So you’ve just bought your PC and VR headset. You’re raring to jump into virtual worlds but, let’s face it, you’re probably about $1,000 lighter than you were yesterday and gaming is not a cheap hobby. Surely there’s a way to test the waters of VR without having to throw down yet more cash?
As it turns out, you have plenty of options.
Virtually every major VR headset out there right now has at least a handful of worthwhile games and apps to check out at no extra charge. In fact, in some cases these free experiences are still some of the best you can have in VR. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best free games for each platform out there right now.
HTC Vive and Oculus Rift – The Lab
Valve was instrumental in the creation of the HTC Vive with its SteamVR platform, but gamers arguably know the company more for its software than hardware and services. After all, this is the creator of Half-Life, Portal, DOTA 2, and Left4Dead.
The Lab isn’t directly linked to any of those series — though it has some minor crossovers — but it’s still an essential experience for fans of the team’s work. Fittingly, this collection of eight experiences is somewhat experimental, designed more to give developers inspiration for what to do with SteamVR technology than to be a fully fleshed out game (though Valve is making those too).
The content on offer here is still some of the most polished and fun you can have in VR. Longbow is an incredible, addictive archery simulator that’s been imitated countless times since, while Robot Repair gets you up close to some classic characters in VR, and was many people’s first experience inside a headset.
Oculus Rift – Robo Recall
Grab a Rift and Touch and Oculus will shower free games upon you, but Robo Recall has to be the best. Developed by Gears of War creator Epic Games, downloading this polished shooter free of charge feels like daylight robbery.
Set in a future in which worker robots malfunction and turn on humans, Robo Recall specializes in making you feel like a badass. Using a pair of Touch controllers, you can grab pistols from your hips or shotguns from your shoulders and lay waste to an army of metallic monsters. You’re scored based on your creativity, and the game certainly encourages you to think outside the box when it comes to killing your enemies.
Along with shooting, you can pick up bullets and toss them back, or outright grab robots, tear off their limbs and then throw them into other robots. Combine that with the most extensive mod support yet see in a VR game and Robo Recall is a game you’d be mad to miss out on for Oculus Rift.
PlayStation VR – The Playroom VR
Some people will tell you that VR will never take off because it’s too isolating. Why would you want to pull a headset on over your eyes and isolate yourself from everyone else in the room? To those people we say one thing: The Playroom VR.
Sony’s free download, made available at the launch of PlayStation VR (PSVR), remains one of the most joyful and fun experiences on any headset out there. It simply asks what kinds of new experiences VR offers local multiplayer, resulting in games in which you’re chased by monsters and hiding from cats among other things. It’s an incredibly joyful way to introduce people to the power of VR, and gets them swapping the headset like crazy.
It also helps that The Playroom has gotten free DLC adding new games modes that are just as polished as the original. Even if you only want to play by yourself that’s plenty of content on offer here, including the excellent Robot Rescue, which we’re hoping paves the way for bigger and better things.
Gear VR – Dead and Buried
“Hold up,” I hear you say. “Isn’t Dead and Buried an Oculus Touch game?” Well yes it is and a rather good one at that, but Oculus has since done its best to squish the title down onto Samsung phones to support Gear VR, and it’s available for free.
Just as the original game was a showcase for Touch, Dead and Buried on Gear VR shows you what the headset’s newly-released motion controller can really do. It’s still a surprisingly robust experience, though, with a polished wave survival mode in which you’ll shoot down ghouls, and multiplayer quick draw duels that bring the spirit of the old west to VR.
All that said there’s only a taste of what’s to come on display here. A full version of the game will be launching later this year bringing more modes, characters, and weapons along with it.
Google Daydream – Twilight Pioneers
Upon first glance you might not think much of this first-person role-playing game (RPG), which looks almost a little too ambitious with its giant boss battles and sword combat. But the surprising thing about Twilight Pioneers is that it actually works.
The game is one of the few on Daydream that offers full locomotion, allowing you to slash away at enemies as you dart about dungeons and battlefields. It’s bosses are some of the biggest you’ll find in VR full stop, and you’ll have to carefully balance a range of special attacks as you take them down. Just make sure your phone doesn’t overheat in the process.
Currently the game has two chapters available, and more are on the way, adding new environments and enemy encounters. Each time we pick this one back up we remember just how fun it is. It’s time you made that discovery for yourself.