The Team ICO series is thus far a trilogy of games featuring a shared world and intuitive action/adventure gameplay design. It's not a series in the sense of the Halo
or Resident Evil
series, and is more of a universe that three stand-alone games take place in. The games focus on adventurers in barren worlds, working as a team - with one player controlling a hero and the companion controlled by the game, accomplishing things together that they could not do alone. There tend to be few usable objects, and the main character's inventory is highly limited. Most of the puzzles involve creative use of the nearby terrain in an intuitive way. Dialogue is sparse, and the story of each game may seem very minimal, but on later analysis opens itself up to many interpretations.
The three games are all connected by the appearance of horns on certain characters, which mark them as sharing the blood of a god.
- ICO: A boy with horns is imprisoned in an ancient castle. There he meets a girl who is also imprisoned there. The two attempt to escape from the castle.
- Shadow of the Colossus: A young man goes on a journey with his trusty horse to revive a girl. He must slay a series of giants called Colossi to do so.
- The Last Guardian: A boy goes on a journey with a (colossus-like) horned gryphon and together they mature and become friends. Escaped from Development Hell at E3 2015.
This series provides examples of:
- A Boy and His X
- Ambiguous Situation: With the stories told in such a minimalist fashion, very little is known about the locations these games take in, the backstories of the main characters, and virtually nothing is known about the outside world.
- Anachronism Stew: The Castle in ICO and The Nest in The Last Guardian both contain Victorian-era technology such as railway lines, mine carts and even elevators, technology that is quite a bit more advanced then what one would expect from such seemingly ancient ruins (especially in the case of The Last Guardian), and significantly more advanced then the medieval-esque civilisation that both the main characters from those games originate from.
- Arc Symbol: Horns.
- Beautiful Void: The settings of each game are beautifully crafted but almost completely ruined and deserted.
- Death of the Author: Invoked by series director Fumito Ueda. He's said that his interpretations are only his own, and encourages fans to come up with their own stories. The fandom has certainly run with that command - any given two fans will probably have at least mildly different interpretations on what exactly is going on in each game and how they're connected.
- Horned Humanoid: Shows up in ICO and Shadow of the Colossus, with the protagonist of the latter being the first chronological example.
- Human Sacrifice: A weirdly common motif.
- Kid Hero: Ico and The Last Guardian both have one. Wander can't be very old either.
- With the latter, that would all depend on one's definition of the word 'Hero'.
- Living Shadow: Both in ICO and Shadow of the Colossus. In ICO, they're your enemies, born from the souls of the sacrificed boys in the castle. In Shadow of the Colossus, they're spirits of each slain Colossus, but all they do is stare before you wake up.
- Mood Whiplash: ICO and Shadow of the Colossus were compiled for a PS3 release. Remaining on the disc selection on the PS3 home menu will play the first half of "You Were There", ICO's somber ending theme... followed by "Resurrected Power", one of the 'victory is at hand' themes from Shadow of the Colossus.
- Minimalism: The games are stripped down to their core gameplay elements, with few distractions and almost no sidequests. Shadow of the Colossus is notable because the player has the same two weapons for the whole game.
- Minimalist Cast: None of the games have more than a few main characters.
- Pet Interface: Agro in Shadow of Colossus and Trico in The Last Guardian.
- Scenery Porn: Orgies of it.
- Silence Is Golden: There's very little dialogue, allowing the visuals to tell the story of each game.
- Thematic Series: Team ICO is one of the few developers that invoke this trope deliberately, instead of as a way to get around loss of copyright. All three games share a common aesthetic and themes, as well as being placed in the action adventure genre, but are otherwise stand-alone titles. There are loose storyline connections (primarily that all three exist in a single universe), but they are almost completely inconsequential to the game experience.
- The Stinger: Each of games within the series contain sometimes lengthy post-credits stringers which turn what were originally very Bittersweet Endings into slightly happier ones:
- In ICO, the game returns control to the player for a short Playable Epilogue, where after Yorda places ICO on a boat and stays in the castle as it collapses, both Yorda and ICO wash up on a faraway beach together.
- In Shadow of the Colossus, a resurrected Mono finds Wander again, now reincarnated as a baby with horns, linking the game with ICO. Although both are forever trapped within the seemingly lifeless and desolate Forbidden Lands, they walk to the top of the shrine to find a secret garden filled with animals.
- In The Last Guardian, the game reveals that the boy, who throughout the game was narrating the story as an adult, was speaking to a group of kids that after many decades stumbled upon the boy's magic mirror buried the ground, which was lost years ago when Trico brought the boy back to the village. At night, our protagonist and the group of kids activate the mirror using a torch, sending a single that travels hundreds of miles back to The Nest, where Trico (now with a child) suddenly wakes up - suggesting that the two will meet again. Pressing the circle button during this sequence will light up Trico's horns, much like they would when holding the mirror throughout the game.