Looking for some of the best VR games on PC? Though Half Life: Alyx really pushed the boundaries of virtual reality in terms of gameplay, there was already an impressive library of titles to pick from before that. Whether you prefer the slight jank and gore of Blade & Sorcery or Gorn, a nightmarish rhythm-based experience like Thumper, or you just want to pretend your fishing or driving a truck, VR caters to every kind of gameplay and simulation.
2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
Free PC games: Freebie fest
Best FPSes: Finest gunplay
Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures
One of the few drawbacks with VR is compatability and how inconsistent it can be in terms of some games being available on certain headsets, but not others. That said, in this list we've gathered together some of the best VR games around, as well as listing what setups you can play them on.
We've combed through countless VR games to recommend the best here, and we'll continue to update as we discover new ones. We've focused on games for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality specifically. These are all PC-based VR games, which is why we haven't included any built specifically for the the newly dubbed Meta Quest headsets (known previously as Oculus Quest), even though we think they are the best VR headset (opens in new tab) for most people.
First Person Action
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Developer: Valve | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality
It only took 15 years, but in 2020 we finally got a new Half-Life. Alyx is a prequel to Half-Life 2, set once again in the dystopian City 17, and features everything you'd expect from a Half-Life game, including headcrab zombies, physics puzzles, and a compelling, mystery-laden plot.
The game squeezes an incredible amount of variety into its 15 hours, from large scale firefights with Combine soldiers and moments of quiet, atmospheric exploration, to genuinely unsettling horror in the dark tunnels beneath the city. If you thought a poison headcrab leaping at you in Half-Life 2 was bad, imagine that happening in VR, in a dark room, where all you have is a tiny flashlight to find your way to safety.
The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
Developer: Skydance Interactive | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Valve Index, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality
Saints and Sinners' nuanced simulation of knife/skull interaction is as remarkable as it is harrowing. Not only does it make each zombie encounter slightly unique (and also fraught with apprehension) it also effectively communicates your personal journey as a survivor in The Walking Dead's world.
After the messy horror of that first kill, you'll be buzzing with nervous adrenaline, certain the odds are impossibly stacked against you. Over time, however, you'll learn how to efficiently dispatch the walkers, leading with your off-hand to keep them at bay, perfecting the arc of your swing and getting access to bigger, nastier melee weapons.
This one mechanic is probably enough to carry Saints and Sinners on its own. But it's only a small part of the most mechanically rich VR game we've played yet.
Developer: Superhot Team | Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
In Superhot VR, it’s possible to toss a brick at a man, knock his semi-auto pistol into the air, catch it, and bash him over the head with it before shooting three other men out of a helicopter behind you. This can all happen within a few seconds or the span of three minutes—or however long you need to plan out the most efficient and action-movie-cool way of taking them all out. Time only moves forward if you move, and while the original Superhot had you weaving in and out of bullets using traditional FPS movement and controls, in VR, you can’t run about. Everything comes to you, turning levels into bite-sized Matrix scenarios, where agent after agent is headed your way.
It’s up to you to suss out how to take care of them using the few weapons and objects around you, all the while dodging, throwing, catching, and punching to stay alive. Wrapped up in the same meta narrative framework as the original game, Superhot VR has too much style, fluidity, and inherent satisfaction to skip.
Developer: Stress Level Zero | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, Valve Index, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality
As Crysis pushed the limits of PC hardware, Boneworks pushes the limits of VR—and honestly, it feels like VR has some catching up to do. Stress Level Zero's puzzle-shooter is incredibly ambitious with its full-body rendering, complex physics system, and intense physical interactions, which lead to a certain amount of jankiness because current VR hardware isn't quite ready to handle it all.
But it's still an enjoyable playground with a good sense of humor for shooting, melee combat, and throwing objects around as you fight your way out of an oppressive research facility filled with virtual drone soldiers.
Developer: Epic Games | Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift
You're tasked with tracking down rogue robots in this VR shooter from Epic Games. Blast away with a shotgun or twin pistols, but don't forget just about everything else you can see can be picked up and used as a weapon or shield. You can pluck bullets and projectiles out of the air and chuck them back at your enemies, and can even rip the limbs or heads off robots and use them as weapons, too. As an action game it's completely over the top, and tons of fun.
Developer: Sólfar Studios | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
2018 was kind to VR archery lovers: both Sacralith and QuiVr are worth checking out, but In Death is the best of the bunch. It’s a roguelite about battling through a procedural fantasy castle, and it has the most imaginative use of a bow-and-arrow we’ve seen in VR. It’s primarily a weapon, and you come across cool arrow types by exploring, but it’s also your means of getting around: you fire a teleporting arrow to move.
Nocking an arrow and letting it fly feels smooth, and after every run you’ll make progress on at least a handful of different achievements, which means you’ll always have a reason to dive back in for one more go. It’s tough for newcomers, but well worth sticking with.
Developer: Ready at Dawn | Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift
Echo Combat, part of Echo VR, has the best movement of any FPS we’ve ever played (opens in new tab): with pistol, laser rifle or shotgun in hand, you rocket boost your way around zero-gravity levels, grabbing onto the walls and pushing yourself off for extra speed.
It’s slick and polished, and traversing each map feels as big an achievement as popping a long-range headshot. It only has a few arenas but they’re cleverly designed, with lots of objects to take cover behind and plenty of routes to flank your enemies. If you have a Rift, it’s a must-own.
Developer: Vertical Robot |Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
This puzzler, set on a Russian base on one of Saturn’s moons, won’t leave you scratching your head too often, but it’s full of otherworldly atmosphere. Every room is packed with objects to interact with, even if they’re not part of the main puzzle: you’ll yank open lockers to discover letters from faraway families, play with moving platforms, and throw gas canisters around.
The story is decent, and there’s plenty of incidental details that enrich it. Your handheld scanner fills in the blanks by revealing information about whatever you’re looking at—it will translate notes you find from Russian, for example. It’s worth taking the time to explore every hidey hole.
Hot Dogs, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Developer: RUST LTD. | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
Developer: Mixed Realms Pte Ltd, Swag Soft | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a cyber ninja, then you need Sairento in your life. It’s a ridiculous, cinematic combat playground in which you can, in no particular order, triple jump off of a wall, backflip, slow down time, blast dual Uzis, block bullets with your dual blades and slice up an enemy with a katana, sending blood spraying all over the level—and your screen.
It has a campaign, an endless mode and PvP multiplayer, so there’s lots to get stuck into. It takes a while to learn how to pull of its fanciest moves, but when you finally nail the killer combo you’ve been practicing for so long, you’ll never want to take your headset off.
Developer: Free Lives | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope
Developer: Croteam VR | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, WIndows Mixed Reality
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.
Developer: Creative Assembly | Link: Official site (opens in new tab) | 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 VR, 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 (opens in new tab). Getting it working isn’t the hard part, though. The hard part is playing the game.
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. In VR, 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.
Rhythm and Vibes
Developer: Beat Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
Guitar Hero with lightsabers, basically—and arguably the best thing you can play in VR right now. With a laser sword in each motion-controlled hand, you slash at boxes that are coming at you to a beat, ducking under low walls and dodging bombs as you go. It’s relentless, and awards points for style rather than pure timing—the flashier your follow throughs, the better, so unleash that inner Jedi.
It’s constantly getting new tracks for you to dice to pieces, but you can also import custom songs: Tutorials and a list of the best tracks are over at the unofficial BeastSaber site (opens in new tab). It’s simply a brilliant idea, executed to perfection.
Developer: Drool | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index
Already a great rhythm hell game (opens in new tab) in flatspace, Thumper is even more trance-inducing in VR. It's not very mechanically complicated—tap to the beat and slide around corners, at least at first—but it's brutal. As James put it (opens in new tab), Thumper is "a psychedelic journey through impossible geometry and a crunchy, slippery, overwhelmingly oppressive force." In VR, it becomes a waking sound nightmare I should want to escape, but don't.
Developer: Monstars Inc., Resonair | Site: Steam (opens in new tab) | 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.
Developer: Monstars Inc. and Resonair | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
It sure took a while, but finally we have a worthy successor to the iconic Tetris. And Tetris Effect is even better in VR, where you'll be mesmerized by the music and visuals as they wash over you. Even if you were never particularly good at Tetris you'll enjoy Tetris Effect, and in VR it's impossible not to feel swept away and engulfed by the sounds and sights. It's a psychedelic and enchanting trip everyone with a VR headset should take.
Developer: Polyarc | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
A charming third-person platformer in which you’re both controlling Moss the mouse and poking at bits of the level with your hands, pushing and pulling objects into place to create new routes. The jumping, puzzling and sword-swinging are nothing special, but VR makes its gorgeous levels come alive. They’re full of detail and an endearing innocence, and each tells its own story.
James loved it, saying it “recalls the sensation of being a kid and playing around in the dirt, spinning stories and characters out of sticks and grass.” You can read his full thoughts here. (opens in new tab)
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice VR
Developer: Ninja Theory | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
Don’t let the lack of motion control support put you off: Hellblade (opens in new tab) is a thing of terrible beauty in VR. Just like the regular version, you’ll play it in third-person with a gamepad or mouse and keyboard, but being able to swivel your head around while Senua moves makes you appreciate just how stunning a world Ninja Theory has crafted.
It was already a moody game, but being surrounded by it makes it feel even more atmospheric—the voices that Senua hears in her head will torment you, and when they whisper in our ear, our hair stands on edge. It’s simply the best way to experience Hellblade if you’ve never played before, and even if you have, the VR version is free for owners of the original. Don’t miss out.
Developer: Indimo Labs LLC | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | 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.
Blade and Sorcery
Developer: WarpFrog | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
This brutal fantasy combat game is still in Early Access, but it already has some of the best melee battles you’ll see in VR. It gives you endless ways to fight: you can zap lightning spells, punch enemies in slow motion, pick them up and bash their heads together, hurl concrete blocks at them with telekinesis, or simply just stab them in the belly. The enjoyment comes in stringing these moves together in imaginative, stylish ways.
Battling human enemies sets it apart from the cartoony GORN, and the way the enemies crumple and scream when we skewer them makes us feel guilty for enjoying it so much (opens in new tab).
Developer: Gunfire Games | Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | 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.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files
Developer: Rockstar Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
Rockstar's opinion-splitting crime epic L.A. Noire is the last game you'd expect to make the transition to VR, but it works brilliantly. This isn't the whole game, but rather a selection of cases re-designed for virtual reality. As detective Cole Phelps you'll investigate murders, interrogate suspects, search for evidence, and occasionally reach for your service pistol.
It's the same stuff you do in the regular game, but rendered infinitely more engaging and intimate by the fact that you're controlling Phelps's arms, squeezing the trigger, flipping corpses over, and poking around grimy apartments for evidence. VR also gives you a new perspective on L.A. Noire's realistic performance-captured faces, which come into their own when you're interrogating someone who's trying to lie their way out of a prison sentence. The only downside is that you'll need a fairly hefty PC to run it.
Developer: Cyan Inc. | Link: Steam (opens in new tab)| Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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. 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 (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
The Gallery Episode 1: Call of Starseed
Developer: Cloudhead Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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 (opens in new tab) | 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.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Developer: Steel Crate Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
Keep Talking is the most family-friendly bomb disarming sim you can play today. Family friendly because some participants aren’t expected to play the videogame portion of the game at all, required instead to flip through a thick physical bomb disarmament instruction manual (that you need to print off yourself), screaming out directions while a lone player frantically flips and studies a virtual explosive device.
The VR component isn’t the most immersive experience out there, but isolating yourself in a room with a complex bomb puzzle goes a long way in developing tension. It’s also a nice way to prevent cheaters from sneaking a peek at the manual themselves. And if you don’t have a VR headset, you can still play with a good old-fashioned monitor. Everybody wins (if they don’t explode).
Small and Strange
Developer: Crows Crows Crows, Squanch Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
The VR headset you put on to play Accounting+ is just the first of many. As you enter the cartoony, comedic, tremendously obnoxious game you'll find new VR headsets—virtual VR headsets—to strap on over your real ones. Each new headset plunges you into a new reality, each more bizarre and surreal than the last. You'll find yourself cleaning your office desk one moment and summoning demons the next, all while being screamed out by profane, oddball characters.
It's quite a ride to take in just a half-hour or so, and the natural result of what happens when you lock The Stanley Parable developer Crows Crows Crows in a writer's room with Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland. Depending on your tastes, that's either an immediate sell or a hard nope.
Developer: KO_OP | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
The prettiest VR game we played in 2018. It’s a puzzler in which you open the box-shaped heads of colorful monsters, twisting and turning different objects inside to make something fun happen before turning the box over and twiddling some more. It’s like a VR Botanicula (opens in new tab), and every dial you twiddle, or butterfly you poke, is accompanied by a brilliant sound effect. We have no idea what we’re doing sometimes, and the solutions to puzzles can feel obscure, but when prodding at the environment feels this delightful, we don’t care.
Developer: Owlchemy Labs | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
Trover Saves the Universe
Developer: Squanch Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | 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).
Virtual Virtual Reality
Developer: Tender Claws | Site: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
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.
Catch and Release
Developer: Metricminds GmbH & Co KG | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
A chill fishing sim in which you row a boat to a likely spot on a lake, sling your hook, and enjoy the mountain scenery. It’s one of the most relaxing games you can play in VR (opens in new tab) and, as Chris wrote in the summer (opens in new tab), it’s wonderfully interactive: to tune the radio to a song you want, you have to grab the tuning knob and twiddle, and to eat sandwiches you have to slam the bread into your face. You can even upload your own songs into a custom playlist to enjoy while you wait for a fish to bite.
Developer: Frontier Developments | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
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.
Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator
Developer: SCS Software | Link: Official site (opens in new tab) | 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 (opens in new tab).
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. 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.
Developer: Gaugepunk Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
If you can’t afford to build a huge model railway in your garage, then Rolling Line is the next best thing. You can play around with its two default sets—inspired by Santa Fe and New Zealand—or create your own from scratch with its simple, powerful building tools, which even let you choose where to place individual trees, and pick how big they’ll be. Slowly crafting your set and idly flicking with the signals is a great way to blow off steam.
No Man’s Sky
Developer: Hello Games | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
In addition to the massive amount of new features No Man's Sky has introduced over the years, you can now also play it in VR. It's not a different version of the game—you can use your old saves and jump in right where you left off, and even play right alongside players who don't use VR. Pretty neat, really. It could still use (and I suspect, will still get) some work, but it's already impressive that you can ride a procedural creature that's walking along a procedural planet and not instantly barf up your lunch. Zooming around in your spaceship in VR and gazing at the beautiful sci-fi panoramas is a cosmic pleasure.
Developer: Mojang | Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, Windows Mixed Reality
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.
Strategy and Racing
Developer: Hidden Path Entertainment |Link: Meta Quest (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift
Brass Tactics is an RTS developed by the creative mind behind Age of Empires 2—and that pedigree shows. It makes us feel like a real-life general, towering over a miniature battlefield and directing intricately animated troops with our hands.
Everything is done through touch controls: to place structures you flip your hand to bring up lots of tiny models, grab one with your other hand, and throw it on the board. It’s not the most complex strategy game (opens in new tab), but trying to keep an eye on the entire battlefield at once is enough of a challenge to keep us hooked.
If you’re looking for something with a smaller scope, or you don’t have a Rift, we’d recommend Castle Must Be Mine (opens in new tab), a cutesy tower defence game.
Developer: Refract | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index
The best arcade VR racing game (opens in new tab) spent six years in Early Access—and it was worth the wait. You drive around trippy, sci-fi tracks at impossible speeds, trying to react to the way its randomly generated tracks rotate and morph shape. You’ll sometimes take flight, too, jumping between sections of track and rotating your car to drive on the ceiling and up walls.
It has a campaign, an arcade mode, online multiplayer and a track creation tool, and it’s all set to a wonderfully thumping soundtrack that will help keep you focused on the twisting road ahead.
Developer: Survios | Link: Steam (opens in new tab) | 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.
Developer: Phaser Lock Interactive | Site: Steam (opens in new tab) | Compatibility: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality
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.