Picking the best VR games at the moment is tough. Sure, there are loads of titles to choose from on both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that may even make their way to HoloLens down the line. But, games like Job Simulator and The Climb – titles specifically authored for the virtual reality experience – are substantially more enticing than some of our favorite existing titles that don't translate quite as seamlessly to VR.
Nevertheless, what we're focused on here are games; more specifically, the best games on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and mobile VR platforms that you can enjoy right now. Inclined to disagree? Let us know your favorite VR games in the comments section below.
VR games on our radar
Virtual reality is still an emerging medium, and developers are only just getting to grips with it. Here are our top picks of the best VR games on the horizon.
There will probably come a time when we're sick of zombie games played in VR; for now, though, the thought of getting close enough to smell the rotting flesh of the undead hordes is strangely alluring. In development by Vertigo Games, Arizona Sunshine asks the classic question of run or gun in a graphically impressive zombie apocalypse setting.
As an unofficial follow-up to the Wing Commander series, Star Citizen is promising to combine gutsy first-person shooting on space stations and planets, exploration of its crazy-large universe in a variety of hand-crafted spaceships and a huge storyline with a cast of movie stars. Let's just hope it delivers on its ambitious premise upon its (eventual) release.
If you hated everything about Assassin's Creed III save for the Eagle Flight component, we have some good news for you. Ubisoft's first VR title, appropriately dubbed Eagle Flight, takes that idea and applies it to a full-fledged game for unspecified "Virtual Reality Devices." Interestingly enough, Eagle Flight takes you on a trip through an alternate version of Paris, France that's completely unoccupied by humans. Not only is the concept unique, but one glance at the art style will leave you craving more.
Superhot, described by its developer as "the FPS where time only moves when you move" is coming to Oculus Rift as Superhot VR, complete with dual-wielding action only improved by the still-unreleased Oculus Touch controllers. The "reimagined and redesigned" VR game will release later this year, surely to its fair share of Twitch coverage.
1. Elite: Dangerous (Multiplatform)
It may be over thirty years old, but the Elite franchise is still kicking, thanks to creator David Braben's endless fight at reattaining the license.
Drawing elements from the first game – e.g. trading, exploring and engaging in combat within a massive, procedurally-generated universe – Elite: Dangerous is an Elite game for the 21st century crowd. It's even represented as such in its depictions of our galaxy in the future.
Oh, and did we mention the gameplay is massively-multiplayer? Navigating the next frontier has never felt so real.
2. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Multiplatform)
Assuming you know somebody generous enough to print the 23-page manual, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is the new Mario Party… In that it will make your friends hate you. Developed by Steal Crate Games, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes requires careful attention from a recommended 2 to 6 players, one of which defuses a bomb while the others have to provide clear instructions on how to defuse said bomb.
Requiring some intense cooperation, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a fun game with the right group of people, and it's even more enjoyable in VR using either a Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Rift headset. Keep in mind that while a gamepad is optional with the Gear VR version, you need to pair your Oculus Rift with a controller.
3. Job Simulator (Multiplatform)
In the year 2050, naturally 21st century careers like "chef" and "mechanic" no longer exist, having been replaced years prior by the likes of AI programmers and so forth. Job Simulator, then, takes the jobs of the modern day and exhibits them in a museum, thereby simulating the commonplace jobs of today.
Of course, this means the museum (slash theme park?) is operated by robots who don't quite get things so accurate. As a chef, a pizza for example, is made by microwaving a slice of bread toppled with a block of cheese. In total, there are four jobs to select from: Office Worker, Gourmet Chef, Store Clerk and Auto Mechanic, each season with a uniquely sardonic twist.
4. Surgeon Simulator 2013 (Multiplatform)
Like Alien Isolation, Surgeon Simulator 2013 also focuses on aliens. This time, however, you're chipping away at their insides. Similar to objectives in Job Simulator, Surgeon Simulator 2013 is all about your incompetence at performing advanced surgical procedures, such as heart and brain transplants, exacerbated only by the VR interface.
The game supports VR natively with Oculus Rift, though it requires a pair of Razer Hydras to attempt heart transplants. A separate version, entitled Surgeon Simulator VR: Meet the Medic is available for HTC Vive for free on Steam.
5. Euro Truck Simulator 2 (Multiplatform)
Ever wanted to deliver frozen chickens from Innsbruck to Bad Kissingen in an eighteen wheeler? Someone, who should probably be using their genius for the betterment of mankind, has perfectly replicated the art of being a truck driver, letting players fulfil their long-haul longings.
The VR experience has been updated to work well with the Oculus DK2 and lets you look all around your cab, as well lean out of the window to look behind you. You'll still crash your semi into the hard shoulder on a regular basis, but that's your fault, not the game's.
6. Minecraft VR (Multiplatform)
It's official: the world's most popular block-em-up has finally arrived on VR. Minecraft Windows 10 Edition is now out on the Oculus Rift, but you won't need to splash out $599 / £499 / AU$649 (the cost of the Rift) for the experience. That's because it's already out on Samsung's second-generation Gear VR, with all of the Oculus version's features in tow. Plus, there's a theater view in case it makes you sick just thinking about 360 degrees of lego brick terrain.
We're not sure what excites us most about exploring Minecraft in VR — legging it from creepers in the dead of night or burrowing into the landscape like goggle-wearing, pickaxe-wielding mole. A bit of both, probably.
7. Hover Junkers (Multiplatform)
Hover Junkers started revving our VR engines when its first gameplay videos surfaced a couple of years ago. Its story makes little sense: Earth has nearly run out of water, so naturally everybody is pelting it around on crudely made hover barges firing rounds into each others' heads. We'll forgive that, though, as Junkers' gameplay is manic multiplayer action – and great fun to boot.
Using the Vive's two controllers and your headset to look and move around, you have to shoot the enemy while taking cover on your barge to avoid incoming fire. The sheer freedom of movement makes the game very different to non-VR shooters - you can troll people by flipping the bird and even shoot yourself in the head, should you wish to. That's the videogame moment we've all been waiting for, right?
8. Eve: Valkyrie (Multiplatform)
Yes, Eve: Valkyrie will make you feel at least a little bit sick. But isn't any epic gaming experience worth a bit of pain? What started out as a spectacular tech demo for the developers of Eve: Online has evolved into a fast, squad-based dogfighting simulator set in deep space.
That focus on combat allows the game to be much less realistic and more visceral than its competitors - and it's more arcadey as a result. It may not be able to deliver long-term thrills, but if you're looking to be dazzled by what the Oculus Rift has to offer at this early stage, look no further than this.
9. Pool Nation VR (HTC Vive exclusive)
Ever wanted to play pool with your friends without leaving the house to go to a bar? Well now you can, beer-chugging included. With Pool Nation VR, nothing about the billiards experience is compromised. Finally, thanks to the HTC Vive's waggle wand controllers, you're no longer limited to the analog gamepads of the past.
So get ready to throw barstools, chairs and empty beer bottles at the wall when you lose because Pool Nation VR is the most comical and somehow simultaneously realistic depiction of everyone's favorite tabletop sport. And, hey, it's not just pool you get to experience – it's the whole bar experience. Yes, you can even go for a few rounds of darts if you so choose.
10. Alien Isolation (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Creative Assembly's masterful conversion of the Alien movie into a survival game was an unexpected success of last year, allowing players to take the role of Ripley's daughter, attempting to survive another xenomorph event and discover what happened to her mother.
The long-promised Oculus support wasn't released with the game, but exists in the game's code and has been reimplemented by modders. It makes for an utterly terrifying and hardcore experience, with players trying to stealth their way through the grimpunk space station, but it's mostly short-lived due to the alien's efficiency.
11. Assetto Corsa (Oculus Rift exclusive)
I've never really been a petrolhead - though I do know that red ones go faster - so I can't comment on how good a game Assetto Corsa is.
Suffice to say that my Petrolhead friends say it's one of the best car games out there, and the reviews agree. The key point is its moddability, which has allowed gamers to add all sorts of fancy new cars and tracks onto its superb driving system.
It supports Oculus natively and, like Elite, it makes perfect sense to be able to look around when racing, whether rallying or in an F1.
12. Dear Esther (Oculus Rift exclusive)
VR is wonderful at providing a sense of presence in a world - but not so good, as yet, at interacting with it. Which is perfect for 'walking simulators' like this.
Dear Esther is an exploration game, where you walk all over a remote Scottish island, plumbing its depths and heights, as your character whinges about his life. It may sound like an art-house adaption of a J.G. Ballard novel, but the game is utterly beautiful to wander.
13. Half-Life 2 (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Half-Life 3 confirmed! Well, not quite. But, if you like unresolved cliffhangers that are over a decade old, you'll love Valve's 2004 story-driven shooter. And, according to Road to VR, you can now play the game on Oculus Rift or HTC Vive using a relatively painless workaround.
Though the game's then-impressive physics haven't quite aged as well as other games in its class, donning a pair of early 2000s rose-colored glasses and a VR headset could make outfitting that Gordon Freeman suit feel a little less archaic.
14. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR (Oculus Rift
The unofficial sequel to 1989's Shufflepuck Cafe takes the physical game of Shufflepuck (AKA Air Hockey) to the furthest possible point.
Shufflepuck Cantina takes place in an interstellar casino, where you play against a charismatic range of aliens and robots with a huge array of special moves on a range of bizarre tables.
The casino is just charming to wander, packed with unearthly sights and detail, and fun challengers to natter to. Warning: you'll need to shut your eyes for the control-free intro, as it's utterly nausea-inducing.
15. Dying Light (Oculus Rift exclusive)
The unofficial follow-up to Dead Island from the creators of the same game was a surprisingly good take on the zombie survival action game, mingled with gruesome melee combat, fun parkour and a ton of other bits nicked from Dead Rising.
The VR version is still a bit shonky - the menus and buttons are unreadable and the camera control needs work - but it's a wonderful world to wander around, before zombies tear you apart. There will almost certainly be a separate VR release when the Vive and Oculus launch.
16. Subnautica (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Subnautica looks like it should be a simple diving game - but then you realise you don't recognise any of the 'fish'... or the sky or the sun.
It's actually a survival game on a distant ocean world, where you have to craft equipment, pilot submarines, and terraform the aquatic undersea for humankind - whilst surviving hostile wildlife, volcanoes, and aircraft-sized jellyfish. It's still in Early Access, so the Oculus Rift support is limited but effective.
17. Lucky's Tale (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Lucky's Tale is one of two games (the other being multiplayer dogfighting shooter EVE: Valkyrie) being bundled with the Oculus Rift, and it's an intriguing little platformer. Think Mario 64 spliced with Crash Bandicoot, viewed with a third-person camera angle that you can manipulate by moving your head, and you'd be halfway there.
The VR element lets you peek at more of the level as you go along, which sounds gimmicky but actually introduces an exploration element as you tilt your head to reveal secrets in the level. It may not blow you away like other VR games will, but Lucky's Tale proves that VR can breathe new life into old genres.
18. ADR1FT (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Remember that guy who worked for Microsoft and threw a fit on Twitter when he found out the Xbox One would require an online connection every 24 hours? Well now he's back with his own game which is, oddly enough, available on two separate Microsoft platforms (in addition to PS4).
ADR1FT is essentially Gravity: The Game, minus Sandra Bullock, which means it actually has the potential to be at least tolerable. How it works is simple, albeit thoroughly engaging and original. In a first-person view, you'll be tasked with navigating a zero gravity setting with an oxygen limit that's realistic enough to keep you from taking off and exploring too far.
Like an underwater level of a Sonic game set in space, you'll need to survive on as little oxygen as possible without letting your character die. To make matters even more challenging, you're simultaneously tasked with completing a series of puzzles throughout five different areas all while listening to a soundtrack that was composed by Adam Orth and the band Weezer. (Because why not?)
19. The Climb (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Not to be confused with the Miley Cyrus hit single, The Climb comes from Crytek, a developer widely known for making your graphics card sweat (see: 'But Can It Run Crysis?' meme). The Climb is no exception. Beautifully rendered scenery makes extreme hiking less of a chore in a game that's basically Uncharted without any of the combat. And that sounds rad.
If you're looking for the game to showcase VR to your distant relatives at a family event, don't exempt The Climb from your considerations.
20. Everest VR (HTC Vive exclusive)
Think you have what it takes to climb Mount Everest? Everest VR might cause you to rethink your confidence. Like The Climb, Everest VR is a literal climbing simulator. Only this time, you're pushed right in the middle of a mountain cold enough to freeze off your limbs.
Sure, Everest VR can't emulate the weather conditions over an HTC Vive, but what it does well is bringing a fierce reality to the forefront of a headset for the first time ever. Like the antithesis to a certain 1999 track by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, man, it's a cold one in Everest VR. Yet it's also a suspenseful and emotional one.
21. Shooting Showdown 2 (Gear VR exclusive)
Shooting Showdown 2 reimagines the first-person shooter concept for VR. You aim by tilting your head to move a crosshair in the middle of the screen, hitting a button on a Bluetooth controller to take out objects strewn across the level. They can be anything from shooting range targets to a robot carrying a bucket or traffic lights that require you to shoot the green light.
Regarded as one of the best games for the Samsung Gear VR, its head-to-head mode pits you against human opponents to see who can rack up the highest score.