There are few games that perfectly and harmoniously marry gameplay—mechanics, challenge, overall feel—with a story, with a message, with emotion. Celeste is one.
Ostensibly a simple tale of a girl climbing a mountain, Celeste is a challenging platformer all about jumps and dashes and dying over and over until you master the level. If that’s all it was, it would still be a game worth recommending: the feel of the platforming is exceptional, and every failure is just a step towards success. (And if you’re worried about difficulty, options exist to make it easier for folks of all abilities.)
But Celeste is so much more than that. With quirky but very real characters, it tells a surprisingly deep story of dealing with anxiety and depression, of facing parts of yourself you don’t want to face, and of ultimately becoming stronger by accepting them. At its core, Celeste is a trans narrative—it’s made by a trans creator—while also being a universal one.
The story isn’t slapped on; it’s woven deeply into the gameplay and level design. Accompanied by a stellar soundtrack, Celeste provides challenge, reward, and a lot of heart.
Lucas J. W. Johnson is the Studio Director and narrative designer at Silverstring Media.