Virtual reality can make even the simplest video games seem mindblowing. It feels like you're stepping into another world. But not all virtual-reality experiences are equal. Which ones blow the most minds? Which require the strongest stomachs.
With two top-tier VR headsets -- the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive -- just about to land on the doorsteps of eager early adopters, we've decided to round up the must-see experiences for you.
Note: As you scroll down this article page on a desktop Web browser, you should see a Table of Contents pop up on the left. Be sure to check out our other Must See VR picks there. Or just keep scrolling down past the bottom of this article, and they should magically appear.
The trippiest VR experiences you can have on day one
We'll warn you ahead of time: these experiences can be surreal. It's not just the wild and zany visual worlds that these developers have conceptualized, it's the venturing into uncharted territory. These games have unnerved us, baffled us, and occasionally just left us in awe.
These are the trippiest titles we've tried so far.
Eve: Valkyrie (Oculus Rift)
Multiplayer space dogfighting. It's not for the faint of heart, and it makes our "stomachs of steel" list for good reason. But Valkyrie lets you live the sci-fi starfighter dream. Launch tubes blast your fighter out into space. Holographic interfaces hover inches in front of your face. Battles take place in all three dimensions (sorry, Khan). The overwhelming sensation keeps us coming back for more.
Price: $59.99 (or free with Rift preorder)
Link: Eve website
Fantastic Contraption (HTC Vive)
Ready to have your mind blown? Step into this fantastic game. You use the motion controllers to solve puzzles by building contraptions with colorful abstract shapes. Example: connect two wheels to a pair of sticks, and you have a car. The fantastic part: you just grab those parts with your hands and put them together.
Available: April 5. Also coming to Oculus this fall when the Oculus Touch controllers ship.
Price: Free with HTC Vive preorders
Chronos (Oculus Rift)
Weave your way through an ancient labyrinth in this beautiful third-person adventure, following a hero trying to save his or her homeland from an evil dragon. Every time your hero dies, they age a year, losing agility but gaining intelligence and magical skill. The trippy part: you can literally look around corners, over cliffs and up ladders before you send your hero forward. Gosh, that's quite a drop...
Link: Chronos website
Tilt Brush (HTC Vive)
Forget oil and acrylic on canvas: Tilt Brush lets you paint with light, with fire, with smoke. -- and yes, some paint too -- all in three dimensions. You can walk around and even through your own creations, and it's immensely satisfying. Tilt Brush may be aimed at bringing out your inner artist, but the fun of painting in 3D may also bring out your inner child.
Available: April 5
Link: Tilt Brush website
Oculus DreamDeck (Oculus Rift)
Ever read a journalist's breathless description of the demos they tried in a prototype Oculus Rift? Those same demos now come free with every Oculus headset. Sit down with a cartoony fox, deer and rabbit. Get an up-close-and-personal look at a T. rex. Keep your balance atop a skyscraper. Lean in close to see the denizens of a tiny papercraft town go about their day. Watch robot arms duel with magic wands.
DreamDeck's one of the first things you're likely to try when you set up a new Oculus Rift, and it's a great introduction to VR.
Job Simulator (HTC Vive)
It's 2050 and robots have taken over all of our traditional jobs. How's a human supposed to know what it's like to cook in a restaurant or clerk in a convenience store? Cue Job Simulator, the solution to traditional job nostalgia. Or a great excuse for you to throw objects with the Vive's motion controllers. Aside from the child playset feel, the dystopian framing story makes for an unusual VR experience.
Available: April 5. Also coming to Oculus Touch and PlayStation VR this fall.
Final Approach (HTC Vive)
Land things that fly. Conceptually it sounds simple enough, but just wait 'til you're a giant standing in the middle of a toy-like airfield trying to trace out complex landing routes in the sky with the foolish hope of keeping an ever-increasing number of tiny planes and helicopters from colliding. Clearly, it's more than just your run-of-the-mill flight simulator. Bonus: UFOs.
Available: April 5, additional platforms later
Adr1ft (Oculus Rift)
This first-person space adventure finds a timely release during a period when many moviegoers have been thinking quite a bit about space abandonment. The poetry of the game, as you wake in the wreck of a space station and try to piece together what happened to your crew, makes it personal. VR makes it claustrophobic and disorienting.
But actually having to fill the spacesuit of the lone astronaut, instead of passively watching actors like Bullock or Damon, turns the deep fear of space inward in a way that's positively trippy.
Link (to non-VR version): Steam
Edge of Nowhere (Oculus Rift)*
Edge of Nowhere has you journey into the Antarctic on a rescue mission, explore the wreckage of a lost expedition, and inevitably battle a Cthulhu-like monster. Eerie, supernatural and another strong example of how VR can be just as engaging from a third-person perspective. The trippy part: running away from horrors you can barely see at the edge of your vision.
*OK, so it's not technically available on Day One, but we're told it should arrive shortly.
Link: Edge of Nowhere website