of craziness to adjust to in this action role playing title. Then again, if you're a fan of PlatinumGames' other titles, maybe you'll adjust just fine. But whatever your thoughts on the game's outlandish themes and presentation, you certainly can't deny its ambition.
Not only does the game attempt to construct a complex, multi-layered story across multiple playthroughs with a gut-punch of a credit sequence, it also has a lot to say about the nature of humanity and what it means to live. As such, there's a lot of poignant quotes scattered throughout the many chapters of the game that strike a sense of hope and melancholy in equal measure. These are the best quotes that help carry meaning to this dreary and cynical apocalypse.
10 "Everything that lives is designed to end. We are perpetually trapped in a never-ending spiral of life and death. Is this a curse? Or some kind of punishment? I often think about the god who blessed us with this cryptic puzzle, and wonder if we'll ever get the chance to kill him."
It seems only appropriate to start with the quote that opens the game and appropriately sets the tone for the adventure to come. This opening monologue comes from protagonist, 2B. This quote very effectively conveys not only the tone and philosophical questions that will be addressed throughout the campaign, but also says a lot about 2B as a character.
2B starts her journey extremely bitter and cynical about her quest and her purpose. She's supposed to hold no emotion and focus solely on killing the machines scattered throughout the Earth. However, this quote immediately shows that she already carries an emotion that will define her for large portions of the game: resentment.
9 "We've destroyed machines beyond counting. Perhaps someone sees that as a sin."
This quote comes at the conclusion of the "Machine Examination 2" side quest, but to fully understand it, some context is required. After you complete the "Assault" quest, you can encounter a large Engels machine that is repairable. Upon finding the necessary components to do so, he identifies itself as Engels 110B who you can talk to whenever you choose. Engels will often ponder the state of the world with you before he begins to contemplate the nature of sin.
Sin is a concept brought on by 9S when Engels first comes back online, which leads into "Machine Examination 2." During this side quest, Engels acknowledges the many androids he has killed. He says he must atone for this sin and offers up his parts as penance. Shortly after doing so, he passes away due to his system shutting down. 2B is the one who says the aforementioned quote upon his passing, showing a surprising moment of reflection for the usually stoic and pragmatic android.
8 "There's an important lesson here: The more of a fool people take you for, the more you'll learn of their true nature."
During your second playthrough as 9S, you can find a character simply named the Weird Machine in Pascal's village. He's called the Weird Machine because older children keep offering him a cheap coin or an expensive coin, but he keeps selecting the cheap one. This gives the other children the impression that he is faulty somehow. However, upon hacking Weird Machine, you discover that he is actually extremely complex and intelligent. When you confront him on this, Weird Machine reveals that he only acts the fool so they'll keep offering him cheap coins, knowing that they'll stop giving him easy money the minute he picks the expensive one.
It's at that point that he says the above quote, which, while cynical in nature, does offer a very revealing glimpse on the nature of humanity. Or, at the very least, the things some people will do when they think that they cannot be seen or understood.
7 "A future is not given to you. It is something you must take for yourself."
This quote from Pod 042 is actually the final line in the game at the conclusion of Ending E, or "the true ending." It comes shortly after the final confrontation between A2 and 9S in which both are killed. Their pods, however, make it out of the conflict and are seemingly attempting to repair the fallen androids. Pod 153 and 042 spend some time debating whether or not they're just setting them up to repeat the same mistakes they made before their passing.
While 042 acknowledges that it is a possibility, he also doesn't see it as a certainty. With this quote, 042 offers up some hope for what's to come by saying that the future is a choice, not preordained. So while they can absolutely make the same mistakes that led them down this path to begin with, they should be allowed the choice to do so.
6 "the time I was able to spend with you. It was like memories of pure light. Thank you...Nine...s"
This is hidden dialogue you can discover upon finding 2B's crashed flight unit as 9S. Upon discovering the crashed machine, you'll find a recorded audio log with a final message for 9S. It offers one last look into just how much 2B had changed before she succumbed to the Logic Virus. When they first met, 2B was very careful to remain pragmatic and detached from 9S, knowing she would have to kill him if he got too close to discovering the truth.
Despite this, 2B eventually came to care about him to the point where his influence permanently changed her perception on the world. Thus, this final message reveals that while she lived her life resenting her given role and the world that forced it upon her, she died finally able to see the light once more. This effectively concludes her arc in the game and leaves a lasting impression not only on 9S, but the player as well.
5 "It always ends like this."
This quote holds more meaning the more you learn throughout the game. It comes at the conclusion of Route A (your first playthrough) shortly after 2B is forced to choke 9S to death after he becomes corrupted by a virus. As 2B is holding his body, she openly weeps as she says this line.
As has been previously mentioned, 2B has a secret directive to kill any scanner android that starts to uncover classified information, which leaves 2B deliberately cold towards 9S in fear of getting too emotionally attached. This quote reveals, however, that not only has she done that exact thing multiple times, she has also had to kill her partner over and over again.
4 "I‘m not quite sure what it means to mourn, or even if we have a soul to concern ourselves with. But I hope you’re at rest 2B. Sweet dreams. I’ll be with you before long."
It's 9S's turn to mourn this time around if you seek out the "Gathering Keepsake" side quest, which takes place after the death of 2B. After collecting the necessary components, you can return to Emil's home where 9S will recite this monologue before planting a grave marker for 2B.
It also denotes 9S's ultimate fall into darkness. Unlike 2B, who started the game cold and detached, 9S started out as bright and optimistic. But over the course of the game, 2B would learn to embrace her emotions and find light of her own, while 9S would slowly become more hopeless and, as this quote clearly demonstrates, suicidal.
3 “Why do I long for humans like this?! Why do I desire the touch of something that no longer exists?”
During the game's final confrontation between 9S and A2, 9S has clearly lost his mind from pain and grief, leading him to spout out this particular quote. And in that quote, you can see the culmination of 9S's entire character arc. His continued curiosity about humanity, the world, and everything both had to offer is a big part of what drives him throughout the story. However, what drives him the most is his connection to 2B.
Once that connection is severed through tragedy, all that's left is a man who no longer finds joy in the world he once found fascinating. He only finds a cold, cruel world that infects and destroys everything it touches. Despite this, he can't seem to stop longing for a connection with humanity, forever feeling like he lost something he never had.
2 "Do not feel bad about it. We are alive, after all. And being alive is pretty much a constant stream of embarrassment."
This one is certainly less serious than some of the other entries, but still poignant nonetheless. This quote comes from a conversation between Pod 153 and Pod 042 during Ending E. Pod 042 admits to some embarrassment over what he labels a "suicide attempt" at the end of the game's climax, to which Pod 153 responds with the aforementioned quote. Pod 042 admits the concept is too "abstract" for him to understand in the moment, but anyone alive can understand this concept pretty easily.
It is interesting to consider what exactly they're defining as "embarrassing" in this case, because there's a lot of different emotions that can be tied into embarrassment. In many ways, this line actually tries to paint a majority of the game's events in a darkly humorous way, reflecting on the pointlessness of it all. And it does so right before painting the possibility for a brighter future.
1 "Everything that lives is designed to end. They are perpetually trapped in a never-ending spiral of life and death. However, life is all about the struggle within this cycle. That is what 'we' believe."
It seems only appropriate to end this list where it began. Once again during Ending E, Pod 153 offers this word of insight as a callback and as a closing statement to the game as a whole. It's simple, and it doesn't say all that much on it's own, but unlike the intro, that was dripping with resentment over life's constant give and take, this quote tries to find the hope and beauty in that same cycle.
And that seems like an appropriate sentiment to end this journey on. To end with the expressed belief that a better future is possible. That life is still worth living and exploring despite its perceived cruelties.