What are the best VR games? We have tested several of them across the major headsets, ranging from the good, the bad, and 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.
While there are a lot of experiences out there, we’re going to be more choosy, handpicking the best ones to play with the best VR headsets. After all, we only have room for the best VR games, and there’ve been some absolutely fantastic ones in the past year alone. 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.
The best VR games are:
A new Half-Life game has landed in our virtual laps, and though it’s not Half-Life 3, it fits into the series chronologically between Half-Life 1 and 2. You are Alyx Vance, fighting against the Combine alongside her father, Eli. Though fans questioned the decision to develop the game for VR exclusively, with Half-Life: Alyx, Valve have undoubtedly taken a pioneering leap, crafting an experience that showcases what VR can do for the gaming experience without compromising what makes the Half-Life series so great.
In his Half-Life: Alyx review, Dustin describes how Alyx “deliver[s] on two sets of overwhelming expectations”, with a “vibe that sits somewhere between the intimate exploration of Gone Home and the frightening resource management of Resident Evil”. He praises the satisfaction of rummaging around, nudging doors and catching grenades – and the last few levels, he says, are “immensely creative as both a culmination of the game’s mechanics and a wildly varied presentation of new stuff”.
Whether you’re a stalwart fan of the Half-Life series or don’t know your crowbars from your (head)crabs, it’s safe to say Half-Life: Alyx is a must-play for VR gamers eager to experience the latest innovations of the genre.
Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners does a better job than almost all zombie games of making you feel like you’re keeping the undead horde at arm’s length. And it does this by literally letting you hold a zombie off with one arm while you break a bottle on their head, flip it, and then jam the jagged end through their squishy skull.
The combat is gory, with weapons getting stuck in Walkers, requiring you to yank, jerk, and jimmy them out of or through your enemies. There’s a loose narrative built around helping out the various actions of post-apocalyptic New Orleans, which keeps you stepping out into the undead-infested city streets for new supplies. However, the grizzly melee combat is the real draw here, letting you create your own melee finishers and leading to plenty of ad hoc brutishness.
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 the best racing games, maybe. The scale and spectacle of an open-world RPG, perhaps. However, L.A. Noire, a 2011 neo-noir detective game, might not have been the first thing that comes to mind as you strap the headset to your noggin.
That said, L.A. Noire was technically advanced for its time: its pioneering facial capture is doing its best to help you select the baddies from those just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately, 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 improves the relatively weak gunplay and driving aspects.
Rather than twiddling and tapping away at your keyboard and mouse, you lean, shoot goons, and reload your classic Remington physically with the controllers, and it feels invigorating. Doggedly plugging away at each case feels better in virtual reality. The heat of battle is much more intense, especially when you punch yourself in the face. Wait, no, that totally wasn’t us.
You may already be familiar with games like Among Us. This viral social deduction phenomenon rose in popularity during the pandemic that has since seen an enormous player dropoff now that everyone is allowed outside.
This is essentially the same game, except the key difference is that you have to wear a VR headset. Changing into a first-person perspective is tense enough, but imagine hearing an impostor vent as you’re busy trying to get the timing right on that puzzle in engineering.
Chances are that after you see your first Star Wars film, you want to be either a Jedi Knight swinging your fake lightsaber around the room or a starship pilot. For the longest time, there haven’t been many decent options for those who want to zoom around in spaceships. While there aren’t many people playing online, Star Wars Squadrons is currently the best way to fly in the galaxy far, far away.
This is the first Star Wars game designed with VR in mind, and it does exactly what it sets out to do: put you in the cockpit of your favourite Rebel Alliance or Empire ship and set you loose in the middle of a battle. You can bark orders at your teammates in both the single-player campaign and multiplayer dogfights: “Red leader, standing by”, etc. If you can get your hands on a flight stick, Star Wars Squadrons makes you feel like you’re actually in the films.
There’s no feeling quite like being scared in a horror game, and in VR, there are a ton of spooky options out there. For our money, we can think of no better experience than Phasmophobia. Team up with three other paranormal investigators as you explore haunted locations, sussing out which one of the many ghastly ghouls you’re up against.
Playing Phasmophobia in VR makes the game much more immersive, especially if you have your microphone turned on. You can use gadgets, such as the Spirit Box, to interact with the ghosts as safely as you can before they try to stop you. With more big updates on the horizon, now’s the time to jump in and solve these paranormal mysteries.
Yep, you’ve got that right. One of the best PC board games also happens to be one of the best VR games available. While it’s not exactly the same as gathering around a table, sometimes there’s no avoiding being separated from your friends. Tabletop Simulator is the best alternative once you get the hang of its controls, and this is doubly so for fine movement in VR.
With a mixture of officially supported board game ports available as DLC and many more unofficial conversions via Steam Workshop, it can be a bit of a minefield navigating the library of titles on offer. From hugely complex games such as Nemesis to light party games like Concept, there’s something for players of every skill level in Tabletop Simulator. Just make sure you properly learn how to control your character if you want to avoid an accidental table flip during a tense game session.
Superhot shot to indie fame on 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 controller really increases the immersion, reinventing a simple mechanic into one of the best VR games around.
Unlike many of the best VR games out there, Keep Talking And Nobody Explodes is a chaotic co-op game: 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.
Successfully defusing a bomb within the time limit and navigating the many modules filled with coloured wires, logic puzzles, and Simon Says games is extremely satisfying when playing with friends. VR is the perfect platform for this concept as it truly makes the bomb defuser feel isolated from their teammates shouting instructions. If you can stifle the urge to high-five your interpreters after a successful round, you are incapable of joy.
Ever fancied yourself as a suave secret agent? I Expect You To Die is a VR puzzle game where you’re put in perilous situations. Perhaps the car you’re inside is booby-trapped. Maybe the submarine’s sprung a leak. If you’re lucky, you may even get an all-expenses-paid trip across India on a luxury train. If you’re unlucky, a tank might appear outside your window and fire shots into your cabin.
The sequel, I Expect You To Die 2, provides even more elaborate scenarios to puzzle your way out of, improving on the original with even more immersive and hilarious missions. Though it may take several attempts to escape the danger you find yourself in, you’ll feel like 007 when you do.
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 space pilot 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 – it’s a game that thrives in a crisis. 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 homeworld.
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.
If you only ever play one game in VR, make it Elite Dangerous: it is simply one of the best space games you can strap to your skull. Its scale is difficult to comprehend, offering a 1:1 replica Milky Way galaxy. A galaxy unblemished by load times and populated by human players with their own allegiances, agendas, and minute-to-minute missions. If you need a head start, check out our Elite Dangerous guide.
However varied or complex the action gets, your position is always at a fixed point, which helps stamp out any potential for motion sickness. You can roll, pitch, and flail about haplessly (the latter happening frequently, we find) during extended play sessions at the mercy of Frontier’s Newtonian flight model without the queasiness sets in.
That is crucial to maintaining Elite Dangerous’s appeal as a long-form game. The Cambridge studio has been among the most forward-thinking regarding VR support, and you can tell with every second you spend in the cockpit.
Not only is Assetto Corsa an exquisite racer, but 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 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. It’s also made with lasers, apparently.
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 simulation game 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 minimises the potential for vomiting. A remarkable feat, given the subject matter. With a reasonably advanced designing tool and more types of coasters than you ever knew existed, No Limits 2 is the only game you need to visit if you want the simulated theme park experience.
Put very simply, Beat Saber is Guitar Hero with lightsabers. In this rhythm VR game, you use your controllers to slash oncoming glowing cubes that fly towards you in time with its slick music. Each cube also has a directional arrow symbol indicating which direction to cut, adding that extra level of challenge.
The colour and light in Beat Saber give the game its futuristic feel. Each hit gives off satisfying sparks on impact, and your colourful targets glow gloriously in the surrounding darkness. Each cube perfectly matches the beat, so you’ll want to pair your VR gear with a great pair of headphones to properly experience Beat Saber’s pounding electronic soundtrack.
When the creators of Genital Jousting and Broforce make a VR title, you can probably assume that it will be an exceptionally silly fighting game. Gorn is a violent first-person combat game where you play a muscled warrior whose only aim is to beat the eyes out of other muscly warriors. Yep. The eyes.
You can grab weapons, parry attacks, and hold an enemy still while you pummel them into a crimson pulp. The controls are easy enough to figure out intuitively, but Gorn’s movement mechanics will take some getting used to. Instead of teleporting or using the control stick to move around, you swing your arms as if you are actually walking. This results in bloody combat with bar brawl levels of clumsiness as you and your enemies stagger from side to side, desperately trying to land punches. Gorn is pure dumb fun and is well worth stumbling into.
This single-player adventure game has you directly affect the world to help Quill stop the ruthless rule of the Arcane. As a benevolent avatar, you’ll need to work with the largely autonomous Quill to fight against monsters, solve puzzles, and explore strange new places.
If you’ve not played the original Moss, we recommend that you do that before this one, as it takes place directly after the first game’s events. Both games are utterly charming fairy tales full of charm and whimsy, making a perfect case for how VR works well with a third-person platformer.
Have you ever wanted to sit in the cockpit of an aeroplane without the risk of suddenly ending your life with one wrong move? Microsoft Flight Simulator allows you to safely take to the skies and land on the runway like a proper pilot. Pop on a VR headset, and suddenly it’s as if you’re there, looking out of the side window as clouds pass you by, and without the steward trying really hard to get you back to your seat.
However, while the whole world is navigable thanks to Microsoft Azure technology, the purposefully created DLC locations truly shine. Climb aboard a helicopter while flying over the Grand Canyon, weave a small jet plane between skyscrapers in New York, or take a seaplane across the Serengeti. The world truly is your oyster.
Gaming and masochism go hand in hand – look at games like Dark Souls – few genres display this more prominently than the roguelike. In Death is a VR roguelike that solely aims to kill you every time you play it.
You control an archer making your way through armies of adversaries armed only with a bow and a shield. The maps and enemies you’ll face are procedurally-generated, ensuring each run feels like a bespoke experience, and stepping into a fresh level with each new life is particularly impressive in VR. In Death is crushingly difficult and can get pretty frustrating at times, so don’t expect to waltz through this without putting some serious practice in. Thankfully, firing the bow feels so good that the moment-to-moment gameplay keeps you going after countless deaths.
Bonelab is the sequel to Boneworks, a highly experimental VR game that uses physics and action sequences to let players enjoy an experience like no other. You’ll fire guns at enemies, ride minecarts or go-karts, swing across ropes, and fling enemies using your special powers. As you complete each trial, you uncover more of the mystery behind MythOS city and the exact purpose of this underground lab’s tests.
Those who fancy a bit more sneaking with their first-person shooter action might want to strap themselves into their headsets for Budget Cuts. The idea is that you are the sole human employee attempting to sneak or shoot their way past robots with revolvers.
Your gun can also be used to teleport short distances, getting the jump on patrolling guards and watching as gallons of oil splurges out of them after you yeet some office supplies into their eye sockets. Budget Cuts 2: Mission Insolvency is also a thing, so also worth checking out, but we have a soft spot for the first.
If there’s one thing that separates Tetris Effect from countless other Tetris games, it’s the music and gorgeous particle effects. And if there’s one thing that separates Tetris Effect VR from its standard-issue counterpart, it’s the sense of performance that comes with it.
Each level of Tetris Effect is based on a different track, with the rhythm represented by how swiftly the blocks fall. As the track progresses, you must react to the changing tempo, changing how quickly you place each tetromino to keep up with the music. It’s not just a case of keeping pace, though, as the beat reacts to every tetromino movement and placement, layering in new elements to the soundscape.
As this unfolds, you’re treated to a light show that forms the backdrop of the Tetris board. From slow-paced pop that’s framed with blue bursts of particles that form the outline of a dolphin to a jazz track set to the backdrop of a city at nighttime, with beams of light streaming across the board like a steady flow of traffic. The visuals are striking, and playing Tetris Effect in VR allows you to become fully immersed as they surround you entirely.
And so concludes our collection of digital worlds that you can have beamed into your gelatinous eye spheres via the glorious medium of VR games. You can also check out the best VR horror games if you’re after something spookier. If you feel screens are a bit yesteryear now you’ve discovered VR well… we don’t blame you. Viva la VR!