January 25th, 2024, marks six years since Celeste first launched for the Nintendo Switch and many other platforms. If you weren’t following the development it may have seemed like many of its pixel-platforming contemporaries, but there was something to it that has seen it endure in the hearts and minds of many.
What is Celeste?
At its core, Celeste is a tight, challenging platformer that sees protagonist Madeline climb the titular mountain on a quest of self-discovery. It’s not a simple hike though, with bottomless pits and deadly traps to contend with. The gameplay alone is perfectly crafted by developer Noel Berry and producer Maddy Thorson, with its smooth movement, quick restarts and plentiful checkpoints allowing players of all skill levels to master the mechanics. It’s no surprise that the game has seen a strong speedrunning scene while collecting all of the strawberries is a badge of honor and perseverance.
Perhaps more impactful, though, is the game’s narrative. The themes of self-improvement can be related to by most people, but Madeline’s abstracted fight against, and eventual acceptance of her mental health leads to a much more personal experience for many fans. The queer undertones have also been thoroughly explored and outright confirmed in the years since. It’s wild to think that such a groundbreaking story came on the heels of a deliberately simple Pico-8 experiment made in just four days.
The Sounds of Celeste
The cultural impact of Celeste may not be on the level of some other indie breakout hits, but its strong, dedicated fanbase has led to a whole bunch of merchandise from the likes of Fangamer. Who wouldn’t want a Badeline plush? Not to mention all of the different soundtrack releases, including a cassette! Lena Raine’s compositions have gotten plenty of accolades since release, which is no surprise given its beautiful variety, and it’s not hard to celebrate them physically.
Celeste’s Long-Lasting Community
We have much more thorough thoughts in our review of the game and its Farewell DLC if you’ve still somehow never embarked on the hike. As for what comes next, Maddy Thornson and the team at Extremely OK Games plan to release Earthblade later this year. The game will be a more open, action-packed journey compared to Celeste, but given the pedigree, it’s hard not to be excited.
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