It’s been five years since the release of the original consumer-grade Oculus Rift, and the world of virtual reality has been expanding ever since. While some are skeptical that the technology will become mainstream, there is an impressive selection of VR experiences out there. Here are a few highlights in various genres to whet your appetite for these immersive games.
Robo Recall is made by Epic Games, of Fortnite and Unreal fame. It's a fun shooting-gallery game with plenty of challenges and charm. You’re Agent 34, an employee of RoboReady whose objective is to destroy and recall the dangerous and violent rogue robots on the loose. An easy game to learn, Robo Recall oozes quality, even though there are just four guns and a limited amount of stages. It's easy to jump into and enjoy even for short sessions or longer marathons.
Available on: Oculus
One of the biggest VR releases you could ask for is this latest game from Valve, Half-Life Alyx. The game puts you in the shoes of Alyx Vance, fighting through the Combine occupied City 17. There are massive and jaw-dropping set pieces, and everything can be interacted with. Just like the gravity gun in Half-Life 2, Alyx uses an innovative weapon/tool known as the gravity gloves, to reduce fumbling around with items. While the puzzles are fairly straightforward, the action sequences can be thrilling and nerve-wracking, requiring you to duck behind cover, reload and prepare your weapons and accurately throw grenades. With over 10 hours of gameplay in the story and an engaged modding community, Alyx is one of the top VR games available.
Available on: Steam
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
This gruesome game is set in The Walking Dead universe, so those who are easily spooked or freaked out by zombies should stay away. Those that can stomach the game will be treated to an immersive shooter that will have gamers sweating their way to survival. There’s crafting, limited ammo, degrading gear and supplies, and a whole selection of melee weapons to experience in this game.
Set in New Orleans during the zombie outbreak, gamers can expect about 15 hours of content, in addition to a Horde mode that will continue the game for anyone who still wants more zombie-killing fun.
Military Sims: Onward, Pavlov and Contractors
There are a few military shooters available in VR, with multiplayer options that should appeal to the more competitive gamers out there. Onward is one option that was pretty popular due to its realistic handling of over 30 guns. That sounds pretty cool, but accurately reloading a gun without dropping a clip or forgetting a step while being attacked can be a bit hectic.
The game provides solo, co-operative and competitive online play, but has recently been criticized by dedicated fans with an update that catered to Oculus Quest users. Graphics and gameplay were described as downgraded. Fortunately, there are other options out there for those looking for their military sim fix. Pavlov is pretty popular with many custom maps, while another option is Contractors VR, all of which should be popular with fans of Call Of Duty and Counter-Strike.
Pavlov VR available on Steam
Superhot was released in early 2016 and ported to VR later that year with much success (it feels very natural in VR). Anyone familiar with Superhot should recognize this stylish, puzzle-like shooter with its unique gameplay mechanic: time only moves when you do.
The game is relatively simple to pick up and play, with short levels and distinct scenarios for you to shoot, punch, throw and bash your way out of. One of the best parts of this game is that there isn't a lot of locomotion, so there's no need to walk or teleport anywhere, which is good for avoiding motion sickness.
Lone Echo is set on a space station orbiting Saturn, with the player acting as a service android that is tasked with assisting the lone human crew, Captain Olivia with upkeep and maintaining the station. However, after an anomaly, the captain disappears and you are set out to find her.
While not an action game, Lone Echo is an immersive narrative experience, with plenty of puzzles and things to fix around the station. Since it takes place in space, you move around by floating around and using grab and pull handles. The game also has a multiplayer game called Echo Arena, which is a team sport, similar to handball, utilizing the locomotion mechanics of Lone Echo.
Lone Echo isn’t a very long game, with some gamers noting it took them less than 10 hours to complete, but a sequel is on the way, you can check out the immersive trailer here.
Available on: Oculus
What hasn’t Skyrim been ported to? The lore of the Elder Scrolls and the world of Tamriel becomes a bit more immersive through VR. It’s not exactly the most refined virtual reality game out there, especially in terms of combat, which can feel a bit limited in comparison to other games here, but Skyrim does provide hundreds of hours of gameplay.
Available on: Steam
Unlike Skyrim, Asgards Wrath was built from the ground up for virtual reality, so the mechanics and combat are far more intuitive. The combat, in particular, is pretty engaging, as you have to swing the weapons around with realistic effort, and can even throw them. The game takes about 25 hours to complete, which is pretty lengthy for VR, and there are tons of areas and dungeons to explore.
Available on: Oculus
No Man’s Sky
Ever since the Beyond update for No Man’s Sky, the game has included support for VR headsets, making the space exploration and survival game even more immersive. The game lets you land and explore on an incredible amount of planets that are procedurally generated, meaning no two encounters should be the same. While No Man’s Sky received a lot of heat early on in its release for failing to live up to expectations, it's been able to grow a sizable fanbase ever since. The fact that it’s steadily added features like VR support shows that the developer is willing to put in the work to shed that reputation.
Available on: Steam
Escape Rooms and First Person Puzzle Games
The Room VR: A Dark Matter
A genre that’s seeing plenty of love in the VR space is first-person puzzle games. These can also be described as Escape Room type games. Some gamers might already be familiar with the series of mobile games known as The Room. The series now arrives in virtual reality in The Room VR: A Dark Matter where gamers are tasked with solving a mystery about a missing Egyptologist.
The game shifts its tone from mystery to fantasy and features amazing production values. Furthermore, it’s accessible even for newcomers to VR.
Players can play from a seated position, don’t have to stretch or duck down, and can’t drop items on the floor. Despite all of that the game still feels engaging and true to the idea of an Escape Room.
A Fisherman’s Tale
If the standard escape room setup doesn’t appeal to you, then maybe the innovative and unique game A Fisherman’s Tale, might be more up your alley. In this storybook-like game set in a lighthouse, you play as a fisherman in a lighthouse, presented with a dollhouse scale version of yourself and the environment in front of you and a larger version of your character looming above. Solving the puzzles in the game requires you to scale some items up or down for your doppelgangers. While the game is on the short side, it is affordable and features mechanics that are hard to experience outside of VR.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Another fun aspect of virtual reality is asymmetric multiplayer games, where players play the same game but with different mechanics. In Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, one player is tasked with defusing a bomb, while other players have the bomb-defusing manual. Each player can’t see what the other one does, so communication is key as the person handling the bomb has to describe everything they’re seeing, while the manual holders have to find out how to help. Without a doubt, it’s a fun party game for anyone with a VR setup.
Myst is one of the original first-person puzzle games, and a VR remake is on the way. Those seeking that experience a bit early can turn to Obduction. Exploring carefully crafted and beautiful settings, Obduction has you seeking out the story and mystery of a small town through its various puzzles. Some have managed to complete this game in about 20 hours but found the puzzles to be pretty difficult. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t support touch controls, and there are some complaints about backtracking and movement in this game. Still, those seeking a first-person puzzle experience shouldn’t skip Obduction.
I Expect You To Die 1 & 2
I Expect You To Die is a fun and quirky escape-room-style puzzle game. The interactive spy thriller features four environments, each with some mission objectives to complete. Of course, since you play as a spy, you’re frequently attempting to avoid death. A few updates and DLC have been added to the game expanding its replayability. Additionally, a sequel was launched recently and there's a demo available here.
Virtual reality has also allowed unique spins on already established genres. In Beat Saber you’re presented with a rock-band style rhythm game, where you swing lightsabers at cubes that are synced to the music. The colors of the cubes suggest which saber to use, and an arrow on the cubes describes the slicing motion to use when cutting them.
It’s an addictive game and one that’s easy to pick up and play in short or long bursts. You can also work up quite a sweat in the process. There’s extra content available to download including songs from mainstream bands like Imagine Dragons, Green Day, Panic! At the Disco, Linkin Park, and BTS. There are also custom songs and mods for the game to further expand its replayability.
Pistol Whip is essentially Beat Saber with guns. Instead of swinging swords around, you shoot enemies that spawn in time with the music. Within moments you feel like you’re John Wick, rhythmically blasting enemies in quick succession.
Eleven: Table Tennis VR
If you want to work up a sweat, there are plenty of sports games available in VR. Eleven: Table Tennis VR is one of the most fully-featured games, with realistic physics, minigames, and a multiplayer mode. The game is also frequently updated and has a strong competitive gaming community.
Creed & Thrill of the Fight
Boxing is a great way to exercise, and doing it in VR is one way to ensure no one gets hurt! There are two pretty good boxing games available, with different audiences in mind. Creed: Rise to Glory is a more casual, arcade-like game that references the Rocky movies. It’s fun but far from serious. Thrill of the Fight is a bit more intensive, which will lead to a far more thorough workout.
Flying and Driving
Project Cars 2 / Project Cars 3 / Assetto Corsa / DiRT Rally 2
Racing games work well in virtual reality, especially if you have the right hardware for it, like a steering wheel and pedals.
Many other competitive, serious sim racers like rFactor, iRacing and RaceRoom feature VR support, while the more recent Project Cars 3 is decidedly less hardcore and may be better suited to those seeking a more casual or arcade-like experience. Those who want to stray off the pavement and into some mud and dirt will feel right at home with DiRT Rally II.
Project Cars 2 available on Steam
Project Cars 3 available on Steam
Assetto Corsa available on Steam
Flight sim games are equally impressive and immersive in VR. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator was updated in late 2020 to support VR, and though it doesn’t feature touch controls, the game feels extremely realistic with the use of a joystick, and players can use a 3D mouse cursor to toggle switches and controls in the cockpit. Flight Simulator boasts gorgeous, next-gen graphics combining over two petabytes of Bing Maps data with the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to create a photorealistic world for you to fly around in.
Star Wars: Squadrons
Finally, if you’d rather fly around in space, Star Wars Squadrons supports VR headsets, letting you immerse yourself in the fictional universe. All the important ships are available for you to fly including the TIE Fighter, X-Wing, TIE Interceptor, TIE Bomber, TIE Reaper, U-Wing, B-Wing, and the TIE Defender. Expect about ten hours of space dogfighting gameplay in the story mode, and you can continue the fighting online with other players.