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Nintendo's Endless Ocean Game Would Be a Great VR Experience

Commentary: Playing this chill ocean exploration game, a sequel to an older Wii title, left me wanting Nintendo to get deeper into VR already.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
3 min read
A diver swimming in the ocean with a dolphin and fish, from the video game Endless Ocean Luminous

Endless Ocean Luminous is a vast ocean exploration experience. I wish I could try it in a VR headset.


I've spent over a week on quiet dives in deep waters, staring at squid, whales and giant prehistoric beasts. However, I did it all on a less-than-immersive 7-inch Nintendo Switch screen while wishing it was in high-res VR goggles.

Nintendo has flirted with VR before: Labo VR was a simple Google Cardboard-like toy kit for the Switch that even had its own Ocean Camera game where I could snap undersea photos of marine life. That experience stuck in my head when I got into Endless Ocean Luminous, a new $50 Switch game that's all about discovering sea life in endlessly generated ocean environments.

I also thought about New Pokemon Snap, a Switch game I fell in love with far more than I expected to. It's like a Pokemon photo safari on rails. Each environment moves along at a set pace, like a theme park ride, while you aim your Switch like a camera to take photos of hidden creatures.

Endless Ocean is a free-roaming experience, controlling a diver that can stay underwater forever and explore coral reefs, ruins and deep ocean trenches extending far into dark places. The murkiness and mystery, especially when my suit's lamp casts beams in the dark, is evocative. (The deep fascinates and scares me, even virtually.)

I love prehistoric sea life, too, and this Nintendo game conjures dozens of ancient creatures as part of the mix to discover, for reasons that are still unclear to me. Ammonites, plesiosaurs, giant armored fish -- they're all really cool to experience, although the game's goals are pretty simple: scan for new life and keep exploring for little hidden treasures.

There's a storyline, sort of, about this mysterious ocean and light that your scuba diver collects. I don't understand what it means, but I'm playing this game to have my own mini deep-sea aquarium experience. Luminous is great at this; don't expect more than this, and you'll be happy. 

Luminous even has some multiplayer support, allowing up to 30 players to join a dive together at once in a randomly generated ocean map. In the group dive, you can find treasure or uncover mystery creatures that are part of a larger scavenger hunt story challenge.

A diver and a huge fish, and other virtual players, in a screenshot from the game Endless Ocean Luminous

Dives can be shared experiences with other players, but the Switch doesn't do much with that possibility.


All of this, to me, screams "VR." It would require a headset, though. It's not impossible that Nintendo's expected next-gen Switch 2 could support such a thing: There are already glasses-like displays that connect via USB-C made by companies including XReal, and a more powerful Nvidia processor in a new Switch could power some VR gaming pretty easily.

Again, Nintendo's already dabbled in VR with Labo, although that 2019 kit was more experimental toy than fully immersive headset. The Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons are even surprisingly capable mini VR controllers; some people already connect them to Apple's Vision Pro for VR games.

Endless Ocean Luminous doesn't use motion controls in the sorts of interesting ways I'd hoped, and its third-person dive perspective isn't the type of immersion I'd want for VR. However, this might be the best thing until then if you've ever hoped for a free-roaming type of meandering ocean experience to relax and see some sea life from anywhere.

The game's mapping out of big territories reminded me of wandering through parts of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, minus the deeper gameplay and storyline. True to its name, there doesn't seem to be an end to the ocean maps in Endless Ocean, but the 500-plus types of sea life seem to get exhausted faster than I'd like. If you want a portable aquarium for your Switch, though, this is your chance.