Recently, I hit my 2-year mark of streaming and as part of the celebration, I figured it was time to revisit the first game I ever streamed – What Remains of Edith Finch. At that time, I wasn’t as well-versed in game titles and honestly hadn’t heard of it, but a friend had gifted it to me and, eager to see me play it, talked me into downloading OBS and setting up a stream so I could share the experience with friends.
At the time, it was a wildly emotional ride that I didn’t really know how to prepare for, and didn’t really know what to think of everything. After two years, I still have a lot of thoughts and a lot of questions, and it felt like a perfect time to revisit this short, emotional walking sim.
You won’t have a lot to worry about in What Remains of Edith Finch – there are no enemies, few puzzles (at most, a hint or two on where to head next), and a couple paths to find your way around. For the most part, the player just has to follow along and enjoy the story, which is about the length of an average movie (between an hour and a half to two hours depending on how long you take to meander through your surroundings).
I’m going to avoid spoilers here for obvious reasons, so unless you’re wanting to go in completely blind, this will be a safe article for you. What Remains of Edith Finch, a game developed by Giant Sparrow and released by Annapurna Interactive, follows the stories of a seemingly “cursed” family. Despite the family tree being full of branches, Edith is the only one left alive. She doesn’t quite know all of her family’s history – just bits and pieces – but she’s on her way back to the abandoned Finch house to see what’s left. Edith has plenty of memories, but not so many answers, and it’s time to see what she can find.
What follows is the strange, sad tale of a family that just can’t seem to catch a break. Edith walks through stories of ill-fated relatives – some are clear and some are mysteriously open to interpretation, but nearly all of them have a touch of magical realism (or sometimes pure magic) to them. Leaving many of these stories unexplained is almost less sad sometimes than it is mystical – there are tales told in What Remains of Edith Finch that almost sound like fairytales, though they are usually surrounded by a heavy air of loss.
While the overall focus is on each family member’s death, it also has a lot to say about life. Some members of the Finch family spend their life hiding, some spend it dreaming of doing more, and some seek to relive their past successes. The unfortunate nature of life is that you don’t really know what directions it will go in, or how long there even is. Each Finch is dealing with their own struggles and journeys. Each has their own way of seeing the world. While tragedy is what pulls all these loose strings together into a story, the memories left behind that Edith uncovers show off an incredible array of what life has to offer – happiness, hope, loss, grief, and mystery all wrapped up into one strange tale.
Are the Finches really cursed? Or is life just strange and mysterious – something we’re never quite prepared for no matter how ready we are? The game will likely leave you with more questions than answers, but that’s part of its charm.
I think you’d have difficulty arguing that this isn’t a heavy experience with plenty of heartbreak, but coming after about a year of isolation, challenges, and loss, replaying What Remains of Edith Finch was almost freeing in a way. The first time I played through, all I could think about was how tragic it all seemed. Going back, that tragedy seemed a bit more nuanced – sure it’s a sad game in many ways, but it’s also filled with wonder, magic, and mystery. The second time I finished, I didn’t just walk away with a heavy heart, but with the feeling that time is our most finite resource, and it’s time to make sure I’m using it in ways that make me happy.
While this is best enjoyed blind, I do think it’s important to warn that there may be some triggering material within the game. If you struggle with games that talk about death or tragedy, this experience might be a bit too much, but otherwise What Remains of Edith Finch is still as beautiful now as it was when it came out, and very much worth experiencing at least once.
Order Up! is a weekly column featuring indie-focused reviews, news, or interviews! We like old games just as much as new ones and are always looking for something to check out. Have a game recommendation, a project, or a company you want to talk about? Email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @ArcanaChance