It’s official: gaming is the new cinema, especially as far as the best VR games are concerned. Why simply watch a story play out when you can experience it first-hand? Big-budget titles on modern systems like the PS5, Xbox Series X, and even Nintendo Switch offer unmatched immersion, thanks to virtual reality. Gone are the days of red-and-blue 3D glasses. Strapping on a modern gaming VR headset instantly transports you to limitless worlds and experiences.
At least, in theory. Sifting through games on various platforms that offer these titles is daunting, especially because of the shovelware coat-tail riders. Not all VR games are worth your time or money. But when VR games are good, they’re fantastic, and one of the most satisfying avenues for escapism.
We’ve compiled some of the best VR games across a handful of popular genres and platforms available across the metaverse.
— Best Overall: "Tetris Effect: Connected"
— Best for PlayStation: "Iron Man VR"
— Best VR Port: "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR"
— Best Horror Game: "Doom VFR"
— Best with VR Features: "Microsoft Flight Simulator"
— Best Co-Op: "Beat Saber"
— Best Budget: "L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files"
How We Picked The Best VR Games
The last gaming generation saw VR games become something more than chintzy gimmicks. Now, there are a few destinations for VR games, including Oculus Quest Store, Viveport, Vale Index, and of course, on Playstation 4 and 5 consoles. In theory, Nintendo Labo offers a hint at virtual reality, but it’s not nearly as immersive as the higher-end dedicated models, especially in the sound and gameplay departments.
Immersion: The best in VR give a new meaning to “get your head in the game.” But does the VR effect add anything to the actual gameplay experience? If you’re going to wear a bulky headset, the game you’re playing better be worth the extra neck strain.
When VR graphics are great, they truly pull you off your couch and into another world. Experiences should feel real and amplify your emotions when you game. For example, if you’re playing "Resident Evil 4 VR," zombies should terrify you far more than when you slayed them on the Gamecube version. Even puzzle games like "Beat Saber" should feel optimized for the world of VR.
Control: Gamers could argue from now until "Half Life 3" gets announced about what makes good controls for a game. Some swear by the 16-button console workhorse controller, others will only stomach a mouse and keyboard. VR controllers are a special animal that typically combine a standard gamepad with motion control. Anyone that was alive for the Wii era can attest to both the glories and pratfalls that come with “waggle.”
If the game in question doesn’t utilize the controls in a way that amplifies the gameplay, it’s probably not worth playing. Worse yet is if the developer of a game phones in the controls and provides an experience that isn’t just uncomfortable, but just plain bad. Ideally, there’s a way to play the game with both a standard controller or with optimized motion controllers. The best games always give you options in this regard.
Graphics: Games that are made with VR in mind often look spectacular. They sort of have to if they’re going to stand out. Good graphics don’t always mean realistic graphics. Realism really makes games like "Iron Man VR" and "Microsoft Flight Simulator" pop. But games with their own unique art direction such as "Jurassic World: Aftermath" and "Beat Saber" also qualify as having “good” graphics because of their stylized approach.
Gameplay: What sunk Atari? Like the Titanic, the short answer is “hubris.” The longer answer is “a glut of terrible titles.” Gameplay is, and always will be king, whether we’re talking 8-bit or 4K experiences.
This doesn’t mean a game needs to provide complicated dynamics or cinematic storytelling to be good. Some of the best games available on VR platforms are simple, like rhythm game Beat Saber. If it plays well, the rest usually follows.
We further explain how we test gaming equipment here.
The Best VR Games: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: "Tetris Effect: Connected"
Why it Made The Cut: Tetris Effect: Connected finds magic in simplicity, providing the most gratifying Tetris experience of all time making it our pick for the best VR game overall.
— Genre: Puzzle
— Publisher: Enhance Games
— Released: November 9, 2018
— Platforms: Windows, Oculus Quest, PlayStation VR
— The best Tetris experience, period
— Heart-pumping puzzle action
— Universally playable
— It’s an upgrade, but it’s still pretty much Tetris
Grandma and Grandpa may not get what makes Skyrim great, but there’s a good chance they’ve played Tetris at least once. The best puzzle game of all time is one of the reasons the Gameboy became a massive success. It’s easy to pick up, difficult to master, and one of the most addicting experiences one can have holding a game controller.
In many ways, Tetris Effect is the simple puzzle game familiar to everyone. But when you’re sucked into the vacuum of space and inundated with intense music and sound effects, it really adds stakes to the game. Played with headphones, pulling off a combo or two provides an ASMR-like experience and dare I say it, an endorphin rush. The entire game is a feast for the senses. Block designs turn on a dime, and music goes from catchy ballads to stimulating dubstep. It’s also one of the more challenging Tetris titles ever. The Tetris Effect: Connected expansion even allows for some seriously great co-op gameplay against tough AI. No gameplay video can do it justice, but I defy anyone to not become instantly addicted.
Best PlayStation VR Game: "Iron Man VR"
Why it Made the Cut: Iron Man VR brings a unique spin on the classic Marvel character that’s as cinematic as any blockbuster film featuring Tony Stark.
— Genre: Shooter
— Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
— Released: July 3, 2020
— Platforms: PlayStation VR
— Captures the magic of the comic-book hero
— Excellent story
— Top-notch flight and battle mechanics
— Loading times are a slog
Superhero games used to be relegated to the bargain bin. Dare I bring up the travesty of Superman 64? Now, they’re downright system sellers, like "Spider-Man: Miles Morales." Among these must-play superhero games is "Iron Man VR" the best Playstation VR game. Even though Robert Downey Jr. doesn’t make an appearance, this entry practically matches the scope and scale of a Marvel movie. And better yet, it’s one starring you.
"Iron Man VR" is a shooter from a first-person perspective. Tony Stark treks the globe to thwart one of his arch enemies, Ghost, one arm-cannon blast at a time. Much of the rail-shooting goodness is already satisfying, but there’s plenty of extra secrets available in every level to encourage replayability. If you’re one of the few who can’t get the way the game uses the PlayStation Move controllers, then the rail-shooting aspect could feel repetitive. Once you master it, it’s way more fun than it has any right to be. But those load times…woof. Have some popcorn at the ready, it’s going to be a bit of a wait.
Best VR Port: "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR"
Why it Made the Cut: There are countless versions of Skyrim, but the VR version truly has to be seen to be believed.
— Genre: Action-RPG
— Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
— Released: November 17, 2017
— Platforms: Oculus Quest, HTC Vive, Steam, PlayStation VR
— A unique spin on an established title
— Immersive weapon action
— Mod-friendly on PC
— Uses the same visuals as the original release
Who knew that a game released in 2011 would see second, third, and even fourth winds? At this point, there are more versions of Skyrim than there are actual Elder Scroll games. It’s an action-RPG that’s available on just about every platform imaginable from the Xbox 360 to the Nintendo Switch. And while some versions are flashier than others, Skyrim VR provides the most immersive Elder Scrolls experience, period. VR ports are often phoned in, and thankfully, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR is an outlier.
Casting spells feels like they’re flying directly out of your hands. Combat with swords and other melee weapons may make your heart skip a few beats with every clash and clang. Seeing the land of Tamriel from a whole new perspective is worth the price of admission alone. But what makes the game truly magical are boss fights. Facing the dragon Mirmulnir in Skyrim VR could easily qualify this game as a horror title. Spectacular as the visuals are, they may look a tad dated to 4K fanatics since they’re the same ones from the original 2011 release. Only truly keen eyes will be able to tell, considering how enchanting the whole experience is.
Best VR Horror Game: "Doom VFR"
Why it Made the Cut: The modern Doom revival is a godsend, especially when it comes to this VR take in this first-person gore fest.
— Genre: First-Person Shooter
— Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
— Released: November 30, 2017
— Platforms: HTC Vive, Steam, PlayStation VR
— Gratuitous, in-your-face carnage
— A proper VR challenge
— Edge-of-your-seat scary
— Lackluster visuals compared with higher-end ports
The "Doom" revival that began in 2016 landed on the gaming world like a hammer. It captured much of the same magic as the 1993 original on MS-DOS. Within a year "Doom VFR" was released, taking the hellish demon-slaying romp into the world of virtual reality. The “F” in VFR is obvious, especially to fans of the ubiquitous Doom series weapon, the BFG. It’s an apt title, considering the game’s intense blood and guts approach to first-person action. After all, how many games use chainsaws as melee weapons?
"Doom VFR" is one of the more well-suited games to get the VR treatment. Like many VR titles, you’ll either pick up the controls or despise them. If you’re in the former’s camp, expect the same gorefest from "Doom." Viscera has never been quite this visceral. There’s even a fair amount of puzzles to keep you interested in-between demon slay fests. Aside from the Nintendo Switch version, "Doom VFR" offers the least stunning visuals of any of the game’s ports. Still, it’s a fair compromise to be able to wield the unfathomably awesome BFG9000 in your very own hands.
Best Game with VR Features: "Microsoft Flight Simulator"
Why it Made the Cut: No passport required to trek the skies in one of the most breathtaking VR experiences.
— Genre: Flight Simulator
— Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
— Released: August 18, 2020
— Platforms: HTC Vive, Oculus Quest, Steam
— Unimaginable realism
— Visit real-life destinations from your couch
— Pleasurable plane travel without the perils of economy class
— Controlling the plane is harder using VR controls
When everyone was stuck indoors in 2020, there were two cozy games to keep everyone from going batty. One, of course, was "Animal Crossing: New Horizons." The other was "Microsoft Flight Simulator." After a 14-year absence, the series got its best update yet, by utilizing real topography of the earth using Bing Maps. Everything from clouds, to rain, and of course plains, rolling hills, and endless oceans look more realistic than ever. Better yet are the real world destinations, from the Eiffel Tower to the Great Wall of China.
Now imagine it in VR. With the latest VR update, the most true-to-life flight simulator gets yet another smack of realism. Operating the cockpit makes you feel even more like an amateur pilot. The experience is captivating from take off to landing. And while the controls are a bit wonky for some, the true spectacle comes in simply soaring through the skies in virtual reality. Clouds look more natural than before, but sunsets may take your breath away. You can now trek the globe from the comfort of your sofa, without having to update your passport, get any shots, or deal with the TSA.
Best Co-Op VR Game: "Beat Saber"
Why it Made the Cut: This new and action-packed take on the rhythm genre is fun alone, but even better with friends making it the best Co-op VR game.
— Genre: Rhythm
— Publisher: Beat Games
— Released: May 29, 2019
— Platforms: HTC Vive, Oculus Quest, Steam, PlayStation VR
— Thrilling rhythm gameplay
— Multiplayer is fun for players and spectators alike
— Tons of user-made mods
— Main game is only 10 levels long
How do you breathe new life into the stale rhythm genre? Glowing sabers, of course. The game is simple. Holding two different colored sabers, players must slash a steady flow of approaching blocks which line up to any given song’s beats and notes. Of course, once players get their footing, "Beat Saber" quickly intensifies.
Bombs will be thrown in among the blocks to keep players on their toes. The speed also ramps up to near impossible levels, especially when playing on higher difficulty levels. Multiplayer mode allows friends to square off against each other to compete for the highest score on any given level. This is especially great when a VR headset is connected to a TV for spectators to watch and cheer on the competition.
The game is so popular it even has its own mod community. DLC featuring songs from musicians like Lady Gaga, Imagine Dragons, BTS, and more are available, but expect to pay an obscene $2 per song. That minor gripe aside, this has the makings of the next great party game.
Best Budget VR Game: "L.A. Noire: The VR Case Files"
Why it Made the Cut: The decade-old action-adventure turns anyone into a hard-boiled 1940s detective.
— Genre: Action-Adventure
— Publisher: Rockstar Games
— Released: December 15, 2017
— Platforms: HTC Vive, Oculus Quest (requires tech fix), Steam, PlayStation VR
— Serious gumshoe realism
— Gripping story with twists and turns
— Character models have aged surprisingly well
— Motion controls may become cumbersome after a while
"L.A. Noire" is the epitome of the satisfying slow burn. When Rockstar developed the game ages ago, it almost feels as if they set out to make an actual movie set in 1947 Los Angeles. Simply driving around the streets of post-war Hollywood is a relaxing escape. But the game has you playing as an LAPD detective, to uncover the culprit behind a murder that contains similarities to the Black Dahlia murder. Uncovering clues, questioning suspects, and occasionally getting into fistfights are synonymous with the noir genre, so naturally, they encompass the bulk of this game.
It was memorable when it was released in 2011, and the VR port is a natural fit. The character models for characters including protagonist Cole Phelps (Aaron Staton, Mad Men) still look really polished. What’s new here are the incredibly involved motion controls. Walking around requires you to swing your arms. If there’s a clue on the floor, you quite literally have to bend down to pick it up. If a perp challenges you to a brawl, put up your dukes and get ready to swing. Engrossing as this action-adventure VR is, it can likely wear you out with all this actual motion. You may get a slight workout out of this. If you’re looking for a more passive gaming experience, look elsewhere.
Things To Consider When Buying a VR Game
When it comes to VR games, there are multiple store fronts. Digitally, games are available on Steam, HTC Viveport, Oculus Quest Store, and PlayStation Store. Some VR games are available in physical formats, especially those available on PlayStation consoles.
Popular titles aren’t always universally available across all these different platforms. For example, parkour action game "Stride" is available on all these digital platforms above. Games like "Iron Man VR," "Astro Bot Rescue Mission," and "Hitman 3 VR" are available exclusively on PlayStation VR. Before dropping serious cash on a headset, it may be worth researching which games you want to play on it.
Anytime you’re dealing with VR, space must be considered. For games where movement is key, you’ll need to make sure the area you game in is safe to maneuver around in. At the very least you should be able to swing your arms about to mimic sword swipes in "Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR "and firing out of a machine gun in "Doom VFR." Playing with optimized motion controls tends to feel more immersive, but some games let you turn them off and play simply using a controller.
This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy great VR experiences if you’re short on real estate. Games Like "Tetris Effect" and "Catan VR" are among the games that don’t require any such swinging or waggling. Another way to stay safe when playing the best VR games is to play with a “spotter.” Because many VR headsets can connect to a TV, your pal can make sure you’re not going to swing into a pricey vase or trip over an ottoman when you’re gaming.
Putting on a VR headset can be a jarring experience, albeit a memorable one. All that sensory overload is really fun, and makes for some seriously addictive gaming. That is, if you can stomach it. Even the sturdiest among us can succumb to the symptoms of motion sickness including nausea, sweating, headaches, and dizziness.
If you’ve experienced motion sickness when VR gaming before, it doesn’t mean you have to hang up your headset. It just means you’re better off pre-gaming. Many of the home cures for motion sickness can work as remedies. Ginger ale, playing with a fan aimed at you, or simply pacing yourself will go a long way in keeping you from getting sick. If the sickness comes anyway, just back away for a while. Everything in moderation.
Q: What is VR?
What is VR? VR stands for “virtual reality,” and simulates experiences similar or dissimilar to the real world using some sort of technology. For VR gaming, this means a headset with a stereoscopic display that goes over your eyes, and controlled with a gamepad. VR headsets occasionally also include head-tracking gyroscopes and stereo speakers to amplify immersion.
Q: Which VR game has the best graphics?
What VR game has the best graphics? VR gamers are split between which games look best on VR. Sadly, when a game like "Doom," "No Man’s Sky," or "Elder Scrolls: Skyrim" gets a VR port, the graphics are scaled down to optimize the gameplay. This doesn’t mean that VR visuals can’t be absolutely breathtaking. Among the best-looking VR games are long-awaited spin-off "Half Life: Alyx," undersea adventure "Subnautica," and post-apocalyptic port "Fallout 4 VR." If you’re looking for cinematic games, bet on established cinematic brands. "Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series" and "Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge "are practically interactive movies.
Q: What is the most violent VR game?
What is the most violent VR game? While some may argue "Doom VFR" is the most violent VR game, the title goes to "Blood Trail." It features incredibly realistic gore and features sadistic torture scenes.
Q: How much does a VR game cost?
How much does a VR game cost? Like many games, the cost for VR games varies. In general, they run from 99 cents all the way through the industry standard of $59.99. Some games look inexpensive at first glance, like Jurassic World: Aftermath. Sadly, this game is episodic, so you have to pay for multiple games to get the full experience. Luckily, many games on various platforms are available for free.
Q: What do you need for VR gaming?
What do you need for VR gaming? To get your VR game on, you need a VR headset. Popular models include Oculus Quest 2, HTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and Sony PlayStation VR. Oculus Quest 2 and HTC Vive headsets work as standalone devices. PlayStation VR requires a PS4 or PS5 console. You will also need games to play on these headsets, which can be purchased digitally or physically in some cases.
Final Thoughts on VR Games
Quantifying the best games on VR is far more difficult than picking a good headset. Gaming experiences and genres vary wildly, so picking out a universally good game is near impossible. Still, there’s something for everyone. We suggest starting with a game that’s familiar, like "The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim VR" or "Doom VFR." When in doubt, bet on the best puzzle game of all time, "Tetris Effect: Connected." The new, feverish take on the classic puzzle game may not simply be the best Tetris game, but the best VR game period.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.