My favorite game of all time is the cheapest it's ever been on Xbox and PC, and so is its prequel remake

I've fallen in love with hundreds of incredible video games since I became a huge fan of the medium at a young age, so when I get asked what my all-time favorite is, it's always an extremely tough question to answer. If you inquired about that, say, a decade ago, I'd probably say nothing beats the RPG greatness of Mass Effect 2, or perhaps Fallout: New Vegas; two years ago, I'd probably say Elden Ring, which absolutely floored me with its colossal, rich open world and FromSoftware's trademark Soulslike action combat.

Since I first played it in 2018, though, the one game I always come back to when making this decision is NieR: Automata — the 2017 follow-up to the original NieR that was developed by PlatinumGames, published by Square Enix, and directed by Drakengard creator Yoko Taro. I'll go into why it's my ultimate favorite below, but know that right now, it's just $16 at Green Man Gaming (Steam) right now (was $40), and is on sale for the same price on Xbox, too. The 2021 remake of its prequel, NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139... (that's a mouthful), is also discounted to $24 at Green Man Gaming and Xbox (was $60).

NieR: Automata | $39.99 $16 at GMG (Steam)

NieR: Automata | $39.99 $16 at GMG (Steam)

Between its masterfully written story, addicting fast-paced ARPG gameplay, beautiful art direction, and a soundtrack so good it won at The Game Awards, NieR: Automata is a masterpiece. It's my favorite game of all time, and it's never been more affordable than it is right now.

Also at: Xbox

NieR: Replicant | $59.99 $24 at GMG (Steam)

NieR: Replicant | $59.99 $24 at GMG (Steam)

The 2021 remake of the original NieR is awesome, too, and like Automata, it's available for its lowest-ever price at the moment. It takes place thousands of years before Automata, but its excellent story connects with it in plenty of meaningful ways.

Also at: Xbox

✅Perfect for: Folks that like games with incredible stories, amazing characters, addicting ARPG combat, beautiful art, and award-winning music

❌Avoid if: You can't stand fetch quests, as both games — Replicant in particular — have a lot of them (at least they're optional)

NieR is weird, wonderful, and a must-play

Androids 2B and 9S in NieR: Automata. (Image credit: Square Enix)

NieR: Automata is one of those games I'm hesitant to even detail at all since I don't want to spoil a thing about it, so I'll keep things brief here. It takes place in the far future, long after alien machines invade Earth and drive humanity from the world. In a last-ditch effort to reclaim the planet, the survivors then deploy an army of militarized androids to it, including the game's protagonists: the quietly determined 2B, the optimistic and hopeful 9S, and the vindictive, hot-headed A2.

Top Recommendations

The story of these three characters, their allies, and their fight against the hordes of machines occupying Earth starts off relatively straightforward, but it develops into a complex, richer narrative with phenomenal character writing, deep philosophical themes, and extremely clever plot twists. You'll reach the end of your "first playthrough" in around 20 hours or so, but you'll need anywhere between 40-60 to fully experience the game; when you hit an ending, the story will expand significantly, allowing you to experience it from a different perspective or continue where a previous ending left off when you load your save again.

The structure of NieR: Automata (and the series in general) is unapologetically weird, to be sure — but its story is tremendous and beautiful, and it's enhanced by stellar voice acting and a soundtrack so good it took home Best Score and Music at The Game Awards in 2017. Again, I'm not going to spoil anything here, but trust me: you'll absolutely love it. There's a good reason this is widely considered to be one of the best Xbox games and best PC games.

Beyond the writing, there's also Automata's excellent melee-meets-bullet hell ARPG gameplay, which is fast, fluid, and features tons of different weapons and skills to use between an arsenal of melee armaments and varied firing modes for your robotic support Pod. There are lots of side quests, too, and while some of them are rather dull fetch quests (I'd say this is the game's main weak point), most help to flesh out the characters and world and enrich the story.

The protagonist of NieR Replicant, the 2021 remake of the original NieR. (Image credit: Windows Central)

The 2021 remake of the original NieR, NieR Replicant, is also top-notch (read my review), though I don't like it quite as much as Automata since it has even more fetch quest content. Still, the action gameplay and story is on the same level as Automata's, and connects to it in several meaningful ways even though the prequel is set thousands of years beforehand. It puts you in the shoes of an older brother trying to save his sister Yonah from the Black Scrawl, a mysterious disease that threatens to end the world.

Compared to the first NieR, NieR Replicant features overhauled gameplay mechanics, a remastered soundtrack, and completely redone art, visuals, and animations that brings it in-line with Automata's quality. Like Automata, it's a feast for the eyes, though its graphical fidelity isn't realistic or cutting edge and is instead more stylized.

Notably, at their current discounted prices, both games are the most affordable they've ever been right now, so there's never been a better time to pick them up. They don't go on sale terribly often, either, so it may be a while before they're marked down again. The discounts for the PC versions of the games are scheduled to go offline on May 8, while the Xbox deals will end on May 6.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.