Thinking about buying a Vive? Here's our selection of the best games to play right now
The HTC Vive is arguably the best virtual reality headset you can buy right now, but what can you actually play on it, and what are the best games currently available? To help you get the most out of the Vive, we’ve rounded up our current favourites out of the games we’ve played. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it should give you a good idea of what the current best experiences are and whether it’s worth putting in an order for a headset of your own.
While a lot of the games here are either still in Early Access or limited to a handful of demo levels, we’ll be updating this list with new games and impressions as soon as they start arriving, so be sure to check back regularly to see our top VR recommendations.
Price: Free (demo)
Neat Corporation’s excellent stealth game is only available as a single demo level at the moment, but this is by far the most exciting VR game I’ve played so far and definitely the one I’m most looking forward to playing in full on Vive when it launches later this year.
It’s the game Vive was made for, as it uses your full, virtual play space to brilliant effect. During my short infiltration mission, I was crawling around on the floor as I snuck through air vents, ducking behind office furniture to stay out of sight, and even slowly edging round corners to see if the coast was clear. One hit from the patrolling sentry bots and it’s game over, so you’ll need to, quite literally, stay on your toes to get all the way to the end.
The other great thing about Budget Cuts is that moving around feels very natural and intuitive. This involves placing a location marker on the ground in front of you to move forward, but it also brings up a small preview window of where you’re about to land, allowing you to plan your next move without unwittingly throwing yourself into the laser-ridden arms of a roaming death bot. It’s an utterly absorbing tool, as you can move your window in full 360 degrees to get a complete picture of your next landing point.
What’s more, if your next destination doesn’t have a lot of headroom, then you’ll be prompted to physically crouch, too. It might not be particularly dignified waddling around on the floor, but when you’re sniping robots through the ceiling tiles, you don’t really care. Of course, only time will tell whether the rest of Budget Cuts will live up to this truly jaw-droppingly good demo, but right now it’s definitely a must-have download for would-be Vive owners.
Think Wii Sports, but even more surreal. While developers VRUnicorn are still adding in new features, the core of the game is extremely simple: you play first-person tennis either with or against yourself, and you do so while being watched by an audience of weird cloud-clad tennis ball men who do a strange little dance every time a ball whizzes past their blank, dead eyeballs.
Playable regardless of whether you’re right or left-handed, you simply spawn a ball in your non-racket hand by pressing the Vive’s trigger button, throw it up in the air and hit it with your racket. Then, provided it doesn’t land in the tramlines or off court, the game will transport you onto the other side of the net where the ball’s about to land. All you need to do is hit it back. Add in the ability to take its titular selfies by pressing the Vive’s grip button (all of which can be automatically uploaded to Twitter) and you’re on to a winner.
It’s an incredibly simple idea, but one that’s executed absolutely flawlessly. From the daft, upbeat soundtrack to the worryingly chirpy tennis ball men, #SelfieTennis is both a great introduction to VR as well as a brilliant party game to show off to your friends.
Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
In a world where robots have replaced all human jobs, Job Simulator: the 2050 Archives teaches our future overlords how these primitive beings once used ‘to job’. From office workers to chefs and auto mechanics, Job Simulator is brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, as even the simplest daily tasks are given new lease of life when they’re performed in VR.
For instance, using the Vive’s controllers (which double up as big white gloves in Job Simulator) to push jumbo-sized buttons on our virtual office desk or whip up a makeshift pizza in the kitchen is a wonderfully tactile experience, and the sheer amount of stuff that can be interacted with will have you probing its secrets long after you’ve ‘completed’ each level.
Developed by Valve, the makers of Steam VR, The Lab is an incredible VR showcase that ties together a variety of gameplay elements to create one, unique experience after another. There are eight separate demos in total, but arguably the most important thing The Lab does is absolutely nail how to move in virtual reality beyond the bounds of your designated play area.
With a press of the touchpad, you can wave the controller around the room to place a maker where you’d like to go next. You’re then instantly teleported to that spot so you can get a closer look at what’s nearby. It’s wonderfully intuitive, and it feels completely natural, too.
Admittedly, some of its ‘pocket universes’ are better than others. Longbow, for instance, is by far one my favourite demos in the entire game, as this puts players in the shoes of a medieval archer to defend their castle from hordes of invaders. Xortex, a 360 degree bullet hell shooter, is another favourite. Here you just use one controller to pilot a space ship and dodge enemy fire, but the ability to move your craft up, down and around to the side, all the while controlling the camera view with your head, makes it super immersive and incredibly fun to play.
Slingshot is good fun, too, although more because you get to hear lots of Valve’s trademark Portal humour than anything else. Here, you fling a collection of different personality cores into the void by pulling back a large slingshot contraption somewhere deep in Aperture Science’s testing facility. The aim is to try and create as much carnage as possible. The more damage you incur, the more cores you get to play with, and the higher your score will be.
While it can’t really be called a proper game, it’s a brilliant introduction to VR and its handful of ideas show plenty of promise. I just hope Valve builds on this foundation to create even better VR games in the future.
Space Pirate Trainer
Or, as it’s affectionately known in the Expert Reviews office, ‘shoot everything with laser guns’. An arcade-shooter at heart, Space Pirate Trainer sees you blasting your way out of a sticky heist gone wrong as you fend off wave after wave of flying security bots.
Armed with five different weapons, which are all activated with a quick hold and slide on the Vive’s touchpad, this is arguably one of the most active and physically-demanding VR games I’ve played so far. With enemies coming at you from 180 degrees, Space Pirate Trainer really forces you to move around your play area to dodge incoming fire.
It’s exactly the type of game that shows off room-scale VR at its best, and I was quickly dodging from side-to-side, ducking and crouching and even hula-hooping round our test space to try and stay alive. It’s great fun, and it’s far more engaging than your typical first-person arcade shooter.
More cautious players can also opt for a shield, which is brilliantly activated by raising your controller and reaching up and over behind your back. You will, however, lose one of your guns in the process, so you’ll need to find the right balance between offence and defence as you’re being gunned down by hordes of drones.
Like #SelfieTennis, Space Pirate Trainer isn’t quite finished yet – it’s still in Early Access at the moment – but developers I-Illusions have promised that the full version will include proper boss fights, different environments, more gun types, special loot and space pirate rewards, different enemies and more strategic gameplay options. Right now, you’re only playing to earn a high score on the global leaderboards, but at just £11, it’s well worth jumping in early and getting ahead of the competition.
This is one for the puzzle fans. In this bizarre landscape of floating islands and green, neon cats that can spawn an infinite number of wooden sticks, pins, and weird gloopy balls, it’s your job to build whatever ‘fantastic contraption’ you can to transport your sentient pink jelly ball back towards its equally gelatinous home.
There’s no right or wrong answer in this delightfully offbeat puzzler, as you’re simply left to your own devices to work out how your limited number of tools and parts can be fused together to make a working machine. You’ll need to traverse gaps, walk up steps and flounder your way round corners, but the way you conquer these obstacles is entirely up to you. It’s astonishingly creative, and the way you can walk round and easily adjust your creation with both hands only adds to its wonderful sense of whimsy. You can even share your contraptions online, too, allowing you to see all the crazy machines other players have come up with to give you a few tips when you get stuck.
There’s plenty here to get stuck in with, too, as there are currently 50 official launch puzzles available. Some are easier than others, but later puzzles will have you scratching your head for hours, leaving other Vive games feeling positively anaemic by comparison. If you want something to really sink your teeth into, Fantastic Contraption is the VR game for you.