The NieR:Automata secret church is now a meme, with mods for Mario 64, MGS3, and more

Image Credit: León on Twitter

Written by. Marco Farinaccia based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2022-08-01 19:23 JST)

The “secret church” that has been at the center of attention in the NieR:Automata community over the past few weeks has become an internet meme.

The mystery of the secret church was solved recently after the original poster revealed that it was, in fact, an elaborate mod created by a group of skilled modders. However, the mass amount of excitement and hype generated by the mod has led to secret doors and churches being inserted into completely unrelated games.

The tale of the mysterious secret church

The saga of the secret church that captured the imaginations of NieR:Automata fans all began with a post by Reddit user sadfutago. This user claimed that there was a secret door in the Copied City that led to a mysterious church. In a video posted by sadfutago, you can actually see the player open the door and enter an area that had never been seen before. This incited an uproar in the fan community who believed that it may have been a secret that had never been discovered in the five years since the initial release of the game. Many went to great efforts in trying to verify whether the church was real, investigating the game itself as well as sadfutago’s videos and comments.

Then at the end of July, sadfutago revealed that it was all a hoax. The videos had been the work of three talented modders who had spent years working on the mod. While there were many fans who showed disappointment toward this result, there were also those who enjoyed the ride and welcomed the excitement that was brought to the community. Part of the reason the hoax worked so well was that the majority of people did not believe that the current state of the NieR:Automata modding scene allowed for the creation of large-scale maps as seen in the videos. The skill showed by the modders in creating something so elaborate also invited praise and admiration from some of the community.

Evolution into a meme

The secret church created by modders. Image Credit: sadfutago on Reddit

While debates regarding the veracity of sadfutago’s videos raged on, there was another phenomenon that took place: memes about the secret door and church were being created. Modders and game developers began inserting secret churches into completely unrelated games, with the general premise being that the game’s character inspects a seemingly ordinary wall, only to open a hidden door and then progress to a different area. Many of these mods imitate the exact areas from sadfutago’s videos: after entering a secret door, the character descends to the bottom of a large vertical shaft by using a ladder. They then progress through a warped hallway before arriving at a church.

The mods all have their own unique quirks. One example is a video showing a mod created for Super Mario 64. Mario opens a secret door and enters a strange area. He then leaps down a large shaft and progresses through a warped hallway in a striking recreation of the NieR:Automata mod. It may be because the video features Mario, but the atmosphere comes across as more cheerful than mysterious. It feels like a star is waiting for him at the end rather than some kind of enigma.

There’s also a Duke Nukem 3D version, where the twisted hallway is quite crudely made and feels a little contrived, and a Half-Life 2 version, which features a really intricately designed recreation of the area despite the fact that protagonist Gordon Freeman quickly falls to his death after descending the shaft.

A version created in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater shows Snake descend down a very long ladder in a reversal of the famous ladder climbing scene from the game itself. The mod shows quite a bit of attention to detail, as when Snake enters the door, the area’s name is displayed as the “Copied City” both in English and Russian. On a humorous note, the Snake Eater theme that plays while climbing in the original game is replaced with Emil’s shop song from NieR:Automata.

Image Credit: Nitroid on Twitter

Aside from modders, there were also some game developers who added a church area into their own games. Amando Gasca, developer of the 3D action game Out-Class Hunter, created a video of his game showing the protagonist accessing a secret door and passing through a warped hallway.

The developers of the side-scrolling action game Breeze in the Clouds also got in on the fun, with the game’s official Twitter account posting a gif with the comment: “Someone randomly posted a video on the Breeze discord showing they found a secret room in the Cloud City.” As the game is still in development, the phrase “someone randomly posted a video” is a clear reference to the events surrounding NieR:Automata’s secret church.

Ultimately, NieR:Automata’s secret church was just a very well-crafted fake, but as the commotion that took place both in and around the fan community begins to subside, we have been left with some really unique memes. And they’re not limited to secret doors being added to other games, as we discussed above, since there are many other styles of memes that have also been created. The hoax even has its own page on the internet meme database site Know Your Meme. You never know – it may not be long before there are actual games being released that feature secret doors that lead to churches, letting players experience the phenomenon firsthand.