Not long ago, virtual reality seemed like a loose concept that might just manifest sometime far into the future. What fools we were. As of 2016, over 230 companies started developing and producing VR technologies with no end in sight. Our visions of the future have certainly caught up with us, and you can now play VR games from the comfort of your own home. Virtual reality, at its core, is about complete immersion. Think about the number of times you’ve wished you could walk right into your favorite video game and experience that world for yourself. While tech experts, engineers, and scientists haven’t exactly figured out a way to digitize your conscious or plug you into a computer (thank you, Black Mirror, for the nightmares), they have been able to bring visual worlds to life, creating wearable headsets that surround your field of vision, follow your gaze, and respond accordingly. Game developers have also stepped up to the plate. With unparalleled designs and unbelievable ingenuity, you can get lost for hours right in your living room. As long as you’re equipped with a VR gaming headset and a safe place to play, the possibilities are endless. So whether you’re well-versed in VR or you’re just starting to build up your collection, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to help pick out your next immersive adventure with the best VR games for home entertainment.
- Best Multiplatform VR Game: Star Trek: Bridge Crew
- Best VR Game for Small Spaces: Superhot
- Best VR Game for Kids: Fruit Ninja VR
- Best VR Game on PC: Half-Life: Alyx
- Best VR Game for Beginners: Job Simulator
- Best Budget VR Games: Farpoint or Batman: Arkham
Things to consider when buying VR games
There are a few things you’ll want to consider before deciding on the best VR games for you. Think about the VR type, what kind of gaming experience you have, how many players there are if you want to play with kids, and what kind of space you’ll be gaming in. There are so many games out there now; we can guarantee you’ll find something you love. Read on to learn more about how we always keep in mind when embarking on a new game purchase.
1. Look for multiplayer compatibility (if you want)
When searching for a new VR game, you’ll want to consider the number of players and platforms the game should support. Single-player games are super popular and provide a direct escape from the real-world. Without anyone else to interact with, you’re able to focus on the task at hand and tune out any outside noise. Single-player VR games are an excellent way to zone out but stay active after a long day of work. Multiplayer games can be equally entertaining but provide an entirely different experience. While the VR gaming world is slightly smaller than flatscreen gaming, there are still many ways to connect and play. When searching for a solid multiplayer game, you’ll want to consider compatibility, especially if you’re hoping to connect with friends. For maximum options, the game needs to function across all the major headsets and VR types, which we will talk more about later. Finding multiplatform compatible games won’t be too tricky if you know what to look for; you can even find some games that are compatible across VR and flatscreens so you can play with anyone. From there, you can choose to go with an online multiplayer, local co-op, or local options for folks in the same room. Thoroughly read all multiplayer game labels that clearly outline which VR types can connect, the ability for multiplatform play, and how many players the game can handle if you’re hoping to play with friends or family in one room.
2. Keep your space in mind
Unlike other video games where you need to settle onto the couch and stay there for hours, VR games give you the freedom to move around your space. There are three ways VR games can be played—but not every game is compatible with every type. Room-scale VR lets you move freely around your room and interact with virtual objects. Movements from the headset or controllers are tracked in real-time and reflected back to the player. Room-scale games need to be played on a headset that supports 6 degrees of freedom or 6DoF, which tracks movement beyond head rotation. They often come with certain space requirements, usually a minimum of 6.6 x 5 feet for an optimal gaming experience.
Seated and standing games will ask you to stay primarily in one place while you play. You will still be able to use your headset and controllers to interact with the VR games, but movements to simulate walking or running may be inspired by a different action. Standing and seated VR supports 3 degrees of freedom, which means the system will track your head and hand movements but can’t keep up with user position changes. These types of gameplay are great for those with smaller spaces. Many room-scale VR games are also designed to support seated and standing; however, some headsets can only support 3DoF, so a room-scale experience won’t be possible.
3. Do you need a kid-friendly VR game?
You don’t need to be a fully-fledged adult to enjoy the beauty of the virtual world. VR games are a great way to get out some energy, get a little physical movement going on, and activate your child’s imagination. A VR game is the perfect way to pass the time on a rainy, windy, or downright chilly day. Older kids might be ready to move on to long-form, narrative RPG games, but the younger ones will probably be looking for something short, bright, with plenty of options for big motion. You can also think about games that will be good for the whole family. A game with multiplayer options, quick rounds, or teams can liven up an after-dinner activity.
If you’re having trouble figuring out which games are appropriate for your kids, you can also check game ratings. Like movies and television, video games, including VR, are rated by a board, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, before release. The system is pretty straightforward: E is for everyone, E 10+ is for children ten and over, T is for teen (think PG-13), M for mature or 17 and older, A is for adults only. E 10+ might contain some mild, cartoonish violence or minimal suggestive themes. Rated-T games might include some crude humor, visible blood, more literal depictions of violence, or infrequent use of strong language.
4. What type of VR games do you want to play?
Technically, there are three types of VR that can determine what games you can or want to play. Typically when we mention VR, we think of games compatible with headsets, but not all headsets function in the same way. Now you might already have a headset, or you’re on the lookout for one—regardless it’s important to know what kind of game is going to be compatible with the headset you own. Console VR specifically applies to established gaming systems with a VR add-on like Playstation 4 or 5; there’s also an option for the Nintendo Switch called the Nintendo Labo VR. VR games for this type of virtual reality need to be purchased directly from those brands; however, many games are manufactured for multiple headsets, so don’t give up after a cursory search for a game you’re interested in.
The second type of VR is called “standalone VR.” Standalone means you don’t need any additional equipment aside from the headset and controllers to experience the game; the gaming experience is run from the hardware itself. An Oculus Quest utilizes standalone VR technology. The experience of freely moving in your space without extra equipment is pretty breathtaking, especially with the right game. If you’re going to head in that direction, make sure you get something with truly stunning visuals built for positional tracking.
PC VR is a headset that requires a connection to a nearby PC to function. Some PC headsets include the HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and the Oculus Rift X. If you’re already a prevalent gamer, with a PC monitor, graphics card, etc., then PC VR might be just right for you. They typically have better visual displays to support immersive gaming. PC VR headsets often need to be wired to the computer—but there are some cordless options, which typically means wearing more gear and spending more money.
5. Consider your gaming experience level
Just like with any game console, you’ll want to think about your general experience and affinity for video games. You know you way better than we do, so this section will be most helpful for those who are just starting out or possibly looking for a gift. Gaming experience, in general, is something to keep in mind. If you’re used to playing flatscreen games for hours at a time, you might want to grab a game that mimics that style of play you love, like Skyrim VR or Shadow Legend. If you’re new to gaming or just like something lighter in general, there are some fantastic beginning games with great effects. Check out Beat Saber, Tilt Brush, or a personal favorite of ours listed below. These beginner games are generally great for VR beginners at large, even those who have significant non-VR gaming experience. VR can be somewhat overwhelming, and newcomers might experience some mild motion sickness or balance issues. Easier games can get your mind and body accustomed to navigating space, experimenting with controllers, and monitoring your body’s overall reactions. Remember, if you start to feel nauseous, light-headed, or dizzy, pause your game, pop your VR headset off, and take a quick seat or drink some water.
Best multiplayer VR game: Star Trek: Bridge Crew
Star Trek: Bridge Crew
Beam me up, Scotty/Dad/Best Friend Brian/Internet Stranger Reed. Amazon
You don’t have to be a Star Trek superfan to enjoy this highly-immersive multiplayer game. Bridge Crew is played seated using VR headsets, including the PSVR/PS4, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality. It can also be played on a flat-screen, so it’s truly perfect for almost any configuration. In the game, you are tasked with exploring an unknown space sector called the Trench, searching for a habitable new home for the Vulcan population. The key is to work as a team to command the crew and get the most out of your galactic adventure. It can support up to four players at one time.
Best standing VR game: Superhot
You’re guaranteed to break a sweat. Amazon
Superhot is a unique FPS (first-person shooter) game that can be played in a big way despite playing in a small space. In this game, time moves only when you move, and your only goal is to gun, slice, or chop down as many figures as you can find. Rated T, the game has won multiple awards for its bold graphics and adrenaline-pumping levels. It’s available for the PSVR/PS4, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality; it is played standing.
Best family-friendly VR game: Fruit Ninja VR
Fruit Ninja VR
Fun for the whole family. Amazon
You may recognize Fruit Ninja as the smartphone game you downloaded in 2010. It’s a surprisingly entertaining experience that requires you to slash through various fruits as they are thrown at you to win points. The game has now been adapted for VR; your hands become blades, slicing through fruit from all sides. Various game modes will work for any age, from 6 to 60. Fruit Ninja VR can be found for PSVR/PS4, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality; it is played standing.
The best VR game for PC: Half-Life: Alyx
Return to one of our favorite alternate realities. Steam
Half-Life: Alyx finally arrived after 13 years of mystery and silence from Half-Life creators, Valve. The game was initially released in 1998 and followed “a physicist who finds himself at the center of resistance to an alien invasion that threatens the future of humanity.” Now, many years and a few more episodes later, you will be playing Alyx Vance, who’s on a mission to save humanity from a pervasive alien race. The graphics are truly stunning, and the immersive action is equally impressive, making this one of the best VR games we’ve found in general. The game can be played standing, sitting, or using a room-scale. Half-Life: Alyx can be played using Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets.
Best beginner-friendly VR game: Job Simulator
It’s finally okay to mix work and pleasure with this entertaining VR game. Amazon
Job Simulator is a great game to get you started with VR. It’s 2050, aliens run the world, and your alien boss is getting on your case. Tasks include eating donuts, chugging coffee, and juggling tomatoes. The game is wacky and fun; it just might help you forget about any real-world, work-related stress you’re feeling. Job Simulator can be played using a PSVR/PS4, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, or Windows Mixed Reality. It is a room-scale game (which we will talk more about later) and requires roughly 6.5 by 5 feet of playing space.
Tips for buying and using VR games
While the above sections are the key points to consider, here are a few other quick tips. One thing we briefly discussed was motion sickness. This happens to a large number of people, and it makes sense! It can be fairly disorienting for your body to be immersed in a new, virtual environment, especially when what you’re seeing might not precisely match up with what your body is experiencing in real-time. Taking breaks can counteract motion sickness symptoms.
Make sure you clear your playing space of any objects that could get in your way, especially if you’re playing a room-scale game. We’re talking about toys, the shoes you just kicked off, extension cords, anything that you might accidentally step on. Similarly, you’ll want to have a clear picture in your head of where you are in the room at all times. Before you start playing, it’s a good idea to take a couple of laps to help your body remember where the boundary lines are. Think before you play. If you’re about to play a solid round of VR tennis, it’s probably not a great idea to stand next to a lamp. Additionally, you can look for games that will help map a boundary line for you, which can guide you away from any walls or other hazards.
- Take Frequent Breaks
- Clear the floor
- Know your boundaries (or get a game that does)
In short, VR can cause eye strain, especially during prolonged use. For families with children or teens, we recommend limiting play to a shorter amount of time to reduce exposure. With moderate use, you can still enjoy all the fun of VR without impacting your eyesight.
If you’re in search of a cross-platform game, Star Trek: Bridge Crew offers seamless playing on StreamVR, Oculus, and PlayStation Network.
PlayStation VR now offers a cinematic mode that allows you to play existing PS4 games and use video features. While the platform is a bit pricey, this option allows you to easily implement VR tech into a variety of games.
What you get for under $30: Farpoint or Batman: Arkham
While VR headsets themselves can put a dent in your credit card, many VR games are affordable without sacrificing quality. Some of the games we’ve listed here can be found close to the $30 price range. Game price may increase or decrease depending on the headset compatibility you need. VR game prices are, in fact, all over the place. This is partially due to their relative newness, making it more difficult to rate and measure against other game types. You can expect to spend anywhere from $3 to $60 on a VR game, and, to be honest, the gaming world isn’t necessarily sure how to decide what exactly you’ll get for each price point. VR games typically aren’t played for consecutive hours like flatscreen games, nor do they rely on the same graphics that often determine the price of other games. In the years to come, we may start to see the emergence of a more standardized pricing system. As of right now, you can find great games that will fit nicely with most budgets. Check out games like Farpoint or Batman: Arkham to get you started.
A final word on the best VR games
So, now you’re ready to get back out onto the internet, order your next game, polish off your headset, and get pumped to play. To find the best VR games for you, keep in mind your desired VR gaming experience, the type of headset you have, your playing space, and the kind of player or players your new game should satisfy. This world is vast—but why not start to explore other realities while you’re at it? We guarantee you can find something great for any established game lover or technology newbie.>