Without a doubt, Valve’s Steam digital game store is the king of PC gaming platforms. For many people, Steam and PC gaming are one and the same, with competitors like Good Old Games, Origin, and uPlay fighting over the scraps.
Valve is also the company behind the HTC Vive platform, so Steam is built from the ground up to work with that headset as well as supporting the Oculus Rift. While you might think that the Oculus store is the best place to get great VR experiences, Steam is where the best VR games live because of its wide user base and relatively easy access for developers.
If you have a premium VR headset and you don’t have a Steam account, then you’re missing out big time. It’s especially VR games created by independent studios that are pushing innovation in the VR space. The problem is that Steam is also absolutely filled with junk titles, and sifting through the mud to find the gems can be a taxing experience. So here’s my personal list of the best VR games on Steam.
Have you watched the movie Gravity? Did you also find the stomach-churning perpetual fall through cold and deadly outer space terrifying? Then why not play a VR game that essentially replicates that experience, except this time it’s YOU cooped up in the space suit.
ADR1FT is a survival game set in space. The game takes place in zero-gravity and you can move in any direction – there is no “up” or “down” in space, after all. To survive you need to keep breathing, which means finding a steady supply of oxygen. Run out of air before you find a new tank and it’s bye-bye. Standing between you and that wonderful air supply are a series of survival puzzles. So yeah, it’s basically an unlicensed game version of Gravity.
Reviews of the game have been admittedly lukewarm, but from my point of view this is a beautiful, unique, and thrilling VR experience. The game is also pretty cheap even when it’s not on special. The game was developed for the Rift, but there’s a special Vive version that makes use of its unique motion controls. There’s a PSVR version in the works too, but as usual PC is the place to get the best experience.
One of the first 3D space games I ever played was called Elite. I played it on an ancient 80386 machine that I received as a hand-me-down from my dad’s friend. The game was originally released in 1984 and is one of the first examples of procedural generation of game content, with every planet a unique mix of parameters.
Many games have aped the formula that Elite started all those years ago. Today we have Elite: Dangerous – a massive online multiplayer game where it’s you, your ship, and the whole galaxy. Elite: Dangerous is a killer app for VR and was designed from the ground up to be an epic cockpit-based experience. Since this is an online-only game, it’s constantly being updated; this is one of the best examples of a VR game that takes you away from reality and really makes you feel as if you’re there. This is the epic experience you dream of when you buy a VR setup.
House of the Dying Sun
At first glance, House of the Dying Sun might seem very similar to Elite: Dangerous. This game is, however, very short in comparison, and a tight and contained experience. This is no grand online adventure; it’s a story told through intense, tactical dogfights in the depths of space. While there may not be much meat on its bones, House of the Dying Sun is an incredible space combat sim and you’ll grit your teeth as frequently as you’ll die in the virtual world.
In this game you aren’t the hero but rather a member of an elite corps of personal guards for a brutal dictator, and ordered to hunt down enemies of the empire at any cost. Playing this game on my Oculus Rift, I loved the sense of weight and solidity my ship had. I could feel the claustrophobia of my cockpit glass and the awe of gigantic planets, stars, and asteroids. This is one to get, even if it’s short-lived.
Superhot is an incredibly unique game that takes the idea of “bullet time” to an extreme outcome. In Superhot, time does not move until you do. This is great, but as you stand there in the middle of the room, several assailants are just waiting for you to unpause things so that they can murder you in one of several imaginative ways. It’s an impossible and deadly situation, but you have all the time in the world to plan your solution for dealing with them. Think it through carefully, because once the clock starts ticking again you can go back, but you have to execute your death-defying move perfectly – it only takes one shot or hit to end your game and boot you back to the start of the level again. Superhot is one of the most creative and exhilarating uses of VR I’ve seen so far.
Buy On Steam
What could be better after a long day of slaving away in your cubicle than coming home, strapping on your VR system, and simulating your job all over again. Well, that’s not really what Job Simulator is about. It’s actually a satirical game about a world where robots have taken all the jobs and people don’t actually have to work. So you get to visit a job “museum” and find out what it was like to work back in the old days. Except, the ones who made this museum got it all wrong, leading to hilarious “jobs” that never actually existed.
You can take on a number of “jobs” such as store clerk or auto mechanic. Job simulator is, in the end, really just a very expanded tech demo for the touch controllers. The good news is that it’s a fun and hilarious tech demo that perfectly demonstrates how to do VR motion controls the right way. It’s well worth the small asking price to add this to your library.
Buy On Steam
Euro Truck Simulator 2
Before I even bought my Oculus Rift I have to admit to spending more time than could be healthy playing Euro Truck Simulator 2. I have no idea why this game is so good. It’s literally just driving a truck full of cargo from point A to point B. That being said, the trucks are beautifully detailed and the driving experience is Zen-like.
Thousands and thousands of other fans agree; this game is one of the most positively-reviewed on all of Steam. The VR functionality of the game is still in beta, but it’s already thought of as one of the best VR driving simulators you can buy on Steam. It’s not a racing game, but a unique way to experience what it’s like to be a trucker carting your precious cargo around. You have to obey the traffic rules and, depending on the difficulty level, some maneuvers such as reversing your trailer into a loading bay can be brutally difficult.
Everyone should play Euro Truck Simulator.
Buy On Steam
Doom is one of the most iconic video games of all time. The original game, which came out decades ago, established the first-person 3D shooter as the premier video game genre. Today’s games such as Call of Duty and Halo all owe a debt to this pioneering title.
The legendary studio ID Software tried to reboot and revitalize the franchise some years ago with Doom III, but although that game was revolutionary in terms of graphics, it failed to capture the essence of what made Doom great in the first place. It went from a pulse-pounding, visceral “monster closet” shooter to a slow-paced survival horror. Not a good look for the game.
In 2016, ID finally atoned for their sins with the release of Doom 2016. This finally brought the Doom formula into the modern age and is an adrenaline-fueled, heavy metal, demon-filled rollercoaster that rightfully received heaps of praise.
DOOM VFR is a spinoff of Doom 2016 and reimagines that experience for virtual reality. It is in fact a sequel where you play a character other than the Marine from Doom 2016. You’re an AI that can possess robots; tasked with cleaning up the remaining demons and getting the station back on track. The game has been designed from the ground up for VR, so there’s no run-and-gun. Instead you can instantly teleport from one spot to the next – neatly solving the movement issue and making sense according to the in-game story.
I’ve only seen some hands-on previews and videos of the game, but based on preview reviews it’s already clear this is going to be something owners of the HTC Vive will want to have. It only works with the HTC hardware and was designed for that system’s unique room-scale tracking. There’s no word on an Oculus version at this point.
Buy On Steam
Star Trek Bridge Crew
Oh boy – is this a dream come true for me. Since I was a little kid I wanted nothing more than to sit in a chair on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Yes, I’m a Trekker, and thanks to virtual reality there’s finally a way to experience what it’s like to sit in that big chair.
Unfortunately for older Trek fans, this game is based on the rebooted nuTrek, which has been a little divisive in the fandom, to say the least. So the particular bridge that you get to visit is that of the lens-flare heavy JJ Abrams variety, although it’s not apparent in the game. There are four bridge positions that can be taken by four players. If you’re the captain then you get to relay orders to the other three players.
It may not be the Enterprise of our youths, but it’s currently the only official VR Star Trek game out there. There have been other non-VR games such as Artemis Bridge Simulator and Spaceteam that have tried to replicate it, but this is for the time being the real deal. If you want the most authentic Star Trek VR experience, this is it.
Buy On Steam
Resident Evil 7
The horror genre is one that has taken to the VR medium with great gusto. There are plenty of VR horror apps on various platforms, most of which are short-lived and end up relying on cheap carnival thrills.
The Resident Evil franchise has been a horror stalwart for decades and it’s a brand that we all know well. Resident Evil 7 VR is also the very first AAA horror game that proves VR is a dead-serious platform for video games. If you have the money for a constant supply of fresh underwear, this is a game that has to be a part of your VR library.
Buy On Steam
OK, iRacing is not really a game. It’s a pure simulator. Not only that, but you can’t buy it as a one-time purchase; you need to pay a monthly subscription. It’s hard as nails, it’s not very consumer-friendly with it’s technical details, and there’s a hardcore worldwide following who wouldn’t trade it for anything else.
iRacing aims to recreate real professional racing as accurately as possible, from the physics of it to how it feels in real life. The game supports a wide array of racing peripherals, including some truly bonkers hydraulic rigs that will shake you in your seat as you corner.
The addition of VR support was an inevitability, and in many ways it’s how iRacing should always have been experienced. iRacing is, when taken as a whole, a ludicrously-expensive hobby to have, although it’s much cheaper (and safer!) than actually racing. If you eat, sleep, and breathe racing sims and have deep pockets, then this is the ultimate state of the art.
Buy On Steam