The Memorable Adventure of What Remains of Edith Finch
(Spoilers for What Remains of Edith Finch below)
Death in video games is usually something we don’t think about. Whenever a player meets their demise, almost all games will reload the player back into their body without much damage to their experience or progress. Death, and the lack of consequences towards death, is merely a gameplay mechanic that most players rarely think about. What Remains of Edith Finch doesn’t just think about what it means to die, it instead provides the player with a deep examination of death, creating both a beautiful, yet incredibly somber narrative-driven experience.
What Remains of Edith Finch has players reliving the final moments of the members of the Finch family. These moments are not dark, somber, or emotional (some of them are), but instead these are surreal and imaginative interpretations of the experience each family member had before death. Each Finch family member sequence is a unique portrayal of death, both in terms of the gameplay elements and the personality of the family member you control.
Whether you play as Molly, a 10-year-old who thinks they are a cat chasing down their next meal, only to find that she had ingested poisonous substances due to her own hunger, or Calvin, an 11-year-old who hopes to become an astronaut, only to be caught in a freak gust of wind which sends him hurtling to his death over a cliff. Each particular interpretation of death feels unique to the character, but on almost every occasion the sadness and emotion is never lingered upon. Instead, the player is asked to try and understand what the individual experienced during those last few moments. Regardless of whether those moments are exaggerated, imagined, or simply, untrue.
For me, the most emotional sequence in What Remains of Edith Finch, is the death of Gregory, a 22-month-old baby who is left unattended by his mother, ultimately drowning in the bathtub. Players control Gregory as he is left on his own, but instead of lingering on the heart shattering concept of the death of a young child, it focuses on the imagination and wonder that Gregory experiences. ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ by Tchaikovsky plays throughout this sequence, as Gregory conducts the toys in his bathtub to dance and frolic through the water, creating an entire orchestral performance for his own amusement. You may forget the morbid context behind this sequence as his death draws closer, as the the player sees the wonder, beauty, and imagination of a young boy. This sequence is beautiful, but once the context of what is occurring on screen hits you, it becomes one of the most traumatic scenes I have ever played. As a young mind, full of creativity and imagination is slowly, and sadly, ended. This sequence is incredibly heartbreaking, but it truly encapsulates the surreal beauty of What Remains of Edith Finch.
There are no alternative endings to these encounters, players cannot somehow save the family member they inhabit, there is simply no happy ending for these individuals. Instead, the player is asked to appreciate who these characters were, what they loved, and what made them happy during those final moments.
These deep themes help make What Remains of Edith Finch a brilliant experience, but it also creates it one of its hardest selling points. It’s quite difficult to recommend What Remains of Edith Finch without spoiling what players will be doing, and even when explained, reliving the deaths of multiple family members is a morbid ask for most players. Although What Remains of Edith Finch is short, it is one of those experiences that will stay with you for years to come. It is memorable, it is powerful, and it is a piece of entertainment, no, a piece of art, that could not be created or experienced in any other form of entertainment.
What Remains of Edith Finch is truly special, and while some may see the somber sadness of death throughout, the players who choose to see the wonder and beauty that What Remains of Edith Finch offers, will never forget the story of the Finch family.
Jamiex66 loves checking out indie games, and for all his latest video game content you can follow him on Instagram.