Monsters called Shades now roam the land, threatening our very lives.
According to NieR, Shades are the monsters taking over their dying world. They roam around in all the lands and NieR aims to kill them all. They appear in different forms, from a small almost harmless baby Shade to large boss-like creatures with magic abilities.
Shades also get stronger and evolve as the story progresses, gaining access to armor. Most Bosses in the game are also classified as Shades.
Despite their monsteous outlook and usual aggressive demeanor, there has been some noticeable evidence of a consciousness in some Shades, and some appear less hostile than others, and some could even be described to have human characteristics, as seen in the Shade in the Quest, A Tale of the Study.
The second playthrough and the discovery of the Project Gestalt documents uncover a different perspective on Shades.
Shades are actually found out to be the remnants of humans. They are the separated souls without vessels that underwent a process from Project Gestalt. The process was a necessary solution in order to preserve the human souls as they were going extinct and dying off The shell-less transition was intended to be temporary. Replicant bodies were created so that eventually the vessel-less souls could re-enter into a human body and live normally once again once there was no longer a threat. However, the process was complicated when the Replicants gained a consciousness of their own and believed themselves to be the real humans.
The lost souls would eventually relapse and evolve into the hostile monsters, they now call Shades.
A notable Shade is the Shadowlord, but with the new information on Shades in mind, the Shadowlord is actually the real human NieR, and the protagonist to the story is his replicant. The reason he kidnaps Yonah from the Village is because he wanted to use Yonah's replicant for his original Yonah in need of a vessel.
|Small Shade||Northern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act II of the game; Underground Laboratory|
|Small Shade(armored)||Northern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act II of the game|
|Axe-wielding Small Shade||Northern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act I of the game (after join Kaine)|
|Axe-wielding Small Shade(armored)||Southern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act II of the game|
|Sharpshooter Small Shade||Underground Laboratory|
|Sharpshooter Small Shade(armored)||Northern Plains while it is sunny, during Act II of the game|
|Caster Small Shade||the Aerie|
|Caster Small Shade(armored)||Northern Plains while it is sunny, during Act II of the game|
|Sphere||Shadowlord's Castle; the Village during the Boss fight with Jack of Hearts; the Aerie during Boss fight with Wendy|
|Large Shade||Emil's Manor; Underground Laboratory|
|Shield-wielding Large Shade||the Prologue, the Lost Shrine, during Act I of the game|
|Shield-wielding Large Shade(armored)||Southern Plains, the Village during second phase of boss fight against Jack of Hearts, Shadowlord's Castle|
|Conqueror Large Shade||During the Quests, The Magical Stone|
|Conqueror Large Shade(armored)||Exclusively available in the DLC|
|Levitating Caster Large Shade||the Desert while it is cloudy, Shadowlord's Castle|
|Levitating Caster Large Shade(armored)||back road to the Lost Shrine|
|Sword-wielding Assaulter Shade||the Barren Temple; Act I; the Village during first and second phase of boss fight against Jack of Hearts|
|Sword-wielding Assaulter Shade(armored)||the Aerie after defeating Wendy; the Lost Shrine during the end of the game|
|Giant Shade||the Prologue; Southern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act II of the game|
|Giant Shade(armored)||Southern Plains while it is sunny and Northern Plains, during Act II of the game; the Aerie after defeating Wendy|
|Sabre-wielding Giant Shade||the Barren Temple, during Act II of the game|
|Sabre-wielding Giant Shade(armored)||Exclusively available in the DLC|
|Sharpshooter Giant Shade||the Lost Shrine during Act II of the game|
|Sharpshooter Giant Shade(armored)||Exclusively available in the DLC|
|Hammer-fists Giant Shade||the Barren Temple|
|Hammer-fists Giant Shade(armored)||Southern Plains during Act II of the game|
|Caster Giant Shade||Northern Plains and Lost Shrine at the end of the game|
|Caster Giant Shade(armored)||Lost Shrine at the end of the game|
|Caster Assaulter Shade||Northern Plains while it is cloudy, during Act II of the game|
|Caster Assaulter Shade(armored)||Shadowlord's Castle|
|Hansel and Gretel||the Lost Shrine|
|Hook||in front of Kaine's House|
|Jack of Hearts||the Village Library and the Village|
|Roc||Facade, the Desert|
|Tyrann||the Lost Shrine, Shadowlord's Castle|
|Shade Wild Boar||Shadowlord's Castle|