The best VR games

Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator

Developer: SCS Software
Link: Official site
Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

Virtual reality can whisk you away to fantastic, unimaginable worlds, but it’s testament to the power of the tech that even driving a truck down a German motorway can be a mindblowing experience. Euro Truck Simulator 2 is a genuinely brilliant game, and with the launch of the new VR headsets, SCS Software has added support for the consumer Rift and the HTC Vive. You can read about how to enable VR support for either headset on the Steam forums.

The game is, as the title suggests, about driving trucks around Europe, delivering goods between depots, and obeying the rules of the road. It’s oddly hypnotising, despite the seemingly boring subject matter, and a polished, well-made game to boot. And the VR support is fantastic. The detailed cockpits of the trucks, which are all replicas of real-world heavy goods vehicles, give you a powerful feeling of being in a physical, three-dimensional space. You can look up and see the sky moving past through the sunroof, or lean out of the window if you need to squeeze through a tight spot with an oversized load.

And wait until you get caught in your first storm. The way the raindrops streak across your side windows as you pick up speed is a tiny little effect, but an effective one. It makes you really feel like you’re in motion. Small things like this can be just as important as the big stuff when it comes to making a VR experience feel convincing. The illusion is even stronger if you play the game with a force feedback steering wheel, though it’s not essential to enjoy the simulation: just a nice optional extra.

Euro Truck Simulator 2 boasts an enormous recreation of Europe, including Britain and Scandinavia, but the majority of it is made up of grey motorways. Still, there is some impressive scenery out there in the game world, which looks extra cool in VR. Norway is the prettiest location of the lot, with picturesque valleys, lakes, and forests to make your drive a more interesting. In a strange way, the fact it’s so grounded in reality makes it somehow more convincing than a game like Elite, because you don’t have to use your imagination as much. You might scoff at the very idea of playing a truck simulator, never mind in VR, but seriously—give this one a chance. —Andy Kelly 

Developer: Cloudhead Games
Link: Steam page
Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift

It seemed like a no-brainer that first-person adventure games in the Myst vein would be perfect for VR. Apparently, it was a no-brainer, because Obduction and The Gallery are two of the best VR games. The first episode of The Gallery transports you to a moody island at night, with little clue what's going on but plenty of atmosphere to pull you in. Walking around in real space to explore corners of the environment, and then picking up objects by reaching out and grabbing them, is... well, it's almost real.

This kind of VR experience is made or broken by the fidelity of the world and how believable it feels to be there, and some small touches in The Gallery help sell the effect. The lighting, the ability to hold a sheet of paper up to your face and read it, the little environmental touches like roman candles you can pick up and fire off. These are all the things that pulled me into the first hour of The Gallery, and at that point its mystery started to channel into an intriguing story with a sci-fi bent. It's the first episodic game I've played in VR, and likely the first I'll play through to the end. —Wes Fenlon 

Space Pirate Trainer

Developer: I-Illusions
Link: Steam page
Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift (with Touch)

Space Pirate Trainer is the 2016 VR equivalent of Space Invaders. Straightforward and immediately catchy, it puts a pair of guns in your hands and throws waves of fast-moving drones at you to zap out of the sky. It's one of many launch VR games to offer a simple shooting gallery—the accuracy of the Vive's controllers makes for great aiming and firing—but none of the others we've played feels as good as Space Pirate Trainer.

Even in Early Access, Space Pirate Trainer does all the little things right. The guns multiple firing modes give room for different shooting styles, including a steady stream of lasers or a much harder to aim one hit kill charge shot. The drones give off a telltale charging sound before they fire, giving you time to pivot and fire or pull of some Matrix moves to dodge their attacks. Time slows down when enemy lasers stream towards you, and ducking below them or leaning backwards as you continue to fire at another target is so satisfying. Pulling out a shield to reflect those bolts back is, too.

So far, Space Pirate Trainer is the only "just one more" VR game I've played. If it took quarters, I'd already have blown a month's lunch money on it. —Wes Fenlon

Eve: Valkyrie

Developer: CCP
Link: Official site
Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, OSVR

Our review of Eve: Valkyrie touches on what's great, and what's not so great, about CCP's space dogfighter. The spectacle of these battles can be truly awe-inspiring, and it delivers those moments—when you lock missiles on an enemy and fire, then do a banking turn around the hull of a battleship, coming up around it upside-down to put another enemy in your crosshairs—where it feels unlike anything you've ever played on a screen. You probably have the churning stomach to prove it.

Those moments unfortunately come alongside a molasses-paced upgrade system for unlocking ship parts and new ship classes, a very light campaign mode, and a UI that does its best to bury information in confusing menus.

Dogfights can be thrilling, but lack the depth and strategy of a space sim like Elite: Dangerous. As our reviewer wrote, Valkyrie "would fit in perfectly in an arcade on your local pier, between the Time Crisis 2 machine that refuses to die and a Star Wars Battlepod. It’s an incredible experience, and one which in 20 minutes will convince you of VR’s gaming future. But beyond that initial foray you’ll have too many excuses to disembark. And that’s if you don’t throw up in your mouth." —Wes Fenlon 

Alien: Isolation

Developer: The Creative Assembly
Link: Official site
Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

If you’ve ever watched Alien and wished you were there on the Nostromo being chased by H.R. Giger’s most famous creation, then you’re in luck. Alien: Isolation doesn’t officially support Oculus Rift, but the functionality is in the game—you just have to know how to activate it. In the game’s data folder, edit the line in the ENGINE_SETTINGS.XML file under ‘stereo mode’ to say on rather than off. For the Vive, Isolation is supported by VorpX. Getting it working isn’t the hard part, though. The hard part is playing the game, because it’s beyond terrifying. If you thought the game was scary on your monitor, wait until you’re actually there, inches from a hissing xenomorph.

Isolation is a survival horror game based on Ridley Scott’s classic 1979 sci-fi horror, and it perfectly replicates the film’s slow, almost unbearable tension. You’re dropped into a room, or a series of rooms, with Giger’s alien. It stomps around, hunting for you, behaving unpredictably, and you have to sneak around it to find keys, unlock doors, access computers, and other simple tasks. When you play with the Rift, the darkness of the stricken Sevastopol station feels somehow even darker. The feeling of claustrophobia, and the fear that the creature will catch you, is so intense that it’s almost unplayable at 07 times—but, equally, totally exhilarating.

It’s also an opportunity for fans of the movie to explore its locations up close. One mission takes place aboard the derelict ship where the crew of the Nostromo sealed their fates, and it looks incredible. Gazing up at the famous ‘pilot’, you feel like you’re there on set. Even if you can’t stomach sharing a room with the alien, it’s worth trying Isolation in VR just to experience this legendary sci-fi set as an explorable 3D space. Horror games are an obvious choice for VR developers. The tech is perfect for making you feel claustrophobic, which is an important reaction when it comes to making an effective horror game. But it won’t be for everyone, and even people who can deal with scary games will find themselves tested when they’re plugged into an Oculus Rift. The Creative Assembly kept Isolation’s VR mode hidden away, but they should have polished it up and made it a real feature. —Andy Kelly