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There’s a lot of VR games out there right now and let’s be honest, most of them are kind of bad, but there are more than enough incredible virtual reality games out there to make up for it. So what games should you buy first? I would say everything you can get your hands on, but I’ll just narrow it down to my top 5.
5. Hotdogs, Horseshoes, and Hand Grenades
This game at its core is a gun range simulator, but it offers so much content that you can’t help but get lost in the different game modes and truckloads of guns to mess around with. You can roleplay a hotdog cowboy on a mission or play a rogue-lite game mode where you fight zombie weiners. That’s not sarcasm either. Every character in this game is a hot dog. There’s so much humor and obvious heart in this game that I don’t want to stay away. The developer is also incredibly active releases updates almost every week.
It’s Counter-Strike but in virtual reality. What more could you want? Pavlov might actually surprise you with what kind of shenanigans you can get into. It doesn’t just offer satisfying gunplay and semi-competitive gameplay. With easily added mods, you can play Halo zombies or Trouble in Terrorist Town. They make this game a great social experience oddly enough.
This is one of the most influential games to be released for virtual reality. It’s a physics-based shooter that takes heavy inspiration from the Half-Life games. The puzzles and shooting mechanics feel great and having a VR headset crab jump on your face is terrifying. The story is a little barebone, but Stress Level Zero more than makes up for it with their fun, albeit janky gameplay.
2. Beat Saber
Beat Saber is perhaps the most prolific VR game out right now and for good reason. The gameplay loop of slicing through boxes with a lightsaber while the music guides your timing is extremely satisfying. It’s super easy to learn and can actually be a great workout too.
1. Half-Life: Alyx
This should come as no surprise, but Half-Life: Alyx is the premier virtual reality game. Valve nailed the environments, the story, and interactivity. The gravity gloves make even picking up ammo and health a lot of fun. The story is interesting, even for someone who’s never played Half-Life before, and adds new details that are better left discovered on your own. Alyx feels like a completely fleshed-out game where no elements are put to the wayside.
- The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners
- Blade and Sorcery
- Pistol Whip
- Until You Fall
- Lone Echo
Virtual Reality and How It Kept Us Connected Through Covid-19
We’re finally getting past the worst Covid-19 and 2020 had to offer, a little worse for wear, but we got through it nonetheless. Layoffs, small businesses closing, and losing a feeling of safety were all tragic side effects of Covid-19. There is one that is perhaps the worst and most overlooked though: human connection. It’s one of the most important aspects of life and we struggle to thrive or even survive when we lose it. We lost an essential part of living and we did everything we could to try and bridge that newly missing piece of our lives. Among the options like Zoom and Facetime was something surprisingly great for social interaction: video games, and more specifically, virtual reality.
Any gamer would tell you that online video games are an incredible way to meet new people and forge surprisingly strong bonds with people you’ve never seen in person. I have met some incredible people just by hopping on my favorite games like Rainbow 6: Siege and Insurgency Sandstorm. Those people have become some great friends that I regularly talk with. I even start to miss them if it’s been a while. That’s not even mentioning how much gaming together can strengthen your relationships with people you already know. Video games are one of the absolute best ways you can bond with someone you already know. It’s how many kept in touch with their real-life friends.
Virtual reality just brings another layer to that. It might surprise you that VR adds another layer of social interaction and reminds us how much our physical motion adds to our personality. You’re able to see so much more depth in a person when you see how they move their arms while they talk, or how they shake with laughter after doing something goofy. All of this is so clear in VR and it helps so much that virtual reality is so focused on being extremely social. VRChat is one of the most popular VR games available right now. It’s free and based entirely on social interaction with other people around the world. There isn’t any objective or goal to work towards. You’re just there to have fun, meet people, and chat about anything you want. You’re able to really connect with people(even if it’s mostly goofy or anime avatars) halfway across the world.
VR helped a lot of people through tough times, just by some fun moments and interesting people. The joy you can get out of VR solely out of just seeing and interacting with other people proves how crucial virtual reality (and video games) were to helping us weather the storm. It showed so many that you can find beauty anywhere, even during a pandemic.
Why Virtual Reality Games Don’t Work On a Flat Screen
We’ve seen countless games that start on monitors and TVs get ported to virtual reality. Incredible games like Skyrim and Fallout made for some fun, albeit wonky gameplay moments. Getting to actually be in Skyrim was certainly one of the highlights of my time in virtual reality. So why haven’t we seen VR games get transferred to the flat screen? We’ve seen modders do their best to translate VR games to 2-D, but it usually just makes an incredible VR experience into a mediocre video game.
The answer can be kind of hard to pinpoint if you’ve never had the pleasure of diving into virtual reality. Even watching other players mess around in VR doesn’t give you a complete picture. Sure, you can see your favorite streamer have tons of fun, but actually diving in is so much different. These virtual reality games are not designed to just be played, but to be experienced. For example, picking up an object in VR actually serves as a core gameplay mechanic. You don’t just click a button; you drop down to one knee and physically reach out to grasp it. Shooting, reloading, crouching, and catching objects aren’t just parts of the game; they are the game. There’s no need for different and innovative mechanics since physically performing the action is so dang engrossing.
Flat Screen Virtual Reality Games Fall Flat
This is potentially the only reason that VR games just don’t work in 2-D. Half-Life: Alyx, possibly the best virtual reality game the world has ever seen, was modded into a flat-screen game and it turned out to be kind of boring aside from a stellar story. You just can’t be in the world the same way as you can in VR. The wonder came from being transported into City 17 and having headcrabs leaping at your face. You miss out on accidentally shattering a glass bottle which leads you to being attacked by the truly horrifying Jeff monster. It just isn’t the same, the thrill is absent when you can’t be there. We’ve never seen tech like VR before. Only virtual reality could make sifting through trash and opening cabinets fun.
2-D games aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but let flat-screen games be flat screen and let virtual reality games be virtual reality.
PlayStation Has Made Virtual Reality More Accessible Than Ever
It’s no secret that virtual reality has had somewhat of a bumpy road since its inception. It was met with plenty of heavy criticism for being a “fad” and being all-around difficult to get into. That’s all changed in recent years with companies like Facebook/Oculus developing headsets like the Quest series, but before that PlayStation was creating something extremely accessible on console.
PlayStation released PSVR in 2016 for just $399 with the only prerequisite being that you own a PlayStation 4. Virtual reality on PC had been around for some time at this point, but a PlayStation’s release gave VR to an entirely different market: console gamers. One of VR’s biggest hurdles was the wallet-terrifying prices and the need for a relatively beefy PC to run it on. PSVR took that second part out of the equation and still offered a relatively modest price for the time(not to mention an entirely new experience for console gamers).
Flash forward to 2021 and PSVR still gets brought up when people talk about major virtual reality releases. Why? It’s simply because the launch of PSVR was incredibly successful. As of last year, PSVR has sold over 5 million units. That’s nothing to scoff at, especially given the state of VR during the launch window. PlayStation managed to blow the console market wide open and shockingly were the only ones to do so(as far as consoles go).
Most of the credit for new VR users goes to the Oculus Quest series headsets, and rightfully so, but we shouldn’t discount the fact that PlayStation released something highly accessible a full three years earlier. Sony was able to tap into a previously untouched market of over 114 million console owners worldwide, with 30 million of those residing in the United States.
If you’re wondering why PlayStation’s role in VR is important, it’s because of VR’s history of road bumps and harsh criticism. Many doubters continually argued that virtual reality would always just be too expensive for your “average person” to get into. PlayStation made it clear that the naysayers were wrong. They made it accessible and easy to get. They were able to get 5 million units into people’s homes. PlayStation virtual reality has been one of the biggest driving forces in VR right next to the Oculus Quest and HTC Vive. They were able to prove the critics wrong.