The 9 Best Vive Games to Play Right Now

by David Jagneaux • November 24th, 2016

Now that the HTC Vive has been out for a while, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of content flow onto Valve’s flagship VR headset. Hundreds of games live on Steam with HTC Vive support, although it’s worth clarifying that the majority of them offer very little in the way of engaging content beyond a simple gameplay mechanic that’s fun for 30 minutes.

As a result, we feel the need to provide a definitive source with an up-to-date list regarding the very best Vive games that you can play right now. We’ll keep an eye on the VR gaming landscape and update this list over time, as appropriate, to better represent what’s available.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the first three Vive games you should play are the original three that came bundled with the Vive’s very first preorders: Tilt Brush, Job Simulator, and Fantastic Contraption. While Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption may not be bundled any longer, they’re still awesome demonstrations of what VR can accomplish by focusing on very specific concepts. Additionally, The Gallery, and Zombie Training Simulator, are included with all current Vive bundles, and also deserve recognition as being excellent games in their own right. And Google Earth VR is one of the best apps period, but it’s not really a game technically.

But this list is focused on games you don’t have access to out of the box. If you just got a Vive or are cruising for something to play, you already tried the bundle games. You want something more. And that’s where this list comes in.

None of these games come bundled with the device, prices will likely change depending on which week or month you’re reading this list, and chances are they’ll all receive updates and patches making them even better than they are today. But the fact remains that at the time of writing, these are the 9 must-play Vive games available right now, in no particular order.

The Lab

Not only is The Lab free to download and specifically created by Valve for the HTC Vive, but it’s also one of the best demonstrations of not just VR, but room scale as well. Instead of masquerading as a glorified tech demo pretending to be a real game, it’s just a collection of short demo experiences. Each of them focus on something specific and really show you how much potential exists for developers in the future.

Longbow, for example, puts you atop a castle wall as an archer that’s tasked with shooting invaders. It sounds simple but it’s incredibly addicting. Then there’s Xortex, which is a clever twist on the classic shoot ‘em up genre that puts you in control of a ship in 3D space as you move and zip around by dodging and shooting lasers from every direction.  It’s free and it’s super high-quality, you’d be crazy not to download this one immediately.

Raw Data

Raw Data is what happens when a group of game developers get together and posit a virtual world where all of the protagonists get to be super-powered, cyborg-killing, badass heroes. It can be easy to brush this one off as “just another wave shooter,” but that would be a gross oversimplification of the game. You don’t just face off against robots and call it a day, but instead move around the environment and set up defenses, dodge attacks, and more.

What makes Raw Data so great though is that you’re not just fighting these robots by yourself, but you can do so in cooperative multiplayer with friends or random people over the internet. The multitude of different classes — such as a pistol-wielder and sword-wielder — lend a lot of variety to the experience. With more classes coming, as well as more missions, powers, and enemies, this is easily one of the most polished and robust Early Access VR titles on the market.

Vanishing Realms

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play D&D with a hint of Zelda in VR? Then look no further because Vanishing Realms could very well scratch that pesky itch. On the surface, it’s a relatively bare bones dungeon crawler with some light exploration and puzzle elements, but where the game really shines is when you’re thrust into combat.

Using the Vive’s motion controllers and room scale technology, you maneuver around the environment to dodge enemies and attacks and can even swing your sword and block with your shield all using real-life 1:1 motion tracking. Hear a bow string twang from behind? Spin around and block the arrow with your shield. Duck behind cover and cast spells at enemies. You can do it all in Vanishing Realms.

Onward

This is the hardcore VR shooter for hardcore VR gamers. If you grew up playing games like Rainbow Six, Ghost Recon, SOCOM, and other similar tactical military shooters, then you’ll feel right at home in Onward. It has much more in common with the grueling teamwork of those games than the run-and-gun hip firing found in modern shooters like Call of Duty, and it was all created by one guy.

From holding your rifle with both hands and using your walkie talkie on your shoulder, to pulling out your knife to sneak up on an opponent, Onward is the visceral, realistic VR game many people have been waiting for. It uses full roomscale tracking with motion controllers and artificial locomotion attached to the trackpad — no teleporting here. The community is healthy and fun, making this one of the clear standout titles for the HTC Vive so far.

A Chair in a Room: Greenwater

What does it take to scare you? I don’t mean to make you jump in surprise from something that pops up as you round a corner in the darkness, or a loud noise that catches you off guard. I mean what does it take to really, really frighten you? The kind of scare that leaves you thinking about it after you take off the headset and stop playing the game. That answer is likely very different for everyone, but for me, the answer is A Chair in a Room: Greenwater.

Everything from the pacing, to the foreboding sounds and atmosphere, all the way to the twisted story of mental illness and terrifying captivity, A Chair in a Room: Greenwater is one of the scariest games I’ve played on the HTC Vive. Instead of relying on cheap jump scares, it builds a suspenseful narrative that concludes in a breathtaking ending. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a great example of what’s possible with the horror genre in VR.

The Brookhaven Experiment

You’ve probably heard about it or seen it before, as The Brookhaven Experiment has become synonymous with, “Hey! Watch this person’s ridiculous reaction to fake stuff in VR!” But the great thing about The Brookhaven Experiment is that if you look beyond the silly reaction videos and dig into the meat of the game, what you’ll find is one of the most satisfying (albeit terrifying) VR experiences currently on the market.

You can plow through the game’s Survival mode, completing waves as they get progressively harder and more intense, as well as the Campaign mode, which features a pseudo-plot and voice acting to push the story along. Between waves you’ll upgrade your weapons and prepare for the onslaught of more zombies, crawlers, and other creepy beasts. It sounds simple, but the slowly building dread you’ll face as you spin around searching for that last zombie — just as your flashlight dies — is truly unnerving.

Rec Room

You’ve got no excuse for not playing Rec Room. This whimsical gym simulation, complete with dorm rooms, a communal area, and tons of activities, is not only free to download and play for all Vive users, it’s also one of the most engaging experiences you can try in VR to date. When you first log into the world, you’ll start in your dorm room, alone, to get your bearings. Pick out your clothes, choose your appearance, and establish a bit of your virtual identity before meeting your peers.

From the main lobby, you can walk around and chat with other players, complete with high-fives, fist bumps, and incredibly emotive faces. Activities range from an exciting game of Paintball, Table Tennis, Dodgeball, and more. The premise is simple, but the execution is so loveable and on-point that it’s impossible to not play Rec Room with a smile on your face. It reminds us of the reasons we enjoy(ed) going to school: hanging out with friends.

Island: 359

It’s really a damn shame. But it seems like, in the year 2016, people have mostly forgotten how terrifying dinosaurs can be. They’ve been replaced mostly with zombies as the go-to monstrosity of choice, but little else can match the ferocity and terror from the roar of a towering T-Rex. That’s something that Island: 359 not only captures, but revels in from start to finish. It may currently only be a fraction of its planned vision, but it’s already delivering on much of its core promise.

In Island: 359, you’re a mercenary dropped into a dangerous tropical jungle on the hunt for big, bad dinos. You’ll be tasked with venturing into the depths of the sprawling tree-laden wilderness — a massive area — complete with free quick-sprint teleportation movement. With a litany of guns, items, and other upgrades to find, you’ll spend your time upgrading as you advance through the jungle. But be careful: your bounty won’t count if you can’t make it back to the chopper for evacuation.

Redout

This is WipeOut for the modern age. It’s a shameless imitation that does everything right and excels at its copy of Sony’s first-party racing title, updating it for 2016, and adding VR support to boot. It may not be a VR-only title like most of the others we tend to cover at UploadVR, but it’s still one of the best games you can play right now on the HTC Vive.

The speed is indescribably intense and the sheer breadth of content is refreshing for an industry that seems riddled with tech demos and brief experiences. Redout came out of nowhere to offer the speed, thrills, and intensity that the market was craving. Definitely grab this one if you haven’t already.

11/24/16 Update: Battle Dome and Hover Junkers have been retired from this list and replaced with Onward and Redout

8/30/16 Update: The Gallery was moved into the ‘bundle’ paragraph at the start of the article, while Unseen Diplomacy, Space Pirate Trainer, and #SelfieTennis have been retired. The list has also been expanded from 7 games to 9, opening up 2 new spots. In the 5 total vacant slots, we’ve added Raw Data, A Chair in a Room: Greenwater, Island: 359, Battle Dome, and Rec Room.

This article was originally published on 4/13/16.

Editor’s Note: Another version of this list, specifically focused on multiplayer games, has been retired and will no longer be updated. This list is our definitive collection of the overall best Vive games we’ve identified as of the last time the list was updated.

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  • unreal_ed

    I really have no idea why you keep saying that Hover Junkers is only fun if you have people to play with! It’s plenty fun with strangers! And theres always people online playing it!

    • By people I just meant generally, including strangers. And it’s a lot easier to find matches nowadays, but there are still pockets of emptiness occasionally.

      Just saying it’s great in multiplayer is all! 🙂

  • Usually people look down on self promotion but I think you deserve it! I love playing your table tennis game, it feels like I have my own table right in my living room. 😛

  • doublefrag

    The very best game was, is and will be “Elite Dangerous”! Ok, you can also play this game in 2D but VR ist very impressiv 😉

  • Leo Sapun

    You cant have a best of list without The Solus Project. I have most of these games and honestly other than the lab, NONE of them come close to Solus.

    • Now that the Vive integration works better, that’s a super solid pick. It’s definitely up there for sure.

      • Subnautica is very strong title and support Vive now

  • HordeZ deserves to be on that list.

    • Definitely a fun one. I had it on our multiplayer only list of Vive games, just missed the cut for the overall list in my opinion. Probably the best multiplayer zombie game on Vive right now though.

  • Kris Van de Vijver

    I agree with the titles on this list, really good games!
    A personal favorite that I don’t find often in these lists is Windlands.

    • Nick de Bruyker

      really? after 10mins i refunded it, it was the most awfull vr game i played so far, the controls were horrible and i just kept falling off random shit and the swinging system… dont even get me started

  • CaptainDingus

    Onward came out a couple days ago and has already surpassed most of the games on this list for me, and I’m not even a big milsim fan. If you’re a Vive owner looking for a quality shooter, definitely keep an eye on that one. Worth every penny.

  • Trooper

    I bought Pongwave and really enjoy it, I can’t play Table tennis for my life but I am getting better 🙂 I do recommend this game.

  • Trooper

    That is a great list, I have Island 359, Vanishing realms, the Lab and a good few other titles aswell, I have unfortunately had to refund a couple of titles as they just weren’t ready for release in my opinion (even though they were early access they were still a little unplayable).

    The Vive has literally changed my life as there are a lot of things I simply can’t do in real life, but I can get as close as I am going to get with the Vive. Greatest toy I own.

  • Hansibert Wurstler

    VRporize is missing!

  • Hansibert Wurstler
    • Trooper

      that was an unfinished project which is why not a single person has played it in the last two weeks. Maybe if the Dev went on a massive patching spree it will bring it upto the quality of some other titles.

  • Pulsar101

    Zombie Trainer Simulator belongs on this list. Its a lot more fun then it looks

    • We didn’t include any bundle titles on this list formally, but that game is specifically mentioned already in the opening.

      • Pulsar101

        Oh yea I forgot that added that to the bundle last week as mine never had it

  • Pistol Pete

    But where the heck is a working multiplayer????

  • freddy

    I almost missed “Hotdogs, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” as I browsed on Steam. Despite it’s title and fanciful description, it is the most accurate real weapon simulation I have ever seen. It literally reduces how often I have to go to the shooting range, because it handles the physics of aiming, loading, unloading, racking, and safeties — on dozens of real-world weapons — so expertly. The developer clearly loves the game and there are early access upgrades and videos nearly every week.

    I can’t, exactly, call it a game. It only has a few (work in progress) areas that are truly video game-like (though the target presentation series are a great game for anyone who actually shoots firearms). Still, I spend 30 minutes a day in the game to keep real skills fresh.

    And sometimes just to fire a grenade launcher at a stack of watermelons.

  • RoJoyInc

    Dunno who made this pick – but I couldn’t disagree more. First – Job sim is a waste of drive space. I forced myself through a couple demos as it came with the VIVE. I wouldn’t have paid 1.99 for it. OK Vanishing Realms is good – I’ve had good fun with it so far… though I’ve yet to go back and continue where I left off the first time. (some outdoor area with archers shooting at me) I would give this a top 10. Battle Dome – didn’t inspire me to buy – but your review pointing out that you have to paint a path to walk in may make it interesting. The shots seem limp… but I’ll wait for a sale and then give it a try. Chair in a room? Can’t say it inspired me to buy either… I can’t comment. Brookhaven – a little repetitive ? (just alittle?) I have 3-4 minutes invested in it. (pass). 359? could be fun, waiting for a sale – as the demo video doesn’t show a polished title. (with poor lighting). Hover – was the biggest disappointment due to PRICE PAID. I have 15 minutes of play in it. repetitive shoot or be shot. Now I wonder – why titles like House of the Dying Sun didn’t make this cut. holo Ball, Assetto Corsa, Aerofly FS2… Adrift is quite impressive. Others – INBOUND, Solus… A-10, TRICKSTER VR. I think if I had only tried the titles you rate as the TOP 9 – I’d have sold my VIVE long ago = ( AND YES – ELITE AND DANGEROUS. THICK AIR!?

    • Nick de Bruyker

      elite dangerous is massive! but red out and windlands is literally the worsed VR titles i played so far, my top 3 atm is onward, raw data and elite dangerous

  • Martin Ekrogn Craft

    Yea. I think you should be one of the top 10. It’s really good made. The enviroment and music has a chilling effect. Graphic is better than the other pong games, and the physics seems to be accurate. It takes time to learn doe. But so does in real life xD

  • Paul Denlinger

    Almost all of these games only have enough entertainment value for about an hour or to show the experience off to someone who is trying VR for the first time.

    The fact of the matter is this. The VR market is getting DESTROYED with boring games.
    -Hardly any games have a good story if any.
    -There are far too many zombie games.
    -There are far too many wave shooters.
    -There are far too many games using that terrible, un-immersive, teleport system that literally no one I know enjoys. Even if it’s the “quick sprint” like in Island 359. It’s unnatural and reminds you that there is a VR headset on your face.

    The Lab: I love this game but it’s almost a little sad that even with ALL of the games that have come out, this is still able to make the top 9.
    Job Sim: How do you guys keep pushing this game? It’s fun for maybe 30 minutes.
    Raw Data: I have not tried it yet. The wave shooter aspect is keeping me away but I keep hearing it’s good so I’ll give it a shot.
    Vanishing Realms: This was the first game that I thought was actually going in the right direction though the game was FAR too easy, but I hear they have since updated the game to be harder, so I’ll have to go back to it.
    Battle Dome: FPS shooters with the Teleport system aren’t cool.
    Chair in the Room: No opinion
    Brookhaven: I played this game. I stood in the middle of a field and shot at the monsters coming at me in waves. In comparison to Horde Z, thisfelt disappointing. I wanted them to pop out from behind buildings and such but you get to watch them walk at you from a mile away. Horde Z is a much better game to show a first time VR player.
    Rec Room: Fantastic game, really. Just no depth.
    Island 359: I’m not sure how this even made your list. This game is incomplete and the AI are sooo dumb. Not to mention that all the dinosaurs run like REALLY slow. It’s not scary at all. It takes them like a full minute to get to you. Meanwhile you’re just unloading a clip of ammo into their face. There are also only like 3 different kinds of dinosaurs. Basically, if you’re looking for dinosaurs, just go play Ark Survival Evolved.
    Hover Junkers: It was pretty good.

    A game that SHOULD be on this list is Onward. Super immersive FPS military shooter with a good Locomotion system? Yes please. It’s the first game that I’ve actually put time into. 8 hours in the first day. I won’t say it’s 10/10 but it’s for SURE better than most of the garbage that’s out there right now.

    • I will have to buy Onward… a VR developer not afraid to use full locomotion. I too hate teleport and how devs have been bullied and scared into pandering to the nausea minority. While I understand nausea is a problem for a percentage… dumbing down all VR games for that percentage is not fair. Do we design real rollercoasters based on a percentage who are much more sensitive to motion? No.

    • Nick de Bruyker

      i dont have trouble with nausea but i like the teleporting alot more then locomotion, for some reason the teleporting feels more natural because your body is actually standing still and isnt moving, while using locomotion it completely disrupts the immersion just for the fact it feels like you are standing on a segway, its one of the reasons i didnt want to buy an oculus rift but with all the people complaining about it im scared they are gonna stop the teleporting 🙁 i gotta agree that onward is massive fun, but so is raw data. and if you are looking for a longer lasting VR game, try elite dangerous, i know its also playable without VR but its highly optimized to play in VR, and it also plays better that way

      • Ned Hoon

        I prefer teleporting as well but have to say the Lone Echo locomotion system has me interested.

    • Raw data is good in spite of the awful teleport. HordeZ is great. Island 359 I found boring… lacking scary dinosaurs and only able to run a few yards before tiring out – insane. Ark Evolved had broken VR support last time I looked and doesn’t support Vive anyway. Battledome has option for full locomotion I believe?

      Teleport games in general are a big turn off for me. I never have nausea so I hate that many games are being ruined because the developer panders only to the nausea clan.

  • Rehan Haque

    this looks awesome, bring it to the psvr please!

  • RationalThought

    Seriously not trying to start a flame war but were is the Oculus list? Got a best of PSVR, Gear and Vive but I want ideas/recommendations for the Oculus Rift?

  • Filmgeek47

    IMHO, Hover Junkers should still be on this list. The core mechanics are a blast, and it just has that feeling of solid design and quality that most VR titles don’t have yet. With their buzz bots update adding a vs AI arena mode, it’s still fun even in the down times where there aren’t a ton of players. One of the few VR titles I still come back to again and again.

    • It’s still a lot of fun and we hope people continue to play it, but we just like to keep these lists current and diverse. Onward needed to be on this list, and we felt like having 3, or even 2, similar multiplayer shooters wasn’t very representative of all of the best Vive games, so both HJ and Battle Dome moved off.

      Doesn’t mean Hover Junkers isn’t still awesome though!

    • JustNiz

      When Vive launched, Hover Junkers was the only thing other than The Lab that felt like a finished game so it got popularity just because of that, but lets be honest the game play is shallow, rudimentary and very limited.

      • Filmgeek47

        Agree to disagree. My only issue with it is that it’s hard to find other players. When people are online, I think the core mechanics are so well done it can be a lot of fun. I would love to see them add more game modes and features though, maybe even a single player campaign.

  • Stephen Cook

    video is private cant see it

  • CityLims

    Don’t waste your money on these backpack computers. HTC Vive has a wireless option coming in 2017 (preorders start soon). Clearly the next step is going wireless with our HMD’s, just be patient.

  • a corn

    chair in a room SUCKS

  • a corn

    Its a game about pong. That pretty much removes it from any top 10 list. Its not to say your game isn’t great, it to say your game is pong

  • Get Schwifty!

    Can we drop the “Vive” moniker here? All these games mentioned work with Rift….

  • CMcD

    Definitely think Arizona sunshine deserves a place on this list in the next update.

  • AW Concentrates

    The Game Bullets and More BAM should be on top of the list. You are kinda not on top of the new games it seems.

  • Ned Hoon

    Have to 100% agree with The Lab being on your list as a new Touch owner I am loving it.

  • purdy44

    Eleven: Table Tennis VR needs to be on this list. The physics of the game is absolutely perfect. Can play (and have played) this game for hours. I’m hoping enough people buy this game so it can receive new updates like new maps, music, paddles, etc… This is the real deal, folks. When the game is this accurate at recreating the ping pong experience, I think it’s going to make VR a hit for people who want a ping pong, foosball, billiards table in their homes but are restricted because of space. Seriously, this game is incredible