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While it’s had its growing pains as a new platform with far too many short experiences that were more like glorified tech demos, there’s now plenty of substantial VR games that really transport you to another world – and after the past year of being stuck indoors, who doesn’t need the escape?
I’ve done my best to round up some of the best, some which are platform-exclusive, while some can also be played either in VR or in boring old flat-screen. But if you’re looking for the most immersive and playful VR games, look no further.
1. Half Life: Alyx
- Developer: Valve
- Playable on: PC VR platforms
Fans have been praying for Half-Life 3 for years, but the series has always been about raising the bar of technology, so it was almost apt that Valve’s return to this acclaimed series was going to be different.
The demand for a beefy PC rig might make Half-Life: Alyx inaccessible to many players but even at the minimal settings and without room-scale, the tech is simply light years ahead of the competition. Just the wondrous little details and ways you can interact with simple mundane objects like drawing on a window is magic itself before you put on the gravity gloves.
More importantly, Alyx isn’t just the best VR game, it’s an incredible Half-Life game in its own right, with brilliantly written characters and a climax that has profound implications for the series going forward.
2. Rez Infinite
Coming up to 20 years old, Rez always felt ahead of its time, a cyberspace shooter that combined sound and sense to a whole other transcendental plane. Which is to say it was begging to be brought back in VR.
Using head-tracking to shoot at targets may make Rez Infinite a tad easier than its original but you don’t play it for the challenge but the experience of sensory overload as you immerse yourself in the wonder of its trippy visuals and thumping techno trance soundtrack.
What truly elevates Rez Infinite to a modern masterpiece is the all-new Area X level, which is just 20 minutes of rapturous bliss as Tetsuya Mizuguchi takes us off the rails to a new future in the next evolution of synaesthesia.
3. Astro Bot: Rescue Mission
- Developer: Team Asobi
- Playable on: PSVR
Starting out as a mini-game in the free PSVR app The Playroom VR before being fleshed out as a full game, Astro Bot: Rescue Mission isn’t just the best game on Sony’s headset, it’s one of the best platformers in recent years.
There have been other 3D games where you’re essentially the camera looking down on a virtual diorama, but Rescue Mission goes one step further by putting your head into the game so that you’re not just a cypher but as much a character as the adorable Astro.
The platforming itself is also fantastic, with thrilling set pieces that take you literally out of this world. It’s no exaggeration to call it the Mario Galaxy of VR games – Astro Bot is truly a cosmic delight.
4. Beat Saber
- Developer: Beat Games
- Playable on: PC VR, Oculus, PSVR
There’s plenty of VR games that get you working out, but it doesn’t get more bad-ass than dual-wielding lightsabers as you slash to the beat in the best VR rhythm game.
When you’re in the zone, slicing up oncoming blocks or dodging obstacles in every direction to high-tempo EDM, it feels so great that you won’t care if it makes you look silly or that you’ll be sweating buckets in a matter of minutes.
Whether you’re playing Beat Saber as a way to keep fit, challenging yourself with a range of modifiers, or even adding your own tracks (via PC) to the already growing library (which include Green Day, Linkin Park, BTS, and Panic! At The Disco), there’s no better VR game to get you moving.
5. Blood And Truth
- Developer: London Studio
- Playable on: PSVR
The closest you might get to a VR Uncharted, Blood And Truth was the first feature-length PSVR exclusive that combined a smorgasbord of playful mechanics within touching distance with a fun rollicking London-set caper inspired by both Guy Ritchie and Bond flicks.
While it gets around a lot of locomotion issues simply by having you look to different points to move to, you’re also more than just disembodied hands thanks to how weapons and ammo are mapped around your body.
But what delightful things you get to do with your hands, whether you’re scaling up the scaffolding of a gang hideout, picking locks, dual-wielding weapons, or best of all being in the middle of a shoot-out in a nightclub while mixing behind the decks. You’d be a mug to miss out.
6. Star Wars: Squadrons
- Developer: Motive Studios
- Playable on: PC VR, PSVR
Sure, you can play Star Wars: Squadrons perfectly fine in 2D. But when the full game – including both the single-player campaign and multiplayer – supports VR, this is your Star Wars dogfighting dreams from your childhood come true.
Flight games that confine you to a cockpit have always been perfectly-suited to VR, but being in the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter takes it to a whole other level. To be even more immersed, you’ll want to invest in a good HOTAS controller as well.
While Vader Immortal offers a thrilling albeit shallow Jedi fantasy, Squadrons is the definitive VR experience for any Star Wars fan.
7. Superhot VR
- Developer: SUPERHOT Team
- Playable on: PSVR, Oculus, PC VR
Originally a standard first-person shooter/puzzle game where time moves only when you move, Superhot VR totally transforms the concept so that you really get to be Neo in The Matrix.
It’s definitely a VR game you’ll want to play while standing, while extra space would help to reach certain weapons or dodge the slow-motion bullets coming your way.
There’s not one way to beat its levels. You can wait for your orange assailants to get close so you can punch them into oblivion, you can even take the gun out of their hand, you can sacrifice a weapon to intercept an oncoming bullet, or show off your skills by chucking a shuriken at a distant target. All the creative solutions at your disposal is what makes Superhot VR super hot to play.
8. Walkabout Mini Golf VR
- Developer: Mighty Coconut
- Playable on: Oculus, PC VR
If you’re looking for a chill casual VR game to play with friends, then there’s nothing better than going for a few rounds of Walkabout Mini Golf VR.
With realistic physics and smartly designed courses, the ability to play with up to five people makes it perfect for catching up with friends while fostering a bit of friendly competition.
As wonderful as the golfing itself is, it’s perhaps the freedom to teleport about the place in between putts, taking in the relaxing atmosphere of some lovely low-poly environments, or even looking around for the many lost balls scattered around each course that really makes this special.