Until the last few decades, virtual reality remained the stuff of speculative fiction: the idea of placing people within a virtual world to live vicariously however they wished was something out of science fiction rather than something that could be made truly real.
However, VR gaming has begun a resurgence as consumer technology finally catches up to what was previously fantasy, letting developers experiment and see what can be done to immerse gamers in virtual worlds. Though the idea of a Ready Player One-esque virtual world is far from certain, players can console themselves with at least twenty-five titles from across the Steam, Quest, and PlayStation libraries in the meantime.
These VR games demonstrate what can be achieved in virtual reality gaming, proven to truly captivate their players and tap into the untold potential of the medium.
A classic dungeon-crawler title, Demeo has the unique hook of presenting its game much like an old-school Dungeons and Dragons tabletop game, going so far as having players physically roll dice to determine movement and attacks, much like the genre’s 1980s heyday.
The in-game tabletop and animated miniature characters are lovingly crafted as players physically maneuver through a gradually revealing dungeon play area, picking the right cards to attack and defend as you would in real life. The game highly encourages cooperative play with friends to recreate the camaraderie of a D&D game night and brings fantasy adventuring to life in ways only previously imagined.
2. Astro Bot Rescue Mission
A spin-off of the bundled The Playroom VR included with the original PlayStation VR, Astro Bot Rescue Mission combined Super Mario-style platforming with immersive gameplay only afforded in VR games.
Though players use the headset as expected, they primarily use the DualShock controller to control the titular Astro as they help him navigate various worlds to rescue his fellow bots. Thus, the headset acts as the game’s camera, using the PlayStation VR and unique DualShock controller features to change the world around Astro. The game exudes charm and utilizes the two technologies smartly, ensuring a well-rounded standout for Sony’s latest video game mascot.
Gleefully cartoonish and violent, Gorn has players act out their gladiatorial fantasies against an unending wave of muscle-bound brutes in any way they choose with an arsenal of readily available weapons.
Part of the earlier era of wave-based VR games, the title continues to enjoy massive popularity for its simple art style and over-the-top ways players can fight their enemies, from bows and arrows to the tried-and-true sword and shield. Gorn also allows players to be more experimental with dispatching opponents, such as stealing their weapons or even using the enemy gladiator himself to beat his own allies.
4. Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond
There was a time, not terribly long ago, that Medal of Honor was the king of World War II shooters before Call of Duty became the dominant FPS franchise in the mid-2000s. Though the franchise tried to move to the modern day, Respawn Entertainment took a stab at the series with a return to its roots while bracing VR technology.
Playing as an OSS agent across multiple World War II fronts, players could find realistic period weaponry and meticulous set pieces that recall the glory years of Medal of Honor. Though there are issues with controls and story, if players want a prime example of a classic World War II FPS, Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond is a must, especially as it stands as one of the few actual AAA VR games from a major games studio.
5. Asgard’s Wrath
Meta-owned Sanzaru Games proved their knack for high-quality, grand-scale RPGs with this PC exclusive release from late 2019, having players embody a nascent Norse god under the mentorship of the trickster Loki.
Balancing godly scale with first-person melee combat, the game also allows players to control loyal companions, physically controlling them and using their unique abilities to explore dungeons and solve puzzles. The success of this title would see Sanzaru get to work on a similar acclaimed follow-up, Asgard’s Wrath II, with a shift towards Egyptian mythology and designed for the Quest VR headset family.
6. Iron Man VR
Originally exclusive to PSVR, Iron Man VR allowed players to fully become Tony Stark’s famous alter-ego in a previously unthinkable way. Players don the Iron Man armor for themselves as they fly, fire repulsor blasts, and fight the supervillain Ghost in high-octane aerial combat sequences.
The controllers mimic Iron Man’s hand gestures, positioning the player to fly exactly like the hero would in both comics and movies. At the same time, the heads-up display recalls the look and feel of his Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation. There are very few readily available superhero VR games out there, but Iron Man VR stands out for embodying its titular hero.
Most VR games don’t offer much in the way of multiplayer experiences as one would expect from titles like Fortnite or Call of Duty. One of those exceptions, however, is the game Pavlov, which endeavors to offer Call of Duty-esque action that puts players in the crossfire like never before.
The game offers realistic weapon handling and multiple online modes and can be found readily available on all VR systems. The only catch is that Pavlov isn’t for newcomers; only seasoned VR gamers are encouraged to try the game out, but what Pavlov presents shouldn’t be missed, regardless.
8. I Expect You to Die
A VR puzzle game that mixesArcher with quick-thinking action, I Expect You to Die became Schell Games’ top franchise for its witty dialogue and dry humor. Players take on the role of a spy for “The Agency,” tasked with going up against the Blofeld-esque Dr. Zor and his criminal organization.
I Expect You to Die incorporates escape room puzzle mechanics, often timed and requiring fast thinking to overcome immediate danger, such as defusing bombs and dodging laser beams. Tongue firmly in cheek, this game spawned a series that continues to grow strong, with harder conundrums and higher world stakes.
9. Gran Turismo 7
The Gran Turismo series of games are lauded for their meticulous realism and attention to detail, offering the closest games have come to experiencing the feel of getting behind the wheel of a supercar. Naturally, the PlayStation VR2 interpretation of the series’ latest installment offers players the most immersive means yet to get in the driver’s seat. It utilizes the headset’s 4K display to make the racing come more alive than it would otherwise conventionally.
The numerous tracks feel grand, and racers can accurately judge how to overtake the competition to win races, making Gran Turismo 7 an intense but equally rewarding ride.
10. Sniper Elite VR
The cult-beloved Sniper Elite series follows players as they navigate across World War II-era fronts, but the series hasn’t felt more immersive than in its VR spin-off game. Placing players in the boots of an Italian partisan sniper, Sniper Elite VR brings the same X-Ray camera systems and semi-realistic sniping action that made the series so beloved to a first-person perspective. The story is threadbare, but the fast-paced war action keeps players on their feet as they work to blow away Axis plans with a well-placed bullet to the head.
11. Blood and Truth
Perhaps the one standout game within the original PlayStation VR ecosystem, Blood and Truth took players through a Guy Ritchie-esque action romp through the London criminal underworld.
Overseen by Sony’s London Studio, the same developers behind the cult classic The Getaway series, the game pays homage to its original British gangster roots while delivering rousing action set-pieces throughout its campaign. The only downside to this game is the technology it was originally made for, with the required Move controllers and PlayStation camera inadequate to deliver the thrills it projects. Yet despite these limitations, Blood and Truth remains a standout action game, providing a compelling reason to own the initial PlayStation VR while fueling demands for a PSVR2 port.
One of the more common aspects of VR game development, players will find, is the desire to recontextualize and reimagine much older games with immersive technology, allowing them to enter that game's world.
Such is the case with this VR remake of the legendary adventure game Myst, letting players explore the titular island and uncover its mysteries like never before. There’s something to be said about physically maneuvering around the setting and being able to reach out and solve the game’s captivating puzzles, all while gradually discovering the backstory of the island. Lovingly remastered by the game’s original developers, Cyan, Myst has never felt more spellbinding than here.
13. Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge – Enhanced Edition
Star Wars fans have lived vicariously through numerous video-game spin-offs of the franchise for decades, with a prior VR entry in the form of the Vader: Immortal trilogy most noteworthy. However, ILMxLab’s second VR games project, Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, allows players to truly explore the Star Wars universe in a way that was only scratched at in the team’s prior entry.
Players initially assume the role of a droid technician crash landing on the planet Baatu after running into an intergalactic criminal gang. From there, players encounter famous Star Wars characters and embody famous archetypes throughout their playtime, wielding blasters and lightsabers in equal measure. The Enhanced Edition combines the initial game with its DLC, creating a compelling package for anyone clamoring to experience Star Wars up close.
14. Red Matter
A sci-fi puzzle adventure game, Red Matter stands out as a truly gorgeous game that takes full advantage of the VR medium.
Set in an alternate Cold War universe, Red Matter sees players explore an abandoned facility on one of Saturn’s moons to investigate a top-secret project. World interaction is handled via pincer controls shaped precisely like the controllers of the corresponding VR system, allowing players to feel genuinely immersed as they solve puzzles. Add in a stunningly realized Soviet Union-style environment and players will find themselves compelled to uncover all that Red Matter has to offer.
15. Superhot VR
A VR reimagining of the indie first-person shooter, Superhot VR is a compelling action game and a strategy puzzler rolled into one. The game's concept is for players to take out rooms full of enemies, with time only moving as the player moves. Physically moving your body to assess situations while dodging bullet fire recalls the power fantasy of The Matrix film series, all while engaging with a beautiful minimalist world waiting filled to the brim with enemies itching to come after players.
16. The Room VR – A Dark Matter
A VR spinoff of the previously mobile exclusive The Room series of puzzle games, A Dark Matter turned players into an Edwardian-era police detective solving the supposedly supernatural disappearance of an esteemed Egyptologist.
Though not a horror game, the foreboding atmosphere and mystery undertones ooze gothic fiction while making players think logically about overcoming each room. The game lasts only a few hours, which is standard for VR puzzle games, but the escape room mechanics and turn-of-the-century world design leave players eager for more and to see what else Fireproof Games has in store.
17. The Climb
One of the original must-have VR games at the dawn of the technology’s consumer resurgence, Crytek and Oculus’s The Climb delivers stunning visual vistas that amaze nearly a decade after its initial release on the Rift headset.
The goal for players is simple: they climb up stunning vistas while maintaining stamina and figuring out the most efficient way to reach the next checkpoint of each level. A simple premise, admittedly, but climbing amidst the stunningly-designed desert, forest, and snow-capped levels makes The Climb a thrilling adventure, helped by a soundtrack filled with ambient noise fitting each locale. A follow-up on the Quest is also readily available that includes new levels, particularly an intense cityscape climb.
A fantasy platform adventure game, Moss, in many ways, is similar to Astro Bot Rescue Mission in which the player embodies an omnipresent being while controlling a much smaller character at the same time.
In this instance, players aid the mouse Quill, who sets out to rescue her captive uncle. What makes this game unique is that the player commands greater control over the world, helping raise platforms, manipulating enemies, and aiding Quill in any way they can. With a loving-crafted storybook aesthetic, Moss delights players with its charm and VR adventure set-up.
19. Pistol Whip
Part first-person shooter and part rhythm beat game, Pistol Whip sees players make their way through levels while gunning down a gauntlet of enemies to the rhythm of the stage’s music soundtrack. Movement is handled automatically, letting players focus on both taking down their foes and taking in the game’s gorgeous pulsating neon environments.
Constantly updated since its initial release in 2019, Pistol Whip continues to be a marvelous combination of sight and sound with the heart of an action game.
20. Horizon: Call of the Mountain
Guerilla Games’ Horizon series won critical and fan acclaim for its unique world design, lead heroine, Aloy, and action RPG mechanics. So, it was a surprise for players when the first game announced for Sony’s then-new PlayStation VR2 headset would be a VR spin-off of the series Call of the Mountain.
Players assume the role of a former rebel, Ryas, who’s offered amnesty if he investigates the newly antagonized machines and what’s causing them to run wild. The unique haptic controls of the PSVR2 system create a greater sense of realism as players use their signature bow and arrow, feeling as though they’re genuinely pulling back and firing at robotic enemies. Add in stunning visuals and intuitive sound design; players will experience Horizon in a whole new way.
21. Resident Evil 4 VR
Resident Evil 4 is widely considered not just one of the greatest survival horror games but one of the greatest games ever conceived in the medium's history. So, it was no surprise that not one but two VR remakes were crafted, one for the Quest and the other exclusive to PSVR2 as free DLC for the game's high-acclaimed remake.
Both are accounted for here, with the first VR RE4 offering the old-school GameCube aesthetic of the original game while PSVR2’s take embodies the harsh, gorgeous visuals that encapsulate the remake. As players fully become Leon S. Kennedy as they make their way across a horror-infused rustic Spain, both RE4 VR games elevate the original to new heights in a way unparalleled on a regular TV screen.
22. Assassin’s Creed Nexus
The entire conceit of the Assassin’s Creed franchise has always been the fantasy of the Animus: a device that allows users to view the DNA memories of ancestors and relive their lives. Naturally, Nexus takes this premise to an entirely different level, allowing players to truly embody three previous Assassin’s Creed characters: Ezio Auditore, Connor Kenway, and Kassandra from Assassin’s Creed II, III, and Odyssey, respectively.
While not boasting the same vast open worlds as previous entries, Nexus still allows players to explore large sections of Renaissance Italy, Colonial Boston, and Ancient Athens while embracing the stealth-action fantasy of being an assassin. The series feels different now that players can go through the actual parkour motions and physically flick their wrists to use the hidden blade on enemies. For fans of the Assassin’s Creed franchise, Nexus is a must-have.
23. The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners
Zombie games are relatively common in the VR gaming scene, but this take on the sub-genre by Skydance Interactive and Skybound Entertainment remains its pinnacle. Exploring the apocalyptic streets of New Orleans, navigating both zombies and hostile humans while struggling to stay alive, has never felt more dread-inducing than it has here.
The game features light RPG-style choices that determine its outcome, letting players choose how they want to pursue their goals. Combine the nerve-wracking atmosphere with the game’s realistic physics, morally grey storytelling, and degrading weapons system, The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners becomes a highly sought-after VR title.
24. Beat Saber
One of the most popular mainstream VR games, Beat Saber sees players wielding virtual lightsabers, swinging the blades to slice oncoming blocks in rhythm with the soundtrack's beat. It's a simple concept, but the premise becomes highly addicting as players slash their way to higher and higher scores on online leaderboards to some of the best music around.
Since the game’s initial release in 2019, Beat Saber has developed a passionate online community and received DLC expansions that feature the works of Queen, Billie Eilish, and, most recently, the Rolling Stones. Pulsating and highly addicting, Beat Saber remains a tried and true example of VR’s appeal.
25. Half-Life: Alyx
Fans long clamored for a return to the Half-Life world, with hopes pinning for an eventual Half-Life 3. Instead, Valve leveraged their in-house teams to produce this prequel set just before Half-Life 2. Players step into the shoes of fan-favorite character Alyx Vance as she works to rescue her father from the clutches of the Combine while also locating a super weapon that could liberate City 17 from their rule. Bringing in the beloved elements of the Half-Life series to VR, with emphasis on shoot-outs and physics puzzles, Half-Life: Alyx delivers some of VR gaming’s most outstanding set-pieces and remains the first genuine must-have among VR games.