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10 VR Games That You Can (And Should) Play This Year

by Ben Reeves on Jan 27, 2016 at 03:30 PM

At a recent HTC Vive event near Valve's headquarters in Seattle, we got a chance to play several upcoming VR projects set to release this year. Many of these games aren't exclusive to the HTC Vive either, so even if you've already pre-ordered an Oculus Rift, these are 10 VR projects you should keep on your radar for 2016. Unless otherwise noted, these games are all set to release alongside the Vive sometime later this Spring.

Space Pirate Trainer
Platforms: Rift, Vive

Space Pirate Trainer is a first person shooter with '80s arcade sensibilities. I began my demo on a space platform and was told I had to protect the space ship behind me. Immediately, a series of drones started to fly up from under the platform and I had to use a pair of dual pistols to take them down. Like a VR version of Space Invaders, the drones came in successively more complex waves. Thankfully, I could switch between several different firing modes. Semi-automatic and automatic are pretty self explanatory, but the charged rail gun-like blasts seemed to be the most effect way to take down stronger drones. When you take one of the Vive controllers and place it behind your back like you're withdrawing a sword, the game swaps out your gun for a shield which not only blocks blaster fire, but can actually deflect it back at incoming drones. Space Pirate Trainer isn't a very complex game, but it seems fun in short bursts.

Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives
Platforms: Rift, Vive, PlayStation VR

Job Simulator's Kitchen demo has been one of the Vive's most talked about demos, but the team at Owlchemy Labs recently redesigned the entire kitchen experience from scratch. Now players take on the role of a chef who receives orders and must put together a series of dishes to please their customers. During my demo I was free to explore a small kitchen and complete my orders. I threw tomatoes and carrots into a blender to make a smoothie, and tossed an avocado between a slice of bread and a cookie to make a "sandwich." Job Simulator acts like a series of museum simulations that show what the world was like before robots took over, but it views these jobs through the lens of a confused analytical robot. The final game will feature five jobs, including Quick Stop employee and cubical worker. It's funny and absurd in all the right ways.

The Gallery: Call of the Starseed
Platforms: Rift, Vive, PlayStation VR

The Gallery: Call of the Starseed is the first of four planned episodic adventures from Cloudhead Games. Inspired by adventurous coming-of-age tales like The Goonies, The Gallery is an adventure game about a young girl who discovers a mysterious message left behind by her twin sister and then sets off on an epic adventure to help a crazy scientist uncover a supernatural mystery. My demo started off on a beach just after sunset. A handheld radio blasted '80s rock and I quickly set out using a nearby bonfire to ignite a series of fireworks. Many of the objects in the game can be interacted with, but they don't all progress the story. To move through the world, you simply hold down one of the controller buttons and then blink to whatever point in the world you're looking. After exploring a nearby cavern, I found what looked like a pirate's hideout. One of the shelves in this space held an enticing box, but it was just out of reach, so I knock it down by throwing a couple of cans at the box. Inside is a note from my sister, leading me towards my next destination. The rest of the game looks to hold a series of similar "puzzles" which will require players to explore their environment thoroughly.

Arizona Sunshine
Platforms: Rift, Vive, PlayStation VR

Indie studio Vertigo Games' new shooter forces you to face the horrors of the zombie apocalypse; unfortunately, those horrors can run really fast. I've played a demo of Arizona Sunshine before, which had me fending off zombie attacks from multiple directions using a combination of pistols, uzis, and shotguns. You can dual wield any combination of these weapons, but that makes it harder to aim since you have to actually steady your own hands while aiming. The newest demo added another wrinkle to the mix and forced me to choose to get rid of one of my guns in favor of a flashlight while exploring a dank cave. With one hand I used a flashlight to discover the horrors in the dark, while I used my other hand to shoot the flesh eaters as they shambled towards me. Another new feature is an ammo belt, which you can strap anywhere to your body and use to reload your weapons simply by pressing the gun up against the belt. My demo was only a single-player experience, but Vertigo Games says it will be debuting a co-op mode shortly.

Budget Cuts
Platforms: Vive

This delightful gem was a surprise highlight from the show. Developed by a small team of Sweedish developers who are calling themselves Neat Corporation, this exploration-based stealth/puzzle game seems heavily inspired by games like Portal. You start out as a spy working for a corporation that is facing serious budget cuts, and you have to travel back in time to make sure your job application gets approved by your employer. Unfortunately, the building is staffed by a group of sentry drones that are ready to shoot you on sight. It sounds absurd, but the game's tongue-in-cheek tone is all part of the its charm. In order to move through each environment, you use a device that fires a teleportation portal across the room. However, before you actually teleport you have the option to scout out that area by holding up a magic window that gives you a real-time glimpse of that environment. Budget Cuts could be just the thing to appease starving Portal fans. Unfortunately, it looks like the game might miss the Vive's launch window, and its release might push out a little later in the year.

For more of our Vive recommendations, head to page two.

Cloundlands: VR Minigolf
Platforms: Vive

I'm not a huge fan of minigolf, but I love the creativity behind Futuretown's golf holes. Cloudlands only requires the use of one Vive controller, which functions as your putter. The game also couldn't be simpler, as you just swing your putter at a golf ball and try to knock it through a series of holes full of rotating walls, two story drops, and fans that will blow your ball back towards you. After successfully hitting your ball across the green, you can simply hit the trigger button and teleport right to your ball. Futuretown only has one 18-hole course right now, but it might design another for download shortly after the game releases. Most interestingly, Cloudlands will allow up to four players to play together on a single system or via online play, so the only thing missing from this minigolf experience is overpriced sodas and a couple of teenagers on an awkward first date.

Hover Junkers
Platforms: Vive

Hover Junkers is an arena-based shooter with a vehicular twist. Players traverse giant maps on hovercrafts as they search for sheets of discarded metal and other supplies that they can attach to their craft in order to beef up its defenses. This added cover is extremely useful since you need to physically dodge incoming attacks while laying down your own suppressive fire. Up to eight players can duke it out in these Mad Max arenas, but players can also team-up and have two shooters on a single craft. Developer StressLevelZero says it is also working on a single player experience that should function a bit like a post-apocalyptic Oregon Trail, but the team is putting most of its efforts into the multiplayer mode, and it shows. Hover Junkers is one of the best competitive shooters we've played in VR so far.

Elite: Dangerous
Platforms: Rift, Vive

Frontier Developments' massive space MMO tasks players with acquiring a massive Star Destroyer-worth of galactic credits while exploring a 1:1 scale model of the actual Milky Way. The game is fairly open ended, so players can choose a career that has them mining planets for rare ore, trading with various galactic smugglers, joining roving bands of pirates, or setting off to hunt down those pirates and collect their bounty. My unfortunately brief demo had me flying in loops while in high orbit above a planet as I tried to to take out an enemy spacecraft. Afterwards, I landed on a desert world with low gravity and started launching my buggy off every sand dune I could find. Thousands of PC owner have been playing the base game since 2014, but an upcoming VR update will allow them all to experience the game from a new perspective. You won't even need a pair of touch controllers for this one.

Platforms: Vive

Audioshield is as much a VR music experience as it is a game. Dylan Fitterer, the creator of Audiosurf, put together this interesting little project, which uses your own music to create a rhythm-based game where you use two shields to block a series of orbs as they fly towards you. In your right hand you have a red shield which blocks red orbs, and in your left hand you have a blue shield, which blocks blue orbs. Pressing both shields together creates a purple shield, which (surprise) blocks the rare purple orb. A difficulty setting changes the distance between orb chains, meaning you might have to run around the room like a tennis star to master faster songs. You can't fail out of a song in Audioshield, but the game does have a leaderboard system, so you can compete with your friends to see who has the best audio defense, or worst taste in music.

Final Approach
Platforms: Rift, Vive

If anything, Phaser Lock Interactive's new game is a management sim. Players take on the role of an air traffic controller who has a god-like view of a bustling airspace. Using touch controllers, players reach out and grab planes and then draw their landing patterns in the air. From time to time, you're also asked to head to the ground to take part in mingames that have you putting out fires, shooting drones out of the sky, or saving drowning sailors. The game starts you in your own personal hanger before you work you way through a series of missions set in vibrant cityscapes, tropical islands, and ocean bound battleships. In my previous experiences with Final Approach, the game felt more like a tech demo than and actual game. Thankfully, the newest demo of Final Approach feels much more robust and I'm actually interested to play the final product now.

For more VR coverage, check out our virtual reality hub below.