A whole new way to game
The best virtual reality (VR) games just keep getting better. Two years ago, the staying power of VR may have been questionable. But, developers keep launching new VR games that blow our minds even more than the last ones. With price drops on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, it’s also easier than ever to transport yourself to new virtual worlds.
While we’re still waiting to see more Triple-A developers really commit to VR with fully fledged titles built from the ground up, there are plenty of smaller developers making dazzling games for VR. And, some bigger devs are at least showing VR some favor by porting over popular titles, like Skyrim.
As VR continues to pick up speed, expect new titles to replace old ones as the best VR games on offer, and check back in to see which rank among our favorites. For now, here are our top VR games of 2018, each of which is definitely worth a peek if you have a headset, and some of which are worth going out and buying everything you need to experience them.
[Update: We’ve updated our list of best VR games with a number of new titles. Robo Recall is an immaculate VR experience from the makers of Borderlands. End Space is a space dogfighting game for Samsung Gear VR. Sprint Vector is a must-see for Mario Kart fans. Echo Arena is a new sport made for VR. Skyrim, meanwhile, needs no introduction. We’ve also updated details on games that have been made available for more platforms.]
Whether you get queasy in VR easily or not, there’s something here for everyone, so grab your VR headset, and get ready for a ride with the best VR games around.
Check out the video below to see the latest in VR tech!
Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article
- While you’re at it, we’ve spotted the best VR headsets as well
Robo Recall (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Robo Recall is one of the most polished experiences for VR. It sets you in a futuristic world where robots are everywhere, and everything is hunky dory until an AI infects all of the robots after the AI itself goes mad upon discovering the internet and its troves of kitten videos. Did we mention this game was made by the same studio as Borderlands?
Robo Recall is half comical farce, as you’re tasked with “recalling” (read: obliterating) all of the malfunctioning robots. The other half is an insane shooter, where swarms of robots attack, and you use an arsenal of upgradeable weapons, your handy ability to teleport and slow time, and a whole lot of creativity to take them out.
There’s nothing quite like grabbing ahold of a robot and using it as a shield in your left hand, while you throw the gun in your right hand at an enemy only to catch the gun as it bounces off their face and then fire away. Despite the high intensity, this remains a fairly comfortable game for those who experience motion sickness in VR.
Though Robo Recall is an Oculus exclusive, it’s so good that it’s definitely worth the effort for HTC Vive owners to figure out how to play Oculus games.
Echo Arena (Oculus Rift exclusive)
Echo Arena is an entirely new sport invented just for VR, and entirely free for Oculus Rift owners. In the game, teams of robots jet around a zero-gravity environment, trying to grab a disc and score points by throwing the disk through the opposing team’s goal.
What may sound like a simple game is made all the more brilliant by the ways players can interact. Using Oculus Touch controls, players can get into a bout of fisticuffs with opposing players, stunning them with a blow to the head. Another core skill in the game is riding another player, and throwing yourself forward off them to achieve insane speeds. It’s a wild sport unlike anything we’ve played before. And, at the low, low cost of $0, it’s an easy top pick.
Skyrim VR (Multiplatform)
At this point, Skyrim should need no introduction. It’s been released, and released, and released again. This time, it’s come to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR, and, in doing so, it offers the biggest adventure game we’ve ever seen in VR.
Not only do you get to re-live the entire base game of Skyrim in VR, but the game includes the Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn DLC as well. Even if Skyrim VR isn’t exactly perfect, having some dated graphics (that can be improved with mods) and not being designed for VR from the ground up, it’s still an adventure easily worth diving into.
Sprint Vector (Multiplatform)
Sprint Vector is unique among racing video games in that you’re actually going to get a workout playing it. The game thrusts you into the role of a racer (your character is literally abducted and forced to race) on a variety of alien worlds. For you to succeed, you have to actually swing your arms around in the real world to accelerate your character and reach top speeds.
Sprint Vector is cartoony, and features Mario Kart-like power-ups for gaining a competitive edge. If you’re looking to have a bit of fun and break a nice sweat, Sprint Vector is a great pick. We felt the burn after just a couple races, and our fitness trackers would surely have applauded us if we’d raced through all 21 of the game’s courses.
End Space (Gear VR exclusive)
Though the space for compelling mobile VR games is getting left behind by full-fledged PC and console VR experiences, there’s still some fun to be had for Samsung Gear VR owners. End Space is a good example of this. It puts you in a spaceship, and let’s you have a dogfighting experience akin to Eve: Valkyrie.
VR is well suited for games that involve a cockpit, as the separation between ship controls and your view as the pilot makes for a much more engrossing experience. End Space understands that, and delivers.
Moss (PlayStation VR exclusive)
After a wait that seemed to last this side of forever, Moss finally landed on PlayStation VR in February 2018. Quill, the heroine of this tale may be pint-sized (and literally have a tail), but Moss uses size to its advantage by giving players the perspective of its rodent protagonist.
A family-friendly VR adventure, you'll guide Quill through forests and ruins, direct her past enemies and take direct control of environmental elements to solve puzzles. The purpose is to save Quill's uncle, and by giving you dual control over a hero avatar and as an omnipotent influence on her surroundings, it's the perfect way to take advantage of the power of VR.
Elite: Dangerous (Multiplatform)
It may be over thirty years old, but the Elite franchise is still alive and kicking, thanks to creator David Braben's fight to reacquire 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 and connected. Elite: Dangerous is a game best experienced online and in VR.
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, at least in the sense 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. While one player works to defuse a bomb, the others have to provide clear instructions on how to do so.
Demanding some intense cooperation from your peers, 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, the Oculus Rift version must be paired with a controller.
Job Simulator (Multiplatform)
In the year 2050, 21st century careers – like "chef" and "mechanic" – naturally, no longer exist, having been replaced years prior by the likes of programmers and the AI they create. Job Simulator takes it upon itself to transform the jobs of the modern day into museum exhibitions to be experienced as simulations by the player.
Of course, this means the museum, which doubles as a theme park, is operated by robots who can't quite recall things accurately. As a chef, for example, pizza 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 seasoned with a uniquely sardonic twist.
Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality (Multiplatform)
Mechanically, Rick and Morty Simulator: Virtual Rick-ality is very similar to Owlchemy Labs' previous VR game, Job Simulator.
But beyond the simple puzzle-come-adventure-game mechanics of combining objects in your environment to solve puzzles is the same razer-sharp wit that makes Job Simulator such an essential VR experience, and now it's even better thanks to the voice-acting chops of Rick and Morty star Justin Roiland.
Whether Virtual Rick-ality is an essential experience will depend entirely on whether you're a fan of the show or not. If you've ever enjoyed the cartoon then you owe it to yourself to try the VR game, but if you've yet to give it a watch, or if you've done so and aren't a fan of its irreverent brand of humor, then the Rick and Morty Simulator might be one to miss.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PlayStation VR exclusive)
With most of even the best VR games being bite-sized, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a breath of fresh air, even if it’s a simultaneously horrific one. Despite the ability to play it otherwise on PC, Xbox One and PS4 proper, this is the first installment in the Resident Evil series that you could say was designed with virtual reality in mind. That’s because, unlike the entries before it, Resident Evil 7 is played using a first-person perspective.
Don’t assume you can just run and gun your way through the game, however, as Capcom has taken Resident Evil back to its survival horror roots with Resident Evil 7. As such, you’ll have to think tactically about how you manage to survive encounters with the game’s freaky enemies. As Ethan Winters, a resident of Dulvey, Louisiana whose wife went missing three years prior, you’ll be tasked with exploring a creaky old deserted house in an effort to find her.
The silver lining is that there’s only one location throughout the game, so don’t expect anything too chaotic beyond a generous helping of jump scares.
Eagle Flight (Multiplatform)
Remember that early launch game on the Nintendo 64 where you soared through the clouds and jumped through both literal and figurative hoops to complete objectives? Eagle Flight is like Pilotwings but you play as a minimalistically rendered eagle instead of an uncanny caricature of a what a person should look like.
Available for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, Ubisoft’s VR debut Eagle Flight gives players the chance to take to the skies and explore Paris like never before: 50 years after humanity has died out. Even better, pair up with a few buddies and you can engage in dog, err, bird fights in one of two multiplayer modes.
Batman: Arkham VR (Multiplatform)
Though the franchise may have already concluded on conventional platforms, Batman: Arkham VR is the follow-up to Arkham Knight virtually none of us were expecting. Not long after Rocksteady Studios revealed its third entry in the Batman Arkham universe would be its last, the developer announced this exclusive to PlayStation VR that would later make its way to all three headsets.
Batman: Arkham VR is more of a self-contained detective story than a canonical sequel or prequel to the established Arkham mythos. You won’t be knocking goons unconscious with a VR-reimagined version of Rocksteady’s signature combat mechanics. However, what you can expect is not much more than a 90-minute, DLC-sized story mission at a fraction of the cost of a full-priced game.
Arizona Sunshine (Multiplatform)
Lengthy VR experiences are pretty thin on the ground as it stands, and that's part of what makes Arizona Sunshine such an enjoyable experience.
The game, which sees you exploring a zombie-infested Wild West, is a refreshingly lengthy experience that you can really sink your teeth into, which contrasts with the more arcade-like experiences offered by other games.
Movement is handled by teleporting yourself around the environment which handily allows you to cover great distances without motion sickness, and you reload and change weapons by moving your weapon to your ammo belt.
Out of any of the experiences we've played so far, Arizona Sunshine feels like what VR games might eventually become once developers have the time and money to craft full-length virtual reality experiences.
But in the short term searching old mine shafts with a six-shooter in one hand and a blinking flashlight in the other is just plain cool, even if you'll have to keep your play sessions to half an hour at a time just to hold your nerve.
Surgeon Simulator 2013 (Multiplatform)
Like Alien Isolation, Surgeon Simulator 2013 is also centered around aliens. Instead of fleeing from them, though, you're chipping away at their insides. Similar to objectives in Job Simulator, Surgeon Simulator 2013 banks on your incompetence at performing advanced surgical procedures, such as heart and brain transplants, exacerbated only by the unique interface of a VR headset.
The game supports VR natively with Oculus Rift. A separate version, entitled Surgeon Simulator VR: Meet the Medic, is available as a free Steam download for HTC Vive. A newer and fully multi-platform version of the game is also available on Steam and the PlayStation store.
Although it’s merely in early access for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, Gunheart is a co-op shooter built specifically with VR headsets in mind.
Clearly drawing inspiration from Borderlands, in Gunheart, you and your friends will blast alien bugs in the face in order to collect loot and upgrade your arsenal of weapons and upgrade abilities. Featuring hours of insect-riddled combat, Gunheart ditches the reluctant teleportation mechanics seen in other VR games in favor of a thrilling way to fast-travel.
Complemented by heavy concentrations of ordnance including everything from auto-locking SMGs to laser crossbows, Gunheart is every bit as much about transportation as it is bloodshed. Portraying a group of robotic bounty hunters, your squad of teammates can move quickly and surreptitiously either to avoid attacks or inflict them faster.
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 also available on the Samsung Gear VR, with all of the Oculus version's features in tow. Windows Mixed Reality platforms are also supported. What's more, there's even 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.
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.
Waving around the two Vive wands 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?
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 Icelandic 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, look no further than Eve: Valkyrie.
SportsBar VR (Multiplatform)
Ever wanted to play pool with your friends without leaving the house to go to a bar? With SportsBar VR, nothing about the billiards experience is compromised – yes, even beer-chugging remains intact. At long last, the VR proves you don't need a gamepad to play pool.
So get ready to throw barstools, chairs and empty beer bottles at the wall when you lose because SportsBar VR is the most comical and somehow realistic depiction of everyone's favorite tabletop sport. And, hey, it's not just pool you get to experience – developer Cherry Pop Games gives you the whole bar. Yes, you can even go for a few rounds of darts if you're so inclined.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Multiplatform)
Virtual reality gaming doesn't get much more social than this, a game in which you and three other players team up to pilot a Federation starship from the long running Star Trek franchise.
Although the game includes a single-player mode it's definitely an experience best enjoyed with friends, where you'll soon fall into a rhythm of anticipating each other's every need and tailoring your actions accordingly.
If you don't have friends with the same headset as you then you don't need to worry, as Ubisoft has also included cross-platform play, so PlayStation VR, Oculus, and Vive players should have no problem teaming up to tackle the Klingons together.
Assetto Corsa (Multiplatform)
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 and HTC Vive, and like Elite, it makes perfect sense to be able to look around when racing, whether rallying or in an F1.
Dear Esther (Oculus Rift exclusive)
VR is wonderful at providing a sense of presence in a world, even if interacting with the world can sometimes be difficult. 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.
Farpoint (PlayStation VR exclusive)
It may have taken a pricey PS VR Aim Controller to achieve, but with Farpoint, Sony has proven that a full-on first-person shooter campaign can feel right at home in VR. Clocking in at about 5 hours long, Farpoint doesn’t overstay its welcome, but don’t confuse longevity with quality. In every aspect, Farpoint feels like a fully furnished shooter, complete with a variety of enemies and analog stick options that add an additional layer of control to the experience.
Unlike a lot of other games built for VR, Farpoint won’t be confused for a tech demo. The story, told through fixed-camera cutscenes, isn’t exactly enthralling, but it is at least decently well-written. Plus, if solo shooting isn’t compelling enough, there’s two-player online co-op and challenge levels designed for players to compete for high scores. And if the Aim Controller gets too tiring, you can always switch back to a DualShock 4.
Raw Data (Multiplatform)
As far as VR showcases go, it doesn’t get much simpler than Raw Data, a first-person action game that puts you up against waves of enemies in a controlled environment. Don’t expect any overtly complex RPG elements added to the mix, however, as Raw Data prioritizes refined combat mechanics and digestible controls over gameplay variety.
Raw Data itself doesn’t consist of much more than choosing a hero and going in guns (or swords) blazing against hordes of challenging enemies. You don't have to go it alone either, as online co-op and PvP are both available. There’s so much attention to detail in Raw Data that picking up and loading your gun is a task in and of itself.
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. Subnautica isn't made specifically for VR, so the support is limited, but it's still an enticing dive into VR.
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, ostensibly dead genres.
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.
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.
Top VR game on our radar: Vacation Simulator
When Owlchemy Labs released Job Simulator in 2016, we were immediately enamored by its charm. In a world chock-full of shoddy ‘Simulator’ titles coming in from every direction, Job Simulator was a breath of fresh air. So, when Vacation Simulator was officially confirmed for this year, we momentarily contained our laughter in favor of anticipation.
Vacation Simulator aims to retain the same whimsical art style and tone of its predecessor, but with a more relaxation-based setting. As anyone who partook in the joys of Job Simulator should already be familiar with, Vacation Simulator takes place in a futuristic world whose nostalgia lies in the past times of what we think of as modern humanity. So, get ready to experience sunburn just like the citizens of the 21st century did before you.