Why Journey is one of the greatest games ever made

And as high as those highs, so too are the lows. Such as near the end, where you, and perhaps a partner, face your final challenge of ascending a sterile white, frozen steppe. Visibility is naught. The wind is deafening. Each step becomes more laborious than the last. Your partner falls and maybe you trudge on a bit farther, without hope or cause, until inevitably, you fall also.

As with life, the experience is made better by the presence of an other. You can, of course, play alone, disconnecting your console as a hermit wanders off into the forest, but those online will involuntarily find themselves matched from time to time with a partner. Despite having no real way of knowing who your partner is or communicating with that person, these interactions often lead to the strongest emotional responses.

You can work with this nameless, voiceless other, using only your rudimentary communication mechanisms--jumping, chirping--to solve a puzzle and build a bridge. And then, take in the fact that the connection between the two of you is incredibly tenuous, when once the bridge is built, that individual is nowhere to be found. You cross the bridge alone and reach your goal. You feel the loss, and, unbidden, memories of your last failed relationship spring to the fore.

Journey wears allegory on its sleeve and manages, through its presentation and gameplay, to effectively capture an entire swath of human emotion. Eerily so. The game is a charlatan in the way it's able to conjure up within players memories specific to the individual. And it then uses these heavily loaded memories to amplify the emotional impact of the game. The effects cover the spectrum of unmitigated joy to abject devastation.

In this way, Journey will make you vulnerable. If you find yourself crying while playing this game, you wouldn't be the first, and you wouldn't be the first to not initially understand why. It presents situations in which your true feelings are thrown into relief. It's a mirror, a self-discovery tool, effective to a degree that nothing else that's come before has been able to achieve. Play it, and know thyself.

"Why _____ is one of the greatest games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

Tom Magrino