Now's a good a time as any to fully immerse yourself in a strange new world, and with VR tech better than ever, you'll have a hard time telling truth from fiction.
Virtual reality gaming has really come into its own in the last few years, as developers have begun to focus entire teams on creating full fat games set in virtual worlds. It's a far cry from short-lived VR experiences or more gimmicky sandbox takes, and with titles like Half-Life: Alyx taking the VR controls and running with them, the future is looking bright.
VR fans can now enjoy a host of games on different platforms, some of which rival the best console games with engaging stories, emotional beats, and tense combat that tap into the potential of the VR device. It's not enough for a game to be VR compatible, now it's got to feel like the game is meant to be played in VR. With the latest EA Play announcement confirming the space battle sim Star Wars Squadrons will be fully playable in VR, it looks like the gaming community has fully embraced the power of virtual reality.
Available on: Oculus Rift, Rift S, Quest (via Link cable), HTC Vive, Cosmos, Valve Index
Right off the bat, we need to bring up arguably the best VR experience available today: Half-Life: Alyx. Released this March, the VR-exclusive Half-Life: Alyx takes place five years before the events of Half-Life 2 and has you play as ally to Gordon Freeman and Eli Vance's daughter, Alyx.
Alyx might be the most high-profile triple-A game to be released exclusively on VR platforms, and playing it is proof that having that singular development focus pays off. With smart mechanic innovations and an immaculately detailed world to interact with, Half-Life: Alyx is a more-than-worthy follow-up to Half-Life 2, even if it's not exactly the Half-Life 3 we're all still waiting for.
Available on: PSVR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (via Epic Games Store)
Tetsuya Mizuguchi is a mastermind. The man understands synesthesia, and the potential of music to create resonant emotion. That’s why Tetris Effect is such a holistic experience of mind, body and soul that should be one of the first games you run to once you pick up a VR headset. Those who think that this is another Tetris game will be sorely mistaken when their goggles are steaming up with tears. As well as a robust number of typical Tetris game modes, the star of the show is Journey Mode, a campaign that explores various elements of human history, tied together through song and (sometimes) verse. Every twist of the tetromino is a musical note, with each line clear being an endorphin burst. You are the instrument in Tetris Effect, and it’s one of those games that really benefits from the enclosed nature of VR. Turn the lights down, stick some good headphones on, and clear lines like it’s nobody's business. You won’t regret it!
Available on: PSVR, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift
Given that Superhot is one of the most revolutionary indie smash hits of recent years, it makes sense that when the action was grafted into VR, the experience was only elevated. Superhot VR doesn’t take the easy route of porting the same story and missions into the virtual realm, it actually moulds an engaging new tale whilst keeping the same genius gimmick the PC game is known for. In Superhot, time moves when you do, which is perfect if you want to feel like Neo or Max Payne, ducking and weaving bullets like a boxer. A surprisingly effective exercise session as well as a video game, Superhot VR is frantic, haptic and most importantly great fun as you thrash around in your living room, take careful shots at your enemies and punch and disarm from all angles when you’re surrounded.
Batman: Arkham VR
Available on: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index
Rocksteady’s Batman Arkham series is widely regarded as one of the finest storytelling feats in games over the past ten years, and it’s stripped back port to VR somehow manages to weave a gripping tale just like it’s console counterparts. As well as… you know… the escapist fantasy of becoming The Batman, there are tons of twists and turns in this head-mounted tale, invoking a rogue’s gallery of famous villains. From unlocking the Batcave in Wayne Manor to exploring the mysterious sewers under Gotham City, you’ll solve puzzles, use detective vision and wallop goons, reaching down into your virtual utility belt to nab your batarangs and curl them into the path of foes with satisfying results. As per the Arkham games, there are also plenty of secrets to find which increase the replayability of this essential VR game.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Available on: PSVR
Working to disarm a bomb while receiving panicked instructions from your friends is even more intense in VR. For the uninitiated, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes in PSVR tasks the headset-wearer with diffusing a ticking time bomb at the direction of other players reading off complex instructions from a separate screen. It's available on non-VR platforms, but in VR the person disarming the bomb is the only one who can see the bomb, making the situation more unpredictable for the other players. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes on PSVR is hectic, challenging, and ultimately one of the best party games you can play in VR and otherwise.
Blood and Truth
Available on: PSVR
Now regarded as one of Sony’s flagship PSVR titles, Blood and Truth started as a spinoff from the demo disc caper The London Heist and quickly developed into its own game, with a celebrity ensemble of voice actors and some tactical that feels much more nuanced than your typical VR shooting gallery. A love letter to the city of London, you’ll explore spooky museums, high-rise flats and mob-controlled casinos as you work to win back your honour in this crime family tragedy. This is all complemented by the incredible soundtrack, a careful mix of soaring orchestral sounds with the exquisite grittiness of grime producer Zdot. Boy Better Know’s very own JME even makes an appearance to score the chaos with his bars.
Resident Evil 7
Available on: PSVR
Capcom reinvented Resident Evil in several ways with Resident Evil 7. Not only did it present the game in first-person for the first time ever, it also lets players see it all in terrifying virtual reality. As arguably the first killer app for VR, the game still holds up today, years since launch, because no genre is better suited for VR than horror, and among recent horror games, few are as paralyzingly spooky as Resident Evil 7. The setting feels different from other games in the series too, capturing more of a backwoods Texas Chain Saw aesthetic, so even if you're a Resident Evil alum, there's little hope that you can shed the scares so simply in Resident Evil 7 because there's little familiarity to be had in the eerie Baker home, and when the many scares are happening right in front of your face, they're all the more terrifying.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners
Available on: Oculus Rift, Rift S, Quest (via Link cable), HTC Vive, Cosmos, Valve Index, PSVR coming spring 2020
Before it arrived, few seemed to expect Saints and Sinners to be any good. As a Walking Dead spinoff in the world of VR, it was comprised of two things people are often skeptical about. But all that skepticism was proven wrong when the game launched and became a hit. The combat is gritty and unnerving, capturing the claustrophobic scenes we've seen so often on the TV series, in the comics, and in other games. In a way, it's almost a fitting zombie apocalypse simulator. Luckily, getting bit in Saints and Sinners isn't as fatal as it would be if Robert Kirkman's hordes ever actually started ambulating, but thanks to VR, it truly feels just as genuine - and genuinely scary.
Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
Available on: PSVR
Another PSVR exclusive that is reason alone to buy a headset, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission is an adorable Ape Escape-adjacent platformer from Sony’s Japan Studio that will delight anybody with an imagination, regardless of age. Doing away with the (admittedly ancient and unreliable) Move controllers, Rescue Mission is perhaps the most holistic use of the Dualshock 4 since the controller’s launch. Astro essentially lives inside the touch bar, and after swiping to get him out at the start of each mission, you must unlock and gesture to utilize his special abilities so solve puzzles and save his lost robot friends, with the player acting as a VR overseer in this vibrant world, which takes little Astro from underwater depths to mystic mountaintops and even haunted houses. It’s the best VR platformer you can buy and has tons of replayability, especially if you plan to save every single bot (and who wouldn’t they’re viciously cute).
Rigs: Mechanized Combat League
Rigs is the type of experimental game that is so easy to root for on virtual reality systems, even if they don't always work out. Luckily, in this case, it works out. Rigs is an imaginative future sport that is a bit like playing quidditch with giant mechs, and yes it controls as well as you'd hope, and thus is as exciting as that sounds. Rigs does a fantastic job of making you feel like you're actually in the futuristic league, using transitions like when you step onto the field with crowd noise pumping in loudly, and plenty of fanfare to celebrate your every scoring play. Most of us won't get to play professional sports in our life, but Rigs simulates that really well all while creating its own new sport in the process. It's colorful, atmospheric, and exciting. Taking home the championship online or in the single-player season mode is always a great time.
Available on: PSVR, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift
You’ve most likely heard of Beat Saber, but just because it’s incredibly popular doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a total system seller. A very basic concept executed with care, Beat Saber is a rhythm game where you slash your way through tracks with two wrist-mounted lightsabers. Since becoming incredibly popular we’ve seen track packs from artists such as Virtual Self, Panic at the Disco! And even virtual band K/DA from Riot’s League of Legends. If you’re playing on PC, there’s also an incredible modding community behind the game, with custom tracks and dual-blade lightsabers amongst other fascinating spins on the formula. Beat Saber manages to elevate songs you think you know into vibration-led sensory experiences that will make you appreciate them even further.
No Man's Sky Beyond
Available on: PSVR, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift
No Man’s Sky’s fumbled launch was a controversial learning moment for developer Hello Games, who then admirably worked to fix the game over the ensuing years, which has blossomed the original concept into something particularly beautiful and addicting. The Beyond update brought uncompromising VR to the game, another delight for invested fans. Aside from the stunning feeling of boosting to warp speed out of a planet’s orbit, you can go about your business with the added benefit of a head-mounted display. The game is a masterclass in making you feel insignificant, in that same beautiful way as when you look up at the stars in real life. Whilst the controls take a little getting used to, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more replayable game in VR, especially given the scale and scope of the procedural universe.
L.A Noire: The VR Case Files
Lords of detail Rockstar Games made their first foray into VR with a side story addendum to the much-loved crime drama L.A. Noire. Whilst every mirror makes Cole Phelps look like a geriatric buffoon, the basic gameplay of Rockstar’s gritty detective simulator translates to VR with ease. Small details like literally throwing your hands up side by side to make Phelps run after crooks or the ability to write clues and etch villains with your notebook give the world a lifelike feeling. As long as you’re partial to the ambience you can get lost in the variety of verbs on display here, from shooting to inspecting and simply driving around the city. The facial rigging is still hard to beat too.
Available on: PSVR, Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Bethesda’s flagship VR title does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s Skyrim, fully ported to VR with no questions asked. You can’t get much better than that in terms of bang for your buck. Sure, it’s about as janky as Skyrim itself, but really, the chaos of a Bethesda RPG is often half the fun, right? Wallop mudcrabs with your fists and feel the force feedback like you’ve always wanted to. Shout Fus Ro Dah at a walrus in real life and in-game. The possibilities are endless, honestly and the tundra-laden world is what you make of it. Just make sure you don’t get lost in there on your Dragonborn quest to Valhalla.
Available on: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Valve Index
Last but not least, we have VR Chat, one of the most recognizable virtual reality games for its ridiculous pop culture character skins and user-built environments. Basically, a big copyright lawsuit waiting to happen, you can wander around a number of custom-designed spaces from beaches to spaceships and even Tae Takemi’s office from Persona 5 if you so wish. A limitless chatroom where you can find friends and embark on adventures, playing custom games and connecting with other users from around the globe, VR Chat is very much an experiment in virtual social conduct that is paving the way for an exciting future of massively multiplayer virtual reality games. Grab a couple of friends and explore, you might be surprised by the amount of fun you can have just hanging out at a bar or sledging down a snow-covered hill.
See also: Best PSVR Games to play on your PlayStation virtual reality headset right now