Can Oculus Quest change the game for virtual reality? Titles like Beat Saber and Vader Immortal could have the answer.
The new VR headset became available on Tuesday for $399. It doesn’t pack the same power as the Oculus Rift S, which needs to be connected to a high-powered PC. But it has a couple of big advantages. Namely, no wires and inside-out tracking (which means no need for external sensors). It’s a self-contained gaming console that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Quest launches with a big library of games and other software to check out. Read on for the games you absolutely need to consider if you’re taking the plunge into this new Oculus platform.
Beat Saber ($30)
If there’s any Oculus Quest “killer app,” Beat Saber is it. This already excellent game shines on other VR platforms, but the total freedom to move lets you really fall into the rhythm and get your lightsaber dance on.
It’s a rhythm game in the vein of Guitar Hero, with “notes” flowing toward you in a non-stop gush, driven by the beat of whatever song you’re playing. Each note has a color and a directional arrow, telling you which of your two lightsaber-like energy swords you need to slash with, and in which direction.
It’s a simple and immediately intuitive concept once you slide the Quest into place and start a song. It’s also quite challenging — and strenuous! — as you ramp up the difficulty. Not only is Beat Saber a hell of a good time, it’s also a genuine workout once you get into the groove.
I can’t recommend this one strongly enough. If you’re only getting one game for your Quest, Beat Saber should be it. Without question.
Space Pirate Trainer ($15)
You ever hear of a “bullet hell” game? (Sometimes they’re referred to as shoot ’em ups, or simply shmups.) I’m talking games like Defender, Ikaruga, and Ikari Warriors. Contra. Star Fox 64. They all look different but embrace the same basic idea: you have to take on hordes of baddies while gracefully dodging around a torrential downpour of enemy fire.
Space Pirate Trainer brings that shmup sensibility to VR. It’s you, standing on a platform in the middle of a futuristic city with a gun in each hand. Each new stage sends a wave of floating robots after you, firing from all sides. You’ve got to dodge their attacks and gun them down, while a techno beat backs you up.
There are some wrinkles that give you an edge. Each of your guns has different modes of fire to suit different playstyles and types of challenges. Enemy fire can be blocked with an energy shield. And you can also collect power-ups that offer an edge by way of limited-time boosts.
Make sure you have a good amount of space around you for this one. Your hands swing all around as the difficulty increases, and it’s easy to lose track of your room-scale play area’s “center” as you fall into the rhythm of the action. What an exhilarating ride, though.
Superhot VR ($25)
Everyone remembers that one scene in The Matrix, the rooftop scene where Neo dodges Agent gunfire bullet by bullet with a movie-star-cool limbo move. Superhot VR attempts to capture that vibe — and it does a pretty dang good job.
It works like this: each brief stage pits you against a small group of enemies, armed and unarmed. When you move — specifically, when you move your hands holding each controller — time flows. When your hands stop moving, time stops as well. Superhot is a puzzle game built around your violent dance. You carefully sidestep or deflect incoming fire as you shoot, throw, and punch your way to victory.
It works. The first time you send an uppercut into an incoming enemy’s jaw, and then snatch their dropped pistol out of the air so you can return fire at the next approaching foe is such a rush. There’s a definite learning curve as the game goes on and challenges mount — which can be frustrating when checkpoint saves only happen after a collection of levels — but the play is so unique and engaging, it’s hard to just walk away.
Best of all: Superhot relies on heavily stylized black-white-and-red graphics. As violent as each scene gets, your foes are always these abstract person-shaped red crystal beings that shatter when they’re hit. Even if you’re generally averse to video game violence, this one is worth a look.
Moss is unlike any of the other games you’ll find on this list. For one, it’s entirely a sitdown experience — and it tells you as much right up front.
You control an adorable little mouse who finds herself on an adventure to save everyone from a great evil. It’s not the most original “chosen one” narrative, but it’s set against the backdrop of a world populated by a human-like society of forest creatures.
At its heart, Moss is an adventure game highlighted by jumping and environmental puzzles with a side of combat. You control the little mouse directly but also have a measure of control over the world around her. That’s a big piece of what makes Moss challenging: each new screen is like a little forest diorama where you have to figure out which bits of the world you can interact with to clear a path for your little rodent friend.
It all comes together as a very effective VR-friendly spin on a traditional game genre. Moss is a delightful, adorable adventure that more than justifies its existence as an experience you have to live inside of to truly appreciate.
Robo Recall ($30)
So it’s like this: you live in the future and you work for a robotics company doing product recalls. That might not seem exciting, but the robots in this future have run amok and need to be shut down… with extreme prejudice.
There are lots of VR shooting gallery-style games out there, but Robo Recall has them all beat. It looks great, for one. Each level set in the robot-overrun city is a convincingly rendered urban landscape that only takes a slight visual fidelity hit from the less powerful Quest. And you stop noticing even that once evil robots start to swarm in.
This is an arcade game through and through, broken into a series of levels that have you trying to hit various goals as you clean up the city. Your primary weapons have a limitless supply of ammo but a finite number of bullets in each clip, so when one gun goes empty you simply toss it aside and grab another one from your holster.
There are other weapons too. Downed robots usually drop a firearm that you can walk up to and collect — though you need to find another one once the clip runs dry. You can also get physical with any robot foolish enough to move in close, grabbing it and tearing it to pieces or simply tossing it at another baddie.
There’s no other way to say it: Robo Recall just feels great to play. Tossing empty guns aside and grabbing a new one off your belt or back never gets old. And nothing beats the thrill of tearing a marauding robot apart, limb by limb, or plucking a series of bullets out of the air — yes, you can do that — and tossing them back at a string of attackers, one at a time.
Vader Immortal – A Star Wars VR Series ($10)
Let’s get the bad news out of the way up front: Vader Immortal is short. The story portion of the experience — the first of three episodes — shouldn’t last more than an hour for most people.
Short isn’t bad, though! For one, this is a full-fledged game. If you think you’re just going to sit there while Star Wars talks at you, you’re way off. Vader Immortal is absolutely a room-scale game. You’ll climb ladders and pipes, user your lightsaber to deflect stormtrooper fire, and stand face to… well, chest with the dark lord himself (he’s really tall, folks).
Darth Vader is interested in you specifically for reasons that become clear over the course of the first episode. Most of it is set on the planet Mustafar — the lava world where Anakin Skywalker got skewered in Revenge of the Sith. It’s very much a first act, chronicling the events that lead directly to you taking on the role of Vader’s apprentice.
There’s more, too. Separate from the story mode is a lightsaber training arena. It’s just you, a lightsaber, and droids that want to ruin your day, spread across a good number of increasingly challenging levels. Luke and Vader might make it look easy, but deflecting laser blasts back at a target is hard! This mode helps you become a master. It’s also a freaking lightsaber training mode in VR OMG what more do you need to know??
It’s Star Wars, people. Vader Immortal kicks off an episodic, story-driven adventure set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. You are Darth Vader’s apprentice. You get your very own lightsaber. Can anyone who picks up a Quest really justify skipping this one?