Art.

We’ve had this discussion before, countless times, in the media and among ourselves. Are videogames an artform, or just a hobby we enjoy? At what point does an interactive experience rise above the medium to become something else entirely? Take it a step further; look at the recent conversations about stories in games and how they do/do not need them. When does a videogame tell a story that can resonate on the same emotional level as cinematic masterpieces like The Shawshank Redemption or Gone with the Wind? The answer is What Remains of Edith Finch.

Writing a review of WROEF is SUPREMELY difficult without delving into spoiler territory, but I’m going to do my best. The game has you controlling the titular Edith Finch, a young woman and last surviving member of the Finch clan, returning to the family home she’s inherited. For the next two and a half hours, you’ll guide Edith through the deserted confines of the house, with sealed-off rooms dedicated to numerous, deceased family members going back several generations. You’ll gain access to these rooms via a series of implausible-yet-cool secret passages built into the house.

And what a house it is, just as integral a character as Edith or any of her departed family. Your first glimpse of the house in the distance is a ramshackle stack of structures rising above the treeline; only when you draw closer will you discover this disjointed tower is actually a series of add-ons to the original house itself. Although it resembles something out of Resident Evil, don’t enter it expecting survival horror or jump scares; you won’t get them. What you WILL find is a structure rife with amazing little details which BEGS to be pored over and explored; you’ll be doing yourself and the game itself a massive disservice by rushing through. Developer Giant Sparrow has done a masterful job of creating something that feels completely and utterly abandoned, yet somehow more believably lived-in than any other location I’ve encountered in a game.

As you slowly make your way through the house, Edith (superbly voiced, I might add) will narrate her thoughts with accompanying text popping up as part of the environment, and sometimes integrated into gameplay in very clever and innovative ways I won’t spoil here. Upon finding some journal, poem or other memorial attributed to a family member, you’ll take control of them and relive those final moments of their lives. Several of Edith’s relations will make mention of a family curse, or some type of mythical creature haunting the family, as the culprit for the Finch clan’s misfortunes.  Again, I refuse to give anything away; I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions as to what’s happening, just as I did.

What’s really cool are the variations in gameplay you’ll experience when stepping back in time to assume control of an uncle or a cousin. I don’t want to give anything away, but take my word: there are some very cool and unique surprises beyond a first-person view awaiting you. And incredibly, not a single one of these moments with her family felt cheap or fell flat; each memory carried a poignancy and depth of feeling you rarely encounter in any medium, let alone videogames. This isn’t just due to the strength of the gameplay or story, but also the range of emotion delivered by the people bringing these memories to life. The voice acting, just like Edith, is superb across the bar and perfectly encapsulates the thoughts and emotions of the Finches, from wistful regret to sad acceptance of their fates.

I have so much more I want to tell you about it, and about how deeply it resonated with me. I want to tell you about the hour I spent after the credits rolled, alone in the dark, listening to that wonderful title screen music, thinking about what I’d witnessed over the past two and a half hours. I want to tell you about Edith and the perfectly paced revelations about her and why she’s returned to her childhood home.  But I can’t. You deserve to experience these things yourself. You NEED to go in blind. All I can tell you is how much I love this game. Yes, it’s a walking simulator. Yes, you can finish it in under 3 hours. No, there’s no challenge or collectibles. And yet, What Remains of Edith Finch stands tall as one of the most important gaming experiences I’ve ever had. Pick a night, turn the lights down, pour yourself a drink, and spend an evening with Edith and her family. As someone who passionately loves this industry and medium, I won’t be able to get the ending of this game out of my head for weeks. I probably never will, truth be told. It’s a watershed moment for gaming narrative, and years from now deserves to be at the very top of any list when discussing games that defined this generation.