Nine of the best games for VR newcomers

VR is an incredible place to be these days. There are some fantastic games like Half-Life: Alyx and Boneworks that have helped establish VR as a full-fledged gaming medium. So here you are, you’ve dropped the money on a headset, and you’re ready to play.

For the VR newcomer this guide will point you towards experiences that will help you build up your comfort level in VR and be solid additions to your library. Nothing is worse than dropping $30 on a new game you don’t like or that makes you motion sick.

I’ll say here that this list is not for experienced VR players. If you’ve been into VR for a while then you’re likely going to be familiar with all of these so to you, dear VR veteran, this will seem like retreading old ground.

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Superhot – SUPERHOT Team ($25)

Superhot is a game I never get tired of recommending because it really is that good. And not just in terms of visuals or gameplay. Superhot is a fantastic introduction to how VR works. What I mean by that is it shows you, albeit in a limited sense, what the difference between flat-screen gaming and VR really is.

The concept is simple, bad guys come at you – you destroy them. Easy. But what’s happening at a much more subtle level is how the game seamlessly guides players through the basic mechanics of a VR game and teaches them to use their imagination in virtual space.

The levels start out very simple and grow in complexity. More enemies and more weapons give the players options and challenges in equal measure. What starts out as essentially a tutorial grows into the proper game where you’ll need to think on your feet and choose your moves carefully.

You see, the main mechanic of Superhot is controlling the flow of time. If you move the enemies move. Every shot you take, every throwing knife you hurl, moves time forward. It’s a really unique feeling because controlling time is like a super power and yet you still have to operate within a certain set of conventions.

You barely notice it, and that’s really the genius of Superhot, but you’re being eased into the world of VR and it’s an experience that you’ll take with you to other games. It helps too that you’re rooted to one spot, having full movement in the VR world is something you should build up to.

Pistol Whip – Cloudhead Games ($25)

Another great introductory game for VR newcomers, Pistol Whip has you gliding down corridors, dodging bullets like Neo in The Matrix, and blasting bad guys to the beat.

Think of this like if Superhot and Beat Saber had a baby. There are a lot of rhythm VR games out there but Pistol Whip manages to be more than a generic “shooter meets music game” affair. The levels, though linear in the most literal sense possible, are colorful and interesting and the soundtrack only continues to get better as time goes on. With solid DLC support and an easy to jump into style of play, this is a great game to build up your feel for VR.

Like Superhot you’ll be stationary so no need to worry about wandering around your room and bumping into things.

Drunkn Bar Fight – The Munky ($14)

This is pretty much a living meme of a game. You walk into bars, pick fights with strangers, and brawl with all manner of ridiculous weaponry. If you get knocked out, you lose. This is a perfect game to flex your imagination muscles as you can use almost anything as a weapon.

Pool cues? Yep. Darts? Yep. The dartboard? Probably. Feel free to knock back a drink or two before throwing down and keep a barstool handy as a last resort. Drunkn Bar Fight is perfect for short play sessions and for trading off with friends. Just don’t stand so close if someone else is playing because you may accidentally catch a haymaker meant for a surly bar patron.

It’s worth saying you should try games that get you to move around a little just so you can get a feel for your play-space. Not everyone has a dedicated room for VR and if you’re like me you’re just doing it in your room without moving much around to accommodate play.

This means I do occasionally punch my wall with full force. To spare yourself the pain (and embarrassment) always play with your guardian border on so you don’t accidentally smash a hand (or lamp) by accident. I find it helpful too to have a rug so I can feel with my feet where I am and where I’m facing. If my feet are just on the edge of the rug and I can feel that border between rug and floor it’s a good way to stay oriented.

Blade and Sorcery – Warp Frog ($20)

You’ve no doubt seen countless B&S montages on reddit of players flinging swords and spells at VR barbarians. Yes, the game lives up to the hype of those videos.

While barebones in the sense there’s no story or world building as you might expect, B&S benefits from being pure action. It’s perfect for a quick play session while you wait for that pizza you ordered to show up.

There’s also a great mod community that will help extend the life of the game once you get over slicing and dicing waves of enemies. The Outer Rim mod brings lightsabers and blasters to the arena; a must-try for any Star Wars fans.

B&S will get you used to taking on multiple opponents and how much force you’ll need to put into your swings. There are a good bit of sword-fighting VR games out there with more no doubt on the way. You may as well get a feel for swordplay with one of the best out there today.

Pavlov – Vankrupt Games ($25)

Like Blade and Sorcery, Pavlov is one of the best examples of it’s genre. Instead of sword fighting and magic you’ve got guns. Lots of them.

The weapon handling is superb and just like you’ll get a feel for your sword in B&S, Pavlov will get you familiar with VR shooting mechanics.

Pistols, rifles, shotguns, grenades, you’ll get to practice using all of these and build up some muscle memory for reloading, stowing and drawing weapons, and hitting stationary and moving targets.

This is mainly a multiplayer game though there are some single player areas where you can sharpen your VR ballistic skills. The multiplayer modes are fun and easy to get into, ranging from your standard death match to “gun game” which puts players in a race to get a kill with each weapon.

There’s also a fantastic zombie mode but build up your skills before jumping into that. A Horde of screaming zombies running at you full tilt might be a bit much for a new player.

Modders have also been contributing content to Pavlov with custom maps. If you’ve ever wanted to shoot it out on the streets of Bikini Bottom from Spongebob Squarepants then this is your chance.

Hyper Dash – Triangle Factory (Free)

This is one of the highly anticipated upcoming releases for the fall and you can jump into the open alpha right now if you’ve got an Oculus Rift S or Quest.

This will push your comfort level a bit as Hyper Dash relies on fast-paced movement and combat. You’ll face off against enemy teams in a variety of arenas. All of them have rails that you can ride to move around on and while these aren’t like roller coasters the movement can take some getting used to.

Once you’re acclimated though it’s good fun as you’ll dual wield and ride rails into battle like an absolute boss. Modes like payload will be familiar to any Overwatch veterans and you’ll vie for control of zones in conquest ala Battlefield.

Until You Fall – Schell Games ($20)

Like a neon soaked Blade & Sorcery, Until You Fall is a hack n’ slash roguelite with solid combat and progression. You’ll dismantle magical monstrosities and collect upgrades as you quest to rid your kingdom of an invading evil.

 The swordplay is fairly simple with directional guides showing you where to slice and some basic moves like a dash and block are enough to get you started. You’ll upgrade your moves as you fight and there’s a decent amount to unlock and customize your playstyle.

The soundtrack it’s worth mentioning is superb and you can find yourself dipping in and out for thirty minute play sessions at a time to grind through a few levels. The art style, environments, and graphics will wow you as well and get your eyes adjusted to bold, colorful worlds in VR.

The Wizards: Dark Times – Carbon Studio ($25)

Here things will get a bit more complex but The Wizards is a great introduction to gesture-based gameplay. “What is gesture-based gameplay?” you ask. Well, You’ll need to make certain moves with your hands to summon spells and weapons. This isn’t just waving your magic wand at bad guys to make them explode.

Once you get the hang of it though it’s a blast to summon spells. There are several different spells and The Wizards does a great job of acclimating you to its gesture system. The first time you summon a shield, block an attack, and then hurl that shield like a magical Captain America is, well, pure magic.

The voiceovers and visuals are also great so don’t mistake this one for a gameplay-only experience. You’ll get good bit of story and some nice visuals to go with your magic wielding.

Elven Assassin – Wenkly Studio Sp. z o.o. ($15)

Like shooting, swinging a sword, or throwing things, there’s one mechanic that you’ll inevitably come across in VR: the bow and arrow.

There are tons of games that rely on this mechanic and you’re likely to play one at one point or another so it might as well be Elven Assassin.

This is a solid and straightforward experience where you as the titular Elven Assassin have to defend a village from marauding orcs. String up your bow and get ready to go full-on Legolas as you headshot orc after orc.

This is a great introductory game because it’s straightforward while boasting a decent offering of modes. There’s single-player, online co-op, and PvP. You’ll get a feel for aiming and shooting a bow as well as working with (or against) other players. It’s also light on movement as you’re rooted to a guard tower when fighting.

That should be enough to tide you over for a while and build up your skills. The games above have in my opinion the right blend of challenge, comfort, and mechanics to make you a more well-rounded VR gamer. And you won’t break the bank either, as nothing here is above $25. Pick the ones that interest you and go forth. You can’t go wrong no matter what you choose. 

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