In video games, side quests are a great way to expand a games universe, give the player extra objectives to complete and generally keep gameplay interesting outside of the primary objectives. Good side missions engage the player and often have a modest payoff at the end, either emotional or more material.
NieR: Automata has more than its fair share of side quests to keep the player engaged beyond the main storyline. Some of these missions are an experience that leaves the player fulfilled in having completed them. Others are events that might make the player wish they hadn’t wasted their time on them. Here are some of the best and worst of the bunch. Spoilers ahead!
10 Worst: Underground Colosseum
One-third of the ‘Mysterious Letter’ side mission you receive as DLC content in the game. A fight club of sorts where you take control of a machine lifeform and pit them against other machines. Sounds cool but then you realize that being a machine kind of sucks.
Machines aren’t nearly as fluid and flexible as the androids the player controls throughout normal gameplay. Every move you make as a machine is a commitment and as you move up the ranks, you’ll be quickly overrun by more capable machines. Trying to find the right machine for the job can be time-consuming, and even then, it isn’t guaranteed to net you a win which can cause even more headaches.
9 Best: Gambler’s Colosseum
On the other hand, the Gambler’s Colosseum is pretty great. It’s the same as the underground one but you instead control your selected android to take on hordes of machines. Aside from being in this much more preferable position, the ranks of this Colosseum have objectively better rewards such as an outfit for 2B and different color hair cosmetics for both 2B and A2.
It might be a little nihilistic, but gaining a bit of empathy by fighting as machines in the underground colosseum just isn’t nearly as fun as grinding them into nuts and bolts as a much more proficient android in the gambler’s den.
8 Worst: Heritage Of The Past
This side quest tasks you with finding a few mementos for some random resistance member in the vast and unforgiving desert area of the game. Fetch quests for the win! What makes this one even worse is that it isn’t your standard ‘go kill this enemy to get that’ or ‘go talk to that person to receive this’.
This guy wants you to just walk around the desert with the equivalent of a metal detector and find stuff for him. It’s a very tedious task as you’ll have to navigate yourself around unpassable sandstorms, aggressive machines and other desert hazards to find these items.
7 Best: Find A Present
Not the most action-packed side mission on this list, but a good one nonetheless as it makes for one of the best character-building moments of any side quest.
2B’s operator, 6O, has an incredible fascination with Earth. So great that it moves 2B enough to try and find a present for her on the planet. What’s so great about this quest is that throughout the game’s story 2B is never one to show any sort of emotion to others. It’s just nice to see a character who’s portrayed as being calculated and show little emotion to anyone else display that sort of change outside of the main storyline.
6 Worst: Data On The Old World
This quest seems simple enough: gather information on human history for Pascal. A researcher in his own right, Pascal is very interested in history and he tasks you with finding archives about the old world. Every piece of information you bring to him nets you a money reward. That’s very nice. There’s just one problem: when do you actually complete the quest?
Well, it turns out that all of that data that you bring to Pascal is completely unneeded. The only piece of evidence that matters is a specific one that you may never find in your first playthrough of the game, leaving you wondering if Pascal will ever be happy with the amount of information you continue bringing him.
5 Best: YoRHa Betrayers
One of the more action-driven side quests. 2B and 9S are given the task of taking down three YoRHa units designated as deserters, stealing supplies from the resistance. You’re just two loyal units following orders so you complete the job.
However, you fail to understand why the deserters were doing what you were told they were doing in the first place. Anemone, the leader of the resistance, then informs you that no supplies are missing, prompting you to check in with your operator who tells you with some hesitancy that information on the case is… classified. But as the people who actually did the work, you deserve to know what’s up, right? Seems YoRHa is a bit shadier than you may have thought.
4 Worst: Parade Escort
Just the name of this mission should already give you an idea of how this is going to go. So, some happiness loving machines want to put on a parade to spread love and joy. Unfortunately, a large part of their society wants them dead for it. You play bodyguard for them.
It’s actually rather tough trying to keep all the parade-goers alive due to the number of enemies the game throws at you. So, it’s recommended to come back to this quest when you’re a much higher level. But that’s not the worst part. After defending the parade, you come back to a member who has defected from the group. He tells you that their cause is basically meaningless and that all the others more than likely died in the desert. So, protecting them the first time around was utterly worthless. Thanks!
3 Best: Emil’s Determination
Emil is definitely one of the more interesting characters in NieR: Automata. He’s a quirky character with an obnoxiously optimistic attitude. When he starts to get a little down in the dumps, you go to see what’s up with him.
Turns out some of his clones are still around and they’re pretty angry. Understandable considering they’ve been through an innumerable amount of pain and strife. The best part about the fight against them is the dialogue which can be interpreted in several of different ways. It really puts Emil’s character into perspective when you take into account all the exchanges you’ve had with him up to that point.
2 Worst: Reconnaissance Squad
A side quest that becomes available on the third playthrough of the game. 9S meets 4S in the forest kingdom after the bunker’s destruction. He tells 9S that he’s still collecting enemy data though. 9S is obliged to help him in his data collection endeavors.
How this translates into gameplay is a little unclear. Basically, you need to have at least 95% of all unit data collected in the game to complete this quest. By this point in the game, you’re probably somewhere around 85%-90% there. The last few percentages are an absolute pain though, requiring you to basically farm for enemies that have very low spawn rates at different parts of the story. Enemies that you may never run into at all during a normal playthrough. It’s the most grindy thing in a game that doesn’t really require you to grind very much.
1 Best: The Wandering Couple
A multi-part side mission that tasks you with helping out a pair of android lovers flee from the resistance. They ask you of different items to aid them in their journeys such as crafting resources for repairs and money. Everything seems to be alright until they’re double-crossed and assaulted.
Later on, the woman is upset with the situation she and her male partner are in. She suggests just going back to the resistance after a full reformatting of their memories. With a bit of coaxing, the man agrees. The woman, on the other hand, turns down the reformatting. She claims her partner has been reformatted several times before and she’s going to use this latest opportunity to turn him into a stronger android while also changing his entire personality. It really puts relationships into perspective.