The best things in life are free but the best VR games cost money. VR can empty your pockets faster than an addiction to freebasing ground up Fabergé eggs. But you are among an elite group of trailblazers know as early adopters. Still, you will want good value for money and here’s how to get it.
With the Touch controllers being an optional extra for the Rift we have broken this list into two categories. The first list comprises games that may support Motion Control but can be played perfectly fine with a gamepad. The second list includes only games that require Motion Control.
All the Steam games on this list support both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. However a few games are Oculus ‘exclusives’ meaning they are only available through the Oculus store. Thankfully there is a great little program called Revive that allows Vive users to access the Oculus store. You will need to download the Oculus software and set up and Oculus account, here are the instructions from the Revive page.
- Install Oculus Home and skip the first-time setup.
- Download the latest Revive installer from the releases page.
- Install Revive in your preferred directory.
- Start SteamVR if it’s not already running.
- Put on the headset, open the dashboard and click the new Revive tab.
- Newly installed applications may give an error when you try to launch them for the first time, simply follow these instructions to fix it.
10 best gamepad games you can buy for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Chronos – Oculus – $39.99 – Requires Revive
It’s hard to believe Chronos was one of the launch titles for Rift. A proper full length game and a damn good one, Chronos takes place in a mysterious multi dimensional world reminiscent of the 90s classic Myst. Combat is brutal and tactical like Dark Souls and like Dark Souls you will die, a lot. However this is not a set back, in a stroke of design genius, death is one of the core mechanics, every time you die, your character ages one year. As your character ages their physical abilities fade and are replaced by wisdom and knowledge. In this way, you naturally progress from ‘sword and board’ to magic based combat. It also uses very clever camera angles that minimizes motion sickness making it a great starting point.
We regularly recommend Chronos to people on social media and most of they time they shy away because of it’s gamepad based nature. But once they try it, everyone comes back to us completely converted. “I immediately forgot all about motion control, this is a top notch game!”. Once you get dragged into this beautiful realm all sense of the outside including the controller just falls away. Being one of the oldest and best selling VR games around means Oculus regularly puts it on special, often for around $10, so keep an eye out for Chronos during the next big sale.
The move to VR has been difficult for many developers but when it comes to simulators it’s been pretty much plug and play. Any game where you sit in a cockpit works perfectly in VR, and you don’t even have to rearrange your gaming space. Project CARS has a ton of content, even the basic game features over 70 vehicles and 30 different tracks with 110 different courses. You can race against other players online, run your own time trials or follow a realistic career with multiple paths. Now in VR you are free to look around while you drive and check out all the tiny details lovingly recreated in every vehicle. Actually being able to turn you head to focus on the apex of a corner, or look behind to check on the other racers adds a level of realism you just have to experience. If you are still unsure, there is a free demo called “Pagani Edition” available on Steam.
Project cars is not the only racing game available on the Oculus and many believe it’s not even the best. For pure realism you need to look at iRacing, a fully fledged simulator so good that many real world racing drivers participate in the online tournaments. But you have to pay for each track and vehicle in iRacing and there are thousands of dollars worth of content available. Somewhere in the middle is a game called Assetto Corsa. Corsa is not as pretty as PCARS but most agree it has superior physics. Descriptions are subjective but the general consensus is that the physics in Corsa are more realistically “easy to learn but hard to master” where as PCARS is more twitchy and unpredictable.
For basic arcade fun there is also Dirt Rally which is great but does seem to have performance issues for some people. The reason we recommend PCARS over these other games is simple. PCARS is fully integrated into VR, all the menus and settings are fully accessible within VR and there are little to no bugs. The other games have some funny issues you may have to work around, PCARS just works.
The Climb – Oculus – $49.99 – Motion Control Support – Requires Revive
Although Crytek is going through some tough times their games have always been of the highest quality. The Climb is no exception. A photo realistic rock climbing sim that’s perfectly playable with a gamepad but becomes a visceral experience with the addition of Touch. The Climb is one of those must try experiences, something that only really works in VR. The Crytek engine has always been one of the prettiest around and here it’s used to great effect, transporting you to scenic far away places. Every texture, every shadow and every sound is so perfect it really draws you in. You could swear you can smell the dust of the grand canyon, the frozen glaciers of the arctic or the local flora in Ha Long Bay.
There are plenty of areas to explore, with different routes at different difficulty levels. There are gloves and wristbands to unlock, secrete hidden cameras to find in each level and even an endless practice climbing wall if you somehow manage to finish all the top level climbs.
With the Touch controllers in particular is can also be quite a work out. The fear you feel is real and the reach required in the harder levels can wear your arms out surprisingly quickly. Holding them out so high and far from your body quickly turns into isometric exercise and the clever powder mechanic wears you down further. After a certain amount of time you need to re-powder your hands, this means letting go of each hand in turn and twisting the controller rapidly. You can’t hold on long with one hand so this forces you to swing your wrists as fast as possibly while grabbing the controllers. This adds to the strain on your arms and after a while you will be looking for the next platform just so you can let go and rest for a while. It may be partially psychological, but your body can’t tell the difference and it makes for a very intense experience.
Thumper will melt your brain. It’s creator calls it a “violence rhythm game” where every action is synchronized with a rumbling industrial soundtrack while the fractal-like art style will make you question the nature of reality. For people into rhythm or music based games Thumper is like a religious experience. After nearly 20 years of playing Video games I can say with complete confidence that it looks like Nothing else ever. There is a sensation of speed and movement yet at the same time a sense of stillness. The way the track is sort of “fed” towards you, corners and obstacles are often created just as you approach them. It really does mess with your basic sense of spacial awareness like some kind of psychedelic drug. If Micheal Schumacher went in a sensory deprivation tank, he would see Thumper.
It’s also a brutally hard game. You can time your actions to the visuals for the first few levels but this quickly becomes impossible. The difficulty ramps up nice and gradually but eventually you must let go of the concept of planning and melt into the music. You have to let the rhythm of your mind sync with the rhythm of the game and ‘feel’ what is coming next. It sounds almost impossible and even when you finish a section of the higher levels it feels impossible, even though you just did it. Some serious understanding of the human mind must have went into the development and it’s little wonder this game took 5 years to finish. One of the best experiences in VR.
While the No Mans Sky rage continues, most people forget Elite Dangerous managed to simulate the entire milky way galaxy back in 2015. There were a lot of problems at first but Frontier Developments have been working their butts off and recent reviews are glowing. Be warned though, this is a very serious game with a steep learning curve. A hardcore simulator, you will need training just to learn how to control the throttle and approach a space station.
Most hardcore Elite players swear by a full HOTAS (Hand on throttle and stick) setup to play the game properly while others suggest a combination of a gamepad and a Voice Command Mod is perfectly fine. but in a game so open like this you really have the freedom to play as you want. There are no set goals, you could spend every minute in Elite just mining minerals, or trading between stations, or simply head out and explore the billions of stars. It was only recently, years since the release of the game, that one player discovered evidence of an Alien race in the game.
Even before VR support players were putting thousands of hours into Elite, It’s simply one of the best space sims ever made. Support is still strong and new features are still being added to the game. The plethora of content and open world play is what really ensures Elites place as one of the best games in VR. It may still be years before VR has a catalog of full length games, so it’s really important to know we have games like Elite to fall back on. Even if you just cruise around in space for a little while and enjoy the 3D cockpit you will get your moneys worth out of this one.
This is why we invented VR right? To wander around in films like Blade Runner. A gorgeous cyberpunk adventure game where you go into VR in VR, very meta. It’s short at about 2 hours of gameplay but a recent update has added touch support and a new chapter. Much more of an experience than a game compared to the rest of our list, but VR is all about the experience. The light puzzles feel just right and don’t distract too much from the best aspect or the game, atmosphere. Just wandering around and soaking up the world is what it’s all about, if you rush through a game like this, you are playing it wrong.
It’s really interesting the way VR can make something like this more engaging. Story heavy VR is really something we have very little of so far but the potential is massive. Actually being inside a story rather than viewing it on a screen puts VR somewhere in between Books and Film. You don’t have to imagine the world like a book, but on the other hand you are free to interact with it at your own pace, to change your perspective and take the information in differently than another person would. That’s the big difference between VR and non-VR visual mediums: you control the perspective. Technolust is a glimpse of the future for VR story telling. And if you get bored there are some cool retro arcade machines to play inside the game itself, neat.
Still in early access at the time of writing but impressive nonetheless. An open world exploration game with solid diving mechanics, crafting, base building and vehicles, Subnautica has it all. The aquatic alien life will amaze and frighten you and the resource collection will keep you up all night, diving ever deeper. Still has a few performance issues but the updates continue to roll in.
Back in the 90s the bestselling PC game of all time was Myst. Cyan’s latest offering Obduction is true to form featuring gorgeously rendered landscapes and frustratingly difficult puzzles. You will spend most of your time with no clue what to do but the eye candy alone is worth the price of admission.
Damaged Core – Oculus – $29.99 – Requires Revive
Damaged core takes a novel approach to movement. You play as a sentient AI that must stop a robot rebellion, you have no body so you must jump from robot to robot, hacking your way across the battlefield. Features a full 10 hour storyline co-written by the same guy who did Bioshock Infinite.
Windlands is just a beautiful place to be. You swing on grappling hooks and bounce off walls in an attempt to scale the shattered remains of a mysterious land. Has many options for motion sickness but I suggest turning them off if you can. The sense of open space and freedom is unrivaled.
10 best motion control games you can buy for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive
Superhot VR – Oculus – $24.99 – Requires Revive
Ever seen the slow motion gun fight scene in the show Spaced? That’s Superhot. It’s elegant tactical gun ballet will have you quoting action heroes while attempting to take out a guy from 30 paces with a coffee mug. Only downside is it’s a bit short but the recent “Forever” update has added a lot of replayablility.
Unspoken – Oculus – $29.99 – Requires Revive
Insomniac seems to be betting their chips on VR e-sports with this one. A competitive gesture based spell casting game that makes excellent use of motion control. It’s easy to learn, hard to master style will keep you coming back for more and its well balanced mechanics make every battle a unique experience.
Don’t let the simple concept fool you, this is a game that will chew up many hours. Chose between a variety of weapons, use shields to block incoming lasers or simply dodge out of the way. Whether its the slick graphics or the well balanced difficulty there is something about SPT that just keeps you coming back for more.
Onward – Steam – $24.99
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, VR and simulators are a match made in heaven. Built from scratch by a single college dropout, this mil-sim quickly became a VR best-seller. It’s still in very early access and looks a bit rough but it’s no compromise realism and cheap price make it must have for any VR shooter fan.
The Thrill of the Fight – Steam – $9.95
Wii Boxing was one of the best games on the platform but like most Wii games you could trick the sensors to avoid doing much work. The 1:1 movement of VR motion controll on the other hand means you have to move properly and this makes a big difference. A proper boxing simulator, you will need strategy and physical endurance to win, and you will get a good work out in the process.
I Expect You To Die – Oculus – $24.99 – Requires Revive
Quite short but one of those games you just have to try. Locked in a room buy a cartoon villan you must use whatever is around you to escape. Very funny, great puzzles and makes good use of motion controllers.
Serious Sam: The First Encounter VR – Steam – $39.99
Games have to be designed from the ground up to support VR, right? Not if you work at Croteam apparently. Make no mistake, this is the entire original game in all its glory, and it’s fantastic! Taking down a Werebull with two double barrel shotguns feels like fly-kicking Chuck Norris to death. This tiny Croatian studio has succeeded where big developers fear to tread.
This is the game to show your friends. In the distant future(2050) the human race is extinct but the surviving robots have built a hilariously inaccurate simulation of what it was like ‘to job’.
Essentially a wave shooter but with a few key differences. First and foremost, it’s really well made. It also demands skill, you will need to stand properly, close one eye, and look down the sights if you hope to hit anything. Reloading requires you to first eject the spent clip then reach for a new one on your belt. Fending off zombie hordes has never been so hardcore.
Audioshield – Steam – $19.95
When Dylan Fitterer released Audiosurf back in 2008 it’s brilliantly simple concept of turning your music collection into a rhythm game made it an instant classic. Now he’s back with the same idea but this time for motion control VR. Chose your own pace and difficulty by which songs you plug into it. Combine it with a thrash metal collection and you will never need to go to the gym again.
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