What Remains of Edith Finch is a true achievement. It's a testament to what this maturing industry is capable of delivering, a creative endeavor that would be near impossible to execute in any other artistic medium. It is genuine and enlightening, heartfelt and reflective; What Remains of Edith Finch is further proof that gaming can deliver experiences quite any other.
What Remains of Edith Finch is one of May’s free PS Plus games and you really should set aside anything else you're currently churning through, and put this delightful adventure to the top of the pile. If you aren't going to play it when it's available freely, when are you going to? At best, you're actively doing yourself a disservice. Let me explain why,
At its heart, What Remains of Edith Finch is told through a series of vignettes. Small stories, slices of life torn out of time, focused around a shifting cast of deceased characters – each of them baring the Finch family name, each of them with a tall tale just waiting to be told. The game follows Edith Finch as she returns to her long-abandoned homestead in search of answers; answers to the secrets locked away behind each of the bedroom doors-turned-mausoleums that pervade the estate grounds.
Explored through beautifully delivered, captivating narration and subtle interactions, What Remains of Edith Finch is able to expertly weave a story that never wavers from its resolve – to leave you speechless and sorrowful by its closing moments, entangled in a web of torment and fragile self-reflection.
Developer Giant Sparrow achieves this by presenting each vignette as a mini-game in itself, each of them introducing their own intuitive and unique method of interaction within the fiction unfurling in front of you. The game employs somewhere in the region of 30 different control schemes throughout its story, and it does so without once forcing any form of pause or confusion. The transitions between each style of play aren't seamless, but they are frictionless. And that isn't just impressive, it's downright masterful.
It's all about the journey
More impressive still is how relatable so much of the content is, particularly so if you have suffered through loss, grief, or personal tragedy on the trajectory to adulthood. But herein lies the game's true power; What Remains of Edith Finch is evocative, but not because it makes you confront death; because it asks you to first embrace life. It connects you to each one of its characters with a whisper before ripping them away again with the next breath.
In some instances that can occur under fantastical, if not utterly farcical circumstances, and yet in others it can be heart-wrenching and uncomfortable, a little too close to home and difficult to confront head on. The game evokes such an honest reaction from the player – resonating so clearly and definitely – because Giant Sparrow presents these stories in an honest way. What Remains of Edith Finch is written beautifully and executed wonderfully, it delivers in a way that precious few titles in this industry are able – hell, most don't even try to.
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Given the unique presentation, broad reach and powerful throughlines of each of the game's vignettes, it's difficult for me to imagine any player walking away from What Remains of Edith Finch without taking at least a pause for reflection. In a world where we long for the next distraction, where we are seemingly petrified by the idea of silence, What Remains of Edith Finch is a deafening, defiant lesson in embracing a moment of personal contemplation.
I don't think I'm stepping out of line to suggest that it's rare for a video game to cause genuine pause in its players, to prompt a moment of real, reflective silence. But What Remains of Edith Finch does so well to establish its story, its characters, and its boundaries that it's difficult not to. This game is built in such a way that it has a power to connect, locating that emotional touchstone, with any person behind the controller at a very base human level. And while this narrative experience might not be for everybody, those that are willing to cast out the aspersions of what is and isn’t to be considered a video game will find something truly progressive for the medium. Better still, you may just find something that sticks with you for a long time.
Looking for more excellent examples of storytelling in video games? Give this list of the 30 best video game stories a read.