The most promising virtual reality games

Some great VR games are already out there, but the grass is always greener on the other side of the release date.

Virtual reality has been in a perpetual state of being promising for years and years now. The hardware is good, but imagine how good it might be in a year, we say every year. This game is a great showcase of potential, but imagine what we'll see in a year.

It may be an undesirable state for the young medium, but in a lot of ways it mirrors how we felt about PC gaming back in the 90s. Each new game was exciting in itself, but also exciting for what it predicted. When we played Doom, we were imagining Quake. And when we played Quake, we were imagining, well, Quake 3, probably. And so while there are lots of good VR games out there now, we can't help but imagine what the VR games of tomorrow will be like. Here are a few of the games we're looking forward to most.

Arktika.1

Release date: 2017 | Works with: Oculus Touch | Website: 4a-games.com.mt

Cover shooters are a common use of VR so far, but Arktika.1 is especially exciting because it comes from Metro developers 4A. The studio's signature apocalyptic grime gets a new sheen in Arktika, with a sleeker, more futuristic vision of the end times that looks like it will push the limits of even high-end PCs.  4A also makes some of our favorite videogame guns and animations—The Bastard from Metro 2033 is a beautifully clunky weapon—and we look forward to finally manipulating their creations ourselves with Touch controllers, though it's a bit of a shame Vive owners are left out, at least for the time being.

Skyworld

Release date: 2017 | Works with: HTC Vive | Website: skyworld-game.com

When we first tried the Rift and Vive, we gravitated toward games and experiences that put us in the middle of strange worlds, but a surprising development has been how well strategy games work in VR. Peering down on little worlds is just as novel as being in them. Skyworld is a turn-based strategy game which, for now, appeals largely on that basis: its colorful island map is a game board we wish we could have in the real world.

Star Trek: Bridge Crew

Release date: May 30 | Works with: Oculus Touch, HTC Vive | Website: Ubisoft

James got to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew just the other day, "yelling at his space friends" on a simulation of a Star Trek bridge as they attempted to complete missions, each operating ship systems from their own consoles. We've long fantasized about being conn officers on the Enterprise (remember this from 2011?), so we're naturally excited for Bridge Crew and the kinds of VR games it predicts—ones that remove the abstractions we're used to in videogames, letting us inhabit spaces and work collaboratively. 

Ark Park

Release date: 2017 | Works with: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive | Website: arkparkvr.com

Studio Wildcard has teamed with Snail Games to translate the prehistoric fantasy of Ark: Survival Evolved into a Jurassic Park-like experience (where nothing goes terribly wrong, presumably). According to executive producer Sky Wu, players will go on excursions into the park, ride dinosaurs, and collect 'gene cubes' to materialize dinos in a personal petting zoo. Some of the first VR demos we saw took this obvious approach to the medium—hang out with big scary animals!—so we fully expected to see the idea elaborated on quickly, but from the looks of it Ark Park might be the best of them yet.

Panoptic

Release date: 2017 | Works with: HTC Vive | Website: Steam

Panoptic is a local multiplayer game that works similarly to Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, with one player, The Overseer, in VR, and the other using a regular PC screen. Except they're not trying to help each other. The Overseer peers into a dreary prison, shooting a blinding spotlight into an oppressed populace. The other player, on PC, tries to escape the Overseer's gaze, hiding out behind pillars and blending in with the NPCs. It scratches the surface of the multiplayer possibilities for VR in a novel way. 

Killing Floor: Incursion

Release date: 2017 | Works with: Oculus Touch | Website: killingfloorincursion.com

The co-op wave Zed gore machines of Killing Floor and Killing Floor 2 might lose a little something in translation to VR—namely, running in circles a lot—but there's plenty to gain, as well. Like 4A, Tripwire's always made some of the best guns in games, and getting to handle them and toss them around in VR while horrible skin beasts close in looks like a pretty horrifying use of our time (in a good way).

OrbusVR

Release date: TBD | Works with: HTC Vive (Touch support TBD) | Website: orbusvr.com

Sometimes referred to as 'the first VR MMO,' Orbus may not be as flashy as the other games on this list, preferring big, flat polygons, but it's a step toward the sci-fi dream of immersive VR worlds inhabited by thousands of other people. (Except if you die in the game, you don't die in real life, as is so often the case in fiction.) OrbusVR is in closed alpha at the moment, with a beta coming sometime this summer. You can keep up with it on the dev blog. 

Budget Cuts

Release date: 2017 | Works with: HTC Vive | Website: Neat

Budget Cuts uses VR's current mobility limitations as a feature—it's a stealth game designed with teleportation in mind, having players zip through vents and around corners to take out guards. Even last year, it was one of the most fully-formed VR games we saw at Valve's Developer Showcase. There's a free demo on Steam so you can try it for yourself, too.

The American Dream

Release date: 2017 | Works with: "Major VR platforms" | Website: Samurai Punk

As much a satire of America as it is of VR, videogames, and how often they make us solve things with guns, The American Dream has us doing everything with guns, be it driving to work or caring for our family. As one should. Samurai Punk is a clever studio, impressing us in 2014 with Screencheat, so we have high hopes. For more, Shaun got a chance to play it and talk to the devs last year.