September 14

Best VR Games

If you’ve never gamed using an awesome VR headset before, then you’re truly missing out. The level of immersion that you can feel is just incredible, and certain experiences are essentially impossible without a VR platform. Standing on the outside of a space station with the universe in front of you, or on top of a mountain with birds flying right by you, these kinds of things are hard to create on a 2D screen.

Of course, while there is a basic form of mobile VR, the really top end of the scale is the VR headsets from HTC, Valve, and Facebook.

Over the past few years, VR tech has taken all the feedback of the consumer and just ran amuck. In fact, 2019 has seen a ton of next-gen headsets; whether it’s the Valve Index or the Oculus Quest, or even the Vive Pro, there are tons of choices out there (even though the prices may be steep).

There’s also been tons and tons of games that have come out for these platforms, with some games being great and others being downright horrible (I’m looking at you Trials on Tatooine).

Before we go ahead though, I do want to say that the majority of these games are for the aforementioned VR headsets above and that I’m not really specifically going to cover any PSVR games. For that, I’ve actually written another excellent article (if I do say so myself) on some of the best PSVR games out there.


#1 The Lab

The first game you really should be getting when you buy VR is The Lab, not only because it’s tons of fun, but also because it’s totally free and a great starter into the VR world.

The Lab gameplay

If you aren’t familiar with The Lab, it’s essentially a VR experience that is set in a pocket universe of Aperture Labs, and that has inside of it a collection of mini-games. The ‘main’ area looks like a manufacturing area within Aperture Labs, with a series of different terminals and consoles where you go to activate the different mini-games and experiences.

There’s also a bunch of stuff that you can pick up, look at, and throw, which is super fun as a first VR experience. The mini-games themselves tend to range in a variety of things, but for the most part, are pretty simple. Probably my favorite of the bunch is a tower defense game with a bow and arrow where you have to kill baddies and trigger environmental traps.

Aside from that, there’s also a robot repair shop which has you working on a variety of different robots from within the Portal universe, as well as a Secret Shop where you can buy spells to do fun magic with. Aside from those mini-games, there’s also ‘experience’ which are essentially just you placed in really awesome worlds to look at and explore.

Solar System is probably my favorite out of those (but then again, I’m a space geek) and you even get to pick up planets to play around with. Postcards, on the other hand, takes you to different locations in the world for you to enjoy, and Human Medical Scan does just that, let’s you play around with a human body’s organs and whatnot, which is super educational.

The only real downside is that movement is through teleportation, which can sometimes kill the vibe and excitement when you want to see everything. That being said, I get why they did that since I’d probably be tripping over myself (and the wires) if I was set free in my first VR experience!


#2 Budget Cuts

If you’ve ever wanted to know what Neo felt like at the beginning of The Matrix, this is probably the game to do it (sort of). Being nothing but an office peon, you get a phone call by a mysterious Winta who tells you that you need to escape for your own good. What follows is a 4-6 hours journey that’s a bit of a mish-mash between Portal and Job simulator, and is just as fun as both.

You see, Winta has procured you a translocator, which is pretty much just a portal gun, and is the main mechanic for the game. Much like the portal gun, you shoot out a little ball of something or other, and once it lands, it allows you to move through it. The twist here is that you don’t need to use it only to move through a certain space, but instead you can also look through it in 360 degrees.

budget cuts vr gameplay

This becomes important because Budget Cuts is basically a stealth/adventure game, where you can stealth through pretty much the whole thing. Another interesting thing about the portal gun . . . I mean translocator, is that you can walk through it slowly so as not to alert the guards, called supervisors (you are a white-collar worker after all).

Of course, it works both ways, and these supervisors, which are nothing but a security camera stuck on a body, can see you through the portals as well.

You aren’t completely helpless though, as there are knives, scissors and another couple of sharp objects which you can throw at them to kill them. Being a VR game though, aiming and throwing can be a little bit tricky, especially since supervisors carry a gun and one-shot kill you. As you can imagine, it can be pretty hard to aim and throw a knife accurately while dodging bullets and freaking out.

Budget Cuts isn’t only about stealth and fighting though, since there’s a certain amount of puzzles involved that you have to figure out using your translocator.

The levels are littered with small windows, vents, and other things you can shoot a ball through, so figuring out how to get where you need to be can be an interesting head-scratcher. That being said, it can get a little bit frustrating when you have to literally check every inch just to find where you need to go, especially since the environment can seem a little bit samey.

The best part, though is just the overall hilarity of the game and the non-lethal robots. Budget Cuts doesn’t take itself too seriously, and that can certainly be seen as you play through the game. Worker bee bots are always saying funny one-liners, and you’ll find motivational posters strewn about the place, but with not so motivating slogans (or they’re just plain Orwellian).

While Budget Cuts does have its share of bugs and weird clipping issues, for the most part, it’s a hilarious romp through a white-collar office where you learn bits here and there about evil corporate culture.


#3 Project Cars 2

Project Cars 2 is a great improvement on the previous installment, something which can’t necessarily always be said for most games. While at face value it might seem like the same game with the same old screens, there’s been a ton of work under the hood which really shows itself when you jump into a race.

A new and improved tire system means that you get some incredibly realistic handling, and each card drives differently, although wet driving can still be a bit of an issue.

Project Cars 2 gameplay

With a roster of 180 cars, there’s a little bit in there for everybody, and races have been picked with opponents to represent races in that car’s era better. Similarly, Project Cars 2 brings a whopping 60 tracks with 130 different layouts, so there’s an incredibly large variety to keep you entertained and seeing something new. To that end, the tracks themselves change with weather and time, especially on the longer races.

Of course, everything is made a dozen times better when you use VR, and Slightly Mad Studios has done an awesome job of getting things running well. For example, in the first title, you’d have a horrible time trying to get the game to run at 90fps, even on a GTX 1080, whereas with Project Cars 2, hitting 90fps is possible, although your graphical settings will have to be on a lower setting.

The game still looks amazing, but if you’re planning to run Project Cars 2 in VR and have medium to high graphics settings, you’re going to need a beefy gaming PC. Thankfully there are a ton of great features brought to Project Cars 2 from the first game, such as world scaling, the ability to recenter on race start and even seat adjustments, which is pretty cool.

The gaze-operated cursor is also here and works reasonably well, but you can now disable it or switch it to a specific button of your liking. It can still be a bit finicky at times, and the overall experience isn’t perfect, but it’s a big leap from the first installment. Overall race image quality has been improved though, and now you can get some actual MSAA with supersampling.

Water has always been a problem with VR since it requires quite a few resources to run, but with Project Cars 2 it’s become much better, eliminating some of the weird water spray effects, as well as just making the overall rain more manageable resource-wise. Unfortunately, while the mirrors do react to head movement, they aren’t stereoscopic, which can be jarring in a nearly perfect VR experience.

One thing that affects VR a lot is positional audio, and along with the overall amazing sound of Project Cars 2, it’s now also become positional. Tyre sound feedback has also been improved and made more “informational” so that you can actually gauge how things are going by just listening.

Similarly, Hand animations have always been a bit jarring in VR games, but thankfully they’re pretty great in this game, and that weird over-arm movement has been decreased significantly, making the whole thing much more realistic.

Project Cars 2 is an awesome game, and bringing VR into the mix just makes it much, much better. That being said, you will have to spend a pretty dosh on a good computer, and of course, there’s very little point to play the VR without also having a sim steering wheel. That being said, it’s still fun to play, even with a controller, so you should definitely check this game out.


#4 Space Pirate Trainer

If you’ve ever played asteroids (or any bullet hell game), then you should feel right at home with Space Pirate Trainer. Unfortunately, you don’t actually get to play a space pirate, which is a shame, but it’s still tons of bullet hell fun, and it’s fully action-packed. Interestingly, this is one of the first games I ever played on VR, and I think it’s the granddaddy of VR bullet shooters, although I could be wrong about that.

Space Pirate Trainer gameplay

So, boiling down the whole experience, it’s actually a pretty simple game; You stand in one area and do your best to take down a bunch of flying robots before they kill you. These robots come in tons of different shapes, sizes, and flight paths, as well as different weapon times for you to deal with.

Speaking of weapons and bullets, there’s actually a bullet time mode that triggers whenever you’re about to be hit by a laser of some sort or another, and you can actually physically move out of the way, which is really awesome.

Of course, you’re not defenseless, and you have your own choice of weapons to choose from. There’s really only two choices really; a gun and a baton that acts as a shield, although you can dual wield both, or two of each, depending on how you’re feeling at the time. The gun itself has six different fire modes for you to play with, although personally I always preferred the auto fire one because targets can be hard to hit in VR sometimes.

As for the shield/baton thing, it’s exactly that, a shield which you can deflect lasers back to the robots and protect yourself. It also has a mode where you can latch onto a robot and whip it around smashing into the ground or other robots, and it also allows you to activate turret defenses. So, as you can see, even though the arsenal is simple, it’s really loads of fun.

The only real downside to Space Pirate Trainer is that it’s always the same place and the same backdrop and the sam robots. There’s really no change to the scene or scenery at all, and while it looks pretty cool, it does get tiring after the first few dozen hours of playing it. That being said, there’s supposedly another scene that you can unlock at some point, but I guess I never got that far and I would argue that maybe it should have come sooner.

Either way, this game is both simple for anybody to understand, and absolutely tons of fun. This is especially great if you want to play with some friends and take turns trying to beat each other’s high score.


#5 Vader Immortal

Ok, right off the bat I need to tell you that this isn’t exactly a game so much as it’s an experience or somewhat of an interactive story. Thankfully though, it’s much better than Trials on Tatooine, so if you’ve played that and you’re kind of put off with Star Wars experiences, don’t worry. Also, I should mention that this is a three-part series, with only episode 1 released so far.

Vader Immortal gameplay

The story starts out with you, a bounty hunter, and your trusted robot companion Zoe being tracked down and stopped by an imperial interceptor right over Mustafar. Unbeknownst to you, Vader has had his eye on you and has you taken down to the planet and to his imperial castle. While there, Vader appears in all his tall and dark glory and asks you to open up a little puzzle thing, which reveals that you’re actually force-sensitive.

What follows is about an hour’s worth of escaping, adventure and finding out some really cool stuff about the lore and world of Star Wars. While I don’t want to go too much into the details of the story because of spoilers, I do want to specifically point out the lightsaber portions which are really cool.

As you play, you come across Darth Vader’s own personal lightsaber training room, where you pick up a lightsaber and trigger the training mode, which brings up ave lightsaber-wielding robot that you have to fight. You also get to deal with those small flying robots from Episode II, where you deflect their blaster fire back to them, which is super cool.

There’s actually also a stand-alone lightsaber ‘training’ mode which is essentially just a bunch of increasingly difficult waves coming at you. It’s nothing super fancy, but the immersion of being in a VR headset with a lightsaber is just awesome, especially if you’re a big Star Wars fan.

Of course, it’s not always an on-rails type of game, and it’s more akin to you going from area to area where there are things you can interact with. There are some puzzles, but they’re pretty tame, and for the most part, the things you interact with are simple in nature. What really makes the game stand out is all the little bits of lore you discover along the way, but again, I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

Really, the only big downside to Vader Immortal is that it’s short and you’re just gagging for more awesome gameplay. Thankfully, there’s still another couple of episodes to come out.


#6 Elite: Dangerous

Probably the first thing that I should tell you is that if you’re planning to play Elite: Dangerous in VR, you’re almost certainly going to need a joystick or controller. The game’s commands and functions are so diverse and sometimes complicated that there’s no way you’ll be able to use a keyboard while wearing the headset.

Of course, you could also buy voice command packs which are incredibly cool and allow you to control a bunch of things buy just yelling them out (unfortunately, no ‘make it so’ function exists as far as I can tell).

Elite Dangerous gameplay

Really though, this is the first thing you get greeted with when you first sit down to play; a bunch of complexity. While there are tutorials, they’re actually not that helpful and are essentially just telling you what you can do and then just letting you learn on your own how to actually do it. Once you get past that point though, you gain access to one of the coolest VR and gaming experiences out there.

Elite: Dangerous recreates the Milky Way 1:1, so you have literally billions of stars to travel to and explore (in-fact, there’s even a discovery mechanic where you get to name stuff if you’re the first person to discover it). In that process of discovering the stars, you can do a massive variety of things, from being a trader to being a pirate, and with dozens of ships to look forward to purchasing, there’s always something on the horizon to look forward to.

Unfortunately, that’s where you bump into the second big problem of Elite: Dangerous: the massive amounts of grind. Thankfully, when you throw VR into the equation, things become much less grindy. You see, there are vast distances you need to travel, and when you’re just trading and hauling from one-star system to the next, you’re very likely to spend 10 minutes literally just traveling through space.

That’s where the VR comes in because it doesn’t just make Elite: Dangerous something that’s on your screen, but something that is actually all around you. It’s amazing to just look at the stars, planets, asteroid fields or really just anything when you’re in VR.

A planet a few hundred thousand kilometers away might look like a ping pong ball, but as you get increasingly closer and closer, it engulfs your whole view and makes you realize how small you are in the grand scale of things. Similarly, the level of detail is just amazing to notice in VR, for example, the ice forming on your windows when you get into an icy asteroid field.

For the most part, Elite: Dangerous in VR is a wonderful experience, even though it’s going to cost you a pretty penny to access it. When you take into account the headset, the joystick, the game and its expansion (which you should absolutely get), and maybe even the voice command packs which start at around $10 and go up, your wallet is going to feel rather light. That being said, it’s certainly worth it, especially if you really love space sims and sci-fi.


#7 Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

When I first heard about this game, I thought it was kind of a silly concept that would never take off. I mean, one player is looking at a screen trying to defuse the bomb, while the other player(s) would be looking through an in-depth and complicated bomb defusal guide. Where’s the fun in that for the other player who’s just basically sitting and looking through a manual?

Then I actually played the game, and it was just incredibly fun, and I’ll gladly admit I was wrong.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes

From the perspective of the person defusing the bomb, you’re constantly under pressure. Not only do you have to clearly instruct the other person on what you do in front of you, something which is surprisingly difficult, but you also have to carry out the instructions they give you. Make one too many mistakes, and the whole thing is over.

This is further compounded by the fact that the game likes to throw curveballs at you in the form of alarms that go off, electricity cutting out and other things of that nature. You also have a pretty big-timer counting down, so you definitely feel the pressure of diffusing the thing as fast as you can. You also have to decide what you want to be diffusing and in what order, so there’s a lot of responsibility placed on your shoulders.

The bomb itself comes with a variety of different modules, depending on the difficulty, with each module having a different puzzle that you need to solve. You never know what you’re going to get going on, so both you and the other players really need to be ready and on their toes. It does help if the people reading the manual have diffused the bomb before since they’ll get what you’re saying much more easily.

Speaking of reading manuals, playing from that perspective is equally fun, even though you don’t get to interact with the game directly. Feeling the tension of the person describe things to you and having to rely on their communication ability can get frustrating sometimes. The game creates this shared tensions between all the players that are actually pretty hard to describe.

When you throw VR into the mix though, things become even more interesting and fun, even for those reading the manual. Unsurprisingly, the eyes really do tell you a lot about what the person is thinking and doing, and not being able to see those visual cues can get in the way of solving the puzzle. As for the person in the headset, it’s just a completely different experience having the bomb right in front of you and being immersed in all the stuff the game throws at you.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a unique and interesting take on bomb-disposal, and gameplay, giving full control to one person and taking it from another, while emphasizing good communication. If you haven’t played this game yet you absolutely should; it’s an incredible thrill that’s made even better with VR.


#8 Gorn

When you first see this game, you might not really believe that it’s an actual real game that exists and that you can buy. I mean, the gratuitous violence alone is something that would make any censorship body blush, and the copious amounts of blood that erupt everywhere make it seem like they bought it wholesale from a Blood Distributer.

The truth is that it’s hilariously fun to the point where you might risk limb or property just for the chance to score one extra hit.

Gorn gameplay

The premise of the game is simple; You are a gladiator who is basically fighting for their life and freedom. As you’d expect from a gladiator fight, you are pitted against other gladiators with a similar deal, and the one who survives wins. Of course, you’re sent out with some form of weaponry (most of the time), and that’s where the hilarity of the situation starts to creep in.

You see, while there are a variety of weapons to choose from in this world, such as swords, maces, and bows, pretty much everything has a bendy quality to it. Even though the game relies a lot on physics, you’ll often see your weapons (and your opponent) doing something that it really shouldn’t.

For example, your sword might as well be made of rubber given how much it can potentially wobble, and yet when you strike somebody, you could easily take their head clean off! This instantaneous injection of blood and guts is really satisfying, to the point where you might start to question your insanity. All the opponents in the game are essentially built out of constituent parts that you can literally pummel through to (such as the heart or the liver).

I wasn’t kidding early when I said you could rip a head clean off the shoulders, and the same applies to almost any other body part as well, so you could easily have a pair of eyes flying through the air as you bash somebody’s head in. For the most part, though, that’s the majority of the game: a mindless little jaunt into insanity and fun. Granted, as you play through the different areas and levels, you do get access to new and improved weapons.

Similarly, you can take on challenges which are essentially just special mobs the game throws at you and completing those also unlocks new weapons for you to play around with. Don’t expect any depth though, because ultimately it’s not meant to be a deep game, just a game that you can turn on and play for a good 20-30 minutes to destress . . . By beating the pulp out of somebody.

Oh and uh, . . . This game really isn’t made for kids. Seriously, if you have a kid, keep them as far away from this as you possibly can.


#9 Lone Echo

Much like Vader Immortal, Lone Echo isn’t so much a game as it is an experience, although it goes much deeper in giving you control than the former. In fact, a large portion of the game’s focus is the movement mechanic in a zero-G environment. If you’ve ever seen astronauts on the International Space Station, you’ll probably be familiar with the weightless movement that’s required in that kind of environment.

You see, you take control of Jack, an AI-companion to Olivia Rhodes, a human being who lives on a mining station on the rings of Saturn. For the most part, though, you’re mostly there to do all the menial labor and busy work for Rhodes, almost always at her request. That’s not to say that the two haven’t made some form of connection, and at least from Rhode’s side, she’s certainly attached a real personality and care to Jack, even though he’s an android.

Lone Echo gameplay

As mentioned earlier, this isn’t a weapons-filled action-adventure, but instead relies on grabbing on to points and moving around the station, albeit in interesting ways. It might seem strange for me to keep banging on about this point, but the truth is that the movement here is just incredibly precise, surprisingly so for a VR headset.

Similarly, the movement becomes a very big part of the gameplay mechanics as you move forward in the story, with a nice little twist going on half-way through. As has become pretty standard in these types of stories, things start going incredibly wrong, starting out as minor technical issues, they suddenly expand into something a little more sinister.

While I don’t want to spoil anything, I will say that this new threat that appears has a very big effect on your movement and how you do things on the station. While there are some puzzles here and there, they aren’t anything extremely taxing and are mostly just there to propel the story forward.

There’s also no real ‘death’ in the game since when you die, you just inhibit another android body, so the stakes are pretty low, and the tension while palpable, can be brushed off.

Really though, Lone Echo is more about the experience than the gameplay, and the fact that it’s in VR means that you’re really getting immersed in that experience. If you’re a big fan of Sci-fi seeing Saturn taking up nearly all your horizon, as well as the rings and the station just being little blips in nothing, can really make your day.

There’s also a multiplayer arena similar to the one you see in the Ender’s Game film, and while it can be fun, there’s only one map for you to really play through. Not only that, but given that the game is 2-3 years old now, you’re unlikely to find a lot of people online to play with.

Either way, Lone Echo is an awesome single-player experience, and definitely worth a purchase. Doubly so if you love sci-fi.


#10 The Climb

For those of you who are like me and have incessant anxiety/vertigo issues, maybe The Climb isn’t the best for you. Constantly hanging on an edge cliff, only one mistake away from falling into the abyss, it can be heart-pounding to say the last. If you can manage to get over the initial jitters that you feel, you get to experience and incredibly exhilarating game.

The Climb

The Climb is actually very simple, and as you might have guessed, it’s all about climbing a mountain to its peak . . . Without falling and dying horribly. There are only three mountain ranges to pick from; Bay, Canyons and Alps, and that may not seem like much, but every mountain has three difficulty levels with each one taking you down (or up) a different path.

This adds a ton to the replayability, especially as you push yourself forward and try to overcome what is otherwise a herculean task.

Of course, the graphics are just incredibly breathtaking, although that’s what you’d expect from Crytek, the company that made Cryengine. Being on the mountain and looking down is really immersive, and you really feel as cliff you’re hanging off a cliff-edge. Similarly, the sound is positional, so as you move your head around to look at things, you start hearing different sounds, like the howl of the wind or the squawks of the birds.

Yet the tension is still there with a chalk and stamina system that helps keep the tension going (although I doubt it’s needed given the subject matter). Moving from one point to the next can be harrowing, and you will exert some effort as your brain has convinced you you’re actually there. There’s also the death-defying jump mechanic, which is . . . Intense, to say the least.

Interestingly, when the game first came out, it only had support for the Xbox controller, so you’d have to look where you’re going and press on one of the triggers to move there. A few years on and Oculus Touch support has been added, and as you can imagine, it makes a massive difference.

I was a bit hesitant adding this game to the list originally, especially since those who are faint of heart might have trouble playing it. That being said, I certainly think it’s an incredible experience, and could actually help with getting over a fear of heights if you have somebody with you to support you (Of course, that’s just my own conjecture, don’t take this advice in place of real therapy!).

All in all, The Climb is a jaw-droppingly beautiful and heart-pounding thrilling adventure that gives you a huge sense of accomplishment once you reach a peak.


Conclusion

Well! That’s quite a journey we went on there, covering a variety of different yet awesome VR stuff for you to try. There were some games, some experience and just a whole lot of awesome. Honestly, I’m half thinking about buying one of the next-gen VR headsets like the Quest or the Index (most of my VR experience is through the Vive, so quite old-school at this point).

Anyway, I hope you’ve found some interesting gems you’d like to play, but whichever game you choose, here’s to having a ton of immersive fun! Also, check out our guide on Batman games in order.


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About the author

Albert Bassili

Albert’s been a gamer for about as long as he can remember. Ever since then, Albert has been hooked on games, even going as far as doing his bloody best to work on the game industry, whether it’s writing articles, or writing game stories. In between gaming, he also really loves to check up on the latest tech news and see what awesome stuff humanity has come up with. Favorite Games: Dune II, MGS 1, FF X, Mass Effect 2