I used to think VR was a gimmick. Then a VR arcade opened up down the street.

Of course, I had to try it. I wanted to look down my nose at VR in an educated manner. HTC Vive strapped to my face, I thought I’d experience some brief, fleeting amusement and nothing more.

How very wrong I was.

From my first moment in the virtual realm, I knew that gaming would never be the same. Perhaps the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx has you checking out VR for the first time. Or perhaps you’re a Vive owner on the hunt for something new. Let’s take a look at the top 10 best HTC Vive games, based on general sentiment and my personal experience.

The Top 10 Best HTC Vive VR Games

Without further ado, let’s jump right in at #10 and work our way down to the best HTC Vive game around.

10. Google Earth VR

Manhattan in Google Earth VR

Surely there must be some mistake, you think. Google Earth VR? It’s not even a game.

You’re right about one thing. It’s not a game per se. But it absolutely deserves a spot in any Vive library.

Google Earth VR is a foundry for hushed, wide-eyed moments of wonder. Flying over your hometown, perching on a mountaintop, and gazing from horizon to horizon—it’s truly humbling. Familiar sights and folds in the terrain appear just as you remember.

Each moment is more than the sum of its parts. There may not be enemies, weapons, or objectives, but it doesn’t suffer for it. Google Earth VR provides a sense of perspective and freedom that must be seen to believe.

9. VRChat

Player Avatars in VRChat
  • Website: VRChat
  • Developer: VRChat Inc.
  • Release: February 1, 2017

Another “game that isn’t really a game,” VRChat is the best VR chatroom out right now. The reason it made it on to the list is simple: It’s the closest thing we have to Ready Player One for real. Everyone gets to choose their own avatar, with the more industrious capable of creating and importing content thanks to Unity and VRChat APIs.

There’s support for some simple games as well, but the real draw is the emergent moments that result from VR. You can watch videos and films with other players in virtual theaters, chat about life in a Japanese pagoda, and much, much more. Though the concept won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s something that everyone should experience at least once. The glimpses of VR’s bright future are sure to excite even the most anti-social gamer.

8. OrbusVR: Reborn

Creatures in OrbusVR: Reborn
  • Website: OrbusVR: Reborn
  • Developer: Orbus Online, LLC
  • Release: April 23, 2019

The concept of a VR MMO intrigued me. But I thought there would be cut corners or concessions. I didn’t expect a fully-featured MMO to rival Old-School Runescape and WoW Classic.

That’s precisely what I got with OrbusVR: Reborn.

Imagine WoW from the perspective of your character—interacting with NPCs, wandering the world, and finding a monster towering over you that’s clearly out of your league. Combat is well-handled, replacing hotkeys and clicks with physical gestures that all feel appropriate for your class. Runemages memorize and draw runes to cast magic. Paladins swing a giant hammer and tank for the party. Rangers fight with a bow that they must draw and aim themselves. All the archetypes are here, and they’re tons of fun.

There’s even non-combat skills like fishing and crafting to fill out your virtual life in Patraeyl. And the best part? OrbusVR is buy once, play forever. With a fully-featured demo that lets you try the game up to level 10, what are you waiting for?

7. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR

Facing down a dragon in Skyrim VR
  • Website: Skyrim VR
  • Developer: Bethesda
  • Release: November 17, 2017

Hold your Skyrim memes, folks. VR is just what the doctor ordered when it comes to breathing new life into the latest rerelease.

Scale is everything in VR, and epic scale is on full display in Tamriel. Dragons tower over you. Frostbite spiders are the size of small cars and every bit as horrifying as you imagine. The melee combat is satisfying enough in VR, but it’s archery and spellcasting that benefit most from the transition. Try not to grin when you nail your first shot on a running target with a bow.

When you emerge from the caves after the tutorial and look across the valley at the snow-capped mountains beyond, you’ll be a believer again. Skyrim VR is a game filled with renewed promise and boiling over with fresh adventures. And you can bring you favorite core Skyrim mods along too, so you’ll never run out of novelty.

6. Arizona Sunshine

Zombies on a street in Arizona Sunshine

This is the game that changed my mind about VR. Arizona Sunshine has a few flashes of pure brilliance that make it into something you have to experience for yourself. Especially if you have a buddy who you can pull into co-op with you.

The gunplay is simple but satisfying. Avoiding hordes while you rummage through cars for a few bullets to keep you going is pulse-pounding. A later level places you in a mine, which is pitch-black save for the flashlight and glowstick conveniently left at the entrance. There are few moments in VR as definitive for me as following my friend down the mineshaft and holding the torch over his shoulder so he could dual-wield weapons and clear a path.

Turns out, there’s a bit of life left in undead shooters after all.

5. Pavlov VR

A familiar map in Pavlov VR
  • Website: Pavlov VR
  • Developer: Vankrupt Games
  • Release: February 27, 2017

Counter-Strike in VR. That’s the selling point.

No, Pavlov doesn’t include the Counter-Strike maps at the outset. But the intrepid community found ways to translate the level geometry from one to the other. There’s an in-game economy obviously inspired by everyone’s favorite counter-terrorism simulator, as well. And the weapon selection is familiar in turn. The gunplay is fantastic, clearly designed by gun-lovers for gun-lovers. Reloading and handling your weapon is appropriately challenging, and, of course, the main game mode is bomb defusion. With abundant community content and new modes like deathmatch and zombies coming out regularly, there’s plenty to do in Pavlov.

4. Onward

Soldiers on a street in Onward VR
  • Website: Onward
  • Developer: Downpour Interactive
  • Release: August 29, 2016

This is the second game I played in VR, and it set the bar pretty high. Like Arizona Sunshine, Onward may be best experienced playing co-op with a friend. But there are plenty of thrills and tension awaiting even the solo player.

Like Pavlov, the mechanics for weapon interaction are immersive and satisfying. Especially the mounting weapon mechanic—placing your M249 with a bipod attachment on a boulder for support doesn’t feel as awkward as you think. And the game handles you changing between standing, crouching, and even going prone without issue. Live out your operator fantasies with Onward.

Remember to bring a battle buddy for the best experience.

3. Blade & Sorcery

Martial combat on a bridge in Blade & Sorcery

What Blade & Sorcery lacks in breadth, it makes up for in depth. The visceral, physics-based gameplay is currently unrivaled by any other game, at least until Boneworks comes out.

This game has earned a reputation for the most accidental wall-punching in my small apartment. Dual-wielding swords is a blast, as is throwing anything you can get your hands on at opponents. For now, the “Sorcery” part of the title is limited to telekinesis for remotely grabbing or tossing weapons and casting lightning from your fingertips. Fortunately, both of those spells are incredibly well-designed and satisfying to use.

All Blade & Sorcery is missing is an RPG system and story mode layered over the top. But even without the frills, there’s no better way to become the roguish hero you always knew you could be.

2. SUPERHOT VR

Screenshot of SUPERHOT VR in motion
  • Website: SUPERHOT
  • Developer: SUPERHOT Team
  • Release: December 5, 2016

At first glance, SUPERHOT seems like just another hollow VR tech demo. It’s short, clocking in at just one or two hours for an end-to-end playthough. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up in quality.

The main drive here is that “time only moves when you do,” and the translation to VR is perfect. Dodging bullets, grabbing guns from the air and clearing rooms in slow-motion—it’s The Matrix come to life, and you’re the star. The replay value is through the roof. There are plenty of toys in the sandbox for you to play with, and each level invites you to try it again in different ways. It’s the perfect game for VR newcomers due to the intuitive gameplay loop and minimalistic art style. A must-have for any Vive owner.

1. Beat Saber

Slashing beat blocks in Beat Saber
  • Website: Beat Saber
  • Developer: Beat Games
  • Release: May 1, 2018

If VR has a “killer app,” this is it.

I’ll admit that I’m biased. I’ve been a huge fan of music and rhythm games for years, and the transition from plastic guitar to VR lightsabers was natural. There aren’t a whole lot of songs to choose from in the core game, but mod support makes adding custom tracks a cinch. Moreover, this might be the best game to hand off to a friend or family member who isn’t familiar with VR. Slashing blocks in time with the music is easy to understand but hard to master. Just tell them it’s VR Fruit Ninja, and off they’ll go.

Beat Saber is best suited for parties and old-school hotseat hand-offs. Unless you’re ashamed of your dancing. Which you shouldn’t be, you absolute legend.

Honorable Mentions

Moss VR Game

Further Reading