Going back a few years, E3 2013 was all about the "next gen" of gaming consoles. It was the summer event where the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were finally going to be playable for mass media and all of our questions on pricing and specs would be answered.
But that all quickly became secondary to the lucky few who spent time testing the real 'next-gen' tech at the event: VR. Oculus Rift VR dev kits were on display to showcase demos from select developers and it quite simply blew us away. Nothing Sony and Microsoft had at the time was as exciting or had as much potential, and the industry quickly changed. Skip forward to 2016 and the consumer versions of Oculus VR's Rift and HTC's Vive headset are on the market for PC users, and as of last week, the most consumer-friendly virtual reality headset yet released as well in Sony's PlayStation VR headset. And along with it the full version of that original demo we played years ago which brings us to...
What PS VR Games Should To Play
Virtual reality is now available for the first time to console gamers and while the PlayStation VR is significantly more affordable than its two chief competitors, it's still very expensive (more than the PS4 console itself) so choosing what games to dive into first is of the utmost importance and we're here to help. We've played all of the titles listed below - and almost every single PS VR launch titles and will list to you what experiences we found to be the best, and at the end we'll even suggest a recommended play order to maximize your introduction to virtual reality.
PlayStation VR requires the PlayStation camera and some games require or are better played with a pair of Move controllers. These all come included if you purchase the PS VR launch bundle pictured above.
Please note that the motion controller and headset tracking accuracy can be largely dependent on placement of the camera and room setup. It can offer varied experiences from application to application. The same can be said for potential motion sickness or nausea which can be different for everyone. We've left some games off this list which simply would not function as intended for us.
PlayStation VR Worlds
PlayStation® VR WORLDS takes players on a journey through five high quality VR experiences built exclusively for the launch of PS VR, featuring a breadth of content and game genres that wonderfully showcase inventive VR design, best in class visuals and binaural audio soundscapes. PlayStation® VR WORLDS demonstrates the diversity of critically renowned VR experiences The London Heist, VR Luge and Ocean Descent and featuring additional game modes, VR World challenges and more.
PlayStation VR Worlds ships with the PS VR launch bundle (which also includes the PlayStation Camera and a pair of Move controllers) but for anyone who already has the latter and is looking for games to play, this one's a must. It features several separate and impressive VR showcase experiences, namely Ocean Descent where players simply view and enjoy the ride with wonderful underwater visuals, and The London Heist - a gameplay experience and story which proves that triple-A games and shooters can work on the PS VR.
In a world where robots have replaced all human jobs, step into the 'Job Simulator' to learn what it was like 'to job'. Players can relive the glory days of work by simulating the ins and outs of being a gourmet chef, an office worker, a convenience store clerk, and more.
Job Simulator might be the most fun, and certainly most funny, launch experiences on the PlayStation VR. It already debuted on other VR headsets and is a must-have for PS VR owners for its simple visual aesthetic and best-in-class motion controls. The game allows players to interact with nearly anything in their workspace across several different jobs, and get creative in them - in the best or worst ways possible. This is the game to introduce friends to VR and have a great time since watching can be even more funny than playing.
Batman: Arkham VR
Batman™: Arkham VR immerses you in the Dark Knight’s Universe and redefines what it means to be the Batman. Experience Gotham City through the eyes of the World’s Greatest Detective in an all new Arkham mystery. Think like Batman. Utilize his legendary gadgets in Virtual Reality to unravel a plot that threatens the lives of Batman’s closest allies.
Batman: Arkham VR is quite simply a must-have for any purchaser of PS VR. It's one of the coolest proofs of concepts for how a full-length triple-A game can be crafted well using PS VR and the Move controllers, and is certainly one of the best looking. The title is a self-contained short game building off the lore of the Arkham series and lets players get crafty and solve puzzles with Batman's gadgets and items in the environment.
Get ready for an innovative and social spin on virtual reality gaming. Available as a free download from PlayStation Store for all PS VR owners, THE PLAYROOM VR includes six games that are sure to leave a colossal impact on any party.
Grab your PlayStation VR headset while up to four friends join in with a DUALSHOCK 4 wireless controller each. Then enjoy a variety of action-packed mini-games which has you diving into everything from a hilarious cat and mouse chase to clearing a haunted house of its ghastly ghosts. Whether you’re working co-operatively or competitively, the adorable interactive PLAYROOM robots are on hand to make sure you have a blast.
The Playroom - which is entirely free and available to all PS4 owners - was one of the very few fun and short-lived things to do with the PlayStation Camera that debuted alongside the PS4 in 2013, and now the developers at SIE Japan Studio have expanded the experience into virtual reality. And they've done an amazing job.
The Playroom mini games bring back the lovable robots you had fun with in the past using only the DualShock 4 controller and camera, and now you can play platforming games and build up a toy collection. This game shows how innovative and different 3D platformers can be in the future when you, the player, are in that environment as well and can alter it to help your playable character. This one's free and is a must-play, even if it's short.
Experience the thrill of being an elite spaceship pilot in the sprawling sci-fi universe of EVE. Join the Valkyrie, an outlaw band of galactic pirates, and take up arms to claim what's yours. Trade cannon fire for cash as you chase wealth and notoriety on the edge of space. With a wide variety of ships, customization options, weapon loadouts, and combat styles, EVE: Valkyrie™ gives you the ultimate freedom to fly. Virtual reality space dogfighting is here. Welcome to the next life.
This is the game that sold us on VR back before it was even a game. In 2013, when this title was a tech demo known as EVE- VR, it single-handedly sold us on VR and made the at-the-time upcoming PS4 and Xbox One something from the past. This game nails the feeling of fighting a starfighter, from blasting out of launch tube to dogfighting others throughout asteroid fields. It's a killer app for the PS VR launch.
If you like the space battles of Battlestar Galactica, this game puts you in that environment.
Are you a strategic thinker? Do you have a steady hand and nerves of steel? Do you enjoy building towers or are you more of a demolition demon? With over 70 fiendishly addictive levels of balancing, building and demolishing, Tumble VR – exclusive to PlayStation®VR – will test your physical and mental dexterity to the max.
Get hands-on with gravity-defying building tasks where the highest tower gets the biggest score, or take on tricky balancing acts with blocks of all shapes, sizes, weights and dimensions. Enjoy blowing things up? Lay mines in tactical positions to topple towers and score points for the biggest blast radius. Solve puzzles together with friends or go head-to-head in social screen play, where what you see on your PlayStation®VR headset’s screen is what your friends see on their TV.
Another callback to the PS3 Move controller era, Tumble is back and this time you're in the environment with the objects you can play with. There are all sorts of stacking and related puzzles to be played in Tumble VR. This one largely depends on motion controller and headset tracking so finding the sweet spot and having appropriate room to play is a must.
Note: We experienced inconsistent tracking issues with Tumble VR but when it works, it's beautiful and simple.
Here They Lie
Developed by Tangentlemen under the banner of Santa Monica Studio’s external development group, enter an uncanny horror experience where death is not a checkpoint. Delve into an inescapable, surreal world where unsettling encounters and environments come to life. Here They Lie is a mind bending first-person VR descent into madness.
Looking for that more hardcore VR experience? Here They Lie is a horror first-person game that focuses on story over gameplay and the only horror game at launch we're recommending (Until Dawn: Rush of Blood VR roller coaster shooter had terrible tracking problems and if you're interested, there's the Kitchen VR demo if you're excited for Resident Evil 7).
Movement in Here They Lie works well and players can see their body and walk using the DualShock 4 controller and the headset to direct themselves. The right stick allows for immediate refresh in another direction and it work surprisingly well with the visual style of the game. The mysterious nature and sound design help propel the experience enough to make up for the lacking interactivity. Using a flashlight, opening doors, and picking up objects is all done through a button prompt and players have no control with motion controllers. That combined with a layer of immersion loss when the player avatar’s feet walks on or through broken glass and phases through it how that the game is still half-baked.
Loading Human - Chapter 1
Loading Human is an episodic, VR adventure game that blends a deep story, interactivity, and physical gameplay within a compelling sci-fi universe set in the 22nd century.
Chapter One is the foundation. You are Prometheus. Your dying father – a genius scientist – summons you to his antarctic science lab with a grave request: travel deep into unknown space and retrieve the Quintessence – the most powerful source of energy in the universe. At stake is his life.
The first "chapter" of Loading Human is surprisingly deep when it comes to world building and story, but it's hampered by motion control issues. This one we’d recommend for the experience but it’s the most problematic from a functional standpoint on this list. It’s buggy, janky, and inconsistent but it’s still a cool place to be in so it's an exception for us.
Loading Human attempts to give players full movement of their character but by using buttons instead of movement at times (i.e. to crouch you can't lean down or physically crouch). Players can see their in-game body and reflections of it in mirrors but picking stuff up does not work smoothly like Job Simulator or Batman: Arkham VR. Instead, objects fly towards the user's hands when within a foot of distance. Hopefully in followup chapters, the controls and immersion are drastically improved to go along with the story.
The roar of the engines… the screech of the tires... the scream of the crowds…
Experience the wild rush of high-octane VR racing from behind the wheel of the most powerful, high-end cars on the planet. Strap into the driver’s seat and thunder across challenging tracks around the world in an action-packed solo career, or with your friends in an online VR driving club. Whether you’re a debut driver or a rapid-racing veteran, your steering skills, reflexes, and courage will be pushed to the absolute limit.
DRIVECLUB™ VR is packed with the best bits from the hit PlayStation®4 game, along with selected packs from the extensive DLC collection – as well as new and totally bespoke VR modes and features.
Driveclub VR takes a generational leap backwards in graphics compared to its non-VR counterpart and other top tier racing games but nails the feeling of sitting in a fast-moving automobile and looking around at the competition on the tack. Consider this a showcase of what the future holds for in-car games when the visual fidelity and power of VR headsets improve over time. VR may not be the way to play hours and hours of Driveclub but it's something worth showcasing to others and trying different cars and tracks on.
RIGS Mechanized Combat League
Take control of a range of massive athletic machines in the Mechanized Combat League – a near-future sports league which pits teams of pilots against each other in combat arenas around the world. Players choose their team and RIG, and take to the field in intense online multiplayer matches or against fierce AI competition in Career Mode. They’ll earn fame and fortune, and gain access to new RIGS and pilots along the way. In total, there are 24 unique RIGS to unlock, each with their own style of play.
RIGS is one of the potential killer apps of PS VR but it can cause major motion sickness if you're prone to that or cannot adjust quickly. We'd recommend finding a way to demo it first to at least experience the training portion to find out before jumping into this one since it made me sick for an evening.
When it works, RIGS Mechanized Combat League is great look into future sports/eSports events when fast-moving mechs are involved. It's unique, plays well, and is rendered well given the limitations of the PS VR.
Thumper strips rhythm gaming down to its core. Classic rhythm-action is combined with speed and satisfying physicality. With one analog stick and one button, you control a space beetle while hurtling through stunning and treacherous worlds. Each rhythmic hit, crash, and impact is interwoven with an original soundtrack by Brian Gibson of the acclaimed noise-rock band Lightning Bolt.
There’s no blood or gore, but you’ll feel the violence.
Thumper doesn't require PS VR to play but as one of the most powerful rhythm games we've ever experienced, you can only imagine what the immersive feeling of VR does for this title. If you're a passionate fan of rhythm games and bought-in on VR, add Thumper to your list. It's unique and special.
SUPERHYPERCUBE is a VR first person puzzler with classic controls and intuitive shape-matching gameplay. Immerse yourself in the neon glow of SUPERHYPERCUBE's analog visuals and sounds. Control a group of cubes and rotate it to fit through a hole in a wall that is constantly moving toward you. Each time you fit through another wall without crashing, more cubes are added to your cluster. As your cluster of cubes gets bigger, you will need to lean around it to see the hole and quickly determine what rotations to make. Stay alive as long as possible, and add your high scores to the ranks of players around the world!
SuperHyperCube embraces a minimalist art design to offer a first-person puzzle experience. Players use classic controls to fit shapes through slots in upcoming walls in an almost rhythmic fashion. It's a simple concept that's difficult to master and may not be for everyone. However, it works cleanly and offers great immersion in VR and is absolutely worth seeking out.
Prepare yourself for the ultimate version of Rez, a thrilling journey of sights and sounds and shooting action, remastered and upgraded by members of the original development team exclusively for PS4 and (optional) PlayStation VR.
Experience 360 degrees of mind-blowing synesthesia as you blast through waves of enemies and massive transforming bosses, with colors and sounds that sync and blend to the beat of Rez’s legendary techno soundtrack.
Whether you’re an old fan of the original Sega classic or never heard of Rez before, whether you’re playing on your TV or your PS VR headset, whether you’re looking for a quick diversion or a deeper game you can lose yourself in for hours at a time -- you owe it to your senses to experience Rez Infinite.
A bit pricey for what it is, but anyone who was a fan of Rez must play Infinite on the PS VR. For newcomers, Rez Infinite is a cool rhythmic shooter that uses head tracking to lock laser lines on flying objects. The game favors style and substance over actual impressive graphics and runs silky smooth as a result. Along with Thumper, Rez Infinite is another trippy VR experience.
To tell the story of Allumette, Penrose crafted an entirely new and fantastical VR world, with a city loosely inspired by Venice floating in the sky. Clouds lap the buildings like waves in the winding canals and rios of Allumette’s world. We see ourselves not only as storytellers, but also as VR world builders.
Allumette is a unique entry on this list since it's not a game. It's a true VR experience though. It's a short film where you're in the environment and able to look around, and as we said in our PS VR review, it's absolutely magical! We can't recommend Allumette enough since it offers a glimpse to a game-changing type of storytelling. The stop-motion-esque animated tale even premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and is available on Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive as well.
Do yourself a favor, and experience this one.
Recommended Play Order
Those are the PlayStation VR experiences that we currently recommend and we'll update this guide as get hands-on with more of the launch titles (i.e. we've yet to try EVE: Gunjack and the two Pool games). Now that you know what games are worth checking out, the next important recommendation we can make is on what order to play them.
Work your way up!
If you have PlayStation VR setup and are wondering what to play first, or what to show friends and family first, here's our recommended play order.
1) PlayStation VR Worlds - Ocean Dive
This one isn't interactive but it's pretty and locks players into enjoying a 3D environment and becoming comfortable in a 3D environment. It's a great show piece and starting point.
2) Job Simulator
Now that the user understands the headset, the immersion, the 3D effects, and the tracking - let them play with the environment. This one is simple and offers so much creative input in how players can toy around with objects in the environment while having a good laugh with observers watching along.
3) PlayStation VR Worlds - The London Heist
You've seen a impressively rendered environment and learned how to interact, now let's put them together in this more adult adventure. There's gore and foul language to go along with this one so it's not for young kids. This one features shooting sequences, a fun little puzzle, and some great characters to listen to.
4) Batman: Arkham VR
The next level up from The London Heist is the first Batman VR experience, a complete short story with a range of interactions and environments feature several different puzzles that take advantage of the lore and storylines of the Batman: Arkham series. This one requires a bit of a time dedication since it's about half an hour long.
5) The Playroom VR
In Truth, The Playroom can be played at anytime but it helps to be comfortable with the headset. This one works well as an introductory piece and is entirely free as well.
6) EVE: Valkyrie
Once you're comfortable with the PS VR headset and head tracking, it's time to go to space and command your very own starfighter. EVE: Valkyrie is a killer app with several modes and multiplayer and is a cool showpiece for any experienced gamer or sci-fi fan. It's what sold us on VR in the first place, after all!
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PlayStation VR is now available exclusively for PlayStation 4. The PlayStation 4 Pro console release November 10, 2016.