Congratulations! You’re the proud owner of a fancy new VR headset.
Welcome to the future.
So, now that you’ve dished out a few hundred bucks for your new tech, it’s time to jump into those games, right? Virtual reality is still a bit niche, so naturally, you won’t have a lot to go on, and after spending all that cash, you won’t exactly want to already forfeit more for that sweet, sweet Skyrim (again).
It’s a good idea to test the waters, find out what sort of gameplay, graphics, and immersion you enjoy before spending. I spent several days pouring through Steam’s VR library, weeding through broken mechanics, early access, and less than exciting gameplay.
Here is a list of five free (that’s right, totally FREE!) VR games to help you get your feet wet.
Note: All of the games listed here are compatible with both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. (I like to be inclusive.) I also did not include any social/chat games because I can’t vouch for their … appropriateness.
Waltz of the Wizard
Have you ever wanted to be a wizard? Float objects around the room and shoot fireballs from your hands? If you answered yes, then this game is for you. Let’s be real, who would say no though right? In Waltz of the Wizard, you are a wizard learning spells in your own private workspace. Think Merlin’s tower, only edgier. There’s lots of hidden gems and content to explore. Aldin Dynamics, the company behind the game, even released a 2017 Halloween update that added even more, including a combat arena and locomotion that always the player to explore his or her surroundings to the fullest.
I still find myself going back to this game. The level of detail never ceases to amaze. Additionally, the game includes a troll mode in which a friend can join in on the fun from the keyboard. As the name suggests, this two-player mode is there entirely for the purpose of your friend being a complete troll and generally getting in your way. It’s both a refreshing change of pace and all-around good time for everyone.
Belko VR: An Escape Room Experiment
Disclaimer: Game contains mild gore and adult language
Okay, yes. There are quite a few escape room games out there. It’s a trend that has been gaining popularity both in games and in the real world. Even Belko is actually a game developed by Top Right Corner to promote a movie of the same name released in 2016. That aside, this was a good first look at the genre. The graphics are spot on, the room you play in is full of interactive items and the little bit of voice acting it does feature is believable. Unlike the movie, however, Belko VR includes the puzzle elements that define it as an escape room game. While there isn’t a lot of replay value to this once you’ve solved the puzzles, it is still a graphically pleasing game and fun to share with friends. It’s a good way to try out the genre without being left confused and frustrated.
The Ranger: Lost Tribe
Disclaimer: Game contains mild gore and violence
This game opens with a visually engaging sequence of images and a brief overview of the story. You are an unnamed protagonist, a ranger, in the fictional land of Roland. It’s your job to fight tribes of orc-like creatures to restore order after a mysterious event causes havoc. The game is very combat heavy and the creators boast at least 4 hours of gameplay! While the story might be a little vague and need some serious proofreading, the gameplay itself is satisfying and offers the player various options to best suit their own style. Take on the enemies with your sword and shield, switch to a bow or spear for range, and even perform stealth attacks. The choice is really yours. It’s worth noting too that the developers, Leiting Interactive, have specified that The Ranger: Lost Tribe is just part of a full game that hasn’t been released yet, but this free version is already a worthwhile experience.
Heart of the Emberstone: Coliseum
Now I feel I have to start out by saying Coliseum is actually a modified level from the full game, The Gallery – Episode 2: Heart of the Emberstone. It’s sort of like a demo without being labeled as such. The developers at Cloudhead Games wanted to offer the opportunity for players to sample their game before committing to the full version. This game delivers a stunning, if slightly short, experience. You find yourself in a decrepit coliseum filled with rubble and bodies (and adorable little hermit crab type creatures). As you explore, you are met with holograms of a woman that seems to be as lost as you are. With your unexplained telekinetic powers, you solve puzzles that lead to clues about your surroundings.
As mentioned, this is a relatively short game that leaves you wanting more. There isn’t much in the way of replay value, but clearly, the developers knew how to encourage you to give the full game a try. With its mysterious premise, quality visuals and gameplay, and some kick-ass tunes, Coliseum is a breathtaking experience. The only real downside is that you WILL want to spend money on the full version after giving this one a test drive.
No VR game list would be complete without this one. The Lab is Valve’s free collection of mini-games and experiences that everyone should have in their library. There’s quite a bit of replay value here. The Lab includes an endless wave style archery game and a sci-fi themed bullet hell arcade game that will have you coming back often to attempt to beat your high scores. In addition to addictive games, The Lab has amazing experiences that are visually stunning, like watching a built-to-scale solar system rotating around you or exploring the inside of a DOTA secret shop. With the amount of replay this one contains, it would be silly not to have it.
These games are just five of the many free virtual reality games out there, some being Vive or Rift exclusive. I hope this gives you a place to start in your adventures through VR gaming.
Featured image credit: Valve