After successful Kickstarter campaigns, buyouts, and significant technological advancements, 2016 was the year that the three major players in the virtual reality market finally threw their headsets into the ring. While it's true that VR sales are not as strong as many predicted at the beginning of the year, there's still no shortage of compelling experiences for early adopters of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR to try.
From action RPGs to first-person shooters to experimental art games, 2016 had something for virtual reality gamers of all tastes. For those looking to jump into the world of VR and see what all the fuss is about, these 10 games stand as the best 2016 had to offer.
Gunfire Games, a studio comprised of former Darksiders developers, managed to deliver one of the most critically praised games in the Oculus Rift launch lineup. An action RPG that uses a third-person perspective instead of the first-person viewpoint that the majority VR games seem to rely on, Chronos earned positive reviews for its engaging story and challenging gameplay, and for demonstrating how traditional gaming experiences can be enhanced with virtual reality.
Insomniac Games is an innovator in the industry, and while the studio usually sticks with PlayStation-exclusives, its first VR game is actually exclusive to Oculus Rift. Edge of Nowhere is a departure from Insomniac's previous efforts in other ways as well, trading the colorful, vibrant world of Ratchet & Clank for a bleak, Lovecraftian horror story set in the harsh landscape of Antarctica. Insomniac's gamble paid off, though, and Edge of Nowhere stands as arguably the best VR horror game to release in 2016.
While most VR FPS games seem to be on-rails shooters, Hover Junkers instead allows players to physically move around their environment to move the character in the game. This adds an extra layer of physicality to its FPS multiplayer gameplay, making it a rather unique entry in the genre. Compared to the competition, HTC Vive seems to have less must-have exclusive games in total, but Hover Junkers is certainly one of them.
I Expect You to Die for Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR casts players as a spy put into a handful of deadly situations. Each level is a puzzle that players learn how to solve using their wits and trial-and-error. Oftentimes there are multiple ways to solve each of the problems players encounter in the game, which gives them a reason to dive back in even after they've completed the story. With sharp writing, an amusing James Bond-inspired aesthetic, and good humor, I Expect You to Die is one of 2016's standout VR releases.
Set in the year 2050, Job Simulator shows how humans worked in the year 2016, as imagined by robots. The result is a clever game that is funny enough to make menial tasks like working as a cashier or making copies seem fun and interesting. While it may sound boring on paper, Job Simulator is one of the easier ways to sell people on the potential of VR, as the game gives players the chance to fully interact with their environment and experiment to their heart's content. A goal of many VR games is to make players feel as though they've been transported to a new world, and Job Simulator gets the job done better than most.
Even though it's still in Early Access, Raw Data has been making a name for itself as one of the better HTC Vive exclusive games. Providing solid gunplay and sword fighting, Raw Data also boasts a compelling science-fiction setting and engaging co-op, making it one of the most fully-featured virtual reality games available, despite its status as an Early Access title.
Rez was a cult-classic music/rhythm rail shooter in its original release, but it has found new life as a virtual reality game. Rez Infinite is an updated version of the original, using PlayStation VR to better immerse players in Rez's trippy game world, and providing a brand new level built from the ground-up with VR in mind. Rez Infinite has earned widespread critical acclaim since it launched alongside Sony's PlayStation VR headset in October, and is in fact the highest-rated virtual reality game to date, winning VR Game of the Year at The Game Awards.
Like Rez Infinite, Superhot is not a game that explicitly requires virtual reality, but the experience is greatly enhanced when one straps on a VR headset. Timed-exclusive for Oculus Rift, Superhot VR features the same innovative "time moves only when you move" gameplay seen in the vanilla version of the game, but features motion controls when in virtual reality, allowing players to physically move out of the way of incoming projectiles. Superhot VR's use of virtual reality equates to deeper immersion than what's possible when playing the game the old-fashioned way.
Similarly to Rez Infinite, Thumper is a music/rhythm game that has earned strong reviews for its VR implementation. Thumper has been praised for its intensity, unique take on a music/rhythm game, and the inclusion of challenging boss battles not often seen in the genre. The game has also been noted for its potential to provide a creepy experience for some players, thanks to its strange level design and foreboding imagery.
While Tilt Brush may not be a game in the traditional sense, it is still one of the most remarkable virtual reality applications created to date. Tilt Brush allows players to create 3D images using motion controls or a PC mouse, and it's easy to see how the technology in Tilt Brush could pave the way for a new kind of art. Hailed by some publications as HTC Vive's killer app, Tilt Brush represents a brand new outlet for the creative-minded.
Whether playing on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR, 2016 delivered a number of excellent games and experiences for virtual reality fans to enjoy. However, this is just the start of the VR phenomenon, and it's likely that there's even better games to come in the future as developers get a better grasp on this relatively new and exciting technology.
Which VR game was your favorite in 2016? Sound off in the comments below!