8 Reasons Why The Last Guardian Is A Masterpiece of Game Design

The Last Guardian is an absolute masterpiece of game design. And you don’t need a degree in game design to see that.

There are so many amazing things about The Last Guardian. We dreamed that this game would be an epic on the scale of Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, and in many ways it is.

Fumito Uueda took 11 painstaking years to develop The Last Guardian. And thanks to his love and passion for his project we now have one of the most original and beautiful games of all time.

Here are 8 ways in which The Last Guardian is a masterpiece of game design.


  1. Trico, The Volcano, And The Story All Work Together

One of the biggest challenges in game design is getting the entire game to function as one. It can be very challenging to make the game world, the story, and the gameplay work together as a cohesive whole. Bu Ueda pulls that off wonderfully.

In The Last Guardian you wake up in a mysterious volcano next to a mysterious creature (Trico) for a mysterious reason. Everything centres around this mystery. So the story, Trico, and the gameplay all work together as one cohesive whole.

Because of this unity, you get truly immersed in The Last Guardian. Did you feel yourself utterly captivated by The Last Guardian? Did you feel a real relationship with Trico, and a real desire to see the story develop? That’s because game designer Ueda brought his vision together into one cohesive whole, so the gameplay works with the story to keep you constantly involved.


  1. Your Relationship With Trico Is Beautiful

One of the most beautiful things about The Last Guardian is the relationship you have with Trico. You start off as an antagonist. Trico is caged up and does not like you. He distrusts you and believes you re a villain (which in itself is  very unique set-up for a game). And then the relationship develops.

As you play through the game you gradually get to know one another and to trust one another. The plot development comes about through this developing relationship. And it is one of the best man / beast relationships in any video game. Epona and Link wish they could have shared this kind of bond.


  1. Thanks to the design-by-subtraction, the relationship is deep and meaningful

The Last Guardian is designed in the same way as Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Fumito Ueda uses “Design by Subtraction”. It’s a technique in which design decisions are based on what is taken out, rather than what is put in.

By taking out many elements, Ueda focuses The Last Guardian down to a few key points. The linear progression allows you to focus on the relationship with Trico.

Imagine that relationship in a large open world game like Fallout 4. It would never work. There would be too many things to think about. You would never be solely focused on your relationship with one creature.

Ueda strips everything away so that the only thing that matters is your relationship with Trico. It’s a genius decision, don’t you think?


  1. The psychological puzzles are absolutely ingenious

In your average adventure game, puzzles are about moving pieces into place or finding the right sequence of events. They’re arbitrary mechanics that mean little.

In The Last Guardian, the puzzles are a genuine part of the story. The Puzzles in The Last Guardian are about helping to psychologically heal Trico. So every time you solve a puzzles your relationship with Trico develops.  This also makes you feel much much closer to Trico. You’re actively helping a character to develop. It’s like you’re genuinely involved in that character’s life. That’s a feat few game designers pull of. But Ueda achieves it masterfully.

  1. The Love

There’s a genuine love between your character and Trico. The Last Guardian involves many elements from pet sims. You have to feed, groom, and look after Trico like it were your pet. And when you feed or groom Trico you get to be really, really close to it. You can feel its feathers and imagine its breath on your skin. It’s a truly beautiful relationship that any pet owner can relate to.

There truly are very few games that make you feel so close to an animal as you do to Trico. Fumito Ueda has pushed game design here. He’s shown us how close we can feel to a character, and how deeply we can care about them. It’s a beautiful, inspiring work that other game designers can learn a lot from.


And of course, then there is the fact that Trico is just so wonderfully beautiful.



Categories: gaming

Paul Harrison

Paul M Harrison is an entertainment journalist, novelist, and blogger, and a specialist in the theory of storytelling. Paul Harrison can be contacted via his personal website or on Twitter or Facebook.


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