The very best VR games for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR of 2016
With the holiday season behind us and a whole flock of new lucky gamers looking for games to play on their shiny new VR headsets, we're here to help by sorting the best from the rest. It can be tough to know which VR titles are actually worth your money and which are just "experiences" you'll get bored of in twenty minutes, but rest assured that the games on this list represent some of the very best content available for the different VR headsets, and are worth their price tag (though you'll have to accept the reality of paying more per hour of play time than you may be used to).
Whether you have an Oculus Rift, a PlayStation VR, or our VR headset of the year, the HTC Vive, these are the must-play games you should add to your collection.
There are a lot of fantastic titles on the HTC Vive, but Vanishing Realms manages to stand out – despite its Steam Early Access moniker. Vanishing Realms focuses on delivering everything we've come to love and cherish from VR games in a delightful dungeon crawl adventure.
The title makes full use of room-scale environmental mechanics, allowing you to physically dodge attacks, traps, and various other hijinks. This gives the player a real sense of presence and aptitude as you quickly develop your skills – from parrying an enemy's attacks, to artfully sidestepping arrows, and using your shield to block the deadliest of blows long enough to deliver a counterattack. It's just enough of a skill window to feel fun and rewarding to master, but not so much that it's impossible for players new to virtual reality to grasp. Although there are plenty of extra challenges hiding just under the surface for players that get the hang of the block-slash-teleport rhythm of the game's combat.
Currently, the game's still in Early Access ironing out few final bugs, but the game's been fully playable and a lot of fun for a long while. It's worth mentioning that purchasing the game only gives you access to two chapters in the game's story, each about 2-4 hours long depending on how you stretch it. The developer has more chapters planned in the long run, likely as a kind of episodic DLC.
We discussed the game's length and what it's like to step into the virtual boots of a true-blue loot-seeking adventurer in an article earlier this year.
Raw Data is a virtual reality first person shooter built specifically and entirely for room-scale VR, focused on breaking the stigma of fixed-point FPS games that VR has been touting in recent memory. The game offers two distinct playable characters, a uniquely smooth teleportation-style movement scheme, online and local co-op, and a bucket full of gorgeous VR robot smashy goodness.
Raw Data is the kind of game that's worth picking up just to feel like a full-blown katana-wielding ninja Jedi. Of course, when you get a chance to do so with a group of buddies that are either fellow ninja Jedi or packing a pile of guns and a bucket full of grudges, it's an experience that's hard to forget.
At first glance the price looks a little steep at $25.99, but if you're looking for a serious virtual reality FPS community or a VR game oozing with replay value, you'll find plenty of friends and enemies to smash, blast, and slash in Raw Data well into the future.
For more on Raw Data, check out our interview with the game's Design Director.
There are a lot of VR titles out there that promise to transport you to the top of Everest or across fantastic landscapes large and small. Google Earth VR is all that and more, and lays most of the more generic virtual tours of mountains and landmarks to rest by rolling the entire planet into one giant walk-around experience. If you can see it, you can zoom in for a closer look, giving you the freedom to seemingly go anywhere, anytime and explore most of the known world like some kind of all seeing ghost towering above the Chicago skyline.
There's no doubt that the program isn't perfect, but it gives you a chance to at least get a taste of places you've always dreamed of seeing in person, or travel to childhood homes and schools to bask in a bit of nostalgia. Simply zoom in, pan around, and enjoy exploring the various 3D models of some of the world’s greatest wonders.
With full room-scale tracking and plenty of ground to explore, Google Earth VR is a title that's worth at least keeping in your library to wow friends and family that have never experienced VR before. And if you've always wanted to visit the City of Love, the Windy City, or any other city on the planet just for the heck of it, it's the kind of thing that's hard to turn down. Especially considering you can download the game for the low, low price of free.
For more, watch us play around with Google Earth VR.
If you've ever wanted to step into the shoes of a wizard facing impossible odds, Left-Hand Path is ready to deliver. Although, because this particular VR experience is also inspired by Dark Souls and similar titles, you might find that to be a particularly difficult set of shoes to fill.
Yet Left-Hand Path is easily one of the cooler magic-flinging medieval adventures on the Vive, utilizing room-scale movement, blink or traditional locomotion, a unique gesture controlled spell system, along with a dark and engrossing fantasy world just begging to be cracked open. Casting spells and performing the rituals you'll need to master to survive involves a fairly complex yet easy to master system of tracing runes and other magical symbols in the air in front of you. A system that looks extremely cool and gives the game its distinct magus feel.
Originally, Left-Hand Path was only a 3-5 hour adventure, but the developer recently rolled out an update nearly doubling the content available to a nearly 10-hour playable experience. Which, for $25 and a game that encourages multiple playthroughs, is a heck of a value. Although, be warned, the atmosphere and difficulty curve in Left-Hand Path can both be equally brutal. Prepare to be wigged out, prepare to encounter monsters both mundane and Cthulu-esque, and prepare to die, a lot.
SUPERHOT is hardly an indie title that needs introduction these days, but for the uninitiated all you need to know going into the game is that if you move, time moves. It's a simple mechanic, but one that pairs well with the title’s game-within-a-game aesthetic and that looks absolutely amazing no matter what you do.
In SUPERHOT VR, you step into the glassy fists of SUPERHOT's protagonist once again, but with a hell of a lot more freedom thanks to the Oculus Touch motion controls. Almost every level in SUPERHOT pits you against a large number of enemies with nothing but your fists and what you can pick up along the way. With the magic of VR and Oculus Touch, you can use your bare hands to crush gorgeous glass enemies, physically reach out and snatch guns right out of the air, and watch as bullets slip by only inches from your face.
It's the kind of game that adapts extraordinarily well to virtual reality. Right now, SUPERHOT VR is exclusively for the Oculus Rift, but Vive and PSVR owners should know that the developers are planning to port the game to all platforms if all goes well.
There have been a number of attempts to port Minecraft to VR over the years, and although many of them are fan made and work extremely well, the Windows 10 Edition of Minecraft VR comes directly from Mojang themselves and is exclusive to the Oculus Rift.
What makes it significant for fans of virtual reality and Minecraft alike are the adaptations Mojang has built in to make it easier for players to control the game in VR for long periods of time. Things like unique control schemes and turning mechanics, paired with lock on cursors for mining, and even the ability to take a virtual step back and play Minecraft in a virtual lounge make this a must-have for anyone that's interested in getting a fresh perspective on everyone's favorite survival building simulator extravaganza.
The bad news is that this version is still lacking Touch support, but that also means that if you haven't made the leap to Oculus' new controller you can still have fun with your friends in VR without shelling out the extra cash. Even better, if you already own the Java based version of Minecraft, you can get your hands on the Windows 10 Edition and all the virtual reality perks for absolutely free.
We've already discussed a few VR titles that focus on spell casting in a high fantasy world, but The Unspoken brings things to the modern era in a big way. The Unspoken focuses on 1v1 competitive multiplayer, pitting you against another spellcaster in an arena-style map where you teleport between a number of set points to dodge and weave your spells. If you're a bit competitive and love throwing fireballs or ripping golems out of the surroundings to smite your enemies, The Unspoken is right up your alley.
What makes the game especially exciting isn't just the fact that it's rolling out of Insomniac Games – the geniuses behind Ratchet and Clank and various other games of Christmas past – it’s also the plethora of classes and the numerous ways to cast and combine spells on the fly. Some spells you'll draw in the air, some require specific Oculus Touch-driven hand signs, while others require the player to combine ingredients and catalysts on the fly to create powerful effects.
It's a killer combination that requires practice and more than a little bit of skill to pull off, and shows how fun competitive wizardry and VR can be when paired together.
Chronos is a favorite of the Oculus community as a whole, and for good reason. It combines an old-school RPG with VR visuals to create a uniquely cinematic experience. Unlike a lot of VR titles, Chronos places you in the third person and uses a traditional controller, using the former to negate the motion sickness that some people experience as a result of more traditional forms of locomotion.
Now don't get us wrong, Chronos still isn't the kind of game to mess around, which is what makes it so much fun. Beneath the “save the world or die trying” story motif is a challenging and highly nuanced combat system that doesn't pull any punches, and death results in years taken off your character's life rather than imaginary save points. If you die, you're transported back to your most recent teleport location where your character takes about a year to recover, returning slightly older, and hopefully wiser for your mistakes.
Combine that with long distances between teleport-style checkpoints, and you get a difficult but rewarding game that's fun to play and satisfying to master. Although, people worried about the challenge should be aware that you can modify the difficulty at any time, and that as you die you tend to pick up more perks at certain milestones of age and wisdom. This mechanic does a lot to organically balance out the difficulty of the game over the course of the 10-hour campaign.
Chronos might not entirely change the virtual reality landscape, but it delivers a fun experience that won't trigger any kind of motion sickness. And if you take the time to stop and look around, the game offers some ridiculously cool visuals the likes of which you won't find anywhere else. These two factors make it an essential buy for any Rift user looking for a good time while waiting for their Touch controllers to arrive.
On a list of things to be before you die, always choose Batman. And if you need some convincing, consider taking Batman: Arkham VR for a spin. Batman: Arkham VR places you directly in the shoes of the caped crusader himself playing detective as things kick off in Gotham City once again.
You'll have a chance to suit up, watch your parents die, investigate a brutal murder, and, most importantly, brood in the darkness of your own soul. Pretty much everything the Bat goes through on a normal Saturday night.
All in all, Batman: Arkham VR is easily one of the best experiences on the PSVR, offering motion control support, a unique Batman-themed story, numerous puzzles, and stunning visuals that take excellent advantage of the player's first person perspective without giving you motion sickness. It's a level of attention to detail and player comfort that we love to see in VR titles these days.
It is a little bit expensive compared to modern triple-A titles in terms of play time per hour, considering the $20 price tag only grants you about two hours of playtime (unless you replay it a few times to unlock the extra screenshots). But for what's effectively a VR launch title for the PSVR, it's worth playing and is a promising sign for future content for the headset.
Robinson: The Journey places you in the shoes of a young colonist stranded on a planet far from home and, once you set aside the obvious literary references, you find yourself in a stunning VR environment that's just aching to be explored. The setting features everything from dense forest, to dinosaurs, to the massive remains of the colony ship scattered across the landscape.
Robinson: The Journey's strength lies in the passive storytelling, unique puzzle design, and, of course, the high-end VR visuals that you would expect out of the Crytek. It's a great example of a game that shows off what VR can really do, even on a console.
Of course, it should be noted that Robinson: The Journey is also a bit of a sensitive play. Even though the game tries to compensate with a slow movement speed and a small amount of delay when turning, the character still utilizes traditional locomotion rather than the blink teleportation you'll see in other VR games on the PC. It isn't terrible until you hit a few of the climbing missions, but if you're particularly sensitive to motion sickness prepare with ginger ale accordingly.
It wasn't so long ago that everyone that ever loved a Star Wars movie dreamed of flying their own X-Wing Starfighter in a galaxy far, far away, but thanks to the magic of the PSVR it's a dream that's about as close to reality as we're likely to see in our lifetime. In the Rogue One: X-wing VR Mission you finally get a chance to strap into the pilot's cockpit and take off on a mission of your own. As far as experiences go, it manages to look fantastic – and you're flying an X-Wing, which at the end of the day is worth ticking off your bucket list.
The good news is the X-Wing VR Mission is available for anyone that already owns a copy of EA's latest foray into a galaxy far, far away, which many fans of Star Wars probably already have. The bad news is that the mission is only about 20-30 minutes long, and if you don't already own Star Wars: Battlefront there's no way to purchase the mission on its own. Despite this, it's still the closest we've ever been to actually flying an X-Wing, and it's a well-crafted experience on its own, which for a true-blue Star Wars fan makes it worth it to buy (or at least rent), no matter your opinion of Star Wars: Battlefront at large.
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
Arizona Sunshine is easily the highest-quality zombie survival game available on VR right now, offering a fantastic single player and multiplayer experience that sends you scavenging for ammo and weapons with zombies nipping at your heels every step of the way.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to have to desperately scavenge for supplies in old cars and to send zombie brains flying around nearly every corner, Arizona Sunshine delivers. The game keeps you warm by the fire of apocalypse with great looking visuals that manage to avoid looking overdone.
Arizona Sunshine primarily focuses on delivering a desperate VR zombie shooter, supporting motion tracking for touch controllers, teleportation-style movement, and, if you're set up for it, room-scale tracking for your respective platforms. It's a fantastic jaunt through a zombie-filled wonderland that encourages you to stretch your wings and see what you can handle in both single player and horde mode.
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
As far as single player stories go, it's hard to compete with Call of the Starseed on either the Oculus Rift or the HTC Vive. This Touch-enabled puzzle game takes you on a journey deep into a mysterious hidden world, forcing you to think on your feet to solve puzzles both simple and intricate to find your missing sister.
Call of the Starseed is fully Touch and room-scale compatible and utilizes teleportation-style locomotion so motion sickness is at an absolute minimum, making this a great introductory title for anyone interested in diving into VR. The story itself does a great job pulling the player deeper into the world, making use of both subtle environmental cues that you have to search, duck, and sometime reach on your tiptoes for, while also utilizing a few quirky characters that are entertaining to listen to and follow throughout the world.
The only real setback Call of the Starseed has is that it's only episode one. Although you get a fairly good chunk of the story, you'll probably blaze through everything in about three hours if you're the type that really loves to explore every inch of the environment.
Yet, even as it stands now, Call of the Starseed manages to show off exactly what a story driven VR platform should be. Read our full review of the opening episode for more details.
Did your favorite VR title not make the list? Let us know in the comments below.
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