Virtual reality is a window into thousands of worlds—but where to start? While it might be tempting to jump straight into critically-acclaimed games like Lone Echo, Stormland, or Asgard’s Wrath, these experiences aren’t really suited for (most) VR newcomers.
Taking it slow and easy doesn’t necessarily mean boring though. Far from it. Below we’ve rounded up some of our favorite games for those just getting their VR legs, listed roughly in order of intensity. From interactive art to puzzles to ’90s nostalgia—and yes, Beat Saber—there’s enough here to fill your first 50 hours in VR or more and get you well on your way to playing Lone Echo with an iron stomach.
There are quite a few virtual art museums out there, but Art Plunge takes that idea one step further and lets you enter some of the world’s most famous paintings. Sit next to the Mona Lisa or gaze up at Van Gogh’s Starry Night and you’re bound to gain a new appreciation for these timeless works. Art Plunge is a stunning showcase for how VR (and creative developers) can transform even familiar experiences. There’s some slight movement at the start of each experience, but for the most part you can just sit back and enjoy the five paintings on display.
Developer: Space Plunge
Skills You’ll Learn: Wearing a headset
Available On: Rift Platform
You know what they say: “When the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over.” Adapted from a story by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean and winner of the 2019 Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Innovation in Interactive Media, Wolves in the Walls is one of the latest and greatest examples of VR blurring the lines between film and game. Apart from a few interactions, you mostly stand and watch Wolves in the Walls play out around you. Those few interactions—peering through a magnifying glass, writing on the wall in crayon, and so on—help ground you in this imaginative world, bringing eight-year-old Lucy’s fears to life. And if you enjoy Wolves in the Walls, check out earlier examples of the same genre like Coco VR and Dear Angelica.
Developer: Fable Studio, Inc.
Skills You’ll Learn: Turning around, bending, and grabbing objects
Available On: Rift Platform
Released alongside the original Rift, Tilt Brush remains one of the best experiences for VR newcomers. Why? Because there’s no pressure. An intuitive but surprisingly robust art tool, Tilt Brush lets you get used to moving around and interacting with a virtual space—but at your own pace. Start drawing, and soon enough you’ll be testing the bounds of your Guardian setup trying to put the finishing touches on your masterpiece. Whether it takes you minutes or hours to reach that point, it doesn’t matter.
Developer: Google Inc.
Skills You’ll Learn: Basic room-scale movement and interactions
Stack blocks, clear lines—chances are you’ve played Tetris® in one form or another over the last 40 years. Not like this, though. Tetris® Effect dresses up the familiar block-stacking action, sending you on a journey through the Sahara or under the ocean or to a snowy mountain peak. It’s a feast for both the eyes and ears, and an uplifting parable about togetherness and belonging. Yes, in a Tetris® game. And since it’s just Tetris® at its core, that frees you up to learn the basic layout of the Touch controllers in a way that’s hopefully not too intimidating.
Developer: Monstars Inc. and Resonair
Skills You’ll Learn: Controller layout
Available On: Quest Platform
The Invisible Hours is less film or game, and more like an elaborate stage play. A murder mystery in the vein of Agatha Christie (or Clue if you prefer), you’re an invisible observer who’s free to move about the mansion and follow leads, rewinding and fast-forwarding through time to see who did what—and more importantly, whodunnit. The story takes some turns, and even once you know the broader details of the case there’s still fun to be had watching some of the smaller scenes play out.
Skills You’ll Learn: Basic teleport movement and exploration
Available On: Rift Platform
Perspective is important in VR, and Moss is the proof. A story about a young mouse named Quill, you control events from above, as if looking down on the adventure in miniature. As a result, Moss feels like a series of detailed dioramas—an effect that only really works in VR, where you can bend down to get a closer view of the action or look behind obstacles, and where you can appreciate being human-sized in a mouse-sized world. With combat, puzzles, and a gripping story, Moss is perfect for the VR beginner who wants a full-fledged game that can be played seated and mostly stationary.
Skills You’ll Learn: Third-person VR norms
If you found Moss interesting, A Fisherman’s Tale may be right up your alley. Taking control of a humble lighthouse keeper, A Fisherman’s Tale manipulates perspective so that you’re both looking down at a model lighthouse and living inside the same model lighthouse, a recursive nightmare that factors into how you solve the game’s puzzles. It’s a dizzying experience, seeing your movements reflected back at you both larger and smaller than life.
Skills You’ll Learn: Playing with scale in VR, basic room-scale movement
Visit the Louvre, stand on top of the Great Pyramid, dance in Times Square, fly over the Sydney Opera House—and do it all from home. That’s the promise of Google Earth VR. You can explore the world from above as a 3D render, or use Google Street View to simulate being on-the-ground. And don’t just stick to the famous landmarks. Google Earth VR is even better when you visit places you have an emotional connection to, whether a beloved vacation spot or simply your own hometown. Just be warned that even with the baked-in comfort options, Google Earth VR can be surprisingly intense once the world starts moving under your feet.
Developer: Google Inc.
Skills You’ll Learn: VR traversal
Available On: Rift Platform
The title says it all, really. I Expect You To Die casts you as a secret agent on a series of impossible missions. Disarm a bomb in the back of a plane, evade a laser grid as a “window washer,” sabotage Dr. Zor’s secret weapon, and try your best not to die while doing any of the above. It’s a charming puzzle game designed to be played while seated, which makes it perfect for VR newcomers who are just getting the hang of manipulating virtual objects with Touch.
Developer: Schell Games
Skills You’ll Learn: Moving your hands (and objects) around in VR
Another seated experience, Pixel Ripped 1995 is for every ’90s kid out there—or at least, for every ’90s kid who rushed home to play Super Nintendo games after school under the disapproving eye of their parents. With a unique game-within-a-game format, Pixel Ripped 1995 plops you in front of an old CRT television where you play through brawlers, platformers, and more, all while trying to keep your mom distracted in the “real world.” It’s both a nifty concept for VR and a great nostalgia hit for those who lived through that era. And if your childhood skews more towards the ’80s? Pixel Ripped 1989is an excellent alternative.
Developer: ARVORE Immersive Experiences
Skills You’ll Learn: Controller layout and aiming
Yearning for a vacation? Let the robot denizens of Vacation Simulator whisk you away to the beach or the mountains for an afternoon. Build sandcastles, go for a hike, work the grill, sculpt ice, or participate in human favorites like drinking coffee... with thermal paste in it. A follow-up to the acclaimed Job Simulator, Vacation Simulator is one of the best VR sandboxes out there, with hundreds of items to play with and a bunch of jokes to keep you interested. And since every node is designed to match your own real-life space constraints, it’s a perfect follow-on to Tilt Brush when you’re ready to start moving around.
Developer: Owlchemy Labs
Skills You’ll Learn: Room-scale comfort, throwing, and item manipulation
We come at last to Beat Saber. For some of you, it’s probably the reason you bought a VR headset—and maybe it’s the first thing you played (or plan to play). That’s okay! You’re mostly stationary, chopping through blocks to the beat of the music. Higher difficulties have you quickly shuffling side to side and ducking under obstacles though, which can be intimidating if you’re new to moving with the headset on. There’s no shame in ramping up to Beat Saber, especially since it can be quite a workout.
Developer: Beat Games
Skills You’ll Learn: Sweeping arm movements and how to exercise in VR
Developed by ILMxLAB and Lucasfilm, Vader Immortal tells a canonical tale of the Sith Lord himself. The planet Mustafar will test all your fledgling VR skills, from combat to climbing to mastery of the Force—but don’t worry, it’s a fairly forgiving experience, with plenty of comfort options if you’re feeling overwhelmed and just want to enjoy a new Star Wars story.
Skills You’ll Learn: Climbing and combat (and the Force)
If you’re ready to get your whole body moving, SUPERHOT VR is a perfect place to start. Like its flatscreen counterpart, time in SUPERHOT VR moves only when you move. Enemies, thrown weapons, and even bullets all remain frozen until you leap into action. That lets you control the pace of the experience, starting slow and then executing the perfect Matrix-style bullet dodges as you grow comfortable in VR. Be sure to stretch before you start!
Developer: SUPERHOT Team
Skills You’ll Learn: Advanced movement, but at your own pace
Robo Recall is a power fantasy, plain and simple. An arcade shooter with a loose save-the-world story, the challenge isn’t so much in taking out all the enraged robots attacking you, but in taking them out stylishly. Tear robots in half with your bare hands, pluck incoming bullets from the air and return them to sender, or simply use your vast arsenal to blast through dozens of enemies at a time. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for them. Action-packed to the end, Robo Recall is one to try once you have a good grasp of teleport movement.
Skills You’ll Learn: Aiming and throwing
Shadow Point gets praised a lot for its puzzles, and rightfully so. From a single, simple concept—using objects to cast shadows on the wall—Shadow Point delivers dozens of challenging puzzles. But just as importantly, it does so while telling an ambitious and surprisingly poignant story. You’ve arrived at the titular Shadow Point Observatory in search of Lorna, a young girl who disappeared there years ago. As you might expect though, things (meaning space and time) are not quite what they seem. With narration by Patrick Stewart, it’s a heady tale that makes Shadow Point into a world of magic and mystery, not just a vessel for puzzles. Stick to teleporting around if continuous motion makes you uncomfortable, but given the slow pace, Shadow Point is great for wrapping your head around simulated walking.
Developer: Coatsink Software
Skills You’ll Learn: Simulated walking around complex environments
Like Shadow Point, Red Matter is an ambitious puzzle game—this time, set in a retrofuturist world where the Cold War continued into the era of space colonization. You’ve been dispatched to Saturn’s second-largest moon, Rhea, to investigate the Volgravian (faux-Soviet) installation there and discover its purpose. Red Matter’s got a great look to it, and the puzzles here are more Myst-like, more grounded in reality than what you find in Shadow Point. It also has an interesting twist on teleport movement, with your suit’s jetpack bouncing you from location to location, making Red Matter a friendly stepping stone on the way to Lone Echo’s zero-G antics.
Developer: Vertical Robot
Skills You’ll Learn: Hybrid teleport/continuous motion
Pistol Whip is a rail shooter, meaning your character is always “moving.” If you’ve ever wanted to feel like the star of a well-choreographed action film, Pistol Whip is a dream come true. Armed with only the titular pistol, you’ll take down an endless army of hitmen. The catch? You score higher for timing your kills to the pulsating beat of the music. It’s a rhythm game that will have you ducking and weaving and breathing very heavily—and it’s only gotten better since release, with new music added every month.
Developer: Cloudhead Games, Ltd.
Skills You’ll Learn: On-rails movement, aiming
Phantom: Covert Ops is the sole game on this list to receive a “Moderate” comfort rating in our store. It’s another good bridge between your earliest hours in VR and experiences like Lone Echo. Like Shadow Point and Red Matter, Phantom: Covert Ops uses natural (or continuous) movement instead of teleportation. The method is interesting though, as you play a special ops soldier in a military kayak. No, seriously. You’ll spend much of the game rowing your kitted-out kayak from location to location, and while this type of “cockpit” movement is generally more comfortable for newcomers than simulated walking, the drift of the kayak on the river is still one you should try only after getting the basics down.
Skills You’ll Learn: Cockpit movements and longer play sessions
Hopefully we’ve introduced you to a few new favorites and you’re feeling a lot more comfortable wearing your headset. Maybe you’ve even used a few of these to show off VR to friends and family. This is just the start though! There are plenty more experiences on the Oculus Store, from sci-fi shooters to graffiti sims and virtual hikes.
Did we miss your favorite introductory VR experience? Let us know with a comment below.