We’re a few years into the rebirth of virtual reality gaming, and while hardware manufacturers continue to iterate on headsets that will one day (hopefully) bring us closer to the promise of untethered, uncompromised VR, game developers are hard at work pouring their creativity into what’s possible with today’s technology. The best VR games of 2018 represent a variety of different genres, proving that the popularized image of VR being all about realism and physical immersion isn’t the sole end goal, but one of many potential avenues with which to take the medium.
In no particular order, the list that follows is a rundown of what we at GameSpot think are the five best VR games to come out in 2018. When you’re done reading, be sure to check out our comprehensive look back at the VR landscape as a whole in 2018. And for more roundups focusing on the best games of 2018, be sure to visit our Best of 2018 page for all of our content reflecting on the year that was, and ahead to what we’re looking forward to most in 2019.
Beat Saber is a demanding rhythm game that pushes your reaction times and physical perseverance–prepare to sweat! With a VR controller in each hand, you wield virtual lightsabers and cut through incoming colored blocks that arrive in time with the music. It’s a simple concept that doesn’t need a lot of explaining, but getting good requires a lot of practice, poise, and precision. Beat Saber originally released on PC in early access, and that version may one day see an exclusive, custom track creator, but the PSVR release snuck in before the end of the year with exclusive content all its own. Despite some potential for tracking discrepancies compared to the PC version, the extra content makes the PSVR version the one to get today if you have the option (and a pair of PlayStation Move controllers).
Tetris may be timeless, but it doesn’t immediately look like a natural fit for VR. Now that Tetris Effect is out on PS4, you might think twice before assuming what a good VR game looks like at first glance. Designer Tetsuya Mizuguchi and his team at Enhance Games took the standard Tetris formula and molded rhythm-game elements around it. It’s still the puzzle game you probably know and love, but it’s also a captivating blend of sight and song. Color and rhythm are used to instill a range of emotions, and the connected sound effects that come from rotating a tetromino, dropping it, and clearing a line, help form a connection between your puzzle-solving duties and the tone of a particular stage. It all makes for an engrossing experience outside of VR, but isolating yourself in a headset is the best way to understand everything Tetris Effect has to offer.
Though Tetris Effect lacks any kind of competitive multiplayer, it does feature a rewarding asynchronous co-op mode. Players can participate in a cumulative effort during special event weekends where high-scores from across the globe are tallied up towards a milestone set by Enhance Games. So far, the community’s success has resulted in new stages and songs, such as the one themed after the wildly popular Game Boy version of Tetris, pale greens and all. Tetris Effect’s main stages are enough of a treat, but this arrangement ensures that you will have new reason to revisit one of the surprise hits of the year on a regular basis, and hopefully enjoy a new set of challenges and rewards along the way.
Astro Bot Rescue Mission
When Sony launched PSVR in 2016 it also handed us the keys to The Playroom. This pack of mini VR games featured scenes filled with expressive little robots. They would jaunt about and play as if that’s all they’ve ever known, and it was their infectious joy that made the rather simple interactive tech demos feel as fun as they did. That said, nobody could have guessed at the time that a full-fledged follow-up game would arrive in 2018, and that Astro Bot Rescue Mission would make for one of the best VR games of the year.
Astro Bot is a 3D platformer where you control a bot, but also a representation of your controller that acts as a Swiss-army knife of useful gadgets. Your Bot friend may be cute, but it’s not very capable, so you’ll need to help it solve puzzles, free it from danger, and provide a home for the other bots you rescue along the way–who adorably scurry into your controller’s virtual representation by way of the hatch-door touchpad. This would all make for a fine game outside of VR, but a big part of its allure is feeling like you’re along for the ride with your charming companion in a bustling cartoon world. Astro Bot feels like the product of creators who recognized both the potential of the character at their fingertips and the unique strengths of VR, and the result is a lovely game that remains a delight to play from beginning to end.
Moss can be viewed in the same vein as Astro Bot, but with a different set of qualities that make its third-person, 3D adventure stand on its own four furry legs. The star of Moss is Quill, a mouse packing a sword and shield to defend itself in a fantasy world that immediately brings Brian Jacques’ Redwall series of books to mind. You directly guide her during moments of platforming and combat, but you also serve as a deity with the power to manipulate the environment as a means to solve puzzles or open new paths ahead.
Most importantly, you can also interact directly with Quill, giving her high-fives and head scratches for a job well done. And like a true partner, she’ll help guide you towards puzzle solutions when it’s clear that you’re unsure of what to do next. This sometimes involves getting a closer look and peering around environments for hidden items or pathways, giving you a glimpse at life through Quill’s eyes. Moss is a great VR game that brings its lead character to life, and in turn leaves you with lasting memories of a friend you only wish you could find in the real world.
Wipeout VR (Omega Collection)
Wipeout is the breakneck racing series that helped kick off the PlayStation’s popularity way back in the mid ’90s. The simple mix of high-speed racing, weaponry, and adrenaline-pumping music remains effective today, over 20 years later. The Wipeout Omega Collection in 2017 offered a massive collection of the game’s recent outings under one roof that by and large played and felt great. But with the VR mode update that came in 2018, the experience of steering a speeding-bullet-like racecraft around tight turns amidst incoming enemy fire felt more riveting than ever.
If Tetris Effect is the surprise hit for VR, Wipeout is the no-brainer. Sitting in the driver’s seat means that you don’t need to worry about pairing your physical movement in the real world to that of a virtual character, and because Wipeout iterates on a winning formula that’s worked for decades, you know almost exactly what you’re going to get. You may not be prepared, however, for the increased demands of racing at such speeds from the view of a cockpit, but that just means your eventual mastery will be all the more satisfying. Wipeout in VR feels like the realization of a dream that began with the PlayStation brand, and it’s a definite selling point when considering PSVR as a whole.