There are a lot of games for the virtual reality headset. Like, a lot. Forty-one so far. And at Oculus's recent San Francisco pre-launch press event, we spent a day and a half playing as many as humanly possible.
We'll have a full review of the Rift soon enough, but for now, what kind of games can you expect? We decided to make it easy and give you quick-hit snippets of everything, noting if the game requires the sold-separately Oculus Touch controllers. We're already seeing some familiar themes...
Things Moving So Fast!
This was already a super realistic racing game, but now you feel like you're in the cockpit. The road spreads out in 3D. You can turn your head to see the cars around you. As close to a home racing simulator as we've seen in VR. Car fans, nerd out.
The closest thing you're likely to get to deep-space dogfighting without travelling into the future. Eve's wild experience involves manning a cockpit, navigating and turning your head to aim and fire at enemies, sometimes while doing barrel rolls. It's a numbing blast and a stellar cockpit simulation.
Boom: Super-fast future-racing on tubular hover-tracks similar to Wipeout or F-Zero, but now in 3D. With pure speed and lots of sharp turns, this is for hardcore folks who don't throw up on roller coasters.
At first, Ubsioft's eagle-flying game, which uses your head to turn, feels like SNES classic Pilotwings in postapocalyptic Paris. Then eagle-on-eagle catch-the-rabbit sky battles happen, and it feels as fast as a Death Star trench run.
Dead & Buried
If Disney made a Wild West shootout theme park in VR you'd have something like Dead & Buried. A multiplayer showdown in a bar has you ducking bullets, pulling six-shooters on the other team, and trying to shout tips to your teammate over voice chat. We played fast and furious, and found ourselves frequently losing. (Requires Oculus Touch.)
Teeny Tiny Model Toy Time!
Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition
Tower defense, but it feels like being surrounded by little toys. Mini futuristic war vehicles roll down a track. Race to assemble cannons and missiles, lean down and see the tiny war-toys as they roll around. It's tabletop warfare made virtual.
It's a card game, like Magic: The Gathering or Hearthstone. Only the cards turn into miniature warriors like Warhammer 40,000. You sit on your throne, which doubles as your fortress, and command them to attack the enemy's stronghold. It doesn't benefit much from VR, but it's fun.
Fly to Kuma
Pink teddy bears. So cute. And they'll march straight to their death if you don't help. Maybe there are blocks you can rotate into place to help them get to their spacecraft? (Don't ask why pink teddy bears have a spacecraft.)
Smashing the Battle
Another smash-em-up game with a mini-action-figure fetish. Characters ripped from anime power through hordes of attackers in arenas you can lean over and look around, like they're playing on a table in front of you. Or, you're a god.
Shrink Mad Max down to a tiny tabletop racing game and you kinda sorta have BlazeRush. You look down on a track spread out around you, and make the little cars race. A spiked wheel of death approaches from behind. Don't die.
As a child, I wished my Transformers toys could actually transform all by themselves. The AirMech does -- and you fly it around your tabletop dropping tanks and artillery to defend against incoming armies. The best part: getting a better look at your defenses just by leaning in closer.
Instead Of Your Boring Real Life, Imagine You Were...
You're basically Sandra Bullock in "Gravity" -- an astronaut who's miraculously survived the worst and must now drift through a derelict, ruined spacecraft in search of oxygen and perhaps a way home. It's claustrophobic as heck, and also one of the best-looking VR games so far.
You have a job! Or rather, a kiddie play set view of what it's like to have a job, through the dark filter of a world taken over by patronizing robot overlords. You take on play jobs like "cook" and stand in a kitchen where you need to fill orders fast. Put toast, a coffee cup and eggs in the soup pot. Throw a blender. Then eat a magic burrito and zap to another job simulation. (Requires Oculus Touch.)
Jetpacks! You're an over-the-top '60s secret agent primed and ready to fly off to an evil villain's volcano lair. But first, you've got to master your jetpack. It definitely feels like you're flying high in the air. We highly recommend a swivel chair.
I Expect You to Die
You're an over-the-top '60s secret agent trapped in a plane. Quick, make your escape! But first, disarm a bomb, kill a snake and try not to die of asphyxiation. The tools you need are all right there. Finding them is half the fun. The other half is hilariously failing.
Rock Band VR
Look around: your band is behind you! You're on stage, the fans are screaming. You're playing a guitar that floats in your hands, while holding a real Rock Band guitar in boring real life. The mic makes your voice echo. It's a rock star stage-fright simulator. Sadly, for now, it's only single-player.
VR Sports Challenge
You're the quarterback! (Or basketball star, or hockey pro!) Try a bunch of arcade-like mini-games. In football, you hike and throw to receivers, and then catch the ball. All with your hands, and Touch controllers. Next best thing to Madden in VR, for now. (Requires Oculus Touch.)
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
You're a bomb defusal expert, only you left the manual at home. Your real-life friends have a copy. If only you could communicate with one another! Think of it as a team-building exercise. Not a game that really needs VR, but the isolation makes cheating more difficult.
You're a mountain free-climber. Don't look down -- VR makes that drop feel incredibly far. Jump from ledges, heart in your throat. Literally get up on tiptoes to reach the next handhold. Scenic vistas are your ultimate reward. (.)
You know that scene in Star Wars where Luke and Han shoot down TIE Fighters using the Millennium Falcon's turrets? Now imagine that's your job. VR just makes it easy to aim and gives you excellent peripheral vision.
Freaky Scary Things That May Involve Spiders
From what we can tell from a brief demo, a bizarre Beetlejuice-meets-Grim Fandango journey to a puzzly, ominous world you have to walk through. It's been an indie hit on PC for a while. It's weird.
Dungeon-crawling dread. It first hit themobile system, and now moves to the Rift and feels pretty similar. Using the controller to turn around makes us nauseous. Claustrophobic dark tunnels and silence.
Edge of Nowhere
A creepy Lovecraftian journey into the arctic wasteland, where alien spider nightmares lurk. You control an explorer, and the whole thing feels like a classic PlayStation story-driven game, except you can look anywhere, and shine your flashlight on creepy things by moving your head.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Quiet, foreboding. Beautiful scenery. An ominous mystery. Lots of forestry and blood. Keep looking around with your headset. This one made us a bit nauseous, too. Maybe it was the control scheme.
A weird murder, with hidden clues to click on. Freaky moments to make you jump. Jump scares are awful in VR.
Remember This Old Game? Now It's In 3D!
Pinball FX2 VR
Do you love pinball? Have you ever wanted a pinball museum? It feels like a 3D pinball machine is right in front of you, and if you lean forward or to the sides you can check out details up close. Scan in all the pinball machines immediately.
An old 2D puzzle game gets reborn as a lesser Oculus launch game. Move panels, escape room-shaped puzzles. There's no need for this to be in VR. Bleh.
Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR
"You'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and air hockey-loving aliens." Isn't that what Obi-Wan said? In this knockoff Mos Eisley cantina, you'll bat pucks with your head. Still not quite sure what to make of it.
VR Tennis Online
A Japanese-developed virtual tennis game is like Sega's old Virtua Tennis, but in 3D. The translation's not perfect: Some power moves are a little over the top arcade-style (like a tornado smash) and the controls feel stiff. You watch an avatar, rather than seeing the court first-person.
Where Have I Seen This Game Before?
A gorgeous-looking adventure game that follows your hero from room to room...but in a way, this is very much like Zelda, God of War, or other games (not that it isn't something we want to play again).
The closest thing Oculus has to Mario, this jumping-fox platformer feels like a familiar retro game, until you realize you can look all around to check out the course ahead while your little guy stays in one place. You get this one free with the Rift.
Hey, VR Is All About Jacking In: Shouldn't We Make A Cyberpunk Game?
Hacking for fun and profit. Find the weakest link and attack that node -- only in a cyberpunk virtual reality interface a la "Neuromancer," instead of with lines of code. A surprisingly deep game.
You're a ghost in the shell: a disembodied artificial intelligence who can possess robot foot soldiers and flying cameras in order to get around. Most of the time, you're blasting away with laser rifles using your awesome enhanced vision. It looks pretty fantastic.
Magic Building Games Where Flowers Come Out Of Your Mouth
The HTC Vive's fantastic launch game will hit Rift as well once Touch controllers arrive. Imagine Tinker Toys made real on a weird whimsical world where flowers come out of your mouth and sticky balls pop from your ears. Insane? Yeah, and astonishingly transporting. (Requires Oculus Touch.)
All the games in one big list:
The Games of Oculus Rift: a list
|Game||Price||Release date||Oculus "comfort rating"|
|Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games||$4.99||3/28/2016||Moderate|
|Defense Grid 2 Enhanced VR Edition||$29.99||3/28/2016||Comfortable|
|Elite Dangerous: Deluxe Edition||$59.99||3/28/2016||Intense|
|EVE Valkyrie Founder's Pack||$59.99||3/28/2016||Intense|
|Fly to KUMA||$14.99||3/28/2016||Comfortable|
|Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes||$14.99||3/28/2016||Comfortable|
|Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe VR||$9.99||3/28/2016||Comfortable|
|Smashing the Battle||$19.99||3/28/2016||Moderate|
|Vanishing of Ethan Carter||Not Announced||3/28/2016||Intense|
|VR Tennis Online||$24.99||3/28/2016||Moderate|
|Pinball FX2 VR||$14.99||3/28/2016||Comfortable|
|Dead & Buried||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|Fantastic Contraption||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|I Expect you to Die||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|Job Simulator||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|Rock Band VR||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|VR Sports||Not Announced||Not Announced||NA|
|Damaged Core||Not Announced||Spring||NA|
|Dragon Front||Not Announced||Spring||Comfortable|
|Eagle Flight||Not Announced||Spring||Moderate|
|Edge of Nowhere||Not Announced||Spring||NA|
Disclosure: The wife of co-author Sean Hollister works at Facebook, owner of Oculus VR, as a business-to-business video producer.