50 Best Games of 2017: #39 – What Remains of Edith Finch

Lewis What Remains of Edith Finch
What Remains of Edith Finch

Developer: Giant Sparrow
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s): PS4, PC

Our 50 best games of the year countdown isn’t in any order, we’re just going through fifty of the finest the year has given us. Find out more here.

For all the “cutting edge” visuals and mechanics I’ve experienced over the past year of gaming, it’s one of 2017’s most beautifully simple games that still has its hooks in me, months after release. What Remains of Edith Finch is a heartbreakingly relatable game that quickly shakes off any unwelcome walking simulator tags to become something far greater.

The Finch family are cursed, or so they believe. Through generations, they’ve experienced all the misery there is to offer, which the game doesn’t flinch away from relaying to the player. Rather than amounting to a simple interactive experience featuring exposition in documents dotted around the Finch household, What Remains of Edith Finch throws you into their stories and all the wonder that comes with them.

Over time, the truth can get distorted and a little bit fantastical, which allows What Remains of Edith Finch to change its gameplay – no two “memories” feel quite the same. In one sequence, you’re a baby playing with toys in a bath and watching as they dance around you. In the next, you go from being a cat to eventually a rampant monster on a ship. It’s pure fantasy but somehow still grounded and utterly compelling.06

The real highlight, however, is a sequence that will be all too relatable who’s ever been at the bottom and struggled to find a footing, let alone a way out.

Lewis, who is traumatised by the events of a previous story, doesn’t fit in anywhere in society. He’s an outcast, someone with no friends, hobbies, or hope. The only solace in his life comes at his job at a fish factory, which entails chopping the heads off of fish. He ventures deeper and deeper into his own subconsciousness, imagining himself as the emperor of lands, which all plays out and gradually becomes more overpowering while the player deals with the monotony of Lewis’ day-to-day job. I never thought I would be brought close to tears by a scene involving fish decapitation, but What Remains of Edith Finch goes to a lot of unexpected places. It takes risks, and they more or less all come off for developers Giant Sparrow.

What Remains of Edith Finch is a fairytale wrapped up in a family’s nightmares. While some may struggle to look past its walking simulator elements, if you just give What Remains of Edith Finch a chance and let it surprise you, you may be left as wrecked by the tour de force of storytelling and smart gameplay as I was by the time the end credits rolled. I was impressed by it for my review:

“At the end of its scant two hours of gameplay, What Remains of Edith Finch will likely leave you feeling a range of emotions. Hope, sadness, almost apathy. For delivering all of that while offering something new to the much-maligned subgenre it belongs to, it’s easy to call Giant Sparrow’s game the new standard-bearer for interactive storytelling, even if it stumbles along the way. Just like the tall tales passed through generations of the Finch family, What Remains of Edith Finch will stay with you for a long time.”

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