Virtual reality brings a potential we have yet to see in gaming, and the Vive is the VR headset to bring it all to life. While consumer-grade VR is still in its early stages and many developers are still figuring out the best way to craft compelling games, there are already more than a few gems available to play on the platform that provide a truly immersive VR experience. Here are the HTC Vive games you should buy.
Until You Fall
Until You Fall is a roguelike action game where you run the same gauntlet of enemies over and over, upgrading your weapons and skills as you go. Although the enemy models and environments can get a bit repetitive, the gameplay is anything but. Until You Fall utilizes both of the motion controllers with a weapon in each hand. Instead of flailing your arms around and hoping for the best, Until You Fall features a fast parrying and blocking system.
In many ways, it feels like a rhythm game. Each enemy type attacks in different ways, and you’ll need to anticipate each upcoming move. As you block and dodge, you’ll slowly work chip away at your opponents’ defenses, opening up the opportunity for a devastating combo. Until You Fall not only showcases how well swordplay works in VR but also how intricate it can be.
Gorn is a VR gladiator simulator from the developer of Broforce. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously going so far as to call the enemy animations “poor” on the Steam page. As with many VR titles, Gorn occasionally feels broken but in a charming way and remains endlessly fun to play. Ruthlessly violent, you can dispatch of foes any way you see fit be it with swords, maces, knives, war hammers, and more at your disposal.
It’s fully physics-driven, too, so you can interact with the game world and your enemies in a multitude of ways. You can plant a mace in an opponent’s head or use a sword to chop off a limb. Even as how blood-ridden and violent as Gorn is, it never gets too overwhelming. The cartoon graphics and constant jokes are enough to make the brutality of its subject matter feel digestible.
Swords of Gargantua
Virtual reality’s motion controllers are perfect for emulating sword fighting, and Swords of Gargantua is one of the best ways to live out your fantasies as a monster-slaying warrior. With 100 single-player missions and 30 included weapons, you won’t run out of enemies to kill anytime soon. With haptic feedback support for swords, it will feel like you’re really swinging a weapon.
If you get tired of playing alone, you can battle waves of enemies in four-player cooperative play, and it’s cross-platform compatible giving you more potential teammates. At a reasonable price, it’s one of the best values on Vive right now.
One of the best action games available in VR, Raw Data transports you into the future to take down an evil conglomerate. Eden Corporation controls the world, but as an operative from the underground hacking group SyndiK8, you go straight into the walls of the corporation to decimate the operation from within, siphoning as much data as possible.
The sci-fi setting is wonderfully realized, and the action-oriented gameplay puts you in total control of a wide range of weapons and nanotech powers. Raw Data is a challenging game that rewards players who take advantage of their entire arsenal of abilities. You can play solo or with a friend to uncover the true motives of Eden.
Showing off VR’s explorative strengths, Eagle Flight lets you take control of an eagle soaring over the streets of Paris. In this world, humans went extinct 50 years ago, and animals now have dominion over everything. Eagle Flight gives you a breathtaking vantage point over historic landmarks left behind such as the Eiffel Tower.
The action comes in as you swoop down to fight off other animals trying to hone in on your territory. The aerial dogfights are exciting, but perhaps most interesting when enjoyed via the game’s competitive multiplayer mode. Part of the appeal of VR is having experiences you otherwise couldn’t, and Ubisoft’s Eagle Flight does just that.
Part of what makes virtual reality so exciting is its ability to dominate the player’s senses in a way that screens simply cannot. No game better exemplifies this than Thumper, a so-called “rhythm violence” game that puts players in control of a metallic beetle racing along a psychedelic highway to confront gigantic monsters. Players use simple, intuitive commands to avoid obstacles along the track, lean into turns, and hop over rails.
The hazards sync with the game’s soundtrack consisting of militant drums and ominous soundscapes. Even with the distance granted by a monitor, Thumper feels oppressive, but in virtual reality, it becomes a grinding descent into hell. While the game’s environments look great in VR, the boss fights are truly awe-inspiring. Massive, cosmic horrors are rarely as menacing as they are in VR.
While not an officially licensed Star Wars game, it’s easy to see where the inspiration for this action music game came from. Wielding a pair of HTC Vive controllers, you smack at blocks with lightsabers to the rhythm of catchy instrumental tracks. Slashing through these blocks may not be as satisfying as slaying a Stormtrooper, but it’s pretty darn close.
Technically it’s still in early access, so more content, including a single-player campaign, is expected down the line. As it stands, Beat Saber has ten awesome tracks and multiple difficulty levels to master. Remember when Guitar Hero captivated the world way back when? Beat Saber captures that magic in the VR space.
Elite Dangerous’s starfighter cockpit is a great way to justify a seated VR experience. Frontier planned to port the game to VR since the Oculus DK1, and that level of iteration shows in the final product’s polish.
Elite has a first-mover’s advantage of being one of the Vive’s launch titles longest in development with a successful, multi-platform release already under its belt. This open-world space game will be a natural starting point for gamers who want a polished, proven experience.
Boneworks is a narrative-driven first-person shooter from Stress Level Zero, the same studio behind Duck Season. In many ways, the game feels like a tech demo of what VR is capable of. Using an advanced physics engine, you’re tasked with solving puzzles, dispatching enemies, and traversing the sci-fi world in creative ways. You can interact with nearly everything in the game world, too, bringing a level of immersion that no other VR title has been able to capture.
Outside of the Half-Life-inspired narrative, which is worthy of a mention in its own right, it’s the interactions in Boneworks that stand out most. If you see something, you can interact with it in the way you think you can. For instance, you can use a crowbar to open a locker door or stuff a flying enemy into a trash can and close the lid. Much like how Half-Life 2 showed how much physics can affect normal games, Boneworks shows how it can affect VR titles.
The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners
Outside the Telltale titles, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners is easily the best Walking Dead game ever made, and it just happens to be in VR. Saints and Sinners takes place in New Orleans, but rather than the city filled with excellent food and party beads many are familiar with, this version is dilapidated and overrun with zombies. To make matters worse, there are warring factions within the city, and you’re caught in the middle.
If the subject matter didn’t stress the point enough, you send your character to sleep each night using a flask. Saints and Sinners captures the dark, moody tone of the TV series excellently and provides compelling combat on top of that. Like Boneworks, Saints and Sinners showcases how powerful VR can be for gaming.
Pistol Whip is technically a shooter, though it’s fairer to call it a rhythm game. You automatically move down a linear corridor with only a pistol, shooting, dodging, and punching like you’re John Wick in an over-saturated tech demo. Although the shooting is fun on its own, Pistol Whip sets its stages to music, and the more you time your attacks to the beat, the higher the score you’ll get.
Like Beat Saber, Pistol Whip fits perfectly into the VR experience. Unlike other rhythm games, however, which force you into a set beat, Pistol Whip allows you to shoot to your own tune. Locking into the pulse-pounding EDM tracks and sending bullets through the air is where Pistol Whip shines.
Superhot VR turns an already innovative and exciting shooter puzzler into an even more memorable experience on the Vive. The stop time mechanic responds to movement from the player’s hands wielding the Vive controllers. Thanks to the precise tracking system offered by the Vive, fluid and precise movements can be made with little frustration.
The goal of Superhot VR is the same as the original — work your way through white rooms by dismembering foes with calculated movements. Superhot VR gets your adrenaline pumping and truly showcases how immersive VR can be. For that, it’s arguably the best experience available on Vive.
A remake of the 2001 cult classic Rez, Rez Infinite is a pitch-perfect VR adaptation that makes us feel as though Rez was always meant for VR. Rez Infinite is still the on-rails shooter that takes players through a hazard-filled computer network, but the all-encompassing chaos and enemies you must aim and shoot at pop when in VR.
There’s also something about the way the shifting environments — the lines, polygons, and bright flourishes — that comes alive when strapped into a headset. Combine the fast and enticing gameplay with the rhythmic soundtrack, and it’s easy to get fully immersed in the HTC Vive. Rez has aged remarkably well, but Rez Infinite in VR is the best way to play the iconic game.
Serious Sam VR: The First Encounter
Expanding on the surprise success of Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope, The First Encounter delivers a faithful remaster of the 2009 HD remake of the original entry in the series. Supporting both full locomotion and teleportation movement, The First Encounter lets you enjoy the fast-paced experience however you see fit.
The 15 campaign levels are even more fun than in the original thanks to the immersion of VR. You can also play cooperatively or in an arena-style competitive mode online. There’s also a horde mode that lets you link up with up to 15 other players to battle through waves of enemies.
Featuring full trackpad controls on Vive, Serious Sam VR: The First Encounter successfully replicates controller play while giving you increased precision.
According to your radio, there are survivors of the zombie apocalypse other than yourself, and it’s your job to go on the grueling journey through the southwestern heat to reach humanity. Yes, Arizona Sunshine is yet another game filled with flesh-devouring zombies, but it’s in VR.
Getting chased by the undead becomes a lot less blasé when you feel like you’re really there. When exploring the game’s vast, barren world, a pack of zombies is never far behind. Arizona Sunshine‘s campaign is playable solo and cooperatively. When you’re done, there is a proper horde mode to get at with up to four players.
Space Pirate Trainer
Space Pirate Trainer stands out from the mass of shooting galleries on the Vive with its tight controls and gorgeous presentation, which gives players an experience straight out of an ’80s sci-fi film.
The game largely takes place on an isolated platform. Players hold the Vive controllers in their hands, each one acting as an in-game gun. These guns can be set to perform a variety of actions, allowing you to fire in bursts or using powerful charged shots.
Increasingly difficult waves of robotic enemies emerge, and you must shoot them down while dodging their attacks. This simple gameplay is surprisingly fun, however, as it gets you moving and multitasking. There are few VR experiences more thrilling than twirling around incoming lasers and firing back, guns akimbo.
While many of the titles currently available seem more like proofs of concept than anything else, Hover Junkers is a fully-realized and exciting multiplayer experience that has us hooked. It solves the problem of moving in a limited space by turning your small play area into the deck of a hover ship that you use to fly around the battlefield, collect junk, and trade blasts with your opponents. Collected junk can be used to bolster your defenses, creating walls for you to crouch behind. Shooting and reloading are handled with natural gestures.
Piloting around, ducking behind cover, and popping up to shoot at your enemies is as intuitive and immersive as any first-person shooter we’ve ever played, so Hover Junkers serves as a fantastic ambassador for the genre.
Few first-person shooters have ever been as smooth, outrageous, and downright fun as 2016’s Doom reboot. Capturing everything great about the original two games, it felt like a direct response to the overly serious and methodical tone of modern AAA titles.
Doom VFR — yes, the “F” means exactly what you think it does — adapts the speedy experience of thrill-killing demons for VR, with a new tale of a “cybernetic survivor” tasked with fending off a demonic invasion on the Mars-based research facility.
Read our full Doom VFR review
Duck Season takes you back to the summer of 1988. Your mom comes home with a stack of games for your Kingbit Entertainment System, many of which mimic classic NES games. Among the lot is a Dunk Hunt clone, and unlike the other titles, you’re transported into the virtual world to, well, hunt ducks. There, the iconic dog from the original game still taunts you, but it seems more menacing than before. Clearly someone dressed in a dog costume, the character becomes increasingly involved in the boy’s life, eventually transitioning out of the game world.
It should be clarified that Duck Season is a horror title, so be warned. That’s all we’ll spoil about it, however. Featuring multiple subplots, various mini-games, and seven unique endings, Duck Season is a creative, narrative-driven experience built from the ground up for VR.
Take a break from the violence and lifelike combat found in so many Vive games and instead relax in the tranquil world of Fujii. Part narrative adventure and part gardening simulator, you’ll explore the colorful, peaceful areas of Fujii and gradually restore life to its biomes and interact with plants. As you travel and collect seeds, you can then plant them in your own home garden for a custom creation unlike anyone else’s.
Much of the joy in Fujii comes from its gorgeous environments, which range from lush greenery to abstract white gardens and ponds topped with lily pads. The plants you grow will even contain musical elements, and you can bring back animals and smaller insects to their new home in your garden.
Trover Saves the Universe
From the bizarre and eccentric mind of Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland comes Trover Saves the Universe. Completely separate from the hit show but featuring the same art direction and sense of humor, Trover Saves the Universe is an adventure game loaded up with different gameplay opportunities, including platforming and combat. All throughout, you’ll be treated to Roiland’s unique brand of sarcasm, and you can upgrade Trover to help on your adventure.
Trover Saves the Universe will continue to evolve over time as well. Future content for the game will be released for free, and you have options for how you play it. The game is fully compatible with Vive, or you can play it on a traditional display.
If you watched Gravity and thought, “Gosh, I’d love to see how terrified I would get if I were stranded alone in space,” Adr1ft gives you the chance to find out. At the start of the game, you wake up completely alone in the vast silence of space.
Remnants of your destroyed space station float around you, but you don’t really understand the significance of that event because you have no memory. Even worse, your oxygen suit is gradually failing, constantly threatening death by suffocation in the void among the nameless stars.
The main draw of Adr1ft ends up being its stunning visuals. You truly will feel as if you are there. Throughout the roughly four hour experience, you will mostly be gazing at the environments while slowing trying to save yourself. Admittedly, the controls can be rough, but as a visual display, Adr1ft is certainly worth checking out.
Many virtual reality games commit to the first-person perspective and have you embody the character you’re controlling, but Moss takes a different approach. The action-adventure game tasks you with controlling a small mouse from a third-person perspective, engaging in combat and moving throughout the world much like you would in a traditional game.
The world itself, however, is controlled by you, and you can use this to your advantage as you solve puzzles and clear obstacles. Moss’ storybook-like tale and the setting is also perfectly suitable for younger players, provided they can handle VR.
Read our full Moss review
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
Life is rather boring in 2050. Every job has replaced humans with robots, and now you’re feeling a bit underwhelmed. To keep yourself busy, you strap on a VR headset and see what it was like to work menial jobs. In Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives, you can work as a convenience store clerk, a mechanic, a chef, and an office worker.
As mundane as that may sound, it turns out that everyday tasks are much more enthralling in VR. It helps that Job Simulator has quirky humor, but for the most part, the experience excels because almost everything you see is a point of interaction. Simply picking up, moving, and throwing things in VR is a joy.
If you’re getting tired from the work you’re doing in Job Simulator, Owlchemy Labs still has you covered with Vacation Simulator. The game takes the adventure to sunny beaches and snowy mountaintops as you play ball, grill delicious meals, swim in the pool, or just goof around. You can even go hiking, but without the bug bites and dirt that usually ruin such an experience. There usually aren’t robots hanging around when you take a real vacation, either.
Vacation Simulator is a lighter VR game, and it is less likely to cause sickness issues than more intense offerings. Owlchemy Labs’ sense of humor shines through in the new setting, and it’s a game that can truly only exist within VR.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew
The closest you will come to living out your dreams on the Enterprise, Star Trek: Bridge Crew does an exceedingly good job at capturing the essence of a Star Trek space battle in VR. You explore the stars and universe with a team of four aboard your spaceship.
One pilots the ship, another serves as an engineer, and another makes tactical choices. The fourth teammate is the captain looking over all of the work at a global level. As a team-oriented experience, Bridge Crew is at its absolute best when you have three friends to play with. If you’re remotely interested in Star Trek and have someone to play with, you shouldn’t miss it.
Read our full Star Trek: Bridge Crew review
Is virtual reality a good medium for comedy? Accounting, a short adventure game written by Rick and Morty creator Justin Roiland, makes a strong case for it. Navigating through many colorful, deranged layers of reality, players can grab and move objects in the world, and, for the most part, the only thing they have to do is fiddle with their surroundings.
While the mechanics may not be memorable, the writing certainly is. Populated by bizarre characters who speak in rambling, absurd dialogue, fans of the show, or animated comedy in general, will undoubtedly love this short but memorable VR vignette.
Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel
The HBO show Silicon Valley gives you a look into the world’s most dysfunctional technology company, Pied Piper, and with the free Silicon Valley: Inside the Hacker Hostel game, you can be a cog in the barely-oiled machine.
The game features several of the show’s biggest characters, including Jared, Jian Yang, Big Head, Richard, Dinesh, and Gilfoyle, as well as a fully functional bong, in case you need something to give you a little creative inspiration.
Fallout 4 VR
Fallout 4 is one of the most ambitious role-playing games of all time, combining an improved combat system with Bethesda’s legendary world-building and quest design. Fallout 4 VR throws you into the game to live our your vault-dwelling dreams in virtual reality — not just a small section of the game, but the entire experience.
With the stop-and-go V.A.T.S. combat system and a slower movement speed than comparable virtual reality titles, Fallout 4 VR can be played for long stretches of time, and given the size of Bethesda’s world and the amount of content it holds, that is a very good thing.
Read our full Fallout 4 VR review
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
Nobody can create an open world quite like Bethesda Game Studios, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim just might be the developer’s masterpiece. In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR, you can experience the entire game in virtual reality, and it looks even better on HTC Vive than it does on platforms like PlayStation VR.
Traveling throughout Skyrim and battling Draugr in secret caves feels more immersive than it did in the original game, and you can truly become the character you’ve created. Every decision has a newfound sense of weight and meaning, and every battle feels that much more important.
Read our full Skyrim VR review
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Virtual reality headsets seem like an isolating experience at first, and though it’s possible to mirror the visuals to a screen for the sake of people around you, there is no way to convey the same experience you’re having. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a unique multiplayer experience that offers a way for people not wearing the headset to participate.
The game tasks the player wearing the headset with disarming a bomb with input from other players. The problem? Only the player wearing the headset can see the bomb. In order to disarm it, the main player must describe the various modules on the bomb, while the other players consult a lengthy manual that offers instructions on what to do.
The result is tense, and often frantic experience as players shout at each other while the clock ticks down. The modules that appear on the bomb appoint players with various tasks, such as translating morse code or playing memory games, and communication is vital; it can also break down quickly. The asymmetric gameplay of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is great fun and provides a much-needed template for socially-oriented VR games.
The Vive’s motion controls and use of actual, physical space opens up some exciting possibilities for games that really let you get your hands dirty, and Fantastic Contraption is a perfect example. Based on a flash game from 2008 of the same name, Fantastic Contraption tasks you with using simple components such as wheels and rods, to construct devices that move a goal object through the level and into the goal area. It’s conceptually reminiscent of the old Incredible Machine series, but with simpler components and a greater focus on physics.
Unlike its predecessor where you simply used the mouse to connect parts and construct 2D contraptions, now you manipulate components directly with your hands in full 3D. The concept translates beautifully into the new medium, and getting down on your hands and knees to tinker with your contraption is gratifyingly immersive.
Mr. Mercedes Lair Escape
Why pay money to go to an escape room when you can experience all the same thrills and frustration from the comfort of your living room? In Mr. Mercedes Lair Escape, a puzzle game based on the AT&T television show and Steven King novel, you’re tasked with escaping from a locked-down lair before time expires, and footage from the set of the show has been used directly in the experience. It’s a disturbing and dark take on the escape room that borders on psychological horror, which just makes actually figuring out the way to exit the room even more stressful.
A sublime and wholly original take on the classic puzzle game, Tetris Effect shows just how important a game’s visual and audial cues can be to shaping the experience. At its most basic level, Tetris Effect is still classic Tetris, but Tetris Effect uses crescendos and your own moves to shape the game’s soundtrack. As you continue to clear lines and make your way through different stages, the pieces will change design, as will the environments behind them.
Tetris Effect gets its name from the phenomenon of players seeing pieces wherever they look — even in their dreams — even after putting the game down. For this reason, the HTC Vive is the perfect place to experience the game as you’ll be sure to still watch blocks fall when you close your eyes.
Social and creative
Richie’s Plank Experience
Many people are at least a little afraid of heights, particularly when they’re near the top of a skyscraper without a barrier to prevent them from falling. In Richie’s Plank Experience, you can attempt to overcome that fear by walking on a narrow plank of wood 80 floors up in the air.
The developers even suggest using an actual wooden plank in your playing space, and you can customize the in-game plank’s dimensions to match the one you’re using in real life.
A social VR experience, Rec Room gives players the ability to hang out and play colorful mini-games with other players. As you control an avatar, you can play basketball, soccer, paintball, disc golf, charades, and more, and all of it is played with room-scale VR that really immerses you in the action.
Rec Room is one of the more relaxed experiences available on the HTC Vive, and since it’s in early access, more mini-games are expected to be added over time. As it stands, Rec Room is free to download and play, making it a no-brainer for HTC Vive owners.
Tilt Brush isn’t a game, per se, but it’s easily one of the most engrossing and medium-specific applications currently available for the Vive. This Google-owned app utilizes the two motion controllers as a brush and palette, allowing you to paint in 3D space.
Tilt Brush doesn’t quite have all of the tools yet that you might need in order to make it a professional workhorse (like the ability to create standard, geometric forms), but it’s nevertheless a fantastic and intuitive way to quickly sketch out ideas in 3D. Unlike many of the games released so far that simply port existing genres into VR without fundamentally altering the gameplay, VR painting and sculpting is a categorically different experience and has the potential to become an enormously important sector of the industry.