What Remains of Edith Finch (developed by Giant Sparrow) fluctuates between thrilling, frightening, and tragic, weaving together a story of family loss and heartbreak.
Edith Finch is a young woman, who returns to her family home, hoping to learn more about her family — all of whom are dead. With so many family members having vanished or having met strange and untimely deaths, Edith wants to find the truth behind the question of whether the Finches as a family are cursed or just terribly unlucky.
The game is essentially a walking simulator, in which the player weaves with Edith around the the ramshackle Finch house — a seemingly impossible structure with room stacked upon room stacked upon room. Her journey through the house leads her into hidden passageways and over rooftops, as she tries to access sealed off rooms.
While wandering through the house, Edith tells her own stories of growing up in the house, while seeking out answers about her strange family. Each room of the house is rich with details, with ephemera and knick knacks that add to the story and characterization of the people who lived their. In the various rooms, she discovers journals and notebooks, which allow her to read about their life and misfortunes.
When these stories open, the player is drawn into that family member’s story. As the story perspective shifts, the gameplay shifts with it, providing slightly altered mechanics that enhance the feeling of being a part of that family member’s narrative.
The story of Lewis Finch is probably the most effective and heartbreaking of the tales that Edith uncovers. Bored with the monotony of working in a fish cannery, Lewis slowly becomes enveloped within the fantastical world of his imagination. In the game, the play enacts this mundane task of catching a fish, lopping off its head, then dropping it in a bin. Meanwhile, the fantasy world takes up a small portion of the screen, and the player has to move a princely figure through that world, while also handling the fish. This dual control perfectly mimics that oh-so-relatable feeling of getting lost in your own thoughts while doing something entirely different. The experience is completely immersive with an ending that is truly heartbreaking.
Not all of the mysteries within the Finch home are fully answered. Not all stories have simple or straightforward endings. It’s an ambiguity that manages to feel satisfying, with enough pieces for the players to piece together their own understanding of the tale.
Although short at around 2–3 hours of gameplay, What Remains of Edith Finch nevertheless packs a powerful emotional punch that lingers long after the game is turned off.
For a great in-depth analysis of the events within What Remains of Edith Finch, I recommend watching Joseph Anderson’s video essay, “The Villain of Edith Finch.”