Release dates, features and prices are now known for both the consumer Rift and Vive, making content the biggest mystery remaining. For many, content will be what sells these systems, making launch titles increasingly important.
These are the 21 key titles that HTC and Valve are hoping will swoop customers into their camp now that the pre-order for the Vive is officially off the ground. Most of these will be launch titles for the system, but a few won’t be available until later in the year and development schedules for games are always subject to change.
Bundled free with pre-orders for a limited time
Tilt Brush is arguably the marquee experience coming to the Vive. The 3D art creation platform has been shown at nearly every show, every road tour, and every event that the Vive has been a part of for the past year.
Tilt Brush’s popularity stems largely from simple, intuitive controls that lead to powerful, engaging results. Drawing a circle and realizing you can walk around to view it at any angle you’d like – including above or below – is a powerful showcase for what makes the Vive both beautiful and unique.
Bundled free with pre-orders for a limited time
Fantastic Contraption also makes great use of the Vive’s tracked hand controllers and walk-around VR environments. The game uses a physics engine and tasks you with solving puzzles within those laws. You solve these puzzles by building the titular “contraptions” using in-game materials. The game provides a wonderful sense of whimsy and accomplishment when you finally see your ramshackle cart roll triumphantly to its goal.
Like the other games bundled for free with Vive pre-orders, the polish and innovation built into this game’s user interface is impressive and likely to be emulated by others.
Bundled free with pre-orders for a limited time
The idea of playing a “game” in which all you do is live out the everyday minutia of a chef or a cubicle drone is not one that screams good times ahead. And yet, Job Simulator’s laboriously detailed physics and colorful art style work together so well that you won’t realize you’ve been throwing and catching that same bottle of sriracha and over again for the past hour and a half.
In 1985, Super Mario Brothers released for the Nintendo Entertainment System and single-handedly decided the rules for the entire platforming genre. VR is about to enter into the same life-stage that console gaming was back then, and a title like Hover Junkers has the chance to establish the mold for a brand new genre as well. The roving base mechanic that Junkers’ utilizes so well could become a widely repeatable model for solving room-scale VR’s locomotion problems.
The game places you on an upgradable hovering skiff, arms you to the teeth with an arsenal of creative weapons, and sends you out to dominate rival airships. Hover Junkers provides a sense of freedom and fun that many other VR games would do well to try and emulate.
Developer: Alien Trap Games
Modbox is one of the ultimate VR playgrounds shown so far. The game lets you build and interact with a myriad of engaging mechanics by giving you access to its physics and assets. With those treasures unlocked feel free to run wild. Want to build a shooting range and do some target practice? Have fun. If you want to stack boxes as high as you can? Seems like a waste of potential but, sure, have at it. Modbox is about combining creativity and gameplay and it does its job very well. New features for the game are likely to be added over time.
Developer: Dylan Fitterer (solo project)
Audioshield is a music visualizer with a twist. It allows you to upload any song form your computer, or Soundcloud, into the program and turns it into a game. The game involves you using either a blue shield or an orange one to block orbs of the same color. The orbs appear in time with the music and blocking them brings you into the rhythm of the song. The game is simple, addictive, and endlessly replayable.
Developer: Phaser Lock Interactive
Final Approach gives you the perspective of a deity as you observe a bustling island airport. Your job is to use your hand tracked controller to guide planes to safety while also dealing with side-tasks and special events as they arise. These events can include switching to a FPS mode to put out fires, or manning a gunship to strike down enemy drones. This is easily the most fun you’ll have working as an air traffic controller.
Waltz of the Wizard
Developer: Aldin Dynamics
Remember the old Disney Classic Fantasia? If you do, chances are the image in your head right now is of Mickey Mouse wearing a starry blue hat and chasing down a troupe of frolicking brooms. Waltz of the Wizard draws heavily from this same well. The game combines a similar aesthetic alongside the empowering fun of VR wizardry to create an experience not quite like anything else on the system.
Developer: Frontier Developments
Elite Dangerous is a title that most VR fans already know about. The space-flight cockpit-based experience puts you behind the stick of a gleaming intergalactic battleship and tasks you with blowing your enemies out of the stars. The action is exactly as immersive, frantic, and action-packed as you would expect. Any wannabe Han Solos out there should have their gun turrets locked on this title without a doubt.
Zombies. Walk-around environments, hand-tracked guns, and zombies. I don’t know if you want me to keep going or if you’ve already passed out from desire. If you’re still with me I’ll add that Arizona Sunshine will arm you with a few guns, a handful of ammo, and task you with staying alive as hordes of the undead swarm down upon you. Fans of The Walking Dead, and thoroughly soiled underpants, should give this title a look.
Skyworld is a bit reminiscent of Final Approach. This title also places you 10,000 feet above a charming diorama world. The difference, however, is that Skyworld replaces two-engine planes with fire-breathing dragons. In this game you use magic, legendary beasts, and other fantastical assets to interact with the realm and build your kingdom to even greater heights.
The Brookhaven Experiment
Developer: Phosphor Games
The Brookhaven Experiment might sound like an early 2000’s horror movie – and thank goodness it plays like one too. The game is dark, ethereal, and looks to be downright terrifying. In it you’ll be shooting monsters, exploring pitch black tunnels, and most likely screaming every couple of steps. The launch trailer for this one only recently came to light so not much is known about the title overall. However, what is known makes me want to curl up under the covers far away from any HMDs.
Water Bears VR
Developer: Schell Games
Water Bears VR is a cute little puzzle game that calls back to a lot of elements in the mobile gaming genre. Each level is a self-contained puzzle and solving it lets you move onto the next in a very Angry Birds sort of progression. The puzzles will see you manipulate water pipes to make sure all the water bears stay nice and hydrated. The game’s adorable visuals, bright colors, and soothing music make this an experience to get lost in, or one to jump into just for a few quick levels.
The Gallery – Episode 1: Call of The Starseed
Developer: Cloudhead Games
Call of The Starseed is one of the most hotly anticipated titles on this list. Credited with popularizing the “Blink” method of room-scale locomotion, developer Cloudhead Games ltd. is working hard to create an experience that is as tight mechanically as it is engaging story-wise. The plot of Starseed is being kept intentionally vague, but we do know that the title will feature interesting characters, mo-cap animation, explorable environments, and one heck of a mystery to unravel in VR.
Space Pirate Trainer
Space Pirate Trainer wants you to come out guns blazing. You’ll be armed for this sci-fi shooting gallery with a multitude of different weapons and firing options, but also with a shield to block incoming projectiles. How long you last against the hordes of drones will depend on your reflexes, accuracy, and cardiovascular endurance.
Jeeboman is the futuristic gunner piece of Futuretown’s upcoming collection of experiences. In Jeeboman, you’ll be teleporting from building to building while you fire your collection of unique weapons at your relentless pursuers. The game is simple, but its future-punk, neon-infused art style makes it one you’ll want to revisit often.
Cloudlands VR Minigolf
It is often the simplest ideas that end up shining the brightest. Cloudlands VR Minigolf is proof positive of this concept. This game’s charm comes from its accessibility. Mini Golf is something you can very believably engage within VR system like the Vive’s. However, the courses, obstacles, and environments are far from anything you’ll find at your local Fun n’ Stuff.
Felt Tip Circus
Developer: Alpha Wave Entertainment
“Welcome to the smallest show on earth!”
This is the tagline for one of the most creatively designed titles on this list from an artistic standpoint. Felt Tip Circus will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the imaginative mind of a child as you play with the VR circus’ many contraptions and physics-based delights. You’ll never look at a popsicle stick the same way again.
A Legend Of Luca
Developer: Legend Studio
The term “Zelda-esque” doesn’t get thrown around often in the current VR gaming ecosystem. Enabling users to explore large dungeons and battle larger-than-life monsters is too daunting of a task for most developers to take on. Most developers are not Legend Studio. A Legend of Luca makes each room of the dungeon a separate full room-scale box to explore and plunder. It arms you with a delightful mix of weapons and magical powers and sets you loose to find treasure, slay monsters, and defeat powerful bosses.
Developer: Neat Corporation
If there was a Mt. Rushmore for early Vive titles, Budget Cuts would be Thomas Jefferson. Budget Cuts took home Best VR game at Unity’s Vision Awards and the accolade is well deserved. Neat Corporation’s robotic spy thriller combines a brilliant teleportation mechanic with crisp visuals and nail-biting gameplay to create what is – and will most likely remain for some time – the best stealth/action title on the Vive.
Developer: Innervision VR
Thunderbird’s allusions to the Myst series are simply too apparent to ignore. Solving puzzles, exploring beautiful environments, and delving deep into subtle mysteries is what both of these games are all about. Thunderbird was completely developed by a father-son team. It also recently won Best VR Experience at Unity’s Vision Summit in Los Angeles.