Disclaimer: I originally wrote this for PC Aficionado on December 14th 2017.
So you have a shiny new virtual reality (VR) system. Now your bank account is tapped out but, you want to get some experiences and games. Good news, there is a ton of free apps and games to test out in VR. With so many out there it is hard to tell which are worth your time. The truth is at the price of “free” nearly all are worth giving a quick look. Even a bad game can be fun in VR. However, here is my recommended list, the ones I feel my fellow VR users should check out and install.
Note: I compiled this list with the Vive in mind as I do not own a Rift. However, most should work on the Rift.
Google Earth VR, Have you ever wanted to feel like superman and fly over cities? That is what Google Earth VR feels like as you fly over toy like 3d cities textured with satellite images. You can go on virtual tours of faraway places or just check to see if there was anything on your roof last time the man in the Google satellite took a picture of it. Anywhere that Google has taken cameras can also be seen as a 360 degree image around you thanks to the recent (September 2017) addition of Street View. In my re-test of Google Earth VR for this article I stood like a giant with my home city sprawling before me. Then I did what any adult who can do does. I went to DisneyLand and could look around some of the 360 degree photos people have uploaded of the park. Google Earth VR is a superb app, you will lose a lot of time exploring. Though not every city has 3D models all have satellite images and street view.
Abe VR, One of the first VR experiences I tried when I got my Vive. Abe VR is a short and creepy tale of Abe, a robot that just wants to be loved. Not recommended for younger players. You will Likely only play Abe VR once but it is worth the install time.
The Lab, Here we come to one of the best free games. Created by Valve themselves. This is a suite of mini games designed to show off the VR. It is the first thing I show people when demoing the Vive. Starting off with Robot repair which shows the sense of scale you experience in VR. Then moving on to Longbow and Slingshot. The Lab shows us the quality we can expect from Valves three upcoming VR mystery titles.
Portal Stories: VR, If you own Portal 2 then you can get Portal Stories: VR free. If you do not own Portal 2, then the VR outing is not for you anyway. Portal Stories: VR is a fan made game though the quality is so high that until recently I thought it was made by Valve. It is a short story and a series of mini-games set in the Portal universe. If Portal Stories: VR well voiced and well designed nature does not appeal, just think how fun it is to watch mates crawling on the floor trying to avoid turrets. Rift support is not mentioned on the Steam store.
Nvidia VR Funhouse, An Nvidia Tech demo collection, but do not let that put you off this free title. Every tech demo shows off a Nvidia technology as a fully playable carnival related mini game. It is a great title to show off VR and the mini games are a lot of fun to play. Nvidia VR Funhouserequires a good CPU and a GTX Nvidia graphics card.
Budget Cuts Demo, This may only be a demo but you will want to play it a few times. Another of the first VR experiences I had. Budget Cuts Demo is also the first VR game that fooled my brain so effectively that I head butted my floor trying to put my head through a portal I made in the game. Rift support is not mentioned.
Anyland, A game/cad tool that has the power to suck an entire night from me. You are given a VR space that you can build in however you like. But it does not end there, you can make animated items, weapons and even a body. From complex guns that shoot force field activating buttons to detailed replicas of cartoon characters I have seen it all in Anyland. Once you have made your creation, you can invite others over to see it, or visit them and be humbled by their raw ability. The developer of Anyland consistently impresses me with his dedication to the game and its community. You can play free forever but there is in game purchases that purely help the developer maintain the servers. It used to be a paid game and I for one do not regret the cost.
For a full review of AnyLand Click here.
Rec Room. One of the social experiences that works so well with VR. I just exited the game after playing for an hour or two. I had intended to play half an hour to re-check it was still of a high quality and got chatting to people. These people were strangers when I first came in but soon it was like we had been friends for years. Playing 3d charades with them was hilarious and had that “one more game” effect that is a sign of a great game. You need an account which may put some off but that mechanic takes some anonymity away from would be trolls. According to Steam Charts Rec Room is nearly always populated, and that is just the steam players, Rec Room supports cross platform play between Vive, Rift and PSVR. Rec Room features too many games to list them all.
Vive Craft, With the right mods Minecraft is an addictive game. Vive Craft allows you to play Minecraft in VR. It adds full motion controller support and a wealth of additional features. The best thing is that unlike Minecraft’s rift only official client Vive Craft has full mod support. if you have a lot of mods installed, you will need a beefy computer to play it smoothly. It really is something else to experience such an old favorite in VR. Note your old 1 by 2 tunnels are now very claustrophobic.
Alteration, VR experiences done well can invoke true emotion in the viewer, Alteration is one such title. Alteration is a short story that unfolds around the viewer of a man who agrees to a scientific experiment without fully reading the small print. I am not ashamed to admit that one part brought a tear to my eye and made me want to fuss my cat. Requites Revive to play.
Lucky’s Tale, An oculus exclusive platformer that shows VR works for more than first person games. The little details that have gone into Lucky’s Tale really make it something unique. When I first played the game, I leant right in to get a closer look at the main character. He turned, looked at me and with a big grin gave me a little wave. You will need Revive to play this title.
Revive, This surprisingly free software allows you to play nearly all Oculus exclusive content on your vive. Revive integrates so well with SteamVR dashboard it is easy to forget it is third party. You will need to set up a Rift account and install their software first. A small price to pay for access to a whole stores worth of extra content.
OpenVR Advanced Settings Overlay, This free application gives you easy access to a ton of vive secret settings. Allows you to fix floor drift, height, or sound device output all inside your headset. Just like Revive it integrates seamlessly with the SteamVR overlay. It is also good for developers as it will show how many frames are dropped or reprojected (a measure the Vive takes when your PC is struggling to render the game).
Did I miss any? What is your favorite? Let us know in the comments section below.