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.
Anshar Wars 2
Cockpit shooters have become a cornerstone of VR gaming, for better or worse. In the case of Anshar Wars 2 it is definitely for better. Dogfighting through the cosmos in a wireless, lightweight headset like the Gear VR may never feel as robust as it does on PC or console VR with titles like EVE: Valkyrie or Elite: Dangerous, but it certainly captures the spirit and fun of its elder brothers even if it can’t match their visual powers.
Anshar Wars 2 also provides online multiplayer which is a rare feat on a Gear VR title. A good bet all around.
Look and tap shooters on the Gear VR are relatively common. The mechanic is simple and intuitive and it allows the developers to infuse lots of high-quality visuals without having to worry too much about how closely you’ll be looking or moving around the environment. Restricting your agency to your head and tapping a touchpad frees them up to focus on other aspects of the game.
As a result, Drop Dead is a tightly designed, fun, graphically impressive, romp through a zombie-killing adventure. It doesn’t break much new ground, but it feels like an excellent homage to the likes of Time Crisis and House of the Dead. Definitely worth checking out and you can read our full review and the Oculus Store page for more details.
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.
Tactera is a masterclass in stereoscopic 3D on the Gear VR. It may be a relatively simple tabletop strategy game that uses basic vector models to represent tanks or fighter jets, but it is also one of the most “Whoa, that felt like it was coming right at me!” experiences you can have on mobile VR.
There are also multiple game modes — including online multiplayer — ensuring that there is plenty more to do in this title than gawk at the 3D visuals. All in all, Tactera is not an experience to be missed.
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.
Note: This article was originally published on September 9th, 2016. Additional reporting by David Jagneaux.