When my Playstation VR headset arrived a few weeks ago it came with codes for over a dozen different games, basically everything that came out at launch last week. That line-up included glorified tech demoes, overwhelming dreamscapes, an adorable animated movie with little interactivity, a simulator that dredged up horrible memories of a decade spent working in cubicles, a few different takes on horror, and a variety of other examples of how virtual reality can be harnessed for the modern entertainment tastes of today. Not all of this software is worth experiencing—much of it might kill your interest in virtual reality right out of the gate, and if you’re especially susceptible to motion sickness, you might just make a huge mess all over your floor. What works does work pretty well, though, and although I’m still skeptical about virtual reality’s long-term viability, the following eight games hint that VR might possibly have a legitimate future. Here are the best things available on Playstation VR today.
Thumper’s the best reason to own a PSVR right now, even though the game might be better when you just play it regularly on the TV like some pre-2015 relic. Playing it in VR is basically like sticking your head inside the game’s frightening hellscape, and as discombobulating as that sounds, at least you don’t have to move your head around or look behind you to see what’s happening. Your vehicle rockets ever forward, and all you have to do is stare straight and tap buttons at the right moment, meaning this is a VR game that nails the all-encompassing nature of the gimmick with a greatly reduced risk of motion sickness. The change in perspective created by the VR POV doesn’t just change how you see the game but how you play it—when I switched to the TV after only playing in VR for the first few levels, my reaction times were completely off for several attempts, and I basically had to relearn how to play it again without the headset on. So hey, it’s almost like two games in one. If you only play Thumper in VR, you’d never guess that it wasn’t built with VR in mind, but updated with the functionality well into development.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s synesthetic classic gets reborn as one of the closest things PSVR has to a killer app. When first released in 2001, it was an early combo of rhythmic action and electronic music, with a stark graphical style that was already charmingly nostalgic. That Tron aesthetic fits well with VR—it’s basically what virtual reality looked like during its first fad phase in the early 1990s, and that promise of living in a computer is totally what Tron is about, of course. I felt a few minor motion sickness pangs while scanning around me for enemies to lock on to, but otherwise Rez, like Thumper, benefits from essentially being on rails and having graphics that never attempt to recreate a realistic space.
The absurd soccer-adjacent game Headmaster is the only PSVR title that really seems to focus on the hardware’s headtracking abilities. Other games might let you gaze around 360 degree environments, but Headmaster is played entirely with your head—as soccer balls are shot at you from various angles, you have to lean forward and head them into the goal, sometimes while avoiding obstacles or trying to hit special targets. It might sound dull and limited but it’s actually a legitimately funny game—its dry sense of humor and the clinical nature of the rounds reminded me of the great British show Look Around You, and videogame fans will recognize some of Portal’s spirit here, too.
Reminiscent of Tetris and the short-lived game show Hole in the Wall, SuperHyperCube has you spinning and flipping an ever growing cube-based structure through a hole in a slowly approaching wall. Every time you succeed another cube is added, and the wall moves a little bit faster, and you get more stressed out as you now have less time to find the right position for a bigger shape. It’s another game that understands that VR, at least with its current capabilities, works best with stark, abstract environments; the space around you looks, again, like something out of Tron, and the wall is a glowing sheet of light with a small void in the center. The only problem with SuperHyperCube is that sometimes its VR complicates playing it—the cube structure often blocks your view of the wall, so you’ll constantly be tilting your head around the corner like some kind of shifty creep to make sure the cubes will fit. Still, it’s a strong puzzle game with a cool sense of style.
This point-and-click adventure game uses the Move motion controllers like a mouse, letting you click on the exact spot you want your character to walk to, or on the objects you want her to interact with. It reminded me a lot of the fantastic Wii game Zack & Wiki, only it uses VR to create what looks like a little toy box full of cute robots for your character to navigate. It’s probably the most adorable game on the PSVR right now, and is perfect for kids and adults.
I write a lot about theme parks, so let’s use that lingo here, since it totally fits the theme. Rush of Blood is a shooting gallery dark ride, like the Buzz Lightyear rides at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, or the various versions of Toy Story Midway Mania, but with blood soaked zombies, undead hogs, creepy mannequins and enough jump scares to make even the most ardent horror movie fan just a little bit bored. Barely connected to the PS4 horror game for which it’s named, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood puts you in a rickety old roller coaster that moves through a series of dilapidated haunted houses and tasks you with blasting away all of the various monsters that try to kill you. Despite regularly speeding up, slowing down and quickly veering from side to side, it rarely made me sick, and despite the overly flashy, cartoonishly grisly horror movie guff, it still had some of the psychological appeal of the underrated original. This is both the best horror game and the best action game currently available for PSVR.
An early build of EVE Valkyrie was my first taste of modern VR back in 2013, and it’s still probably the most impressed I’ve ever been by virtual reality. I haven’t played the final Oculus or Vive versions released earlier this, so I was excited to finally have a copy in my home now that it’s on the PSVR. It doesn’t come close to living up to that E3 memory, but its panoramic space adventures still capture a sense of excitement and fantasy that most games, even most PSVR games, lack. It’s not a game I find myself playing a lot of, but it still makes a great first impression, and is powerful in small doses. And it’s still probably the best game to use to introduce VR to your friends.
This might be a glorified screen saver, but gawking at its psychedelic lightshows while listening to music from my own collection is a relaxing way to end the day. If you liked the vibrant, interactive environments of Harmonix’s underrated Fantasia: Music Evolved, you might enjoy the tableaux unfold around you in this application. It might be a little simplistic, a little undercooked even, but when matched with the right music, and when your mood is right, it can be as purely satisfying as even the best PSVR games.
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.