The wait is over. This week, the first consumer Oculus Rift headsets are shipping. But having a VR headset is one thing; knowing what to do with it is another. At launch, Oculus’ store has more than three dozen games, shorts, and experiments, with prices ranging from about $5 to $60.
Some games are brand new; some are flatscreen experiences that have been ported to VR. Buying everything would cost as much as the Rift itself, and frankly, not everything is worth your time. Here are some of our favorite Oculus experiences so far:
Read: Our Oculus Rift review
Like space itself, Adrift is both deadly and beautiful. The first-person narrative game, set in a disaster-struck space station, forces players to deal with the inertia that made Gravity so scary: when you're in a zero-gravity vacuum, the smallest movement can either get you to your goal, smash your body against a wall, or send you floating into nowhere while your oxygen runs out. It's coming out on PC in both VR and non-VR versions, so it's worth a look whether or not you own an Oculus Rift.
Chronos is one of the biggest, most complex games published so far for virtual reality. It's a third-person fantasy RPG that borrows a lot of gameplay elements from Dark Souls, but as its name suggests, there's also an interesting time-based component: each one of your deaths "ages" you by a year, changing the cost of acquiring different skills as you get older. And its world's interesting blend of high fantasy and alternate history — including some weird nods to VR inside the game — make it more than just a Souls knockoff.
Darknet is one of the oldest VR games around, and still one of the best. It's a cyberpunk-y hacking title that asks you to capture data nodes by solving clever procedurally-generated puzzles, then strategize to compromise an entire computer system before the authorities catch you. The new Oculus Rift version offers a smoother, more comfortable experience than its Gear VR counterpart, thanks to things like the Rift's positional tracking camera.
Technically, EVE: Valkyrie is coming bundled with every pre-ordered consumer Rift — don’t forget to check your email for that download code — but if you’re still trying to make the most out of a developer kit headset, this space dogfighter is worth paying a the full price for. Valkyrie was built from the ground up with VR in mind, and it shows. Sure, it can be frustrating, but few games look as gorgeous or feel as immersive — even when your ship is (constantly) exploding.
Pinball FX2 VR
Yes, a virtual reality pinball arcade sounds a little silly, and it is. It's a room full of tables that you use exactly like real machines, except that things like fish or space vessels float around your body while you're playing. But as someone who spent way too many hours in 3D Pinball for Windows, hyper-realistic virtual pinball is a strangely satisfying experience.
Radial-G: Racing Revolved
If you want a hyper-realistic racing simulation for Oculus Rift, try something like Project CARS. If you just want to go crazy driving around a 360-degree neon Mobius strip, hitting ramps and trying to knock other cars out of the way while techno music pulses between your ears, Radial G isn't a bad pick.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
We’ve recommended Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes before, and we will continue to bring it up until everyone with a VR headset gives it a chance. The concept is simple: someone wearing the headset has to defuse a comically-complicated bomb, but in order to defuse it, they’ll need to work with someone in the real world to sift through an actual instruction manual. Makes for a great party game.
In addition to about 30 or so games, Oculus Rift is launching with a handful of short stories that are not to be overlooked. The best one might be Lost, from director Saschka Unseld (Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella). Quick but powerful, it’s a good sign of VR storytelling to come.
Verge Reviews: Oculus Rift