Today consumer virtual reality finally entered the market with the release of the Samsung Gear VR. Thousands of people today will be eagerly unboxing the device and some will possibly be getting their first ever taste of what the medium has to offer. Right now, the Store on Gear VR is flooded with over 105 different experiences for you to choose from so picking the right thing to try first is no easy task.
In order to make things easier we have hand-picked five of the best experiences and games that you can download right now, free on your Gear VR. This list focuses only on experiences which can be played with the trackpad on the side of the device, not on experiences which require a gamepad to play.
One of the most incredible things about virtual reality is its ability to transport you to places never before possible. Night Cafe is an award-winning virtual reality experience that takes you inside of Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting “The Night Cafe.” In the experience you are able to walk around inside the painting, even exploring beyond the canvas (be sure to look out the window in the back room for an awesome easter egg). The experience dazzles with some of the most gorgeous visuals we have seen in VR. You can almost feel the texture of the brush strokes in the landscape. I have put countless people through Night Cafe in the past and it never fails to dazzle.
You can find Night Cafe under the “concepts” section in the Oculus Home Store.
Titans of Space
Of all the VR experiences out there, Titans of Space will always hold a special place in my heart. It was one of the first demos I ever had a chance to try, and still to this day is among the best experiences out there. Titans of Space takes you on an educational journey through our solar system and beyond. Taking in the stunning sights of true-to-scale planets before you, your cockpit provides you with interesting factoids on a screen below as well as other useful information in the heads up display. The experience can be done on autopilot, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the full experience, or you can choose to manually control the pace at which you choose to explore. Titans of Space is a tour de force showcase of virtual reality’s power to be used beyond gaming and as an educational tool.
Immersive video has the power to transport you to real places and show you a perspective of the world never before possible. Felix and Paul’s Inside Impact takes you on a humanitarian journey to Africa with former President Bill Clinton. The experience lets you get up close and personal with the President, and the shot across his desk at the beginning, though simple, is one of the most compelling I have experienced to date.
Chris Milk’s Vrse is filled with incredible high-end immersive content. From “The Displaced,” a documentary about the refugee crisis produced in conjunction with The New York Times, to “Song for Someone” a fantastic (and catchy) U2 music video created in conjunction with Apple Music, to Catatonic a terrifying short film that puts you in an insane asylum, there is something in the app for everyone.
One of the first things that people tend to say about virtual reality is that it is an isolating experience. I’m here to say that couldn’t be further from the truth. Oculus Social, while still in a somewhat early stage, offers a glimpse into the magic that being social in VR has to offer. Currently, the app allows you to enter one of the open rooms and stream videos from Vimeo or Twitch onto a massive screen in front of you and up to four others. The app is still in an early alpha state, but there are plans to expand its functionality going forward.
Last but not least, there are a lot of different types of virtual reality experiences out there but many of you probably bought your Gear VR to play some awesome games. The Gear VR has a number of great titles available now for purchase, but Smash Hit is one freebie we have had an extremely hard time putting down. The game was already a hit on mobile but is even better in VR. The lack of a need for full 360º motion in the game makes this a perfect experience for stationary occasions, like in the seat of an airplane.
Colosse is a dazzling, multiple award-winning short film that puts you in the middle of a gorgeous stylized narrative that focuses on characters without the use of any dialogue. The film explores some pretty interesting themes such as fear and power as well as respect for nature. By far one of the best non-live action story experiences out there, Colosse should definitely not be missed.
There is simply too much awesome free content to experience on the Gear VR to condense it all down into a short list. Here are a few other experiences that are worth checking out the first time you put on your headset:
Netflix – previously mentioned but deserving of another call out, John Carmack’s baby doesn’t disappoint.
Anshar Wars – providing an excellent preview of the epicness to come with Anshar Wars 2 this space shooter is definitely worth checking out.
Milk VR – an excellent repository for immersive video content, but not every piece in it is a winner.
Inside the Box of Kurios – putting you on stage at Cirque du Soleil, this Felix and Paul piece is one of the best live action VR films yet.