So you just bought a new PC VR system. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, whichever. You’ve plugged it in, adjusted the cameras, cleared out some room, and you’re ready to play some games. Which are the best?

This list works a little bit differently from our other “Bests” posts. It focuses on PC VR, which includes games for both the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. All of the games on this list will work on the Rift, but several were funded or published by Oculus and won’t work natively on the Vive. Fortunately, almost all of those can be made to work with Vive thanks to the Revive project. (You can find a list of Revive-compatible games here.) There’s enough cross-compatibility that a combined PC list makes sense, at least for now. Sony’s PlayStation VR has its own distinct game library, so we’re treating that system as its own separate thing.

Advertisement

We’ve capped our list at 12 games, and will be updating this post as new VR games come out.

Superhot VR takes the bullet-dodging, balletic action of 2016’s Superhot and translates it into virtual reality. It’s time to fight through another collection of tight action movie setpieces where your enemies (and their bullets) only move when you do. As you dodge bullets, sidestep attacks and catch guns in midair, you’ll begin to see the world how a John Woo protagonist probably sees it.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Those who liked the original Superhot, anyone who’s always wanted to act out a slow-mo gunfight.

Not A Good Match For: Those who want games with a lot of graphical fidelity, or who are put off by trial-and-error gameplay. Superhot VR is fun, but it can be rigid and tricky.

Watch it in action.

Control Type: VR Motion Controllers
Works Best With: Oculus Rift (Doesn’t work natively with Vive)
Purchase From: The Oculus Store

Even if you played hundreds of hours of Rock Band, you haven’t played anything like Rock Band VR. Harmonix’s latest sheds almost all of the familiar tropes of the series, and is better for it. This game is closer to guitar karaoke than anything, and its main goal is to make you feel like a rock star, crushing it in front of hundreds of fans. Instead of the long-established Rock Band note roll, you pick whatever chords you want to play and strum to your heart’s content. It gets so many details right, and the Oculus Touch controller works surprisingly well when mounted on a classic Rock Band guitar.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Anyone who’s ever wanted to feel like the lead guitarist in a band, or anyone who’s ever been lead guitarist in a band and wants to do it again but with way less stress.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a more traditional Rock Band experience. You can’t play any instrument but guitar, and there’s no multiplayer.

Read our impressions of the game.

Advertisement

Watch it in action.

Control Type: Oculus Touch controller + Rock Band guitar (both required)
Works Best With: Oculus Rift (Doesn’t work natively with Vive)
Purchase From: The Oculus Store

You’re the bad guy. There are the good guys. Go make an example out of them. That’s the premise for House of the Dying Sun, a very focused, very good space dogfighting game where you get to play as a merciless imperial killer. You’ll hunt down your opponents over the course of a handful of carefully constructed space combat encounters, blasting them to dust and jumping out of there before an enemy flagship can destroy you. With healthy replayability, Battlestar-eqsue starship drifting, and a killer soundtrack, this game is great in VR or on a regular screen.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Fans of Battlestar Galactica, anyone who wants a VR space sim that’s more focused on combat than something bigger like Elite: Dangerous.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone hoping for a lengthy story campaign or a ton of varied levels. Dying Sun is largely the work of a single guy, and while it’s very good at what it sets out to do, it’s not quite a sprawling epic.

Read our review.

Advertisement

Watch it in action.

Control Type: Mouse and keyboard, standard controller (recommended), flight stick.
Works Best With: Vive or Rift.
Purchase From: Steam

What more can we say about Minecraft? It’s Minecraft. You know it, you’ve played it, and your kids (or nieces/nephews) probably play it, too. Turns out Mojang’s wonderful world-creator is also really good in VR. It’s easy to get working with a headset and particularly impressive to play it standing up with VR controllers. You can either mod the base game to work with the Vive, or get the VR edition for Rift on the Oculus Store.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Watch it in action.

Control Type: Standard Controller, VR Motion Controllers (recommended)
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Mojang | The Oculus Store | Vive setup instructions here.

There are plenty of VR games where you hold two guns and shoot at waves of enemies. Robo Recall stands out from the pack by being glossier and more polished than the competition, and also by being goofier. You’re a “recall” agent tasked with clearing robots off the streets in a variety of futuristic settings. It’s a euphemism, of course, and your real job is to destroy the robots with extreme prejudice. You’ll shoot them, sure. You’ll also grab them and rip them apart, throw them into one another, pick their bullets out of the air, use them to block one another’s shots, and more.

Advertisement

A Good Match For: People who really love shooting robots.

Advertisement

Not A Good Match For: People who love robots and wouldn’t feel comfortable shooting them.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: VR Motion Controllers
Works Best With: Oculus Rift (Doesn’t work natively with Vive)
Purchase From: The Oculus Store

Thumper in VR is just like Thumper on a regular screen, there’s just more of it. It’s more intense, more stressful, and more thrilling. It’s a no-bullshit music game where you thrash your way through level after hellish level, performing reverberant call-and-response with demonic fervor. You’ll spend most of the game looking straight ahead, but when a massive boss looms in front of and above you, spare a glance upward.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Fans of music games who want something fresh, anyone who likes their games abstract and intense.

Not A Good Match For: Those who are looking for a relaxing game, or an easy time of it. Thumper is difficult, stressful, and not for the faint of heart.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: Standard controller
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Steam | The Oculus Store

Elite Dangerous had been on VR radars well before the first commercial VR headset was released. Beta versions of the game worked surprisingly well with early versions of the Oculus Rift and demonstrated how well cockpit games worked with VR headsets. The finished game, along with its planet-hopping Horizon expansion, delivers on the promise of the early betas. Whether you’re playing as a space trucker, a bounty hunter, or a nefarious space pirate, Elite: Dangerous is an engrossing game even on a regular screen. It’s all the better in VR.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Space junkies, sci-fi fans, those who’ve wanted to explore the far reaches of the galaxy.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a space game that’s strictly about combat. Elite: Dangerous has some fun skirmish modes, but the bulk of the game is a slower-paced simulation.

Read our write-up of what the game’s like in VR.

Advertisement

Watch the base game in action.

Control Type: Standard Controller, Mouse & Keyboard, Flight Stick (Recommended)
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Frontier | Steam | The Oculus Store

If you’ve ever wanted to scale a cliff face without actually developing the upper body strength to do so, The Climb is your game. It’s very simple: You’re standing in front of a cliff, and you have to climb it. There are a number of routes to the top, with finger-holds, ledges, and even a few improbable leaps between you and the summit. You’ll have to carefully plan each move, minimizing the amount of time you’re hanging by one arm and taking frequent pauses to judge where you’re going next. At its best, The Climb imparts a fascinating feeling of physicality as you stretch and hold position. This one’ll leave you feeling sore, but like you accomplished something.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Outdoor sports enthusiasts, anyone who wants a bit of a workout in VR, those looking for a VR game that doesn’t involve shooting things.

Not A Good Match For: Anyone who would prefer to sit still, and those with sensitive stomachs. Between the shifting cliff-faces and the precipitous drops, The Climb can be a bit intense.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: Standard controller, VR Motion Controllers (recommended)
Works Best With: Oculus Rift (Doesn’t work natively with Vive)
Purchase From: The Oculus Store

Fantastic Contraption’s basic concept would work as a simple mobile or browser game: You build a weird object and send it careening toward a target. To make it work, you have to take the game’s reactive physics into account—a top-heavy contraption might tumble before it reaches its goal, but a lopsided creation might be just the thing to bypass a certain obstacle. It helps that the base game is fun, but the VR implementation is what really makes Fantastic Contraption special. It uses VR motion control in a way that few other games do, and in short order you’ll find yourself kneeling on the ground like a real mechanic, carefully attaching joints and limbs to your goofy creations.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a game to show off what room-scale VR is all about, people who like building things.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a game with a deep narrative.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: VR Motion Controllers
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Steam | The Oculus Store

The latest from Audiosurf creator Dylan Fitterer, Audioshield takes the concept of musical battles to VR. You stand on a point and hold a shield in each hand. You must block (or punch) colored globules before they hit you. Those globules match up to the music in whatever track you’re listening to, which allows you to climb inside your music library and fight your way out. This one has the bonus of being a pretty solid upper-body workout.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: People who like music games, anyone looking for a workout.

Not A Good Match For: People who prefer games that don’t make them move around a lot.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: VR Motion Controllers
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Steam

I Expect You To Die expects you to die, and you probably will. It casts you as a Bond-like secret agent, though unlike James Bond, you’re not very good at what you do. Each level puts you in a new difficult situation, and you’ll have to figure out how to escape. Maybe you’re seated in a spy car, and you have to figure out how to open the dash without activating its built-in defenses. Or you’re breaking into a secret lab and need to grab some documents without flooding the room with deadly poison gas. Each situation has a variety of intuitive solutions, and even though you play while sitting down, you’ll never feel constricted.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: Anyone looking for a VR game that’s heavier on puzzles than action, spy fans.

Not A Good Match For: Those who want guns-blazing action, people who don’t like puzzles.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: Seated with VR Motion Controllers
Works Best With: Oculus Rift (Doesn’t work natively with Vive)
Purchase From: The Oculus Store

Everyone wonders how they’d fare in a zombie apocalypse. Would you hold your ground against the shamblers, or would you miss your shots and die? Arizona Sunshine goes some way toward answering that question. It puts you out in the Arizona desert with a few bullets and a horde of slow-moving zombies between you and your goal. Ammo is scarce, so you’ll have to actually aim to succeed. That means physically holding up your gun, lining up the sights, and carefully squeezing the trigger. It’s a fun game to play solo but even more fun to play co-op with a friend, not least of all because their VR headset movements will make their character look hilarious. Standing back to back and fighting off the horde is a pretty good bonding experience.

Advertisement

Advertisement

A Good Match For: People who like shooting zombies, those who want to shoot zombies with a friend.

Not A Good Match For: Those looking for a more arcadey, fast-moving VR shooter. Arizona Sunshine is a tense game of survival, and you’ll have to place your shots carefully.

Watch it in action.

Advertisement

Control Type: VR Motion Controls
Works Best With: Vive or Rift
Purchase From: Steam | The Oculus Store


Non-Game VR Apps You Should Check Out

Google Earth (Vive): Google Earth is one of the most impressive uses of virtual reality out there, and an extremely convincing entry point for VR. Best of all, it’s free. It’s designed to work natively with Vive, but you can easily get it working on a Rift. If you own a VR headset, do not miss this.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Virtual Desktop & Bigscreen (Rift, Vive) : Both Virtual Desktop and Bigscreen let you view your PC desktop in virtual reality. That means you can change your backdrop to a pleasant outdoor scene (or outer space, or whatever) while making your monitor IMAX-sized. It’s great for playing screen-based games, watching movies, or even just doing work.

Kingspray Graffiti (Rift, Vive): The detailed spraypainting simulator works so intuitively you’ll immediately be leaving your mark on all sorts of urban backdrops.

Tilt Brush (Rift, Vive): Google’s 3D art app is intuitive to use and beautiful in action. The first time you draw a neon shape in space and leave it floating there, it feels like a magic trick.

How has this list changed? Read back through our update history:

Advertisement

Advertisement

Update 4/12/2017: It’s been a pretty good year for VR games and VR hardware, and we’ve given this list an overhaul. We’ve taken off Edge of Nowhere and Chronos while adding Superhot VR, House of the Dying Sun, Thumper, Robo Recall, Rock Band VR, The Climb, I Expect You To Die, and Arizona Sunshine. 

Update 4/7/2016: We initially had Hover Junkers listed as an early access game to check out when it is actually past its 1.0 release. We’ve removed it from the list. It’s still a fun game! But not an early access one.

Want more of the best games on each system? Check out our complete directory:

Advertisement

The Best PC GamesThe Best PS4 GamesThe Best Xbox One GamesThe Best Wii U GamesThe Best 3DS GamesThe Best PS Vita GamesThe Best Xbox 360 GamesThe Best PS3 GamesThe Best Wii GamesThe Best iPhone GamesThe Best iPad GamesThe Best Android GamesThe Best PSP GamesThe Best Facebook GamesThe Best DS GamesThe Best Mac GamesThe Best Browser GamesThe Best PC Mods

Advertisement

Note: If you buy any of these games through the retail links in this post, our parent company may get a small share of the sale through the retailers’ affiliates program.