Samsung has been a major player in the VR game for years now — specifically with its mobile VR headset, the Gear VR. It’s found itself a sweet spot between the entry-level experience of the Google Daydream platform and the premium, PC-driven VR setups like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It’s not as powerful as the dedicated headsets — it’s powered by a smartphone, after all — but its unique features and ability to immerse the user are beyond what Daydream can do. Plus, it’s a relative bargain, provided you own a Galaxy phone.
If you’re about to put on Samsung’s VR headset, you’ll want to know the best apps available to demonstrate its abilities. Here are our picks of the ones you should download first, including both games and VR experiences. Both Samsung and Oculus provide app stores for the Gear VR, and you’ll need to set up an account online with the latter before buying any apps. Once you’re ready, here are the best Gear VR apps and games we think you should immediately try out.
Flying in a wing suit will probably be the closest you’ll ever get to spreading your arms and flying, but you might not be ready to just jump off a cliff. The Binary Mill’s addictive VR game Rush has you doing just that, flying around up to 60 mountainous paths in a virtual wing suit. You can choose to control which direction you fly in by either just looking or tilting your head around as you try to zip through as many rings placed around each course. You can race against the computer, your best time, friends you have invited, or random people online.
By the time you’ve flown through your first two rings, the intuitiveness of the controls will make you easily forget you have a headset on and you really feel the adrenaline pump in your veins as you zip through the clouds. Just watch out for those crashes, they can be unforgiving. The experience will cost you $8, but it’s more than worth it.
Face Your Fears: Stranger Things
Picture this: you’re in a space devoid of any color, people, or things, besides a shed. You slowly glide into the barn and see a body engorged by some sort of tentacles, with its head down. As soon as you get right next to the seemingly lifeless body, its head shoots up, eyes bulging, a mouth full of tentacles, and then the Stranger Things opening sequence begins. That is the first minute of Face Your Fears: Stranger Things, a virtual reality horror exploration game that surrounds you in the eerie vibe that permeates Hawkins, Indiana in the Netflix series. In the experience, you must navigate through classic Stranger Things scenes inside the Byers household, ultimately ending up at the lab where the portal to the Upside Down is proliferating demogorgons.
You come face to face with the demogorgons and watch the creatures rip through the walls, just like in Stranger Things. Even if you have been living under a rock the past year and haven’t binge-watched the Stranger Things series, this VR experience from Turtle Rock Studios will still have you screaming in sublime joy.
Intel True VR
It’s no secret that sports experiences in virtual reality aren’t the best, but Intel True VR is more than just a library of shortstop slides and quarterback runs. You can watch a runway show during New York Fashion Week, the Critics’ Choice Awards, and try to keep your eyes on a 183 mph tennis serve from Serena Williams. Above all else, Intel True VR is a blast to get immersed in, because of the access it gives viewers.
With the tap of your finger, you can be backstage with Cuba Gooding Jr, behind the bar with Nia Long, or in the crowd with Hollywood’s elite at the Critics’ Choice Awards. With a library full of dozens of full MLB games and NFL highlights, Intel True VR is almost overflowing with great content to get lost in.
In Orange Bridge Studios’ VR shooter End Space, you’re a fighter pilot tasked with navigating through intense space battles with Tartarus Liberation Front to regain stability Tartarus Sector. In other words, you are surrounded by nothing but oncoming attack while having to dodge ships in virtual reality. The pristine detail in the game’s graphics alone should compel you to slip out of reality and into a Gear VR headset to experience it all.
Even in a frenzied group fight with numerous aircraft, asteroids, and lasers flying around, you can still see every single aircraft in delicious VR eye candy. For the easiest way to play, I suggest using the Gear VR controller to shoot and control the thrusters, while using your head movements to steer the ship. The immersive controls and action together will lead to hours of twisting, turning, and having a blast in VR — regardless of its expensive $8 price tag.
Ever watch The Walking Dead and wonder how you would do in a zombie apocalypse? AMC VR makes that thought a visceral, virtual reality. The app has a number of experiences based on two of its scariest TV series, Into The Badlands and The Walking Dead. For The Walking Dead, you can experience what it’s like to watch zombies feast at your dead carcass, be trapped in a car as the undead try to force their way in, and do battle with those creatures from the perspective of popular Walking Dead character Negan.
The Badlands experiences center around putting you in the middle of fight camp as Badlands actors Aramis Knight and Ally Ioannides train for intense fights on the show with martial arts expert Daniel Wu. AMC VR is one of the first apps to make you really feel like you’ve been transported into your favorite TV shows, and hopefully other networks follow suit. Now, if only we could make some Blue Sky with Heisenberg in Breaking Bad.
This game is a must-have for sci-fi and shoot-em-up fans. Right from the beginning, you’re treated to an amazing opening sequence that immediately engrosses you in the game — soon enough you’ll be blasting down emery starships. The game is set in the Eve Online universe, but it’s primarily concerned with just manning a gun turret and destroying incoming pirate ships.
Controlled using head movements and either the touchpad on the side of the Gear VR or a Bluetooth controller, the real challenge is knowing when to reload and use any special weapons you’ve picked up. It’s great fun, but a little pricey at $10.
You have one mission in this turn-based tactical game: conquer the solar system. From the onset, the game thrusts you into customizing and optimizing your fleet, and before you know it, you’re embarking on VR’s answer to Battleship.
You’ll have to move methodically in this battle simulator, however, and tap each member of your fleet individually in order to guide their movements. You can swipe around while in battle to get different vantage points, too, allowing you to see where your enemies are the most vulnerable.
Manchester looks like a 16-bit arcade game, yet it’s as addictive as some of the best knuckle-breaking games in existence. The title requires you race to the finish line on courses lined with various twists and turns while making use of a simple set of controls.
You tap to switch from one multicolored lane to the the next, each of which features a different speed. You’ll also be able to utilize the Gear’s 360 capabilities, which allow you to follow your racer with subtle head movements. The art is in the timing — you must constantly switch lanes to avoid incoming ships and obstacles. You’ll likely crash a few times, but, thankfully, you probably won’t notice because of all the fun that awaits you at the next spawn point.
Suicide Squad: Special Ops VR
Suicide Squad may not have been what DC fans wanted — or anyone, for that matter — but the film’s accompanying VR game is a more than a worthy companion. In the game, you play as El Diablo, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot, each of whom must face wave after wave of enemies.
You can switch between the three characters after every level, and the game’s controls are pretty intuitive, allowing you to shoot, reload, and switch between weapons with a simple swipe or tap on the D-pad. You can’t move, but you are responsible for looking around to see where the baddies are coming from. This makes for a tense and fun experience — especially since you can occasionally burn enemies to a crisp with El Diablo’s hands.
Totems in Dreamland
This free puzzle game features a young boy who’s trying to collect totems inside his dreams, which, in turn, will have you twisting and turning in your seat. By simply using the position of your head and a few taps, you can control the boy, who must traverse through the most narrow of paths. He moves in whatever direction you’re looking, and a simple double-tap will prompt your character to double jump. You probably will only need one hand to jump on platforms and twist, too, making it that much easier for you to get lost in the game.
Sky Fighter: Training Day
Sky Fighter functions as a flight simulator for a future in which we all commute via jetpack. The game sees you navigating through the interiors of a massive ship using little more than your head movements, yet it makes for one of the best flying experiences to be had in VR. The training is free and sees you dodging poles and shooting baddies, but it’s still pretty fun. If you want to test out your newly-acquired talents, however, you’ll need to cough up $4 for the first mission.
If you’re a fan of puzzle games, then Rangi might be the game for you. In Rangi, you’ll solve dozens of complex puzzles, discover hidden temples, and escape booby-trapped platforms as you explore a dangerous world in an attempt to restore the life force of the Music Giants. The game is inspired by tribal music, art, and architecture, and is quite a challenge — though not to the point where it’s impossible to play. The game comes in at $5, which isn’t bad for a VR title like this.
In PolyRunner VR, you must navigate a field of digital buildings and trees using nothing more than your head. The responsiveness is pretty fluid, as the ship you’re flying really curves and moves based on the minute movements of your head. The game might seem easy at first, but obstacles will start springing from the ground and grow in size, mid-flight. The more miles you cover without crashing, the higher your score will be. Given that PolyRunner VR is a free racing title, it’s as accessible as it gets, rendering it as suitable for your teenage sibling as for your elderly grandparent.
Not all VR experiences are full of action and horror. In Happy Place, you’re instantly transported to a campsite — just to relax. Once there, you can interact with the digital world around you simply by staring at things. Stare at a cloud long enough, for instance, and lightning might fall. Stare at a stick with a marshmallow on it for long enough, and it’ll be roasted in a nearby fire pit.
Once you open the book next to you, a soft-voiced narrator will even provide you with additional relaxation instructions. The narrator’s instructions are designed to help with muscle tension and deep breathing, which are enough to quell anyone’s nerves when paired with the title’s day-night cycle.
If you’re one who appreciates the fine details of a sculpture or the nuances of a classic painting, then Sketchfab VR is for you. Sketchfab is a forum that allows anyone to upload 3D and VR content, meaning everything you’ll encounter was created by someone like you. The VR experiences are separated by categories like Places, Science and Education, Awesome Vehicles, Game Worlds, Cultural Heritage, and Animals.
Also, because the 3D renderings are built with multiple angles in mind, you can actually move through them, much like you would with Google Street View. Why not step inside a 3D rendering of Van Gogh’s Bedroom in Arles, or examine all the ventricles of a pulsating heart?
The immersive quality of virtual reality makes it perfect for inspirational documentaries, and Aftershock is the perfect case in point. The mini-documentary transports you to a remote village in Nepal, one that has experienced more than 450 aftershocks since an earthquake ravaged the region and its nearby water system.
The film’s narrator, who doubles as the only plumber in the village, explains the history of the village as he works to fix the water supply. WaterAid, the international charity organization that produced the film, really tried to imbue the film with a sense of immersion. The title screen showcases a video of villagers digging through rubble, and, at one point, the film places you in a dilapidated home that consists of nothing more than four walls and rubble. The visceral nature of documentary makes for a worthwhile experience, if not a troubling one.
Augmented Empire is from the developers of games like Esper 2 and A Night Sky, and allows you to control a team of six misfits as they navigate through the city of New Savannah, which has been divided into three tiers through the so-called Citizen Grade System in 2058. The game is very story-based, so it’s a great choice for those looking for something that’s both physically and mentally immersive.
The game does come at a price of $10, but we think many will agree it’s well worth the price once they start guiding the characters through the challenging and interesting levels.
360 Vision features a two-minute piece from CFC Media Lab following Canadian skater DEVIN in a skate shop make music with the repetitious sound of skateboarding. One by one, numerous copies of DEVIN skate around with their movements repeated at certain intervals to give the illusion of music being played.
Remember is a short three-minute sci-fi film from Pulse VR which puts you in a future where you can visit and edit memories. The experience has memories separated by themes while an anonymous female voice interacts with a computerized A.I. assistant about how she wants her memories to look.
You can’t watch SportsCenter in virtual reality, but you can view NextVR’s massive collection of live and on-demand sporting events. Highlights include heavyweight boxing matches and NFL games, as well as the occasional monster truck rally and basketball match.
Lebron James’ windmill dunk is impressive on TV, sure, but now it can literally rattle your virtual world thanks to a host of specialty cameras installed beneath the hoop. The company streams NBA games in virtual reality once a week, and, better yet, offers on-demand games afterward for anyone to watch. NextVR is also the only company currently filming multiple NFL and NBA games in virtual reality.
Exploration is a hallmark of virtual reality. Thankfully, Discovery VR features a great collection of documentaries, each of which is designed to take advantage of VR’s ability to give you viewpoints you normally wouldn’t have access to. It’s easy to see how dangerous Tenzing-Hilary Airport is, for instance, when an 18,000-foot runway is reduced to 1,000 and you see a plane dart across your nose as you approach the mountainous area of Lukla, Nepal.
Discovery VR features dozens of experiences such as this, some of which feature narration. Step inside a samurai duel and marvel at the level of precision, or swim with whale sharks and take a closer look at the largest extant fish species on Earth. Discovery VR provides enough angles and topics to satiate any documentary buff.
This app offers a bird’s eye view to anyone who’s a fan of esports, whether they prefer live or on-demand tournaments. Some of the videos are purely recaps of previous Counterstrike and Dota 2 matches, though, most feature audio commentary. There are also videos that freeze the gameplay and allow you to travel around the map, making for a more cinematic experience. These cinematic experiences also include Minecraft creations such as Winterfell, the iconic castle from Game of Thrones. Previously, the only way to get this close to the action was to glue your face to the TV screen.
Minecraft: Gear VR Edition
Minecraft, Microsoft’s veritable juggernaut of a franchise, hit Samsung’s Gear VR in May, and — surprise, surprise — it’s as fun as ever. Gear VR Edition is a port of the Pocket Edition version for iOS and Android, and as such, it contains most of the features and modes with which Minecraft players are familiar. These include creative mode, survival mode, co-operative and competitive multiplayer mode, and the near-endless array of custom skins. The revamped title also offers two ways in which to play: a “theater mode,” which plasters the game camera onto a two-dimensional screen within a virtual auditorium, and an “immersive mode,” which grants you a stereoscopic viewpoint from within Minecraft’s procedurally-generated wilderness. It’s one thing seeing your carefully constructed house on a smartphone, but something else entirely to walk through it yourself. Just be wary of Endermen.
Your character within Gear VR Edition requires a paired Bluetooth gamepad, however, so ensure you’ve got one nearby before you start playing. It’s not free, either. Gear VR Edition is a standalone release, but at $7, it’s one of the Gear’s more affordable titles.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Who said virtual reality had to be isolating? Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes for Gear VR, a port of the award-winning game of the same name, has you assuming the role of a “bomb diffuser” who’s forced to disarm an explosive within an ultra-tight timeframe. The catch? You’ve got to rely on your real-life companions and instructions from a printed manual for guidance. Manage to solve every puzzle within the allotted time and you’ll survive to diffuse another day. Fail, and you won’t.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is compatible with both the Gear VR’s native touchpad controls and Bluetooth gamepads. It’s a tad steep at $15, but it’s got plenty of replayability given that the configuration of every bomb is randomly generated.
Hitman Go: VR Edition
If Hitman Go doesn’t ring an immediate bell, don’t worry. The mobile game was sleeper hit from Square Enix Montréal, one that garnered praise upon its 2011 release for its turn-based mechanics and gorgeous dioramas. The basic objective? Get from “Point A” on the board to “Point B,” assassinate the occasional target, and avoid raising the suspicion of patrolling guards. It doesn’t sound like the sort of game that’d lend itself to VR, but surprisingly, it works well. The camera is situated in such a way above the diorama that the figures look almost like hand-carved pieces of a Hitman set, which is pretty darn rad.
Most of the game’s interactions are handled with the Gear VR’s directional pad, but Hitman Go VR supports a Bluetooth controller if you prefer. It also currently runs $10.
An atmospheric puzzle game that’s more about whizzing through a dreamy world than actually solving puzzles, Land’s End will remind seasoned gamers of the classic Archipelago in its structure and feel. Zipping from point to point, the puzzles are all about joining dots together to open doorways so you continue your journey.
Despite the fact that the world is brightly cartoonish, the heights are still dizzying, the movement super-smooth, and the atmosphere very relaxing. It’s addictive, too, and although there are checkpoints to save progress, it’s best played all the way through in one go. It’s engrossing enough to make this a real possibility. This puzzle game will run you $5.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything
Please, Don’t Touch Anything, an indie game that started its life in the Steam store, has a simple premise. Left at the controls of a mysterious box, you’re asked to simply wait for the proper authority to return. Press the button, and see what happens. Better yet, take a screwdriver to the panels and start solving puzzles to unravel exactly what the console does.
What starts as a seemingly simple game quickly becomes one embroiled in mystery, spurred on by a series of logic puzzles and “try and fail” scenes before you find the true endings. The entirety of Please Don’t Touch Me will cost you $17, but you get a lot of gameplay for just $5 too. The price is worth it if you consider the title’s classic aesthetic and intriguing exploration mechanics.
Ever wanted to produce music from the comfort of a futuristic studio? Soundscape, a VR visualizer for the Gear VR, lets you live that dream. It’s a slimmed-down music editor that lets you add notes, effects, filters, and instruments to a single-song track that plays on an endless loop. There’s a multiplayer mode for jam sessions with friends, too, plus a helpful tutorial to get you started.
Soundscape is a bit light on content, though. Unfortunately, short of a few predefined sounds and modifiers, there’s not much freedom when it comes to composition. The developer has committed to adding new features in the future, and at $3, it remains a bargain.
Like the Oculus Video app, the Netflix app sits you down in a virtual environment to watch a movie of your choice from the site’s extensive library. You’ll need an account to enjoy it, but there’s no question watching a movie like this is enjoyable, because the screen looks so big. However, even the Gear VR’s relative lightweight build gets uncomfortable after a while, and a movie with an epic runtime quickly becomes a struggle for even the strongest neck muscles.
Never thought you’d play Sonic, Altered Beast, Spy Hunter, or APB on a stand-up arcade machine again? Now you can. You’re dropped into a virtual arcade with a selection of classic arcade titles on recreations of their original machines, complete with a joystick and buttons that move according to your input. The controls can be a little problematic, even with a Bluetooth controller, and to play each title for an unlimited amount of time requires a fee. Then again, it’s free to download and each game offers 20 minutes of free gameplay, which will probably be enough for most people to at least tryout.
Developed by Turtle Rock Studios, the company behind Face Your Fears and Left 4 Dead, The Well has to be one of the best-designed VR games out there. Featuring stunning and unique visuals, this fantasy RPG involves you exploring Tholl, a planet on which peaceful villagers live — until a demonic force called Tesh threatens to change that.
The game features a ton of different puzzles and areas to explore as you recruit new companions and aim to stop Tesh. It costs $5, but we think that’s a small price to pay for a game like this.
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