Rift versus Vive. Oculus Touch versus Vive wand. It seems like these are the only things you hear about any more in the virtual reality scene. But what if the answer to all of these questions was: neither. What if the true hero of the VR world is not some big, expensive system that demands a PC from the Batcave to properly function? What if the hero this industry deserves is small, scrappy, and — believe it or not — relatively cheap?
That’s right, I’m talking about a little headset called the Samsung Gear VR. It only costs $99, all it takes to run is a device that millions of people already carry in their pockets (a modern Samsung Galaxy, Android smartphone,) and it boasts some truly incredible games and experiences.
Don’t believe me? Geez you sound like my dad when I told him I wanted to be a writer instead of a doctor. I convinced him with a total lack of scientific ability, and I’ll convince you with this list of the nine best Samsung Gear VR games you can play right now. Let the opinion shifting begin!
Let’s start this list off strong. Land’s End might be the best game on the Samsung Gear VR. With a breathtaking oceanside setting, it stands as a constant reminder of just how amazing VR can look on the this beefy little headset.
The gameplay, puzzles, and mechanics all work together within the Gear’s unique ecosystem to create an experience just as, if not more, immersive than many titles on the more advanced platforms. If you have a Gear VR, do not let this one go unplayed.
Turtle Rock is better known for its VR scare-fest, Face Your Fears, but its recently-released, visually stunning RPG, The Well, is, well, well worth talking about (sorry). Battle fantastical creatures in this dungeon-crawler inspired experience while you explore the incredible world of Tholl.
The Well offers hours of content for just $4.99, and makes great use of Gear VR’s new controller. This will give you the long-missed traditional gaming thrills largely absent on Gear right now.
If you’re looking for a hardcore turn-based strategy RPG in VR you think you’d have to turn to systems like PC and console, right? Wrong; VR’s best SRPG is actually on Gear VR and living large. Augmented Empire from Esper developer Coatsink is probably the biggest game on Gear and completely worth your time.
Empire mixes up Xcom’s nail-biting strategic gameplay with a character roster you’ll come to care for thanks to a mission structure largely inspired by Mass Effect. The result is a surprisingly deep experience you won’t soon forget.
There are lots of space shooters on the Gear VR — we even included Anshar Wars 2 on this list already — but that game is arcade-fun with a hefty dose of multiplayer. End Space, on the other hand, feels like a much more simulation-esque approach, with a bit slower-pace, larger environments, and more structured objectives.
Fans of sci-fi games and space shooters specifically should absolutely have End Space in their library as there is more than enough content to keep you busy, with a great world and excellent single player missions. Plus, the game helped launch an entire game studio. You can read more about it on the Oculus Store.
Dark Days may not be as viscerally terrifying as another game appearing later on this list, but it remains one of the most psychologically troubling Gear VR games to date. Channeling the X-Files and Twin Peaks, Dark Days will task you with exploring creepy locales in order to untangle an occult mystery.
Just don’t be surprised if the occult starts to fight back.
Skylight is the kind of game that’s difficult to describe because it combines genres in really clever ways. As a mixture of both turn-based and real-time strategy games, it defies convention and opens up the door for something really special in VR.
Being able to pop on a mobile VR headset and enter into an almost Enders Game-esque representation of space-based warfare is exciting and the tactical mindset required to win is nothing short of refreshing.
Affected: The Manor
This game will scare you. This game will make you scream. This game will cause your underwear budget to double. This game is Affected: The Manor.
Navigating the titular haunted mansion in this Gear VR title is nearly impossible to do without either closing your eyes, screaming at the top of your lungs, or dissolving into a complete psychotic breakdown. If you like being scared, or seeing your friends be scared, then Affected: The Manor is the game for you.
We’ve all picked up a pencil when no one’s looking and waved it around trying to make an object float, or turn an enemy into a frog. Wands captures that childlike dream of wizardry and translates it into a truly fun and creative Gear VR experience.
Battling with magic and developing your wizarding skills is made all the more enjoyable by the gothic art style that may make some of us feel a little better that we never got a letter from a certain castle in Scotland.
Question: What project could be so captivating that it demands the personal attention of one of gaming’s living legends and an Oculus senior executive? Answer: bringing Minecraft into VR.
John Carmack himself, the creator of DOOM and current CTO of Oculus, made translating the worldwide phenomenon onto VR platforms his personal pet project. He succeeded this year and Minecraft is now available to play on both the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR. Both entries are brilliant ports of an already amazing title that offer newcomers some immersive incentive to jump onboard, while also giving veterans a completely new perspective to enjoy the game they love.
12/27/17 Update: Tactera was retired from this list to make room for Skylight.
11/23/17 Update: Anshar Wars 2 and Drop Dead were both retried from the list, while Augmented Empire and The Well were both added.
Note: This article was originally published on September 9th, 2016. Additional reporting by David Jagneaux.