The next few weeks are set to be exciting ones in the world of gaming and virtual reality with Oculus set to begin shipping the consumer version of the Rift and HTC following shortly with the Vive. There’s a great deal of buzz and skepticism surrounding VR, and while it’s still too early to tell how successful they will be, I’m definitely among the VR hopeful.

It may take a few years for the hardware to get better and prices to come down before VR has a shot at reaching a mainstream audience, but interest on the development side is real and that’s already a good sign. Many amazing VR experiences are being created and they are a far cry from the VR of decades past.

If you’re among those who’ve preordered a VR headset or are still on the fence, you may be wondering what are you going to play with it? We’ve compiled a list of some of the most anticipated or interesting titles arriving soon. Keep in mind that many existing games are getting VR support, too, so there won't be any content shortage, though for this list we've kept it (mostly) to made for VR titles.

Edge of Nowhere

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  • Genre: Third-person action-adventure
  • VR platform: Oculus Rift
  • Input: Gamepad
  • Developer / Publisher: Insomniac Games
  • Available: Q1 2016

Edge of Nowhere is a third-person action-adventure title from independent developer Insomniac Games -- one of a handful games demoed at CES 2016. You play as a man who is searching for a missing expedition team in the Antarctic mountains, with game mechanics such as collapsing environments, jumping over terryfying chasms and using makeshift weapons to survive. It plays somewhat like Tomb Raider but adds some sci-fi/horror elements and psychological twists of its own.

The third-person perspective allows for some fast paced action without making you feel sick -- for first-person games developers are coming up with all sorts of navigation mechanics to get around this, but more on that later. You still get that sense of immersion from VR as you look all around your character to check out the environment as if you are there watching over your character.

Lucky's Tale

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  • Genre: Third-person platformer
  • VR platform: Oculus Rift
  • Input: Gamepad
  • Developer / Publisher: Playful Corp
  • Available: March 2016

Lucky’s Tale is the Oculus equivalent to Nintendo's Mario 64. It's a third-person platformer featuring a fox named Lucky that runs, jumps, climbs and spins his way through bright, colorful worlds filled with challenges, menacing bosses and mini-games. Built from the ground up for virtual reality, Lucky's Tale is an Oculus exclusive and will be bundled with the headset, allowing you to experience the presence and immersion of virtual reality from day one with a family-friendly title.

Elite: Dangerous

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  • Genre: Open world space combat simulator, MMO
  • VR platform: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
  • Input: Gamepad
  • Developer / Publisher: Frontier Developments
  • Available: Now

Elite Dangerous is an space adventure and combat simulator that puts players in a realistic 1:1 scale galaxy based on the real Milky Way. There are huge amounts of astronomically-accurate star systems, each containing their own unique features, which players can explore at their own pace while taking part in dogfights, trading and piracy among other things. The game was originally released on December 2014 with full support for the Oculus Rift developer kit and has since added the HTC Vive as well.

The Gallery: Call of the Starseed

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  • Genre: Adventure, Indie
  • VR platform: HTC Vive, Oculus Touch
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Cloudhead Games
  • Available: April 2016 (HTC Vive), TBA (Oculus Touch)

The Gallery is an episodic, fantasy exploration game built for virtual reality, inspired by the mystery of dark 80’s fantasy adventure films. You assume the role of a character searching for his missing twin sister and go on a mysterious journey filled with bizarre characters. This first-person adventure title uses the Vive's position-tracked controllers to allow players to reach out and grab objects and solve puzzles. You can move freely within an area that's customizable to your real world's available space and Cloudhead's Blink locomotion mechanic lets you teleport across the environment using head tracking to indicate where you want to go. It's one of the many ways developers are working around motion sickness in first person games and it's said to work really well.

Fantastic Contraption

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  • Genre: Puzzle, Indie
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Northway Games, Radial Games
  • Available: April 2016

Fantastic Contraption was originally a Flash-based physics game released in 2008 in which players have to assemble contraptions with the goal of moving the level's goal object past obstacles and into the goal area. The game was recently redesigned from the ground up for room-scale VR and will come bundled with the HTC Vive. There are 40+ levels and infinite solutions to each puzzle. You'll build life-sized machines with your own hands using spinning wheels and stretchable rods. It's sort of a simpler, spiritual successor to the Incredible Machine brought into the modern world though VR.

Budget Cuts

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  • Genre: Stealth, Action, Adventure, Indie
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Neat Corporation
  • Available: 2016

Budget Cuts is a stealth-action virtual reality game that draws some inspiration from Portal with its own teleportation gun and robot-filled environment. You assume the role of an aspiring spy trying to infiltrate a robot-protected building in order to approve your job application at Trans Corp. Although you can move around 360 degrees most of the motion happens by using a special gun, which enables you to teleport from one place to another. You can shoot the gun through open vents, doorways, windows, and other openings in order to travel unseen. You'll need to sneak around humanoid robots, attacking them with throwing knives and crossbows while solving puzzles along the way.

Hover Junkers

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  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: StressLevelZero
  • Available: April 2016

Hover Junkers is a multiplayer combat game in which players pilot small flying forts in a drought stricken future where junk hunters scavenge for scrap left behind. You choose your ship based on your room scale play area and can hover around the game's massive maps, engaging into shootouts against enemy player junkers. Using scrap as actual defenses against incoming fire, you'll physically dodge, hide, and shoot from behind the cover of your battle station's defenses.

Tilt Brush

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  • Genre: Design & Illustration
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Google
  • Available: April 2016

Tilt Brush is not actually a game but rather an app that lets you paint in 3D space with virtual reality. You use your room as a canvas and can pick a number of different dynamic brushes from ink to snow, fire, stars and more. You can walk around your masterpiece -- or in my case, a lame doodle -- and share it with others in an upcoming Brush Gallery app for smartphones. It's a pretty neat showcase of virtual reality beyond gaming and will come bundled with the HTC Vive on launch day.

Job Simulator: the 2050 archives

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  • Genre: Simulation
  • VR platform: HTC Vive (April), Oculus Touch (2H 2016), PlayStation VR (TBA)
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Owlchemy Labs
  • Available: April 2016

The year is 2050 and robots have replaced all human jobs. Human occupations are now memories of the past, but in an effort to keep humans conencted with their useless ancestors and history, JobBot was born. Step into the "Job Simulator" to learn what it was like 'to job'. Players can relive the glory days of work by simulating the ins and outs of being a gourmet chef, an office worker, a convenience store clerk, and more by interacting with their surrounding and completing basic taks -- or just throw around objects, break things and generally make a mess. The comical nature of Job Simulator is matched by its dialogues and visual presentation. The game will be bundled with the HTC Vive headset.

Cloudlands: VR Mini Golf

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  • Genre: Casual, Sports
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Futuretown
  • Available: April 2016

Granted, a minigolf game doesn't sound terribly exciting -- or I guess it does for golf fans. But it's a really good use of room scale VR. Cloudlands offers players a unique minigolf experience across 18 holes featuring featuring elaborate fantasy courses that you would never see in real life -- ball cannons, floating bridges, and multi level courses to name a few. To play you need only one Vive controller, which you hold like a golf club and swing it to hit the ball -- the full motion of your body is tracked with precision. The game includes single and local or online multiplayer modes as well as a course editor to create your own designs.

EVE: Valkyrie

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  • Genre: Action, Shooter
  • VR platform: Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR
  • Input: Gamepad
  • Developer / Publisher: CCP Games
  • Available: March 2016

EVE: Valkyrie is one of the most anticipated launch titles for the Oculus Rift. The multiplayer dogfighting shooter game set in the Eve Online universe puts you right in the cockpit of a heavily armed fighter as you weave through asteroids, firing your miniguns and missiles at enemy ships. The gamepad controls are simple and tracking your opponents by just looking in their direction feels natural. According to those who've played the game's early builds, EVE: Valkyrie provides one of the most convincing VR experiences so it's no surprise why Facebook decided to bundle it with the Rift.

Raw Data

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  • Genre: Multiplayer sci-fi FPS
  • VR platform: HTC Vive
  • Input: Tracked motion controllers
  • Developer / Publisher: Survios
  • Available: TBA

Raw Data is an upcoming co-op shooter from Survios in which you use an assortment of weapons to fend off an oncoming horde of killer robots trying to stop you from obtaining sensitive information about their evil parent company. It's based on a tower defense game mechanic but in virtual reality this means you'll find yourself physically ducking, dodging, taking cover and charging at your enemies. Your start off with a pistol and a lightsaber, with more weapon options and smarter enemies as you progress. In co-op mode each player moves freely around their own separate, physical play spaces and can talk over the headset to coordinate strategy. All this contributes to what Survios calls "Active VR" which encompasses immersion, presence, embodiment, free movement, and shared space -- you don't need to be trained to play for your own survival instincts to kick in.

Chronos

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  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • VR platform: Oculus Rift
  • Input: Gamepad
  • Developer / Publisher: Gunfire Games
  • Available: TBA

Chronos is an adventure RPG game that plays out over the course of the main character’s life and his quest to complete an ancient labyrinth. This labyrinth holds the secrets necessary to restore life and peace to his homeland, but it only opens once a year, and when you die you are cast out for a year before you are allowed to try again. The unique twist is that with each attempt your character ages and with it your play style will have to change, too -- start the game young, nimble and quick, and end wise and more attuned to magic. The developers at Gunfire say the game is more about the journey than the end goal and about explore an atmospheric fantasy world in full virtual reality, while Oculus' Palmer Luckey said Chronos has more depth than almost any other VR game at this point.

Final Thoughts and Further Reading

Drawing some early (premature, even) comparisons between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive there are some fundamental differences in how each is approaching VR. The most noticeable of which is HTC & Valve going all in with room-scale gameplay for a more convincing sense of presence, and the inherent ’limitations’ that this brings are forcing developers to create new and exciting gaming experiences. Oculus on the other hand is sort of taking a stepping stone approach making sure there’s some familiarity to how you play games, and the type of games you can play, but bringing immersion to a whole new level.

The Rift will eventually support motion tracking controllers, too, but that won't happen until later this year -- no official plans for room scale VR as of now. Whether this approach causes any fragmentation or confusion versus having developers build games from day one with these features in mind remains to be seen -- but it doesn’t seem like something to be worried about, after all, the Vive, too, will support more traditional input methods like gamepads and joysticks.

What will matter the most is developer support and we’re seeing some interesting developments on both sides. Steam conveniently published a list of all HTC Vive compatible games, while there’s an extensive list of games with Oculus Rift support at Wikipedia.

It’ll be interesting to see the impact VR has in gaming a few years from now. It could be the biggest technological change since hardware 3D acceleration, a niche for a subset of gamers, or just something that everyone will grow tired of after a while. Going through this shortlist it’s clear that some types of games lend themselves better for VR than others, so even with the most optimistic outlook for VR it's not meant to replace traditional gaming. With that said, we're eager to see what the future of VR holds.