Does your family have a “curse”? I don’t mean an actual curse, but rather just something that they believe in so strongly that they’re totally convinced it must be true? What Remains of Edith Finch deals with that concept via the Finch family. They have a “curse” where each member of their family is killed, often in a pretty horrible way. Is the history of this family worth exploring, or should the past be buried?
The game begins with the 18-year-old Edith Finch returning to her family home now that she is the final surviving member of the Finch family. The story goes that her family has always had a curse and that almost all members of her family have been or will be killed. Edith, curiosity finally getting the better of her, revisits her family home to learn all she can about her family. What follows is the stories of the Finch family, how they lived, and their final moments.
Every member of the family has made a mark on the strange Finch house. When you first enter the kitchen you find it overflowing with canned salmon, the contribution of Lewis Finch who worked at a cannery. Barbara Finch was a child actor who was flung into fame for about two years, her awards and movie posters dotting the house. Edie’s artwork (and her grandson Milton’s attempts to copy them) serve as memorials and tributes to the fallen members of the Finch family. Each Finch has touched the house in some way and left their mark on it, and this environmental storytelling can serve as an absolutely beautiful look into the lives of this family.
As Edith explores each family member’s room she’ll begin to learn more about their final days and how they were eventually killed. It’s here that you’ll get to the meat of the story, while the game keeps shifting its general gameplay ideas around for some short segments. For instance, the first character you’ll learn about is Molly, the 10-year-old who was sent to her room without any dinner after misbehaving. Her solution? Just start eating whatever. Her pet hamster’s food? It’s dry, but it works. That tube of toothpaste? Sure. The fake berries that garnish the bathroom? Yeah, okay.
This leads Molly to become delusional, and she imagines herself as a cat, giving you a segment where you must jump from branch to branch in an effort to catch and eat a bird. Following this she becomes an owl, flying around to try and swoop down and grab rabbits. Then a shark, chasing after a seal for an even bigger meal. The segment concludes with her finally becoming a monster, using a tentacle to drag itself around and pull people into its mouth. Finally, it makes its way under Molly’s bed, where it shall consume her when she sleeps. Was Molly really eaten by a monster? Nah, she died from complications after eating all those things I mentioned above. She will, however, forever be remembered as the girl eaten by a monster under her bed.
Ultimately, that’s What Remains of Edith Finch is really about. It’s not a game about the deaths of the Finch family, but rather how they will be remembered. Did Calvin really fly at the end of his life? No, of course not. He fell off a cliff after swinging too hard on a poorly constructed swing placed precariously close to it. That’s how he’ll be remembered though, the kid who always dreamed of flying and who finally did so. It’s a really touching approach, one that I found myself absolutely loving. It even got me thinking about how I’d be remembered, and if it’d be with any of the grand retellings that are present in What Remains of Edith Finch. For a game to go that far, it really impressed me.
All of these stories are told in their own visual flair and some of them with some unique gameplay segments. Barbara’s plays out like a cheesy B-grade slasher film to the point where it uses the Halloween theme song, a reference both to her short film career and to the silly “what-if?” comic that retells her final moments in an exaggerated sort of way. Gregory, who only made it to about a year old before his death, sees you controlling a toy frog and hopping around to knock more and more toys into a bath tub. These segments aren’t anything too challenging or demanding, but they do a good enough job of shaking up the game so it’s more than just walking and climbing from location to location.
What Remains of Edith Finch is a game about obituaries. It’s about how you remember those you lost, and why you should always cherish their lives even if they are an ultimately finite thing. It’s a lovely game that told a beautiful and personal story while still providing enough game to make me feel like I wasn’t just walking from story beat to story beat. I came out of it introspectively, saddened by the events of the game but happy with its overall moral and conclusion. This is the kind of game that firmly cements my opinion that games are, indeed, art.
What Remains of Edith Finch is what happens when you make a video game about obituaries. On the surface it just looks like a game about death as you live out the last moments of various people's lives. Search deeper, and you find it's a game celebrating how they lived.
- Beautifully Told Story
- Wonderful Visuals and Constantly Changing Style
- Fun Gameplay Ideas
- Occasional Texture Pop-in