Feature Article

The 9 Best Upcoming VR Games

The early weeks.

With the soon-approaching launches of Oculus VR, PlayStation VR, and the HTC Vive, so too comes the release of a batch of new games developed specifically for VR platforms. The early titles run the gamut of video game genres: shooters, adventures, multiplayer titles, and even party games. Virtual reality isn't limited, and a handful of developers are intent on proving that.

We've spent extensive time with all three major platforms, and after weeks of experimentation and demos, we've come away with our own individual impressions of VR. Below, you'll find what we think are the most promising titles that will be lunching with each platform, or in the weeks following.

Dead and Buried

Developer: Oculus

Platform: Oculus VR

The Oculus Touch controllers feel tailor made for first-person shooters, with contoured grips and forward-mounted triggers, and Dead and Buried capitalizes on the fact. It places you in the boots of a sheriff, bandit, or cowboy in a western saloon with supernatural tones--the rest is all shooting.

Aiming your two six shooters, reloading them with a snap of your wrist, and throwing dynamite all feels natural in the game's 2 vs. 2 shootouts. What's more, Dead and Buried makes use of Oculus' motion tracking to allow you to duck behind flipped tables and the saloon's whiskey-tinged bar. Dead and Buried is a physical affair, and it's all the better for it. -- Mike Mahardy

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Eagle Flight

Developer: Ubisoft

Platform: Oculus VR

Ubisoft's Eagle Flight makes VR feel natural. Your titular bird, which you inhabit from a first-person perspective, flies high above the streets of Paris, through alleyways, past towers, and under trees, all while you simply look where you want to go. Furthermore, all it takes to turn is a tilt of your head. With the addition of simple controller actions, a multiplayer capture-the-flag mode, and engaging challenge modes, Eagle Flight not only feels smooth, but has the additional content to make use of its elegant design. -- Mike Mahardy

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Chronos

Developer: Gunfire Games

Platform: Oculus VR

Chronos eschews the notion that the best VR games are first-person experiences. This adventure, which on a superficial level seems to mix elements of Dark Souls' combat with dungeons from The Legend of Zelda, feels more in line with traditional video games than most VR projects. You direct the main character with a controller, but rather than gaze through his eyes, you look through the game's many fixed cameras, which offer new perspectives on the action as you move from room to room. In an era where fixed-camera systems are looked upon as outdated, what has me most excited about Chronos is that it leverages the unique advantages of VR to revive a technique that's something of a lost art. It's one which allows unprecedented scene composition, which should play nicely with Chronos' already foreboding atmosphere. -- Peter Brown

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Time Machine VR

Developer: Minority Media

Platform: HTC Vive, Oculus VR

How do you stop an ancient virus released by the Earth’s melting icecaps? By traveling back in time to study the virus in action, of course! Such is the premise of the science-minded Time Machine VR, which seats you in an omnidirectional hover pod and sends you back to the Jurassic era armed with a scanner and a few temporal tricks. While it’s not quite Jurassic Park VR, Time Machine does allow you to examine massive dinosaurs up close. During an early underwater mission, I had to guide my craft through a series of narrow rock formations before temporarily freezing time to scan a pliosaurus’ eyes.

Thanks to Vive’s motion controllers (and presumably Oculus Touch, once it’s ready), your ship’s movement corresponds directly to your hand’s movement: up is up, forward is forward, and so on. The controls could have been more responsive, but they’re certainly intuitive. And more importantly, that pliosaurus was scary as hell. VR communicates scale in a way traditional games can’t, and Time Machine captures this perfectly by allowing you to actually stand up and walk around its goliath beasts while time is frozen. Be careful not to take too long, though. If time unfreezes, you will absolutely get eaten. I found that out the hard way. -- Scott Butterworth

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RIGS: Mechanized Combat League

Developer: Guerilla Cambridge

Platform: PlayStation VR

If last year’s breakout hit Rocket League proved anything, it’s that sports and driving make a winning combination. While RIGS opts for pilotable robots over cars, it builds on that same principle by adapting traditional sports to combat-infused, team-based multiplayer competitions. The eponymous mechs come in a variety of configurations, but all utilize three modes of operation you can swap between on the fly: Speed, Damage, and Repair. Each mode is mapped to a different face-button and boosts all related actions. You’ll still be able to fire missiles in Speed mode, but they’ll be far more powerful if you click over to Damage, for example.

In action, this mode-swapping approach does add a layer of light strategy to the proceedings, but the real focus rests on the intense moment-to-moment action. From your first-person cockpit, you run and jump around a variety of arenas blasting opponents and helping your teammates score points. While RIGS will eventually offer a variety of game types, I played a basketball-inspired game that challenged players to collect glowing gold orbs (or kill other players and steal their orbs) before diving through a central hoop, with personalized color commentary running all the while in the background. Though my team ultimately lost, the roar of the crowd proved nearly as exhilarating as the moment I first got lifted into a larger-than-life robot. -- Scott Butterworth

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Giant Cop

Developer: Other Ocean Interactive

Platform: HTC Vive

Certain ideas feel like no-brainers when it comes to VR: cockpit games, first-person shooters--basically anything that uses your eyes as the camera and accommodates your actual physical size. That’s why god games have been such a pleasant, unexpected surprise for me. I never would have thought towering over a tiny virtual world could feel natural, yet being able to physically lean down to examine an object or take a few steps to adjust my perspective has proven to be one of my favorite uses of VR so far. Giant Cop adopts this approach and combines it with a clever, fourth-wall breaking idea: you’re not some all-seeing eye in the sky, you’re literally a giant cop. You can reach down and grab pint-sized criminals, stomp your foot to end a high-speed pursuit, or just toss random tiny objects around the world. With its kitschy ‘70s aesthetic and campy action film humor, Giant Cop won’t judge you for abusing the badge in the name of a good time.-- Scott Butterworth

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Dragon Front

Developer: High Voltage

Platform: Oculus VR

The best VR experiences coming up right now have a few things in common: They allow for direct interaction with another player, they completely immerse you in their virtual worlds, and they feel like they belong in a virtual environment. Dragon Front includes all those elements.

The upcoming free-to-play collectible-card-game combines the brutally fast-pace of a game like Hearthstone, but it changes up the attack strategies by using a board that incorporates both unit placement and directed attacks. You can see a representation of your opponent sitting across from you, and can even tell what they're looking at on your board. The game's potential for deck-building and card strategy are already well in-place, but seeing your moves play out in the "real" world of virtual reality is endlessly satisfying. -- Justin Haywald

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Fantastic Contraption

Developer: inXile Entertainment

Platform: Oculus VR, HTC Vive

VR adds a layer of immersion and wonder that can be exciting, but, after the first few moments it doesn't always feel necessary. You can be left wondering, "Wouldn't this be just as much fun on my TV, without a headset?" Fantatasic Contraption is one of those rare experiences that feels absolutely necessary in VR.

The premise of the game involves making ridiculous, moving vehicles that have to pass through assorted obstacles and reach a goal at the far end of each stage. Pushing, pulling, and expanding rods and connectors to create your vehicle feels intuitive, but it's the immersion in the 3D world that sells Fantastic Contraption as a possible "killer app" for VR. My favorite moment every time I've stepped into the game is actively walking around my imaginary creation, while I'm walking around nothing but air. I'm not going to knock if over or break anything, but I always walk gingerly around these things that don't exist. And that's what VR does better than any other tech, it makes you forget you're in the real world. -- Justin Haywald

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Werewolves Within

Developer: Ubisoft

Platform: "All Major Platforms"

Werewolf is a very stressful party game. Tensions run high and it's easy to become frustrated, especially when you're a bad actor. But developer Red Storm's newest creation, a virtual reality take on this game aptly called Werewolves Within, strips away the game's inbred anxieties and morphs it something that is still social, but, I daresay, more fun.

Set to launch this fall and in development for most VR rigs, Werewolves Within is a multiplayer game--one of the first we've seen made for VR. Online matchmaking will rely heavily on players' friend lists, but you can also create private rooms or match into a pickup game. I went hands-on with the game at an event held by publisher Ubisoft, with me and five others in the same room sitting around a fire bantering about our fates. -- Excerpt from our individual writeup on Werewolves Within by Alexa ray Corriea

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Mike Mahardy

Writer and Host. New Yorker. Enthusiast of gin, cilantro, and rock and roll.
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