The HTC Vive, along with the Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR, kickstarted the VR revolution upon release in 2016. Offering the ability to step inside games, reach out and interact with the virtual environment was something that gamers had been waiting for, for years.
Once you've bought a HTC Vive and successfully set it up, the biggest decision to make is what to play on SteamVR. Here, we round up some of the most exciting games and experiences available in 2017 for the HTC Vive.
There are also some impressive VR games in the pipeline, which you can read about in our roundup of the best upcoming VR games of 2017.
1. Raw Data
Raw Data is one of the most immersive and enjoyable games available for the HTC Vive, despite still being in Early Access stages. Set in 2271, the aim of the game is to hack Eden Corp, a company that essentially owns the world, steal as much data as possible – and to survive.
Built specifically for VR, Raw Data fully utilises full-body movement in the game, requiring users to physically dodge incoming punches and bullets, before having to physically return a punch or aim and fire your gun. You’ll need to reload your weapons manually too, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your remaining ammo.
The varying environments and weapons available in Raw Data provide a number of experience, with each differing slightly from the last. Use the environment in interesting ways to battle your way through wave after wave of increasingly-powerful robot enemies that look incredibly real. Trust me, when you see a wave of iRobot-esque robots charging towards you, it’s a pretty intimidating experience.
2. Eve: Valkyrie
Originally exclusive to the Oculus Rift, Eve: Valkyrie is now also available for the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, with cross-play available between all three platforms. Join the Valkyrie, a gang of galactic pirates, take up arms and destroy the enemy in some of the most impressive deep-space locations we’ve seen.
The spaceship dogfighting simulator isn't to be sniffed at, as it’s arguably one of the most polished VR games available at the moment, offering gorgeous graphics and an immersive view that'll make you believe you're sat in the cockpit of your own space ship.
The game features competitive multiplayer, skill-based character progression and ship upgrades and more that should keep pilots engaged for some time. If you’re on the hunt for an amazing dog-fighting game for the HTC Vive, look no further.
3. Space Pirate Trainer
Space Pirate Trainer is, essentially, a shoot-em-up arcade game for the HTC Vive with a space-age twist. Like the old Space Invaders game, gamers face their enemies in a wave-based fashion but unlike the 2D platformer, the invading flying robot enemies will attack from all around them. It provides gamers with a game that’s exciting and keeps them on their toes, always looking around them - and even above them.
Gamers are armed with two pistols with a variety of shooting modes (single fire, burst, etc) but what is cooler is the shield that can be used by physically reaching for it on their back. Using the shield in difficult situations will rebound incoming bullets, potentially saving a life or three! When incoming bullets are near time around the player will slow, allowing time to perform ‘Matrix-esque’ moves to dodge bullets. This coupled with increasingly difficult waves of enemies brings gamers back time and time again, and is one of the most popular games currently available for the HTC Vive.
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4. Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality
If VR is good for anything, it’s good at proving that licensed games aren’t all as bad as we remember, and Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality is a perfect example of a licensed game done right. The game captures the charm of the Rick and Morty TV show that makes it so popular, and presents it in a fun and interesting way in VR.
Developed by Owlchemy Labs (the team behind Job Simulator), it’s easy to see the similarities between the two games. Both are task-based, and require you to solve puzzles using items at your disposal around you, although with a twist of sarcasm (and sometimes even abuse!).
Gamers will find themselves in the shoes of a Morty clone in Virtual Rick-ality, performing menial tasks for Rick and (the real) Morty as they go on their interdimensional travels. From doing the laundry, to fixing Rick’s car and even going up against huge alien races that want to destroy the world, it’s a barrel of laughs and is hugely recommended if you follow the TV series.
Plus, getting to see items from the Rick and Morty universe is a fun treat for fans. I mean, who doesn’t want to examine a Plumbus up close?
5. The Assembly
The Assembly is one of the first console-esque VR games offering a deep storyline and hours of gameplay – in fact, we’ve been waiting for The Assembly to be released since we first went hands-on with it in 2015. So, what is it about? The Assembly is an intriguing puzzle game set in a secret bunker set in a desert, and allows you to play as two different characters – Cal Pearson and Madeleine Stone. It’s interesting to note that we actually noticed the difference in height between the two characters, something that isn’t very noticeable in standard games.
The game offers up a number of puzzles and dilemmas where you decide the outcome, which may not always be pretty. We felt more emotionally involved with what was going on in the game because we felt like we were actually there, making The Assembly a great introduction to VR for new users. There are multiple endings too, providing users with a Butterfly Effect-style game where every decision you make affects the outcome.
The movement mechanics take a little getting used to as it’s a combination of standard controls and ‘Blink’ but we adjusted within minutes and found we could play the game comfortably for hours without headache, eye strain or nausea.
6. Tilt Brush
Not everybody will enjoy the same kind of VR games and for those that aren’t interested in shoot em ups or puzzlers, we present Tilt Brush. Developed by Google, Tilt Brush isn’t really a ‘game’ as such but instead provides HTC Vive users with a space to draw whatever they want. While that may not sound exciting as we’ve all had MS Paint on our PCs for years, Tilt Brush offers users the ability to draw in a three-dimensional space, allowing you to create sculptures opposed to 2D drawings.
It’s not just drawing in 3D that makes Tilt Brush exciting though – users have a collection of brushes available, from fairly standard paint brushes to painting in Neon (or ‘Light’ as it’s called), Fire and even Snow. With a variety of backdrops available and an online showcase of other user’s creations, Tilt Brush users are presented with something that essentially will never become boring – unless, like us, you’re terrible at art.
7. Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul
The future of the horror genre isn’t focused around TV, oh no. I think the future of Horror is based around VR, and Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul is the best example of this.
The long-standing Paranormal Activity movie series did extremely well in cinemas, but the scare factor is nothing compared to (virtually) living through the haunting yourself. That is true terror, and that is what The Lost Soul provides. Trust me when I say that it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted!
After a brief tutorial, you’re left totally alone to explore the terrifying-yet-gorgeous house and get to the bottom of what’s going on. There’s not even a HUD to prompt you when you’re lost, and it really helps to cement the feeling of being alone and helpless.
However, it’s the scares that are most impressive. From doors slamming to seeing figures walk down hallways and everything in between, the game is nothing short of terrifying. The combination of dark environments, loud, sudden movement and creepy, atmospheric audio really immerse you in the Horror experience.
And if you thought about watching YouTube playthroughs to help prepare yourself, don’t waste your time: the events are completely random, and differ between playthroughs. That means that just because a door slammed shut on one playthrough, it doesn’t mean it’ll happen the next time you play.
8. The Brookhaven Experiment
The Brookhaven Experiment is exciting because it’s a bit of a hybrid – it’s essentially a wave-based zombie shooter, but the limited light (and battery power) coupled with scary sound effects and, well, massive zombies coming straight for you, it provides a pretty scary experience. There are a variety of weapons and tools available, and the waves of zombies will get both stronger and more terrifying the longer you manage to survive.
As well as a wave-based mode, the game also offers a campaign which is as terrifying as you can imagine. The combination of 3D audio, darkened surroundings and the fact that there is no other 'survivor' in sight gave us a feeling of hopelessness, which was quickly upgraded to terror when playing. In fact, we can hands-down say that The Brookhaven Experiment is the scariest VR game we've played thus far, and successfully made us scream out loud on more than one occasion.
9. The Lab
The Lab is a great starting point for HTC Vive users, as it’s essentially a game of mini-games designed to showcase just what the HTC Vive is capable of. With that being said, The Lab offers gamers the opportunity to perform tasks including archery, using a (huge) slingshot, observing our solar system and even repairing an Aperture Science robot that looks similar to a certain something from the Portal series.
It’s a cool idea that helps people understand the kind of things the HTC Vive can be used for, and the fact that it’s free to download makes it one of the best apps available for the Vive at the moment.
Read next: The complete guide to virtual reality
theBlu is hands down our favourite ‘experience’ for the HTC Vive at the moment and provides something more immersive and more breathtaking than anything else we’ve tried. You’re presented with three varying experiences with theBlu; Whale Encounter, Reef Migration and Luminous Abyss and while all three are equally beautiful, each showcases something slightly different.
Whale Encounter is what it says on the tin – you’re on an underwater shipwreck teetering on the edge of an underwater cliff and a whale swims up to you. The environment is beautifully detailed as is the whale, and you really get a sense of the enormity of the mammal swimming in front of you.
Reef Migration places you on the edge of a coral reef with a variety of tropical fish swimming around you, soon replaced by a turtle and eventually a bloom of brightly coloured jellyfish. You can reach out and (try to) touch the fish with the controllers but they’ll swim away when you get near, as they would in real life.
Luminous Abyss is our favourite of the bunch, transporting you to the bottom of the ocean where not even light reaches. You’re armed with nothing but a torch, and there is a variety of fish lurking in the deep waiting to be discovered.
11. Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope
After years of controlling Serious Sam from above, it’s time for gamers to step into the shoes of the man himself with Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope. The game, while currently still in Early Access on Steam, provides users with a shooter that’s both insanely action packed, and insanely enjoyable. Dual-wield miniguns, rocket launchers, heavy lasers and more to wipe out waves of incoming enemies and stupidly overpowered bosses on Earth and in the universe beyond.
Graphically it’s impressive, but it’s the gunplay that we love the most. You can’t beat mowing down waves of enemies with miniguns, right? While there are only a handful of levels available at the moment, the developers are looking to expand the game as it heads towards its full release.
Read next: HTC Vive review
12. Dick Wilde
Dick Wilde is a fun and silly game – and there’s nothing wrong with that. The idea is simple: you play in the shoes of Dick Wilde, an exterminator with a range of weird and wild homemade weapons tasked with clearing out the local waterways. That means readying up and taking on some of nature’s most fearsome predators, from huge crocodiles charging towards you to swarms of piranha jumping out of the water, teeth first.
The wave-based shooter is simple to learn, but takes a while to master – especially with the wide range of weapons available. These weapons include revolvers, a bow and arrow, a shotgun, a grenade launcher and even a harpoon for those with a love for all things nautical. Each has its own unique characteristics and handles in a different way, and with only limited power-ups available between waves, it’s crucial that the right weapon has been selected.
And what wave-based shooter would be complete without insane boss fights to top them off? Dick Wilde offers boss fights as epic and ridiculous as the rest of the game, and offers quite a challenge depending on your weaponry.
13. Cosmic Trip
Cosmic Trip is an extremely enjoyable HTC Vive game based on traditional RTS (Real Time Strategy) games with a VR twist. Vive users will find themselves on a baron planet where they’re required to not only build machines and structures to mine and harvest resources, but also build your own army of robots to defend your bases from wave-based enemies.
The game features multiple base nodes for you to mine, and are easily accessible by opening and stepping through a portal, an experience that will never get old for us! You’re also armed with two dangerous Frisbees that can be thrown at enemies if your robot backup fails you.
After a brief tutorial showing you the basics of the game, you’re left to fend for yourself and at first it’s a little overwhelming, but over time you get used to the mechanics of the game. It’s fun making different cartridges and inserting them into machines to produce different robots, and is reminiscent of the incredibly immersive Job Simulator: The 2050 Archives.
14. John Wick Chronicles
John Wick, for fans of gunplay, was a phenomenal film and like many others, I always wondered why there wasn’t a John Wick VR experience. Well, earlier this year our wish was granted with the release of John Wick Chronicles, a VR game that allows gamers to play in the shoes of the legendary assassin while undertaking various contracts that’ll require skill to survive.
The game has three levels along with a training mode that allows you to test the wide range of weapons available to Mr. Wick, from handguns to SMGs to Rifles and even grenades (which can be caught mid-air and thrown back for extra cool points!).
Once ready, fight for your life and take down the hoardes of enemies that appear not only behind you, but to your sides and even behind you – situational awareness in the game is key. There are two modes available too: arcade mode and simulation mode. Playing in arcade mode is more forgiving than in simulation mode where everything is more realistic and offers more of a challenged to seasoned assassins.
If you’re in the market for a realistic shooter with a range of weapons available, John Wick Chronicles is a good idea.
15. Elite Dangerous
Elite Dangerous is a fun-to-play and graphically gorgeous game, and only gets better when experienced in virtual reality. The hugely popular universe-wide sandbox game has seen success after success recently, especially after its well-received Horizons update allowed players to land on planet-size planets. You spend your time in a spaceship (or buggy) cockpit flying through space, dogfighting with enemy players and scavenging with monitors surrounding you displaying various pieces of information about the ship and its environment.
VR makes the experience 100 times better though – with a VR headset on, you are the pilot. You can even look down and see your ‘body’ and if you use a joystick to control the ship in real life, the movements will be mimicked in-game. It’s incredibly immersive, and lets you gaze out of the window to hunt down your enemies or take in some of the no doubt beautiful sights you’ll come across throughout the galaxy.
16. Project CARS
Okay, so we know that Project CARS isn't a new game but thanks to the 11.0 patch released via Steam, HTC Vive owners can enjoy the racing simulator in virtual reality - even better if you have a steering wheel and pedals.
With the recent patch, gamers can sit in the drivers seat of the wide range of cars available on Project CARS with the ability to race around a variety of famous tracks from around the world. It's exciting and feels like a natural step for the hugely popular racing simulator, providing a completely new way to enjoy the game. We felt the adrenaline rushing through our blood as we weaved between the cluster of cars around us, constantly checking our mirrors and looking around to make sure we're not near any of our competitors. Even the (extremely loud) roar of the engine sounds real.
We reviewed Project Cars in 2015 when it was first released, and you can see what we thought here: Project Cars review: Great handling and a wide range of cars
17. Crazy Fishing
Crazy Fishing is an interesting take on the standard fishing VR game, offering a range of wild and wacky fish to catch and a variety of gorgeous, cartoony locations to discover. It’s an odd game where you can catch fish that resemble basketballs before throwing them into a basket, or where you catch a fish that doubles up as a firework (that one was a shock!).
But beyond all the craziness on offer, it still works very well as a fishing game. You’ll get that same satisfying feeling from a great cast in VR as you’d get if you were doing it in real life, and reeling in a catch is just as exciting.
It’s not reinventing the genre, but it offers something a little bit more fun and interesting than other fishing VR games available on Steam.
18. Time Machine VR
Time Machine VR is an interesting game for the HTC Vive, and is one of our personal favourites at the moment. Set in the near future in Svalbard, Norway, you’re tasked with travelling back to the prehistoric era with your DinoDex to collect data from all the creatures that you discover on your travels. But why? Put simply, the human race is on the brink of extinction thanks to the discovery of a prehistoric virus, and your data is invaluable in the creation of an antivirus.
As well as the story mode, there’s also an Exploration mode where you can go back to previously visited destinations for a better look around and possibly to unlock more intelligence. The controls are a little awkward at first when using the HTC Vive controllers, but it makes the experience what it is – that, and the life-size dinosaurs too. Be warned, they do bite and when they do, it’ll terrify you (like it did with us!).
19. Island 359
Those looking to experience Jurassic Park for themselves should look no further than Island 359. The premise is simple: you’re in the shoes of a mercenary being dropped off in a jungle on Island 359 via helicopter with only one objective – to wipe out the dinos. Once you’ve grabbed your equipment from the loot drop, it’s up to you what you do.
You can explore the vast jungle environment for secrets and weapon upgrades, or go straight for the dinos and earn your living. One last thing – you need to make it back to the chopper to bank your cash, because cash isn’t helpful to a dead man, is it?
The game is currently in Early Access, meaning that it’s still in development and as such, it’s lacking the polish of other VR games. The dino animations can sometimes be a little laggy and there’s a lack of weapons and dinos at the moment, but that’s part of the Early Access charm. The game is fun to play and gets the adrenaline pumping, and using the motion controllers is always a bonus. The developers promise a robust collection of weapons and dinos, as well as different maps when the game officially launches.
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20. Universe Sandbox 2
Released back in 2015, Universe Sandbox² isn’t a new game for the HTC Vive but a recent update made the VR headset compatible, and provides something slightly different to other ‘games’ in our roundup. Universe Sandbox² is exactly what it says on the tin – a physics based space simulator that allows you to create, destroy and interact with planets, solar systems and even entire galaxies at a time. It takes elements like gravity, climate, collision and material interactions and provides something that’s beautiful to look at, but also educationally accurate.
Besides the fact that you can cause the death of Earth in an instant by throwing it into the Sun, it’s interesting to see just how different orbits can affect planets. You can even cause black holes with huge swirling gas clouds, or choose from a number of pre-loaded universes or situations. Essentially, if you have an interest in space then this is a must-have.
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