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The best things to do with your new HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR

The best things to do with your new HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR

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James Bareham

So you’ve been lucky enough to get a tethered VR headset for Christmas: Now what? VR headsets are still very new platforms, and you’ll probably be a little short on really high-quality games and apps for the near future. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to try out, no matter what headset you have. (Unless some prankster got you this monstrosity.) Here’s some of the best stuff to get you started.

We've rounded up our favorite and most-used apps and utilities for the technology we use every day. Check out our other picks for iPhones, Android phones, PCs, and Macs. We've also listed our favorite games for iOS and Android from this year.

All platforms

Every VR platform has some unique advantages, but there are also a lot of experiences shared across them. Virtual reality video, for instance, isn’t tough to find no matter what you’ve got. Apps like Jaunt and Within (formerly Vrse) are available on Vive, Rift, and PlayStation VR alike. If you’re really interested in VR video, you might also want to consider something like the Samsung Gear VR or a Google Daydream headset in the future, since they’ve got easy access to Facebook and YouTube 360-degree video.

There are also an increasing number of cross-platform games and apps, although some are stronger on specific platforms. On Rift and Vive, social VR tools Bigscreen and AltspaceVR are respectively like a big virtual LAN party and an all-purpose meeting space, complete with organized comedy shows and other events. Eagle Flight is a beautiful, multiplayer-focused flight game for all high-end platforms, with or without motion controllers. (Yes, you’re literally an eagle.) Kismet is a fun little astrology app that you can check in with for daily horoscopes, tarot readings, and minigames. And if you’re into space dogfighting, EVE: Valkyrie is a good choice from CCP, developer of EVE Online.

Oculus Rift

If you’ve got the Oculus Rift with Touch controllers, there are some great titles to choose from. I’ve written about nine of my favorites here, including escape-the-room game I Expect You To Die, slow-motion shooter Superhot, and rock-climbing game The Climb. But the single best thing you can buy right now is the Oculus Touch launch bundle, a package that includes the three titles above, plus painting app Kingspray Graffiti and arcade wave shooter Space Pirate Trainer. At $89.99, it’s a 25 percent discount on all five games, and a good balance of action, art, and puzzling.

Of course, there are also plenty of free ways to have fun with Oculus Touch. Polygon has a good roundup of your options, but they include the art app Quill and the multiplayer shooter Dead & Buried, which is free for all Touch users. But if you have the core Rift headset without motion controllers (or just aren’t excited about flailing around), don’t despair. Two of our favorite titles of the year, Chronos and Technolust, are based on the gamepad. The Rift also supports many Vive titles now, so it’s worth checking out its options as well.

Sony PlayStation VR

PlayStation VR had a reasonably good crop of launch titles, which we reviewed here, and some more interesting releases on the way. In particular, we’re fans of trippy rhythm games Rez Infinite and Thumper, both of which are also great outside VR. PlayStation VR Worlds might seem like just another minigame collection at first glance, but it’s got at least one very substantive action experience, the Guy Ritchie-influenced London Heist.

But if you’ve got a large PlayStation 4 library, you may already have some experiences to play. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare includes a free VR add-on called Jackal Assault, and Star Wars Battlefront has the recently released X-Wing VR Mission. You can also optionally play a Rise of the Tomb Raider add-on in PSVR, although we don’t recommend it.

HTC Vive

Valve’s Steam catalog and the marketplace have a broad range of Vive titles, but it can be tough to sort through all the chaff, especially because many of them are still in development. Valve’s demo The Lab is always a great place to start, especially its universally beloved archery section. And art app Tilt Brush, with its intuitive design and broad appeal, is good for hours of 3D painting.

There are a few perennial favorite titles on the Vive, including Job Simulator and Space Pirate Trainer. If you want to shoot monsters, you’ve got a VR installment of Serious Sam, the colorful zombie game Arizona Sunshine, and the tense Brookhaven Experiment. And if you’re looking for something lighter, there’s baby, kitten, and puppy-catching game Rescuties, or fruit-chopping game Fruit Ninja. The ReVive app will even let Vive owners play Rift-exclusive games — although Oculus doesn’t condone it, and they’re not guaranteed to work perfectly.