It all started with a Kickstarter. In 2012 a fledgling VR company raised $2.5million – 10 times its original goal – to make something called the “Oculus Rift.” Seven years later Oculus has grown to become one of the most powerful virtual reality titans in the world. The Rift S is the most recent headset to hit shelves, and packs some nifty features like in-built headphones, head-tracking, and a 115 degree field view. So what should you be playing on such a piece of kit? Here are 10 of the best Oculus Rift games you can get right now.
1. Superhot VR
Gifs and memes have immortalised the infamous scene in the Matrix where Keanau bends backwards like a palm tree in the breeze as bullets soar across his navel and forehead. Well, now there’s a game for that too. Each Superhot level is a puzzle where you've got to take out armed baddies before they overwhelm you, but the catch here is time moves oddly. Stand still and it freezes with bullets suspended in midair; move a muscle and the world moves with you. Superhot is a clever spatial braintease that, when you get it right, makes you feel like you're The One.
2. Beat Saber
What's better than being a jedi? A jedi… but a musical one. Beat Saber has you dual-wielding red and blue lightsabers and slicing coloured blocks with more gusto than you ever cut those melons in Fruit Ninja. At its core Beat Saber is a rhythm game, so those who racked up high scores on Guitar Hero will be right at home here chopping blocks as they fly past in dark neon-lit arenas. There's a single-player campaign, but party mode is where Beat Saber truly shines pitting pals against each other for high scores as the headset swiftly changes hands between songs.
3. Star Wars: Vader Immortal
OK, time to become an actual jedi. Vader Immortal hits the ground running when your ship is seized by an imperial vessel with a certain asthmatic baddie on board. A 45 minute quest quickly unfolds that does an excellent job of combining tactile puzzles with some good old fashioned saber swinging. It’s also refreshing to play a VR game with a well-written story that explores some intriguing areas of the Star Wars universe. Vader Immortal plunges you face first into a galaxy far, far away, so it's a delightful adventure for anyone who knows whether parsecs measure distance or time.
4. Batman: Arkham VR
The dread of motion sickness makes roundhouse kicking the Joker as the caped crusader an impossibility, so Batman Arkham VR's developers had a rethink. The result is a game that requires your noggin' instead of your fists, because Nightwing has gone missing and you'll need all of Bruce Wayne's detective gadgets to figure out what's happened. Arkham VR is one of the tightest stories on Oculus, with plenty of moments that'll make you gasp in delight - and sometimes fear - as it treads old ground in new ways. The familiar scene of Bruce Wayne’s parents’ encounter with a gangster in an alleyway, for instance, feels very different when you’re the one standing in the child’s shoes.
5. Lone Echo
Space is a bit of a blank slate when it comes to gaming. Its infinitesimal size provides the perfect playground for stories ranging from the epic to the kooky, and Lone Echo definitely falls in the former camp. This space adventure is the first VR sci-fi adventure to really crack non-nauseous movement; you reach out and grab hatches to pull and bounce your way round a station in a way that feels like you have total control. Its seven hour story is compelling, but also gives you choices and the freedom to explore. Lone Echo is an exclusive title for the Rift and Touch headsets, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better looking trip into space in virtual reality.
6. Vacation Simulator
Job Simulator was a breakout success and Vacation Simulator follows in its footsteps. The first game followed robots trying to understand how employment worked in the 21st century, and its sequel centres on the good old fashioned holiday. Here you’ve got free rein to explore three vacation spots - a beach, forest, and mountains - to take part in a variety of mini games designed to help the confused robots understand why and how humans vacationed. The experience is bright, cartoony, and full of the belly laughs that made Job Simulator such a smash hit - but there’s also a lot more story here, which is a welcome (and satisfying) addition.
7. Robo Recall
Power fantasies are a mainstay of games culture, and Robo Recall’s combat certainly cranks the badass factor. Projectiles can be plucked from the air and flung back to the enemy that fired them, guns are blasted at breakneck speeds, and bots are easily dismembered with your Touch Controllers up-close. Robo Recall sets you up with the action-packed task of “recalling” slews of defective robots like Deckard once retired replicants - and boy does it feel good. The Touch Controllers rumble, the robots recoil, and deliciously realised sound effects crackle in your ears with each blast. At its most basic, Robo Recall is a shooting gallery, but the physical sensation of its mechanics earn it a place among the greats.
8. The Exorcist: Legion VR
Ask yourself this, are you afraid of jump scares? Because if so, make sure you have a wide Guardian Area for this game. Each of The Exorcist VR’s five chapters plunges you into a new police case ranging from grisly murders to strange supernatural occurrences. It’s one of the best horror experiences available in VR right now largely because it cleverly finds new ways to make the most of all the design possibilities virtual reality has to offer. 3D spatial audio makes you feel like you’re hearing voices in your head, for example, and you’ll have to physically lean and peer around corners - despite not knowing what awaits on the other side. The Exorcist is only for the bravest of players, so consider yourself warned.
It might be still in early access, but Panoptic is worth checking out. This 1v1 asymmetrical multiplayer VR game pits a PC player against whoever dons the VR headset. The person in VR steps into the shoes of the Overseer - a colossal prison guard who sits at the centre of each level armed with a devastating laser beam. The Challenger’s job on PC is to try to avoid the Overseer’s blistering gaze while sneaking around trying to destroy each of its power sources. It’s a tense game of cat and mouse, and ridiculous fun to play with a pal swapping roles at a whim. There are currently only three levels in total, but keep your eyes peeled for more being released down the line.
VR doesn’t always have to be first-person. In Moss you’re the omniscient Reader guiding a little mouse called Quill through the closest experience you’ll find to living a storybook tale. Quill is on a quest to save her uncle after their kingdom was overthrown by a fire-breathing snake, and you’ll need to work with her to navigate puzzles, platforms and all sorts of obstacles. Moss is one of the most charming games on the platform and sets a high bar for storytelling in VR where you truly feel like you’re building a relationship with the main character. Fingers and toes crossed for a sequel.