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.
Beat Saber (Our Early Access Review)
What else can be said about this game that hasn’t been said already? It’s amazing. If you for some reason don’t know about this game, it goes like this: you’ve got a red and blue lightsaber, one i neach hand, and you’re tasked with slicing blocks that come cascading towards you to the rhythm of the music. It’s like DDR with lightsabers, basically.
Beat Saber is easily one of the most addictive VR games to date and it’s dead simple to pick up and play by anyone regardless of VR experience. And in the PC VR version you can download amazing custom songs!
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.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (Review: 9/10)
For a game that wasn’t originally designed for VR at all, Skyrim VR is nothing short of impressive. This really is the Skyrim that you know and love, but now you can enjoy it like never before with the immersive presence of a VR headset. With a large variety of control schemes to choose from and hundreds of hours of content, this is a game that all RPG fans should play as long as you can look past the wonky controls, downgraded visuals, and frustrating UI. Not to mention all of the mods for the PC version!
There is just something special about the sensation of walking down the dirt road to Riverwood in VR for the first time, or staring down the throat of a fire-breathing dragon, or even gazing out upon Tamriel from the top of the Throat of the World. Whether you’re a Skyrim-veteran or one of the lucky few that get to see this world for the first time, Skyrim VR is enrapturing.
The Exorcist: Legion VR [Review: 9/10]
The Exorcist: Legion VR is without a doubt one of the best VR horror experiences available. The slow-building tension is expertly paced, each and every scare feels visceral and dangerous, and the sheer sense of terror you feel while methodically exploring the richly detailed environments is staggering. It honestly felt like I could hear the voices inside my own head and I could feel the heat from my crucifix as I stared down the faces of demon and eradicated the evil within.
The Exorcist: Legion VR will turn even the most hardened horror fans into whimpering piles of fear.
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.
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.
Hellblade VR (Our Review)
This is a VR game that really came out of nowhere and surprised us this year. Ninja Theory went from being hush-hush about projects to announcing and releasing Hellblade in VR within a manner of just a couple of weeks. And oh boy are we glad that they did!
Hellblade may not have been made originally for VR, but it adapts so perfectly. The game tells the story of Senua on her journey to save the soul of a loved on as she slowly descends deeper and deeper into both the bowels of celtic hell and the depths of her own mind. Voices constantly talk to you and pull you in various directions and it all sounds incredible with the 3D spatial audio that VR affords.
Undoubtedly Hellblade VR is an experience like no other.
Transpose (Our Review)
You may have heard of most other games on this list at some point, but I’d be willing to bet you’re not familiar with Transpose at all. Allow me to introduce you to one of the most mind-bendingly cool puzzles games you’ll see this side of Portal. In Transpose you create “echos” of yourself and your past actions to solve a variety of puzzles.
An excerpt from our review:
“Transpose is a stunning VR puzzle game that elevates the genre and delivers an out-of-body-like experience about manipulating gravity and bending time. There isn’t much of a story to follow and not all of the puzzles are as satisfying as the rest, but fans of the genre would be doing themselves a disservice to not play this excellent adventure from Secret Location.”
Highly, highly recommended.
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.
11/22/18 Update: This is a big, long overdue update. We’ve removed Star Trek: Bridge Crew, Arizona Sunshine, Island 359, Project Cars 2, and Raw Data from this list to make room for Skyrim VR, Beat Saber, Hellblade VR, The Exorcist: Legion VR, and In Death.
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.