Best VR Games Of 2019
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Escape reality with the five best VR games of 2019
There's a lot to be excited about when it comes to virtual reality in 2020, namely the upcoming Half-Life: Alyx. But despite most of the attention pointed towards the future, 2019 was actually an excellent year for virtual reality. Oculus launched its all-in-one headset, the Quest, which reinvigorated our passion for VR. Valve released its Index headset and new controllers that feature individual finger tracking, providing a high-end VR experience that brings immersion to a whole new level. And lastly, HTC debuted its first headset with inside-out tracking (sensorless VR) just a few months ago.
On top of that, Oculus introduced some new tech that makes its completely wireless Quest more compelling--and the Rift S a little less so. The VR company released the beta for Oculus Link, allowing you to connect your Quest to a PC and enjoy the bountiful libraries of both Steam, the Epic Games Store, and the Oculus Rift's marketplace. Oculus also recently introduced hand tracking to the Quest. And with new technology like this, the future of VR is exciting, not only because of its games.
However, there were also a lot of great games that released this year, pushing the exciting new hardware and tech to its limits. Whether you own a Quest, Rift, Vive, Index, or PlayStation VR headset, there were quality games to lose track of time with. As a team, GameSpot selected the five best VR games of 2019--our favourite portals to escape reality--and if you haven't had the opportunity to do so, we highly recommend throwing on a headset and giving yourself up to these virtual worlds.
If you're curious about what else we've highlighted as the best games in other categories, be sure to check out all our end-of-the-year coverage collected in our Best of 2019 hub. You can also check out our top 10 games of 2019. On December 17, we will reveal which of them gets to take home the coveted title of GameSpot's Best Game of 2019.
Compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, and Oculus Quest with Link
You may not know that the studio that brought us games like Marvel's Spider-Man and Sunset Overdrive also has developed quite a few VR titles. Insomniac Games released its first three Oculus Rift games back in 2016: Edge of Nowhere, Feral Rites, and The Unspoken, each of which did something interesting with VR. However, this year the studio released its latest VR game, Stormland, and it is--without a doubt--their best yet.
Stormland is an open-world action game that excels in its action, whether that's running into an outpost guns-a-blazing or approaching the situation quietly, thanks to abilities like body-cloaking--playing with a friend and coordinating your attack makes for an even better experience. But using virtual firearms against baddies is not the sole reason it's so great. Plenty of games have excellent shooting in VR, but it's the way Stormland adapts open-world gameplay to virtual reality that's so impressive. Movement in particular is always a tricky thing in VR, especially when in a large world. However, everything in Stormland feels natural and comfortable.
The world of Stormland is an archipelago of industrial islands, but instead of water surrounding each landmass, it's a sea of clouds called the Jetstream. Climbing the walls of these mechanized cays feels great, especially since you don't have to be right up next to the wall to do so: you can grab the surface from a short distance, giving yourself a much better view of where you're going. The real stars, however, are the rocket boosters on your arms, which let you fly through the clouds as you make your way to the different islands. Extending your arms like Superman, pointing them in the direction you want to go, is thrilling--your minimap and objective markers are displayed on your wrist, making for extreme convenience in these moments. This type of quick movement in VR is something some people should avoid altogether, but Stormland is comfortable for even the most easily sickened in our office.
Its ever-changing nature also makes return visits feel fresh. The world's layout changes every week, and with each new cycle comes a new map to explore, enemies to take on, and skills to respec. This living, shifting world makes it fun to stay in and return to Stormland for as long as you wish to be in it. It's true that there have been open-world VR games before, but none have been compelling enough to inspire you to explore every inch. Stormland, on the other hand, has proven that not only are open worlds in VR viable, but they can also be exciting playgrounds that you never want to leave.
Compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality
In a time where John Wick is one of the most exciting action franchises out there, it's hard to come by a video game that makes you feel as if you're a gun fu master like the Baba Yaga himself. Well, that's exactly what Cloudhead Games has achieved with Pistol Whip. Like Rock Band, you're on a track that keeps you moving forward while a song plays, but instead of playing notes, you shoot guys--and if they get too close, you get to exercise the title of this game with a mighty pistol whip. Moving through the neon environment while enemies attack you is like being in the middle of a John Wick scene.
That's what Pistol Whip excels at: making you feel cool. It may seem like a rhythm game at first, but it's not picky about you shooting on the beat. It's really more like an old school, bullet hell shooter set to a raucous EDM soundtrack. Enemies attack like you've got a bounty on your head, and you can shoot them in any order at any time as long as you do it before they get you first. However, with the relatively narrow field-of-view of any VR headset, it can be hard to tell when an enemy appears to the left or right of your vision. Thankfully, Pistol Whip smartly solves that issue by drawing a red dot with a trail that leads you right to where an enemy has entered the room. It's an intelligent solution that's not intrusive. Instead, it's as if Cloudhead Games is finally granting the player what everyone lacks in VR: peripheral vision.
Pistol Whip is an incredibly simple game, but oftentimes, simplicity is what excels most in VR, especially when the developer has refined the core fundamentals to the precise point that Cloudhead has with Pistol Whip. It's the kind of VR experience you rave to your friends about, begging them to put on the headset to see for themselves. No VR game is as exciting or makes you feel as cool as Pistol Whip does, and that's why it's one of our best VR games of 2019.
No Man's Sky
Compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest with Link, Valve Index, and HTC Vive
So many non-VR games that have been adapted to VR don't quite hit their mark. Whether it's not being able to interact with certain objects in Skyrim or awkwardly fiddling around with the Pip-Boy in Fallout 4, it's often quite obvious these games weren't made with virtual reality in mind. The opposite is the case with No Man's Sky, as Hello Games has created a tailored experience that, at times, feels like the space-faring adventure game was always supposed to be in VR. Like No Man's Sky's dramatic turnaround thanks to its excellent content updates, the VR addition is surprising because of how good the experience is.
For starters, the entire user interface can be accessed from your hands, and it's all been optimized to make it easy to see and manage your inventory with hand controllers. This in particular shows how meticulous Hello Games was when it came to converting its sci-fi romp. The VR experience is an easy one to slip into, whether you're a complete newcomer or a seasoned player. Mining the landmass for resources and, at times, pulling them straight out of the ground all feels great, making for an excavation that's easy to get invested in. And with the option to move with the analog stick or teleport around the world, it's comfortable for any type of VR player.
And then there's the scope of No Man's Sky, which is even more impressive when you're actually sitting in your ship's cockpit or staring up at the bizarre, mammoth creature you've just discovered. Flying through space, rocketing towards a new planet, or taking on some pirates in a dogfight all feel incredible in VR, and using the hand controllers to control your throttle and stick is a surprisingly great replacement for a real, physical flight stick setup.
For a game about discovery, actually discovering and standing on a new planet, looking across its vast landscape is awe-inspiring. The scale of the universe is something brand new to VR, and the modes of transportation can be an intense experience that some players may not be able to stomach. However, it's one that absolutely everyone should try because if you can handle it, it's one of the best VR games out there.
Compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, Oculus Quest, Valve Index, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and PlayStation VR
Some of the best VR experiences are comedic, but not necessarily in their writing: more in the things that they let you do. The modern VR classic, Job Simulator, is one of the best examples of giving the player a ton of tools and interactive objects to experiment with. This year, developer Owlchemy Labs released its followup, Vacation Simulator, which features the exact same sense of absurdity and humour as its predecessor, making it an absolutely essential VR experience.
While some of the activities can make you feel like you're being tricked into working on your vacation, it's still fun to perform these typically mundane tasks. The three vacation spots--Beach, Forest, and Mountain--offer different environments to explore, tons of objects to mess around with, and several minigames each, all of which adds up to make a VR experience that is easy to sink a lot of your time into. Vacation Simulator proves once again that Owlchemy Labs' brand of straightforward absurdity excels big-time in VR.
Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series
Compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Rift S, and Oculus Quest
Star Wars is all over the place these days, including in virtual reality. The Star Wars series, Vader Immortal, was one of the marquee titles for Oculus Quest when it launched earlier this year, and while it's not a groundbreaking VR experience, it's definitely an unforgettable one. Set after the events of Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader is up to some nonsense on Mustafar--that volcano planet from Rogue One--where you've been taken to and imprisoned. Darth Vader believes you're of importance to him, but you manage to escape your cell and set out on your journey--don't worry, you'll be crossing paths with the Sith Lord more than once.
Most of the actual gameplay has you making your way through environments and performing simple actions like hacking doors and climbing ladders, though you will eventually come across a lightsaber and hidden force powers that you'll put to good use against stormtroopers, a particularly iconic creature, and eventually the titular Sith Lord himself but to be honest, turning the lightsaber off and on and off and on is an exciting novelty on its own. It's like a Disneyland ride you actually play, and like any good Disneyland ride, it'll be on your mind long after it's over.