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 these titles 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: Episode 1 – Call of the Starseed, and Zombie Training Simulator were included with Vive bundles for a long time and also deserve recognition as being excellent games in their own right. Plus Google Earth VR, The Lab, and Rec Room are three of the best apps period, but since they’re totally free we opted to leave them off this list for now.
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.
Arizona Sunshine (Our Review)
If you’ve ever sat around with your friends and played, “How would we survive the zombie apocalypse?” then Arizona Sunshine is a must play. Developer Vertigo Games transports you directly into the sun bleached deserts of Arizona. The landscapes would be quite beautiful if they weren’t crawling with legions of the undead.
Armed with only a handful of firearms you’ll need to scavenge for food, ammunition, and shelter as you make your way through the infested landscape in search of refuge from the endless hordes. Arizona Sunshine‘s gameplay is visceral and satisfying with a wonderfully voiced protagonist and a story that makes you feel the desperation that comes at the end of the world.
There are also difficulty modes that scale the zombie damage and ammo scarcity. These culminate in the almost impossible to beat “Apocalyptic Mode” which will make you think hard before taking every shot. The online horde mode is a blast with friends and the gunplay and reload mechanics keep you feeling actively involved in your own survival.
In a market flooded with Zombie shooters Arizona Sunshine stands a decapitated head and shoulders above the rest.
Raw Data (Our Review)
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 wave shooters on the market.
Plus it has PvP now!
LA Noire: The VR Case Files (Our Review)
As the winner of our 2017 Vive Game of the Year Award, it was only appropriate that we commemorate the occasion by adding the title to our Best Vive Games list as well!
In LA Noire VR you take on the role of Cole Phelps as you explore 1940s-era Los Angeles solving crimes, inspecting crime scenes, and interrogating people. The massive, sprawling city is one of the largest sandboxes in VR to date and it sports some of the best, most immersive visuals we’ve seen.
It’s not a perfect game, but it’s a strong indicator of the direction VR is headed if AAA game studios like Rockstar are getting involved with adapting their IPs to the VR format.
Onward (Tips Guide)
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.
Star Trek: Bridge Crew (Our Review)
Dreams become reality when you strap on a VR headset and jump into Star Trek: Bridge Crew’s version of the final frontier. You and up to three other people from all around the world with full cross-platform multiplayer on the Rift, Vive, and PSVR can all join in together and go on epic voyages through the stars.
You can play the role of Captain, Helmsman, Tactical Officer, or Engineer, as each role is in charge of various commands and subsystems onboard the ship. When you play with a full crew it’s an exhilarating adventure and easily ranks among the best multiplayer VR games to date.
Superhot VR (Our Review)
SUPERHOT VR is a pure, distilled, injection of unadulterated adrenaline that will get your blood pumping just as quickly as time stops in the game itself. With every movement you make, time creeps forward ever so slightly, and everything from the level design to the way it feels to dodge a series of bullets in slow-motion is orchestrated to reinforce the core ideals of the experience. From start to finish it plays out like a fantasy ripped from the screen of every action movie; an indulgent cacophony of visual and gameplay excitement.
This is easily one of the best titles available for Rift with Touch and the recent Forever update makes it even better with expanded game modes, more challenges, and an improved sense of replayability.
The Gallery: Episodes 1 & 2 (Ep. 1 Review, Ep. 2 Review)
These two go hand in hand and should be experienced in sequential order. The Gallery is building towards becoming one of the best, most intimate narratives experienced in VR thus far and does an excellent job of showing how the “adventure” genre has evolved over the years to allow for something beautiful and emotional.
You can get through each episode in just a handful of hours but you’ll be left with your jaw on the floor after it’s all over. We can’t wait to see where the story goes next.
Island: 359 (Our Impressions)
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.
Project Cars 2 (Our Impressions)
How do you improve upon something that the developers themselves already set out to establish as “the ultimate driver journey” when it released in 2015? That’s what Project CARS from Slightly Mad Studios was supposed to be, an ultimate driving game that delivered on all fronts. Now with Project CARS 2 Slightly Mad Studios (and publisher Bandai Namco) wants to set the bar even higher.
The original Project CARS aimed to be a driving encyclopedia. The same is true of Project CARS 2, but it feels a little more confident in itself. There’s nothing game-changingly new here, but the game does deeper in an effort to give you more authenticity than ever before. This could be the best VR driving sim yet.
12/27/17 Update: Vanishing Realms has been removed from this list and replaced with LA Noire VR.
11/23/17 Update: Redout, AirMech, The Brookhaven Experiment, and Chair in a Room: Greenwater have been retired from this list and replaced with SuperhotVR, Star Trek: Bridge Crew, The Gallery Episodes 1 & 2, and Project Cars 2.
4/5/2017 Update: The Lab and Rec Room have been retired from the formal list and added to the intro section of free titles. They were replaced by Arizona Sunshine and AirMech Command.
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.