What are the best VR games? Hell, let's go one better - what are the best Oculus Rift and HTC Vive games? There are plenty of VR experiences out there already, and with the headsets shipping to customers faster than ever there are going to be plenty more to come.
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We've tested out a number of the top VR games across the major headsets, ranging from the good to the bad to the downright nausea-inducing - and we'll endeavour to seek out the new, strange, and challenging content for the platform as it grows. In the name of science. Or something.
But here we're going to be more choosy, handpicking the best VR games and experiences that you can point your visor-clad eyes towards. This list will be updated as time goes on, so stay tuned.
Grand Theft Auto V
VR support for Rockstar’s sun-kissed crime sandbox currently relies on a third-party program called VorpX, which carries a sizeable $30 price tag and still has a few creases to be ironed out in its beta phase. Why bother? Because inhabiting Los Santos in first-person VR absolutely transforms one of the best games in recent years.
Perhaps you’ve already played through the tripartite adventures of Franklin, Michael and Trevor, the career criminals whose opposing philosophies produce witty banter, casualties and spectacular heists in roughly equal measure. At this point, it’s pretty likely. But there’s something about stepping back into that familiar world with a new level of immersion that makes this, simply, one of the essential VR experiences you can play right now.
Rockstar haven’t announced any plans to bring official VR support to their game, so it looks like VorpX will continue to offer the only means of entry for the foreseeable future. There are no shortage of GTA V mods created by the community though, so it's possible they'll brew up an alternative to VorpX.
Want more? Here's our Grand Theft Auto V review.
Kittypocalypse is a VR tower defence game in which you attempt to wrest control of Earth back from a race of kitten-like aliens. Each level sees players setting up against 20 waves of adorable enemies, placing a variety of turrets around the map in order to stop the onslaught of felines reaching your base.
While that might sound like standard tower defence gameplay, it’s enhanced significantly by the VR perspective as well as the freedom to move around the map in 3D space. Neither of these features fundamentally alters how the game plays, but the combination of the two make Kittypocalypse almost impossible to put down, something we never thought we’d write about a game with that name. Travelling seamlessly through 3D space in order to rearrange your armaments or get a better a view of the ongoing massacre is endlessly addictive, especially as the combined effects of your various turrets have the xeno-kittens exploding around you, soaring through the air or stumbling over one another.
As a tower defence game, Kittypocalypse is a rather limiting experience, but one that still offers plenty of tactical depth. For starters you can’t place turrets wherever you want, each level has about eight or nine spots that you can construct turrets on. While this eradicates a lot of the strategy that usually comes with placement, it does force the player to think more carefully about what turret they should place in what slot. Upgrades complicate the decision-making process further as you realise your turrets are fully upgraded but in the completely wrong place.
Hover Junkers is a multiplayer-only first-person shooter. Nothing usual in the realm of conventional gaming, sure, but in VR it’s a big deal. Making full use of the Vive’s tracked motion controllers and room-scale functionality, players move around the limited space of their hover junker - think Mad Max with flying boats - shooting at enemies aboard other junkers and ducking behind cover in what’s contextually wrapped up as an endless battle for resources in a water-sapped, post-apocalyptic world.
The junkers themselves are pretty miserable to control, but they serve as a perfect delivery system for first-person combat in VR: they’re stable platforms that move at a steady pace. The action is more akin to that of a rail shooter like Time Crisis rather than the disorienting likes of Call of Duty or Titanfall, which is a blessing given how prevalent motion sickness still is for VR.
While there’s not a massive amount of content to plough through, Hover Junkers gets by on its simplistic gameplay and tactility - plus a light and cartoony art style that’s reminiscent of Timesplitters and Team Fortress 2, beloved multiplayer shooters that it has no doubt been inspired by.
VR isn’t all about first-person and retina-frying realism, it’s also an impressive tool that assists immersion - something Oculus Rift’s third-person action-RPG Chronos is an ideal example of. Chronos is also one of the 30 original Oculus Launch titles, so there’s no waiting necessary if you’ve already got your Rift. It's practically retro, as the platform goes.
The bulk of the gameplay revolves around combat encounters and character levelling. While it’s not sadistically challenging, Chronos isn’t exactly forgiving where it’s fights are concerned: there are few healing items, combat is heavy and enemies hit hard. But Chronos is no Dark Souls Lite. Rather than each failure counting against you, deaths are instead a vital part of progression for your character, with each fatality ageing the protagonist by a single year. As your character grows older, their bodily strength matters less as their magical prowess takes over.
The fact that Chronos doesn’t rely on a VR gimmick to entertain is part of what makes it one of the better titles available for the Rift. It’s a quality, polished and considered action-RPG, exactly the kind of experience that’s largely absent from the roster of virtual reality games. Being able draw gamers further into a world without falling back on first-person gimmicks is a testament to the potential of VR as a platform.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Very few games dream up such an enticing concept and then deliver on it as well as this. Unlike the majority of this first wave of VR experiences, Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes is a staunchly multiplayer experience, placing one of you in the role of a bomb defuser, able to view and interact with an explosive device on your HMD, and the other a defusal expert with a physical manual (printed out or available as a webpage) they must use to advise their team mate on how to proceed.
It’s a concept that wouldn’t work on any platform other than VR, and that’s what makes it so engaging. Well, that and the unbridled satisfaction of actually defusing a bomb within the time limit, navigating the many modules filled with coloured wires, logic puzzles and Simon Says games – seriously. If you can stifle the urge to high-five your defusal buddy after a successful round, you’re incapable of joy.
The interesting thing about Creative Assembly's VR translation of the tense and artistic Alien: Isolation is how well its existing strengths make the journey over to a new platform. Playing on PC, you always felt as though the xenomorph was right there with you, because the audio design had all manner of tricks to play on your brain and the environments felt so tangible.
Force it to jump into the world of VR (and force is the word, this isn't a smooth Oculus Store experience but rather a bit of config file tweaking) and it's amazing how present you feel aboard the Sevastopol. In a sense it's actually a shame you're being hunted so relentlessly by a phallic horror, because it's a wonderful piece of virtual tourism if you're a fan of the original 1979 movie's visionary aesthetic.
Getting the game to work is still a bit tricky as official VR support is still a distant dream, though Creative Assembly have all but confirmed that it's on the way. In its current form some time scanning Reddit threads is required, likewise some patience. However, when it does work the experience is relatively polished. Fingers, toes, and grotesque acid-filled claws crossed for an announcement in the near future.
Want more? Here's our Alien: Isolation review.
I Expect You to Die
Come, come Mr Bond, you enjoy puzzling your way out of a booby-trapped car just as much as I do… A joyful marriage of sixties Bond pastiche and physical puzzling, I Expect You to Die places you in a car bristling with booby-traps and tasks you with escaping it without setting off the poison gas, shooting yourself in the head, driving into a plane’s cargo doors, and a multitude of other calamitous ends.
Where other short-form VR games leave you feeling like you sampled a glimpse of what the developer has in store for VR, IEYTD instead leaves you satisfied with a small but perfectly formed, polished game. It’s currently available via the Oculus Share store, where it’s enjoyed one of the highest user ratings of all available apps since its release.
To many gamers, this is where it all began for VR. An offshoot of EVE Online, Valkyrie offers intense dogfighting and even eSports potential in a bespoke VR experience. It’s been knocking about in the conference halls and trade shows for years now in steadily evolving forms, but with the announcement that it would ship with Oculus Rift consumer headsets, EVE Valkyrie cemented itself as essential software for the platform, and an ambassador for its potential.
Like the various roller coaster titles that sprang up with the advent of an Oculus Rift DK user base, a space dogfighting game sounds like a recipe for emptied stomachs and green complexions, but somehow CCP have managed to stave off any motion sickness no matter how many barrel rolls you may be inclined to undertake.
There’s a promising long game to Valkyrie too, with a plethora of customisation options and upgrades available and numerous modes to master. It isn’t just a tech demo – it’s actually one of the deepest and most involving experiences the platform has to offer.
If you only ever play one game in VR, Elite: Dangerous wouldn’t be a bad choice. Its scale is difficult to comprehend, offering a 1:1 replica milky way galaxy minus any load times, populated by human players with their own allegiances, agendas and minute-to-minute missions.
However varied or complex the action gets, your position is always at a fixed point, and that helps to stamp out any potential for motion sickness. You can roll, pitch and flail about haplessly (quite a bit, in the case of the latter) during extended play sessions at the mercy of Frontier’s Newtonian flight model without the queasiness setting in, and that’s absolutely crucial to maintaining Elite: Dangerous’s appeal as a long-form game. The Cambridge studio has been among the most forward-thinking when it comes to VR support, and it tells with every second you spent in the cockpit with the HMD strapped on.
Want more? Here's our Elite: Dangerous review.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
Developers SCS Software were quick to add in prototype VR support for Oculus Rift DK1 and DK2 headsets, and when you don the headset for yourself it’s clear why. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is Elite: Dangerous with more Belgian motorways, and all the same principles that make Frontier’s space trading sim work well with VR are just as applicable inside the cockpit of a Scania R Highline.
Currently it requires a bit of legwork to access VR mode, but it’s not too laborious: you only need to open up the properties tab in Steam, then select VR mode from the drop-down menu of the Betas tab. With that, you’re suddenly able to look around your cockpit and enjoy a level of immersion you previously only dreamed about in your bizarrely specific truck-themed fever dreams.
Want more? Here's our Euro Truck Simulator 2 review.
It’s the best racing sim to grace the PC in years, and in addition to the rock-solid underpinning physics model and comely visuals, it’s brimming with fan-requested features.
Which means, naturally, that it’s possible to play in VR. Assetto Corsa supports the Oculus Rift natively, which means there’s no need to stalk the darker corners of the internet in search of a mod or middleware program.
Conceptually, racing a sports car is one of the few time-honoured videogame staples that’s just crying out for VR adaptation. Third-person shooters need a serious rethink in order to function as VR games, but the likes of Assetto Corsa thrive with a fixed camera point and the ability to look into mirrors, at apexes or towards opponents just as you would in real life.
No Limits 2
If you want to take the idea of being in another place to the extreme, No Limits 2 is for you. Creator Ole Lange’s content-rich roller coaster sim is a fantastic testament to the psychosomatic powers of VR; your legs feel weak as you hurtle down impossibly steep drops as if they’re subject to physical forces. Likewise your poor stomach as you make your way through corkscrews. As far as your body’s concerned, you’re on that coaster.
And yet No Limits 2 isn’t the jamboree of stomach-emptying motion sickness that it might be. The fixed point camera certainly seems to help, and it’s also clear that developing the game specifically for VR minimised the potential for vomiting. A remarkable feat, given the subject matter.
With a reasonably advanced designing tool and more types of coaster than you knew existed, No Limits 2 is the only game you need visit if you want the simulated theme park experience.
A proof of concept that demonstrates the potential of virtual reality for virtual tourism, Sólfar Studios' Everest VR makes use of considerable art assets gathered for the making of Baltasar Kormákur's 2015 movie Everest and remixes them into a 360-degree, chillblane-inducing interactive experience.
'Game' isn't really the word. The gameified elements of its thus far fairly brief duration aren't deep enough to bear much replaying - climb this ladder, secure that rope - but they do work very well with the Vive's motion controllers and offer just enough interactivity to reinforce the idea that you really are 29,000 feet above sea level.
This isn't about falling to your death if you put a foot wrong or miss a button prompt, but rather about enjoying the natural beauty of a location that a select few get to witness in person, having trained most of their lives and spent fortunes for the privilege.
That concludes our list so far, but the world of VR moves fast and we'll be keeping by by updating this feature regularly. Which games do you want to see inducted? Let us know...