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The best VR games on PC

Obduction

Developer: Cyan Inc.
Link:
Humble Store
Compatibility: Oculus Rift

Cyan has built a wonderfully detailed world for you to explore in Obduction, and exploring it in VR lets you notice all the tiny touches that you might otherwise skip by. A spiritual successor to Myst and Riven made by the original development team, Obduction is filled with environmental puzzles and clues hidden in plain site to help you solve them. In Tom's review, he said that it “remains faithful to Myst without feeling dated,” and that goes doubly in VR. It feels like you are actually in and exploring a classic Myst world, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about physically leaning your body in toward something to get a better look. 

But the reason Obduction really works well in VR is because the original Myst movement scheme was practically tailormade for Virtual Reality. You jump between set points in the world, then have time to look at your surroundings and take everything in. The mechanics and pacing of the game didn’t need to be compromised at all to make it ideal for VR. You can also run around normally if you have a stomach of steel, but Cyan has made each point you can hop to feel interesting and intentional, rather than just another dot on the path. 

The Talos Principle VR

Developer: Croteam
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index

Sometimes you can just tell when an existing game will be a great fit for VR. The philosophical puzzle adventure game The Talos Principle from Croteam is one of them. Wander its mazes, solving progressively more difficult (and satisfying) puzzles and taking in the atmosphere of its unusual world. There's an intricate and thoughtful story at its center as well, and Croteam has done a great job in making the VR version feel natural and intuitive.

Chronos

Developer: Gunfire Games
Link: Official site
Compatibility: Oculus Rift

Chronos is one of the finest examples of an existing genre being imported into VR and gaining an immense boost of immersion in the process. As Wes wrote in his review: "This is a tried-and-true action RPG in the Zelda vein, with timing-heavy combat and puzzle solving that feel more than a little familiar. But Chronos did something for me that Zelda never could. That no game I’ve ever played on a monitor or TV has ever done for me. Even when I’m utterly absorbed in a game’s world, I don’t feel like I’ve been transported inside my monitor. But that’s what it feels like to play Chronos in VR. I was there, and I didn’t want that experience to end."

This is a meaty 15 hour adventure, with an interconnected (and often beautiful) world to explore and demanding, timing-based combat to learn. It's all a bit simplified compared to an RPG like Dark Souls, but the experience of playing in VR makes every minute engaging. Of the Oculus Rift launch lineup, this is the only one we'd call an absolute can't miss.

Minecraft VR

Developer: Mojang
Link:
Official site
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift

For a game you can easily spend a dozen hours at a pop playing, with much of that time spent hunched over crafting menus and chipping away at stone walls, we're not sure Minecraft is really the best fit for VR on a regular basis. But as a way to explore beautifully blocky vistas and biomes from time to time, the VR works wonderfully. Longtime Minecraft fans will get a real thrill seeing the game they love from a whole new angle.

Elite: Dangerous

Developer: Frontier Developments
Link: Official site
Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

The first commercial game to offer native VR support, Elite: Dangerous is still the best example of the power of the tech to date. Strapped into the detailed cockpits of its ships, from bulky battleships to nimble fighters, dogfights are intense. It’s like being in the best Star Wars space battle ever. It’s also practical, because you can move your head to track enemy ships as they scream past you. Look down and you’ll see your pilot’s body, and their hands will mirror your own if you’re playing with a flight stick. You can even stand up and walk around your cockpit, providing it’s big enough to do so.

It’s not all about the thrill of dogfighting, though. Elite is impressive in VR no matter what you’re doing: from docking to gazing slack-jawed at stunning cosmic scenery. You’ll never forget the first time you fly into a planet’s ring system. Millions of slowly spinning space-rocks fill your field of view, and you can’t help but just stop and stare. The galaxy is beautiful on a regular 2D screen, but in VR it feels truly massive. Jumping to other stars and docking feel more intimate and intense too when they’re happening right in front of your nose. When you jump to another system, you feel yourself leaning back in your chair as the stars streak past your windows.

It helps that Elite’s flying model is so impressively detailed. The ships feel weighty and realistic, and how they handle varies between models. Flying a Hauler, a chunky entry level trading ship, is a very different experience to buzzing around in an Eagle fighter or a Cobra. In VR, this distinctiveness is even more pronounced. Make sure you play with headphones, because the sound design really helps sell the illusion: especially the engine sounds.

Elite: Dangerous is something of a pioneer when it comes to making comfortable, convincing virtual reality experiences. Many other games have included native support for VR headsets since its release, but none have surpassed it. It’s a rare example of a game that you’ll actually want to play for long periods of time in VR, rather than just as a novelty. Watch out, though: it’s a game where you spend a lot of time spinning to figure out where you’re going, and coming back to the static, non-rotating real world can have a strange dizzying effect if you’ve been playing for a long time. 

Trover Saves the Universe

Developer: Squanch Games
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

Squanch Games' unique blend of profane comedy and vibrant, bizarre world-building definitely isn't for everyone, but there's still a solid, if fairly simple, VR adventure-platformer beneath it. As an alien permanently stuck to a chair (a fitting excuse to play while sitting) you're on a quest to rescue your dogs from a madman while controlling a purple creature named Trover, who's too tired to do anything himself. Since Trover is the one doing all the acrobatics, it's a good game for those who typically suffer from motion sickness (though there's a bunch of gross-outs that may still make you queasy).

The Lab

Developer: Valve
Link: Steam page
Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index

Valve's free VR showcase is another great way to introduce people to VR. It's full of little minigames that don't have much substance, but show off a little slice of VR's potential. And the robot dog is adorable.

Vacation Simulator

Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Link:
Official site
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Valve Index

The follow up to the excellent Job Simulator is still silly VR fun, but it’s bigger in scope, swapping office cubicles and swivel chairs for sun, sea and beach balls. It plays as a series of minigames and simple puzzles across three worlds—beach, forest, and mountain. What makes it stick is how intuitive each interaction feels: your actions mimic familiar real-life movements, and fluid controls make it easy to lose yourself in the world. You roast marshmallows on a stick. You build sandcastles. You play volleyball. You melt ice with a hot drink. You slap paint onto canvas—all under the watchful eye of jovial robots. It can get repetitive, but if you’re looking for a light-hearted, accessible VR game that everyone can understand, this is it.

Gorn

Developer: Free Lives
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index

Gorn is excessively violent—you can rip enemy’s hearts out, chop their arms off, and watch their eyeballs roll across the arena floor—but its cartoony vibe stops it feeling gross. Menacing enemies wield giant sledgehammers, but they’re made less scary by the fact their weapons wobble and bend as they waddle towards you. Each of its weapons, from battle-axes to retractable Wolverine-style claws, react fluidly to your wild arm flails, and the detailed physics throw up plenty of funny moments, such as enemies falling into spike traps. Basically, it’s bloody good.

Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Developer: RUST LTD.
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

Even though it’s still in Early Access, this weapons sandbox has more than enough content for us to recommend it, with more guns and modes added every month. It gives you hundreds of weapons and attachments, from gravity guns to missile launchers, and simulates all the physics—such as proper reloads—in detail. You’re let loose in 20+ game modes, from the ridiculous grenade bowling to the tactical Take and Hold, where you capture points and defend them against waves of humanoid hot dogs. Those modes provide a loose structure, but you can also just hit a range and set up your own scenarios.

Vanishing Realms

Developer: Indimo Labs LLC
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

A polished first-person dungeon crawler about stabbing skeletons, finding treasure and solving riddles. The combat is considered without being difficult: enemies move slowly, but you still need to time your blocks, dodges and parries. Puzzles rarely challenge you too hard, but they help vary the pace, and item shops dotted throughout the world make you feel like you’re always progressing. If you can, grab The Sundered Rift expansion, which essentially doubles the size of the game and takes you out of dungeons into bigger, open areas: all told, you’ll have about six hours of exploration, and lots of secrets to find.

Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope

Developer: Croteam VR
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index

The Last Hope is a timeless concept—a wave shooter where you’re rooted to the spot—pulled off to near-perfection. There’s nothing fancy, here: just long lines of giant insects and men holding bombs running at you as fast as they can, and it’s your job to fend them off for as long as possible. It’s properly stressful, and you’ll have to constantly snap your head from side-to-side to keep track of your enemies, while also shooting projectiles from the sky. A solid, accessible VR shooter at an affordable price.

Sprint Vector

Developer: Survios
Link:
Steam
Compatibility:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift

Proof that exercise can be fun. You’ll get hot and sweaty swinging your arms to make your virtual skater zoom through icy levels, but in the moment you’ll barely notice your racing heart: you’ll be too busy hunting for shortcuts, hitting jumps, avoiding obstacles and lobbing power-ups at your opponents. A recent Steam review described it as “Like Mario Kart, but you're on LSD”, which isn’t a bad summation. Brightly-coloured tracks and thumping bass music are the backdrop for thrilling races against computer opponents. It’s a shame the online community is virtually dead, but it’s still worth a try, especially if you’re looking to burn some calories.

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.  

Final Assault

Developer: Phaser Lock Interactive
Site:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

Final Assault makes us long for Company of Heroes: VR. It’s a WW2 RTS that keeps resource management simple, auto-deploying units that march towards your enemy’s command centre—but you can also plop down your own units from a handheld list. You order your army around the battlefield by drawing routes on the map from overhead, which feels brilliant. It works best with planes: you sweep your hand across the sky and then trace a line on the ground, watching them swoop in and mow down enemy infantry. Different generals offer different units, and the variety of modes, including campaign scenarios and multiplayer skirmishes, give you plenty of reasons to return.

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

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 we played in VR, and likely the first we'll play through to the end.

I Expect You To Die

Developer: Schell Games
Site:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

A spy thriller with a very British sense of humour, I Expect You To Die packs each of its high-stakes scenarios—escape a submarine, defuse a bomb, drive a car from a moving airplane—with plenty of detail and funny quips. The central puzzles are clever enough (we especially enjoyed distilling an anti-virus serum while pretending to be a window cleaner), but what’s more impressive are the incidental interactions that sit alongside them. There’s champagne bottles to pop and pour—“a little early to celebrate, don’t you think?”—breakfasts to munch, cigars to smoke, and actual windows to wash with a sponge. It exercises the kind of restraint few VR games manage: it only has a handful of levels, but each one feels lavish.

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."

Rez Infinite

Developer: Monstars Inc., Resonair
Site:
Steam
Compatibility:
Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index

Classic on-rails shooter Rez came to PC in 2017 with full VR support, and it’s one of those games everybody should play at least once. Its levels are colourful kaleidoscopes; pulsing masses of neon and electronic music that grow ever-more complex the more enemies you explode. Aiming with your head feels natural, and even though the use of VR only really comes alive in the odd level, it’s still worth having on your headset.

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 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. 

Virtual Virtual Reality

Developer: Tender Claws
Site:
Steam
Compatibility:
HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index

In VVR, humans only exist for the entertainment of sentient robots: cue a cautionary tale about the future of AI full of witty writing and inventive minigames. To entertain each robot client, you must put on a series of (virtual) VR headset to play out various scenarios. One places you in a kitschy kitchen with an endless supply of toasters, and bread that needs buttering—another sees you soar above skyscrapers, their lights flashing rhythmically. It gets most interesting when you disobey your AI overlords, which leads to funny, and occasionally sinister, moments. We don’t want to say more: just jump in and poke around each level until something unexpected happens.