It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a brand new medium in entertainment. Movies and TV have experimented with 3D for a long time (much longer than you might think), but while there is a place for additional depth in visual entertainment, 3D is nothing compared to virtual reality. The problem is, it’s difficult to sell someone on the benefits of VR using words alone. A lot has been written about the sense of “presence” in virtual reality, how it really does trick your brain into thinking you’re there, and how much weightier the experience can be. Still, without trying it for yourself, you’ll never fully understand.
VR is still a pricey proposition, but it’s getting more affordable as the months go by. If you’re already a PlayStation 4 owner, for example, you can grab everything you need for a full VR experience for around $400 (even less if you take advantage of frequent sales). But once you’ve got your shiny new VR headset and controllers, what should you play? I’ve got you covered right here, with five of the best VR games available right now.
Arizona Sunshine (Oculus, Vive, PlayStation VR)
Of course there’s going to be zombie games. The genre has been going strong since the days of Resident Evil, and VR lets you get up close and personal with the shambling dead like never before. Arizona Sunshine is a pretty standard shooter, all things considered, but it’s a ton of fun. Its campaign mode only lasts a few hours, yet manages to keep players engaged as they make their way from one place to another with the main character’s sense of humor and the non-stop zombie-killing action. Once you’ve conquered the campaign, be sure to check out Horde mode, where you mow down endless waves of zombies either alone, or with up to three other people.
Rec Room (Oculus, Vive, PlayStation VR)
Not so much a game as an entire arcade, Rec Room is a blast from start to finish. Create an avatar and hang out in a virtual world. Bring your friends along (they’ll need their own VR gear, of course) or make some new friends in the game’s common areas. Create private rooms and throw a VR party. It’s a truly transformative social experience, and this is without even talking about the variety of games that are available to play. Simply hanging out with your friends in a virtual space, playing charades or doing some impromptu karaoke, is tons of fun. When you’re ready to tackle some games, there are plenty to go around. From simple competitions like racquet ball to epic quests to defeat goblins to team-based laser tag or paintball (and even a Battle Royale mode for you Fortnite fans), there’s something for everyone in Rec Room.
Moss (PlayStation VR)
In the early days of VR, there was some question as to how a 3rd-person action game would work in the new medium. We were wrong to be worried. In Moss, you play as two characters: Quill, a small, Redwall-like mouse, and yourself (as portrayed by a giant, Miyazaki-esque spirit). Using the controller, you guide Quill around the world, engaging in combat with dangerous enemies and helping her solve puzzles. At the same time, you have direct influence over the world, and you are able to move objects in various ways to help Quill along by physically moving your controller in real space. What sets Moss apart is the level of interaction you have with Quill, and the sense of presence that it instills in you. Lean forward, and Quill will take notice of you, smiling and waving. Using your controller, give her a scratch behind the ears. She’ll appreciate it. But the moment that sold me completely on Moss was the moment when, after helping Quill solve a difficult puzzle, she turned to me and held up a hand, as though asking for a high five. I moved my hand forward, and it happened. It’s a small thing, admittedly, and doesn’t sound cool on paper, but the connection I felt with Quill and to the world in that moment hasn’t been replicated in traditional games. Give it a try.
The Inpatient (PlayStation VR)
Video games have the ability to provoke fear in ways that films and books simply cannot. By putting you in control of a character, and using an environment that can shift depending on player actions, video games can hone in on what makes us afraid and exploit it. VR has always seemed a natural extension of that idea. By putting you in the world, you are even more susceptible to scares than you are with a living room between you and the screen. The Inpatient, from developer Supermassive Games, is a terrifying haunted house come to life. As a patient at a mental hospital, you’re present when some horrible things go down, and all you can do is flee for your life. The game sets up its scares super effectively, if sometimes cheaply, and it makes for a heart-racing good time.
Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PlayStation VR)
Another horror game? Well, yes, but hear me out. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard was a legitimately life-changing experience for me. Never before have I felt such fear and anxiety while playing a game — but trust me, in a good way. It’s one of the first “full” VR game experiences, meaning that on PlayStation VR you can play through the entire game. Not a separate mode, no gimmicks, the entire game. And this is a meaty experience, at least 12-15 hours of pulse-pounding gameplay. You play as Ethan, whose girlfriend has gone missing at the plantation mansion of the Baker family. When you arrive to find out what happened to her, you quickly realize things are not as they should be. This is the perfect entrypoint for Resident Evil newbies, as this game’s connections to past titles are extremely subtle and not important at all to the main story being told. The level of immersion has never been seen in a video game before, and it makes VR the best way to play Resident Evil 7.