The best VR games on PC

PCGamesN has got you and your eyes covered with our picks of the best VR games, including Thumper and Superhot VR

What are the best VR games? Or, to 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 is plenty more to come.

We have tested a number of the best VR games across the major headsets, ranging from the good, bad, to the downright nausea-inducing – and we will endeavour to seek out new, strange, and challenging content for this burgeoning platform. In the name of science… or something. Here, however, we are going to be more choosy, handpicking the best VR games and experiences with which to treat your eyeballs.

From transformative updates to existing games such as L.A. Noire and Fallout 4, to exquisite titles made from the ground up for VR such as Chronos and Star Trek: Bridge Crew, VR games come in various forms. But, here, we only have room for the best.

The best VR games are:

L.A. NOIRE: THE VR CASE FILES

When virtual reality first became a, well, reality, plenty of games came to mind that deserve all these delicious new dimensions. The breathtaking speed of a racer, maybe. The scale and spectacle of an open-world RPG, perhaps. L.A. Noire, a 2011 neo-noir detective action-RPG, however, might not have been the game you might have expected to strap to your noggin.

That said, L.A. Noire was technically advanced for its time: its pioneering facial capture helping you select the baddies from those just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where the chin-stroking deductive side of L.A. Noire won Team Bondi plaudits, its combat failed to match up.

Enter L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files, a truncated version of the police game that does not just improve the relatively weak gunplay and driving aspects, but it is one of the best VR games on PC. Rather than twiddling and tapping away at your keyboard and mouse, you lean, shoot goons, and reload your classic Remington physically with the HTC Vive controllers – and it feels invigorating. Doggedly plugging away at each case just feels better in virtual reality. The heat of battle is much more intense – especially when you punch yourself in the face. No, that totally wasn’t us.

Rez Infinite

Rez Infinite is a musical twin-stick shooter in which you tackle waves of Tron-esque enemies while journeying through the subsystems of a corrupted, far-future AI. The game is played in third-person, and your character can ‘evolve’ through several stages, each with its own quirks. It is a trance-inducing wonder of a game that was originally released for Dreamcast in 2001, but has since undergone iterative changes through various re-releases on its way to PC.

You can lock-on to up to eight enemies at a time with your weapon, releasing your trigger finger to let off a volley of homing shots, or spam the fire button for rapid single shots, and every action contributes to the game’s bass-heavy soundtrack. Some enemies drop items that allow you to evolve, while others bestow a screen-clearing smart bomb. Lurking at the end of each stage a spectacular boss awaits.

While the whole game can be played in desktop mode, the technology of today transforms Rez Infinite into one of the best VR games available. The original game featured five areas, all of which are even better using a headset. But a sixth area, dubbed Area X, is creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s reimagining of the concept for VR. The result is a remarkable journey through a thematic mashup of undersea imagery and futuristic mechs, the whole thing liberally peppered with iridescent particle effects that shimmer around you as you pass through the debris clouds left by a recently shot-down enemies. Essential.

Thumper

For developer Drool, creating a music game just wasn’t enough: Thumper would be a rhythm violence game. We were intrigued when it was announced, and now we are captivated by its immersive embrace.

Piloting a metallic beetle-thing with a ravenous taste for blistering speed, you zoom through trippy, psychedelic surroundings. Neon pathway resemble Amplitude and Guitar Hero, the notes replaced with walls to skid on and obstacles to scale. Each level introduces a new gameplay wrinkle, with your efforts culminating in a showdown with the giant animated skull, CRAKHEAD. Hey, at PCGN, we don’t judge.

Thumper is astonishing in VR, its physicality and speed creating an intoxicating mix with its original, pumping soundtrack. As far as music games go, this far and away one of the best VR games on PC. Drool say “To reach synesthetic bliss, you must face rhythm hell.” To say VR takes things up a notch would be a severe understatement.

Hover Junkers

Hover Junkers is a multiplayer-only first-person shooter. Nothing usual in the realm of conventional gaming, sure, but it makes for one of the best VR games with a headset donned. You move around the limited space of a hover junker – think Mad Max with flying boats – shoot at enemies aboard other junkers, and duck behind cover in an endless battle for resources set against a water-sapped, post-apocalyptic world.

The action is more akin to that of a rail shooter such as Time Crisis rather than the disorienting likes of Call of Duty or Titanfall, which is a blessing given how prevalent motion sickness still is even in the best VR games. Hover Junkers’s gameplay relies on its simplistic gameplay and tactility, all rendered in a light and cartoony art style reminiscent of Timesplitters and Team Fortress 2; beloved multiplayer shooters that it has no doubt been inspired by.

Superhot VR

Superhot shot to indie fame on the back of a simple, but ingenious premise: time only moves when you do. Feeling overwhelmed? Stay motionless, and the ravages of time are frozen for as long as you need to catch your breath. A barrage of bullets might be ready to tear into you, but you can see them coming and plan your escape.

Essentially it is gaming’s answer to the Matrix. Wannabe Neos rejoice, then: Superhot VR takes that effortless cool you felt in the original game and takes it to a new level. Dodging bullets and attacks physically rather than with a keyboard or analog stick really increases the immersion, reinventing a simple mechanic into one of the best VR games around.

Chronos

VR is not all about first-person perspectives and retina-frying realism. It is also an impressive tool that assists immersion, of which Oculus Rift’s third-person action-RPG Chronos is an ideal example. Chronos was also one of Oculus’s 30 launch titles; it is practically retro in VR terms.

While Chronos is not sadistically challenging, it is not exactly forgiving where its 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 you by one year. But your bodily strength matters less as your magical prowess takes over. The fact that Chronos does not rely on gimmicks to entertain is part of what makes it one of the best VR games on PC.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

Unlike many of the best VR games out there, Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes is a staunchly multiplayer experience: one player is the bomb defuser, able to view and interact with an explosive device via a VR headset. Meanwhile, the other players are defusal ‘experts’ with a physical manual (printed out or available as a webpage) to hand, which they must use to advise the defuser.

VR is the perfect platform for this concept. Successfully defusing a bomb within the time limit, navigating the many modules filled with coloured wires, logic puzzles, and Simon Says games is extremely satisfying. If you can stifle the urge to high-five your defusal buddy after a successful round, you are incapable of joy.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

We are forever told the Kobayashi Maru is unwinnable. But, of course, just like Captain James T. Kirk, we know we have the skills to win and become the best spacepilot the Federation has ever seen. Star Trek: Bridge Crew lets us live out these dreams in glorious virtual reality.

First, grab up to three friends, who, alongside you, assume the role of officers of the Federation, determining the fate of your ship and crew with every fateful decision. You and your intrepid space-bound band will boldly go to the largely unknown sector called The Trench to assess its potential as a new Vulcan home world.

Yet, we could have simply been running modest intergalactic errands, for all we care. Star Trek: Bridge Crew is a game built from the ground up for VR. Your cockpit environment is unsettlingly accurate, and it feels great to just exist in this world, interacting with the ship’s controls, and making decisions like real space pilots. This, one of the best VR games you can find, is a game everyone, not just Trekkies, should experience.

Fallout 4 VR

The Commonwealth in Fallout 4, as is typical in this post apocalyptic series, is not a pleasant place to be. As ever, bulging bags of gore decorate the walls of super mutant hideouts. Devastating deathclaws prowl the barren wastes.

What? You want to actually go there? Well, try not to cry neon green tears once the radiation sets in. Yes, you can now gingerly tiptoe your way through the entirety of Bethesda’s nightmarish end-of-the-world vision in glorious (gorious?) virtual reality.

Where L.A. Noire brings combat to life in a way we did not think possible, Fallout 4 VR is the only way to properly appreciate the game’s settlement building. Aside from the fiddliness of using a mouse and keyboard to construct your own version of Megaton from Fallout 3, just being inside your structures make everything that bit more intuitive. Even better, the series’s first foray into this new platform has allowed roaming VR artist Liza Edwards to paint Fallout 4’s nuclear horizons in-game. If that doesn’t make Fallout 4 one of the best VR games on PC, we don’t know what could.

Eve: Valkyrie

For many, 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 has been knocking about in the conference halls and trade shows for years now in steadily evolving forms, cementing itself as up there with the best VR games, and an ambassador for the platform’s potential.

A space dogfighting game might sound 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 risk. There is a promising long game to Valkyrie too, with a plethora of customisation options and upgrades available. With numerous modes to master Eve: Valkyrie one of the best VR games on PC.

Elite Dangerous

If you only ever play one game in VR, make it Elite Dangerous: it is simply one of the best VR games you can strap to your skull. Its scale is difficult to comprehend, offering a 1:1 replica Milky Way galaxy. A galaxy unplagued by load times, and 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 (the latter happening frequently, we found) during extended play sessions at the mercy of Frontier’s Newtonian flight model without the queasiness setting in. That is 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.

Assetto Corsa

Not only is Assetto Corsa an exquisite racing sim, it is also one of the best VR games on PC, thanks to the rock-solid underpinning physics model, comely visuals, and fan-requested features. The latter means, naturally, that it is possible to play Assetto Corsa in VR. It supports the Oculus Rift natively, so is 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 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.

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 roller coaster sim is a testament to the psychosomatic powers only the best VR games can provide; your legs feel weak as you hurtle down impossibly steep drops as if they are subject to physical forces. The same goes for your poor stomach as you make your way through corkscrews – as far as your body’s concerned, you are on that coaster.

And yet No Limits 2 is not the jamboree of stomach-emptying motion sickness that it might have been. The fixed point camera helps, and it is 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 ever knew existed, No Limits 2 is the only game you need visit if you want the simulated theme park experience.

The Climb

Given its exclusivity to the Oculus Rift, relatively few people will get to play The Climb. It is a crying shame, too: in terms of the simplicity of its premise, it ascends, handhold by handhold, up there amongst the best VR games on PC.

The Climb is a first-person VR game in which you climb rocky walls and… that’s it. Apart from winning the prize for ‘Most On The Nose Game Name Ever,’ The Climb might not sound especially exciting on its own. However, once you have got your VR legs, the platform elevates your straightforward goal into something exciting and vertigo-inducing in equal measure. It is beautiful, too, which is critical to maintaining that immersion and enduring sense of peril. Whatever you do, pinch yourself and do not look down.

Interestingly, The Climb could have been a game on a much larger scale. In a 2017 chat we had with Oculus VP content Jason Rubin, we discovered that The Climb could have been an expansive open-world, with the climbing mechanics just a small part. Developer Crytek stripped back their vision and focused on the key element that made The Climb “sing” in Rubin’s words, and went some way to realising the transformative promise of virtual reality.

 

And so concludes our collection of digital worlds that you can have beamed into your gelatinous eye spheres via the glorious medium of VR. Some may claim the format is already dead, but clearly those people haven’t played any of these 14 gems. If you’d rather keep your face in front of a traditional monitor, though, we’d point you towards the best PC games, all of which need just a simple old PC, and none of this fancy goggles business. But if you feel screens are a bit yesteryear now you’ve discovered VR well… we don’t blame you. Viva la VR!

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