When it was first released back in 2012, Thatgamecompany’s Journey arguably changed the gaming landscape. Developers began to see that it was possible to create gaming experiences free from the traditional gameplay obligations; you could make a game with a meaningful story but devoid of violence, puzzle-solving, or any of the standard ways in which games attempt to engage with players. Many failed attempts to recreate Journey’s formula followed, but there are some games that have learned well from its example. Here are 10 awesome games like Journey.
Where better to start than with a game that was worked on by several of the staffers who created Journey? Abzu is an underwater narrative adventure in which you can explore a beautiful aquatic environment, interact with its inhabitants, and uncover a story about environmentalism and history. There isn’t actually too much to “do” in Abzu, per se; you won’t be shooting any aliens here. It’s got the same calm, contemplative vibe as Journey has.
It’s well worth revisiting Thatgamecompany’s Flower if you’re a big fan of Journey. Like Journey, Flower is an experience free of dialogue, one that emphasises atmosphere and visual appeal over gameplay complexity. So well-respected that it made the Smithsonian’s first gaming exhibition, Flower allows you to control the wind, blowing through various environments and impacting them in subtle and tangible ways. It’s a gorgeous, serene experience.
Thatgamecompany’s followup to Journey arrived on consoles and mobile devices back in 2019, and as you’d expect, it’s essentially a refinement of many of Journey’s key features. Like Journey, it has an emphasis on social interactions, although they’re more overt than Journey’s more obscure approach. The visual style and gameplay are somewhat similar, too, although Sky takes a more live service direction than Journey’s one-and-done campaign.
4. The Witness
If you wanted Journey to have just a little more gameplay but to give up none of its obscure, esoteric spirit, then The Witness is the game for you. It comes to us from designer Jonathan Blow, whose game Braid was one of the most influential of its time. The Witness is a first-person puzzler in which you’ll solve a series of line-drawing puzzles, many of which use the game’s environment in clever and engaging ways. To say more would be to spoil the game’s many surprises.
Like Journey, Spirit of the North tells its story entirely without dialogue or a clear story. It’s difficult to pitch the game, since so much of its world and so many of its events are open to interpretation. You play as a fox who gains spiritual powers, and that’s honestly all we’re comfortable saying. Suffice it to say that if you like Journey’s open-ended narrative and artistic ambiguity, then Spirit of the North is definitely a game you’re going to want to try out.
In Eastshade, you play a painter exploring a tranquil island and meeting its inhabitants. You must paint your surroundings and then show your paintings to the people who live on Eastshade, using what you learn to unlock secrets and learn more about the island. Much like Journey, Eastshade is a calm, still adventure that won’t trouble you if you’re looking for something high-octane, but that should help to scratch the Journey itch if you’re still aching to play something similar.
Rime has a few more puzzles to test your brain than Journey does (which is to say it has more than zero puzzles), but its visual style and atmosphere are very similar. It’s best to imagine Rime as a Team Ico game as envisioned by Thatgamecompany; it has the lonely grandeur of Ico and the wordless quietude of Journey. You must explore a large island in order to reach a massive tower that sits at the island’s opposite side. Rime is a classic adventure that will tug at your heartstrings.
8. Gone Home
Gone Home is arguably the game that codified the “walking simulator” genre, and while it certainly isn’t the first of its kind, it might well be the best. Like Journey, you won’t find any failure states here; you’re free to explore the empty house in Gone Home as much as you’d like. As you wander its halls and rooms, you can pick up objects and examine them in close detail in order to piece together what has happened to your family. It might not end how you think!
Oxenfree has a much more overt storyline than many of the other games on this list, but like Journey, there’s no combat, so it’s great if you want something a little slower-paced than many modern games. Of course, that’s not to say there’s no tension whatsoever in Oxenfree; the story is reminiscent of shows like Stranger Things, revolving as it does around a cast of teens who come to an island to party and find more than they bargained for.
The gameplay conceit in The Unfinished Swan is clever enough to see it through to the end, even without the rather heartwarming suggestion of a narrative in the background. You are in a completely white kingdom, and you must splash paint around in order to determine what your surroundings look like. As you do, you’ll uncover the way forward, as well as the solutions to rudimentary puzzles and other environmental details. It’s a genius idea that really deserves a sequel.