We’ve been playing with the HTC Vive virtual reality headset for a while now. We’ve been working our way through the various different games and VR experiences to find the very best currently on offer.
With an ever-growing catalogue of games available on Steam and through Viveport there are many different experiences to choose from. Whether you’ve just purchased a Vive or have been a proud owner for a while, knowing what to buy can be tricky. Which is why we’ve put together a list of the very best games to try to help you decide.
Best VR bullet-time experience
Superhot VR is a simply brilliant gaming experience. This game takes the classic bullet time mechanic and puts a fresh spin on it. In the VR world of Superhot you’re pitched against angry red men made of glass looking to end your existence. You need to fight them off in order to win – the twist is time is at a standstill until you start to move and it’s only when you start swinging your hands or moving your head that the action kicks in.
The result is a game that not only requires you to punch, shoot or stab your way to victory, but to think about what you’re doing before you start doing it each time a new level loads. Playing a game like this feels unnatural, confusing and extremely exhausting too. This is why Superhot VR is one of the most interesting and enjoyable games we’ve played. This is surely a unique VR game worth checking out.
Read the full review: Superhot VR review: Virtual reality’s most frustratingly enjoyable game
Best VR boxing game
Knockout League is an arcade-style boxing game, that’s well-crafted, easy to get into and tough to master. This game is the sort of experience where VR truly shines – an immersive, enjoyable and astounding experience that’s utterly exhausting.
The idea is simple enough – you’re thrown into a ring to box it out with a number of different opponents, each with their own fighting moves and styles that you need to learn in order to counter and win. Dodging, blocking and boxing your way to victory is incredibly thrilling and immensely exhausting too.
Another highlight of Knockout League is its calorie tracking feature where you can monitor how many calories you’ve burned through during each bout of fighting. Not only can you have a blast playing this game, you can get fit too. What more could you ask for?
Read the full review: Knockout League review: Arcade-style VR boxing is a smash hit
Most unusual VR experience
The Invisible Hours
The Invisible Hours is a VR experience like no other we’ve seen. This is more of a voyeuristic story-telling adventure than a traditional game. You don’t play the hero or the protagonist, just an onlooker witnessing events unfold as a body is found and things kick off in a “whodunit” fashion.
As a floating virtual head, you’re able to explore your surroundings and move freely around the environment following the characters as they go about their business. The controls allow you to pause, rewind and fast-forward time as you watch the story unfold.
This design makes for a brilliant virtual reality experience and shows the possible future of VR for story-telling. It’s incredibly immersive, well acted and well written too. We found ourselves wrapped up in the intrigue of each character and their backstories as we marvelled at the intricacy of each of the twists and turns in the story.
We were immediately hooked and wanted to discover everything the game had to offer. Think of this game as a film played out in virtual reality, where you can see each of the actors throughout the story and see what they might be doing, who they’re talking to or where they are when other things are happening. This gives you an idea of the power of the experience and just how brilliant it is.
Read the full review: The Invisible Hours review: A voyeuristic VR delight
Best VR detective action-adventure
L.A. Noire The VR Case Files
L.A. Noire is a game well-known for its story-telling abilities and immersion thanks to the facial animation that set a high gaming bar all those years ago when it was first released in 2011.
L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files is an edited and updated version of the original game built for virtual reality. It’s much more than just a port as this traditionally third-person game is now a first-person virtual reality experience. The result is a game where you’re much more involved in the action. Poking about for clues, engaging in a spot of fisticuffs or shooting it out with some pesky crims who don’t want to come quietly. This game is a brilliant experience and a wonderful update.
The facial capture technology really shines here too. The realistic facial expressions really add to the immersion when you’re staring a suspect square on, trying to judge their guilt or innocence based on the way they look when they reply to your questions.
We found L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files to be everything we hoped it would be. It’s not a hashed-together port, but a remastering of a classic. If you’ve ever played the original L.A. Noire then you’ll really love this update. If you haven’t then this is a great detective romp that has it all.
Read the full review: L.A. Noire The VR Case Files review: Criminal investigation has never been so much fun
Best free VR experience
Google Earth VR
Just when you thought Google Earth couldn’t possibly get any better, the search giant released a VR version, then added Street View too. With Google Earth VR you have the ability to go almost anywhere in the world in an instant.
You start in outer space with a god-like view of Earth, then you can spin the globe and find a location that interests you. With the flick and click of the controllers, you can easily zip and zoom around the world. You can switch viewpoint and put the world beneath your feet or zip across the skies flying off to another location.
If you know where you want to go, you can search for a location and get there in an instant too. One minute you can be on top of the Empire State Building, the next standing beside the Pyramids of Giza or just outside your house.
With the power of Street View, Google Earth VR is an amazing experience. In an instant, you can see travellers Photospheres or Google’s own footage captured by cars or cameramen from almost anywhere in the world. This means you can travel the world from the comfort of your own home without all the hassle of booking expensive flights or actually leaving the house. See what a place is like before you visit or just explore the world through the eyes of others.
This is a VR experience that’s entirely free too, so it’s a must download for any HTC Vive owner.
Read the full review: Google Earth VR review: Now with virtual reality Street View
Best atmospheric VR zombie shooter
Killing Floor Incursion
Zombie games are quickly becoming a bit of a cliché. They also lend themselves incredibly well to VR where the experience of fighting off hordes of undead is much more intense and immersive in VR than it is on any other platform.
If slaying zombies is your bag, then there are a massive amount of games to choose from on the Vive, some are hit and miss, some are brilliant. We’re happy to report that Killing Floor: Incursion is likely the most atmospheric, well-crafted and enjoyable zombie shooter we’ve played in VR.
Killing Floor: Incursion drops you into an eerie, foreboding and immersive zombie-filled world with a mass of weapons are your disposal. The mechanics of this game make it easy to play and far less frustrating than some other shooters we’ve played in VR. But it’s also a lot of fun. You can blast, bash and bludgeon zombies with a variety of guns and melee weapons that even include detached zombie limbs that you can batter them with if you’re running low on bullets.
Killing Floor: Incursion includes a good range of enemies which make for an interesting bit of VR combat. The campaign levels are also varied and interesting too. Better still it’s open to play in co-op mode with a friend and blasting zombies is always more enjoyable when you’ve got a buddy to watch your back.
Alternative to consider: Dead Effect 2 VR review: An action-packed sci-fi joy that’s rammed full of content
Best zombie game to play with friends
If the idea of VR zombie slaying appeals, but Killing Floor: Incursion looks a bit too dark and scary, then Arizona Sunshine might be another option. This is a zombie shooter based in the baking heat of Arizona state – so a lot of the battles take place outside in the sunshine as you move around the maps scavenging for ammo and food to get by.
Gunplay is superb and there are plenty of weapons to play around with. You need a good grip on reloading and rationing ammo to ensure you don’t find yourself surrounded by flesh eaters with nothing to deal with them. This lack of ammo is nothing new, but it certainly adds an intensity to the game. Other highlights include both a co-op campaign mode and a multiplayer survival mode too.
An excellent in-game voice system and hilarious character animations on your friendly human players make this game a joy in a multitude of ways.
There’s plenty of gaming content here and hours and hours of playtime too, so you certainly get value for your money. Arizona Sunshine is one of the best zombie VR games we’ve played and it’s a brilliant purchase for your HTC Vive.
Read the full review: Arizona Sunshine review: Zombie shooter is at the pinnacle of VR gaming
Alternatives to consider: The Brookhaven Experiment review: Virtual reality monsters in your living room
Best wave shooter
Space Pirate Trainer
Space Pirate Trainer is an exhilarating virtual reality space-based shooter with a simple premise and a banging soundtrack. You’re dropped onto a platform in space with two pistols and waves of flying bots that need to be shot out of the starry sky.
To make things interesting the guns can be changed into different modes including pistol, shotgun and grenade launcher or you can swap them for a shield or laser whip. This allows you mix up your play styles as you try to survive the waves of droids, while ducking and dodging the shots they fire at you. With the shield, you can even do things like deflect enemy fire back at them and blow them to smithereens that way.
With only three lives to play with that don’t replenish between waves, you’re always close to failure which makes Space Pirate Trainer as intense as it is enjoyable.
Space Pirate Trainer is all about high-scores and aching trigger fingers. This is a room-scale VR experience right to its core that’s physically challenging and demanding. We found it utterly exhausting to be ducking and diving out of the way – slipping across the floor trying not to get shot as we returned fire. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, exhausting, enjoyable fun. The best part is it’s one of the cheapest games on our list too.
Read the full review: Space Pirate Trainer review: A fantastically exhausting VR shooting gallery
Most frustrating VR shooter
Shooty Fruity is one of the most frustratingly exhausting VR games we’ve played, but the highlight to this one is the interesting gaming mechanics.
Shooty Fruity is set in a supermarket and you’re manning the tills as a checkout assistant or working in the canteen serving up snacks. The twist is an infestation of mutant fruit on the loose that you need to deal with. These fruits are determined to destroy your checkout, so you need to stop them while you work.
Management has kindly supplied a range of weapons to enable you to splat the fruit before they can do any harm. But in order to access these guns you need to successfully carry out your job while also fending off the fruit. This means you need to transform from an average gamer into sharp-shooting multi-skilled shop assistant – scanning groceries with one hand while blasting a hand-cannon with the other.
If that doesn’t sound complicated enough, the guns also aren’t reloadable and will eventually just explode uselessly in your hand. This means you not only need to be constantly scanning to unlock more guns and complete the level, but you also need to think about how many shots you have left in your gun and if you have enough to deal with incoming threats.
There’s a surprising amount of thinking involved in this one. Hand-eye coordination is essential, as is the ability to multi-task. The result is a thrilling experience that set Shooty Fruity apart from the mass of wave-based VR shooters out there.
Read the full review: Shooty Fruity review: A VR experience with plenty of juicy bits
Best virtual reality role-playing game
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is now an old game, but like L.A. Noire, it was a highlight of its time. Also like L.A. Noire it’s seen several different iterations since it’s initial release that includes enhanced editions, a Nintendo Switch version and now an update into virtual reality.
This is the same Skyrim that we know and loved all those years ago, only with an update control system and a whole new experience thanks to the wonderful immersion of VR.
Despite the dated graphics, Skyrim VR somehow still manages to be a magnificent RPG romp with all the freedom, fun and frolics we remember. The update for virtual reality includes a number of options for ”physical sneaking”, “realistic bow aiming”, “realistic shield grip” and “realistic swimming” that make Skyrim an interesting gaming experience.
Blocking with a virtual shield, parrying with your sword, blasting spells or using Dragonborn shouts – all are so much more interesting in virtual reality than they were on PC with a mouse and keyboard. Other things too, like riding a horse across the barren lands are incredibly enjoyable.
We found it was easier to get lost in the Skyrim universe in VR than in other versions we’d previously played. The hours quickly slip by as you carry out quests, grow your skills or learn to harness your Dragonborn abilities.
Skyrim is likely the definitive role-playing experience and it’s magnificent in VR too. It’s not cheap, but it’s also likely one of the biggest games you’ll play on the HTC Vive. Hours and hours of content await in a wonderful world that’s moddable too.
Alternatives to consider: Sairento VR review: Fast-paced ninja action with a shuriken serving of role-play
Best multi-experience game
Whenever we’ve talked to people who have briefly tried the HTC Vive, The Lab is one of the games they’ve dabbled with. It is Valve’s own free demo software and is, therefore, an essential title to download right from the bat.
It’s actually a collection of mini-games, experiences and tech demos, but is also something we’ve happily revisited a lot during our testing.
As the developer of Portal and its sequel, Valve has used the setting and characters to present The Lab, with many of the little challenges and games themed around Aperture Science Laboratories and experiments it carries out.
We particularly like the Longbow game, where you have to fire arrows at a horde of Vikings who are trying to sack your castle. One controller represents the bow, the other arrows. Soon you genuinely feel like you are stringing arrows and firing them at foes.
We also like one where you can play fetch with a mechanical dog. So cute. Its face lights up, and its tail wags. You can walk around the top of a mountain, looking at clouds float by and birds soar over your head – all while this adorable pup runs around your ankles, waiting for you to pick up a stick and throw it. We haphazardly threw the stick off the side of the mountain and where the dog would run off the cliff.
Instead, he found a path and eventually reappeared with the stick. This little demo is called Postcards, and it made us think that in the future parents could use it as a mean of letting their kids take care of a virtual pet before owning a real one. There are so many possibilities with virtual reality. Heck, you can even relive the golden era of gaming – only this time, it’s all around you.
We recommend The Lab to anyone who wants to dip their toes into VR as soon as they get their headset, because it gives you a full array of demos that work your brain and body and occasionally pull at your heartstrings
Best VR rhythm game
A basic idea but possibly one of our favourite VR games to return to often, Audioshield is a rhythm game that uses a virtual space very well indeed. It places a blue or orange light shield in either of your hands, mapped onto the real world controllers, and you have to raise them to fend off the same coloured balls that head towards you.
That sounds simple but considering this is a rhythm game the balls come down in time to chosen music – generally fast dance beats – and often come in different whoops and swirls. You must follow the shapes with your shield or risk ruining your end score.
Song choices found inside the game are limited, but it can also be used with any song file. There are also songs of the day that change.
Another essential for Vive owners we feel.
Best gladiatorial combat game
GORN is pitched as a “ludicrously violent VR gladiator simulator” and we’re certainly sure this isn’t something you shouldn’t let your kids play. Blood-curdling brutality abounds as you smash, stab and stomp your way to victory.
GORN is chocked full of gruesome gore, hilarious battles and the promises of a smashingly good time. The graphics and gameplay on this one are nothing short of hilarious. Cartoon-like cel-shaded graphics and amusing physics take away from the blood-curdling brutality and only help to add to the amusement.
You need plenty of space to play this one. We’d highly recommend clearing a good amount of play space to avoid bashing and boshing things in the real world while you’re having a smashing time in the virtual one.
There’s loads of content to play through here – with a multitude of different levels to play, weapons to fight with and bosses to battle. Weapons can be unlocked and upgraded too, so there’s plenty of reason to keep coming back for more. We really enjoyed our time with GORN. It’s exhausting, but a brilliant stress reliever and full of chortles too.
Read the full review: GORN VR review: Hilarity and brutality abound
Best space-based experience
Both Elite Dangerous and the Elite Dangerous Horizons pack are VR enabled and compatible with the HTC Vive.
We played the original game on an Oculus Rift a couple of years back and loved it then. It is just as great a VR experience now, although you will need a decent PC graphics card to play without lag or low resolutions, we found.
The normal, 2D version of both games are already brilliant, but add the ability to look around your craft and gaze into space and it further becomes the simulation game promised.
It requires a controller or, better still, flight controls, and you can’t use the Vive’s own controllers, but we used an Xbox One controller with a wireless adapter for our PC and it handled well. Be prepared for a steep learning curve though, as this isn’t a mere shoot-em-up.
Best space battle shooter
EVE: Valkyrie Warzone
EVE: Valkyrie Warzone is a reasonable space battle romp with all the joys of VR without the misery of motion sickness. This is another space game that requires a controller or keyboard and mouse to play, rather than the HTC Vive controllers. But if you’re lucky enough to own a compatible gamepad then it’s well worth considering.
This is a fantastically fun VR game to play while seated on your sofa. Strapping on your Vive you’re suddenly in the cockpit of a spaceship and blasting off into space. This is a multiplayer game first and foremost, so the idea is to learn how to play with the various ships and blast your way to victory.
Massive hulking guns and flak cannons that track your head movement so you can shoot where you’re looking rather than where the ship is pointing are among some of the highlights. Each spacecraft has different defence capabilities and handle in different ways – some are more manoeuvrable than others, some have more powerful firepower.
Each level sees you being blasted out into space through a high-speed magnetic launch tube which in itself is a thrill to behold and rarely gets boring. Then you’re battling it out against seasoned players who’ll surely blast you to pieces on a regular basis. Nevertherless, it’s a thrilling ride and a great game.
Read the full review: EVE Valkyrie review: Virtual reality space battle fun without the motion sickness
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