The hidden mystery of Nier Church: Automata just keeps getting weirder and weirder

For the past few days, the Nier: Automata community has been completely shaken up by a secret room (opens in a new tab) which no one seems to find except a mysterious Reddit user who goes by the name of “sadfutago”. The church, as sadfutago called it in his original post just over a month ago, holds even more mysteries that can’t be explained, sparking debate (and memes) about whether whether all of this is real or not.

Since its release in 2017, fans of the tragic action game have continued to discuss story theories and share memes on various subreddits and Discords. Nier games, especially Automata, are full of lore, characters, and secrets to unpack. Last year, Nier and Souls game modder Lance McDonald figured out a way to skip all of the game’s endings, unlocking post-game features through a combination of obscure buttons. Series director Yoko Taro confirmed this as the game’s final secret. (opens in a new tab).

Sadfutago Church could change that. No one, even with clipless mods (opens in a new tab)was able to find the church anywhere in the game.

Nier modders in a Discord server called Nier: Modding have regularly released model swaps for main characters and weapons, as well as balance tweaks to the game since release, but there is no known way to add fully custom levels or map geometry to it . Discord co-owner Jeremy Reed reached out to sadfutago after posting their first photos in June to try to figure out where this church came from.

Communication with sadfutago has been spotty, but yielded some results. Discord modders worked with them to try to verify if the church was legit by first asking them to take a video of it. Sadfutago struggled to cooperate, citing the fact that they are playing the game on PS4 and have not connected it to the internet so they can download it. After some urging from modders, sadfutago used a phone to record your screen (opens in a new tab) as they approached the hidden door of the copied city level area. The shaky video ends before they go any further into the secret room, but you can clearly see a button prompt to open the door. “I didn’t want to record too much because my mom told me not to take up space,” sadfutago wrote in a comment (opens in a new tab) on the post, suggesting they used their mother’s phone to capture the footage.

Reed and the other modders helped sadfutago capture live footage from the PS4 and transfer it to a USB stick. On July 25, Sadfutago posted a video (opens in a new tab) of them opening the door, fighting off the in-game robotic enemies inside, descending a long ladder, and opening another door into a winding hallway. Lance McDonald posted the video on his Twitter (opens in a new tab) account and it quickly exploded.

“Literally, a person on earth accessed this room and we’re told [sic] breathtaking,” McDonald wrote in the tweet, which has more than three million views.

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Following the McDonald’s post, the Nier: Modding Discord and Nier subreddit exploded with people desperately trying to separate the sadfutago video and Reddit comments to access the room in their own games. Sadfutago continued to respond on Reddit, offering tiny bits of information about what version of the game they’re playing and what they’ve accomplished in their game so people can reflect on all possible variables.

A person who claimed to find the door themselves was brought to Nier speedrunner by jaynoo_ (opens in a new tab) stream where they were asked to take more footage. The person, who goes by the name Dee Dee, was unable to provide any evidence aside from a screenshot taken from sadfutago’s video. They then left for pizza and never returned – an event that quickly became a meme (opens in a new tab) among all after the church hunt.

The second and most recent video (opens in a new tab) released by sadfutago follows them as they explore the church. A unique cutscene plays as they enter, which reveals the contents of the room, including a pearly white body holding a flower and a hunched figure made up of black squares. Sadfutago picks up a silver object from the ground and tries to interact and attack the hunched figure, but nothing happens. “I can’t kill the black bloby, I can only walk through it, I don’t think there is anywhere else to go after this place,” sadfutago wrote in the post’s title, spurring another series memes on the “black ball” (opens in a new tab).

The architecture of the hidden church resembles an unused in-game model that looks very similar to a church in Bayonet 2 (opens in a new tab), which Nier: Automata developer Platinum Games released three years earlier, but this church doesn’t have an interior like the one found by sadfutago. The flower held by the white body is a moon tear, which Yoko Taro uses in several of her games. McDonald also pointed out that an object that closely resembles the floating book character Grimoire Weiss (opens in a new tab) to Nier: Replicant floats near an open door as sadfutago enters the church.

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All sorts of theories came out of it. One of the most popular of these is that sadfutago is part of a marketing campaign to tease the upcoming Nintendo Switch release of Nier: Automata. Futago means twins in Japanese and there are quite a few Twins (opens in a new tab) in the Nier series. Game producer Yosuke Saito responded to the church hunt on Twitter (opens in a new tab), telling fans to “please calm down” and buy the Switch version. Yoko Taro, who rarely uses Twitter, wrote (opens in a new tab) his response can be found in his Twitter profile, which reads, “I can’t respond to any products. Please ask the editor.” A representative for the game’s publisher, Square Enix, said GamesRadar (opens in a new tab) that he cannot comment on the situation either.

Some believe that sadfutago is playing a pre-release or unreleased version of the game because none of the game’s modders can find the church or any of the unique things in it in the game files. An alternative theory is that sadfutago is playing a Modified version of the game by someone who figured out how to modify levels.

On Tuesday modder and game developer meowsandstuff, with the help of other modders, released a document (opens in a new tab) detailing inconsistencies in sadfutago’s images. The document points out that the body model resembles the updated version of Yonah, a young girl from Nier: Replicant. (opens in a new tab), the first game in the series, which was remastered last year. It’s possible the model was created years in advance, but like all other church objects, no one has found it in version 1.0 of the game sadfutago claims to be playing. Discord modding continues to scour the files to verify, but no one has found anything to back up sadfutago’s claims.

Modders also note that there’s an object on the ground that doesn’t have an arrow pointing at it, a symbol that can’t be disabled without a modded game with access to a debug menu or a mod. auto-collect item, which any player can participate in a normal game, equipped. Sadfutago manually fetches the items in the images, so modders theorize the arrow was removed so the button prompt for the door looks real and not like an item that has been modified to sell the illusion.

The document delves into the quirks of the videos and information provided by sadfutago, as well as speculations about their character. No one was able to speak coherently with sadfutago for long before they disappeared. Their posts both on the subreddit and in the modding Discord are short and full of errors, suggesting that English is not their mother tongue (opens in a new tab) or that they are young, although they mentioned getting home from work in a Discord message. I tried to contact them but got no response.

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None of the three well-known community modders I spoke to are buying the sadfutago story, but they are still waiting for a breakthrough.

“[They] does INSANE stuff. It is not possible by someone known at all. Like a custom cinematic, this would require Havok SDK,” McDonald told me, referring to the Havok middleware the game uses with Platinum Games’ proprietary engine.

Meowsandstuff demonstrated that it’s not too difficult to recreate the church using game assets in Blender, a 3D modeling program widely used in game development and modding. He told me that everyone was convinced that sadfutago was not telling the truth about the game not being affected.

“Having said that, it’s certainly gotten a lot of excitement out of a lot of us as we’re hopeful that the tools used to produce the church will eventually be made public, because what we’ve seen is definitely someone’s work.” one with a lot of talent,” Meowsandstuff told me.

The story of sadfutago and their mysterious church does not seem to be over yet. Serious research has died down in Discord modding, but many people are still hoping for some sort of resolution. If it’s like Secrets of the Past in other games, it can take years. But if the result is a major breakthrough in the modding abilities of Nier: Automata, a five-year-old game with an active and dedicated fanbase, it might just be over, even if it doesn’t turn out to be a true secret level.

About Dorie Castro

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