Virtual reality is no longer some futuristic concept (or one that causes out-of-control side effects). You can experience virtual reality with nothing more than your smartphone and an inexpensive VR headset. But even more exciting than the hardware is the growing array of virtual reality apps. Whether you have an iPhone or Android device, you can download numerous virtual reality apps and experiences from your phone’s app store.
Sure, you know you should download the Cardboard app. And YouTube is obviously a destination for all kinds of videos, including 360-degree content. But do you want the inside scoop on the best virtual reality apps? We’ll even include a few you can look forward to playing if you pick up a system, such as the Vive, PlayStation VR, or Oculus.
1. A Chair in a Room
Do you love horror movies and games? Then, A Chair in a Room will top your list of must-have virtual reality apps. The game, which claims the title of “original VR horror,” has scared more than 500,000 Android users.
You start in a hospital called The Greenwater Institute. You’ll unlock the story of what led to you being institutionalized through “exploration and tense psychological horror that is new and unique to VR — it takes guts to answer the ringing phone, peer through the window, or go down to the basement.” Set in America’s Deep South, A Chair in a Room is different from many other virtual reality apps in that you get to be the protagonist in what feels like a horror film.
Want a peaceful puzzle game as your first experience with virtual reality apps? Then, Claro is for you. With this game for Android, you’ll play through “zen-like miniature worlds,” where you have to figure out how to manipulate the sun to grow a tree. Each level introduces you to a new puzzle that floats in the sky.
The game is especially designed for Google Daydream and features controls that enable you to manipulate objects and light. Claro might be one of the best virtual reality apps for beginners. It’ll enable you to get used to VR without being overwhelmed (or chased by virtual zombies).
3. EVE: Valkyrie
Need something more action-packed than a puzzle game? Then, EVE: Valkyrie might become one of your favorite virtual reality games. You play “an elite space fighter pilot who has recently become immortal, thanks to the efforts of Rán Kavik, leader of the breakaway pirate group known as the Valkyrie. As a newly recruited member of the Valkyrie, you will battle rival pirate factions for wealth, supremacy, and notoriety.”
It is an online multiplayer game with single-player modes, too. Full disclosure? You’ll need the Vive, PlayStation VR, or Oculus to play the game, unlike most of the other virtual reality apps on this list. But this is the kind of game you can look forward to playing if you want to upgrade from a phone-based headset.
4. Land’s End
Did you enjoy playing Monument Valley? Then, you’re going to love Land’s End, which comes from the same studio, ustwo games. In this gorgeous virtual reality adventure, you’ll “explore spectacular landscapes to awaken a lost civilization.”
The game is built exclusively for Samsung Gear VR, a headset that works with the company’s Galaxy smartphones. Regarding the five worlds contained in the game, the studio says, “Without a controller to distract you, or wires to tether you to a computer, the sense of freedom is huge.”
If you want to create your own worlds, Moatboat will likely be one of the best virtual reality apps for you. You’ll use your voice and hands to bring your ideas to life. The game developer’s website explains, “Use simple sentences to add objects and give them behaviors. Say ‘I need some sheep’ to add sheep into your world. Then, give the sheep something to do by saying, ‘Sheep eat grass’ or ‘Sheep breed.'” Everything you add becomes part of a working, increasingly complex system.
Want to travel across the universe with your virtual reality app? Then, try out Obduction. Game studio Cyan explains of this gorgeous game, “As you walk beside the lake on a cloudy night, a curious, organic artifact falls from the starry sky and inexplicably, without asking permission, transports you across the universe. You’ve been abducted from your cozy existence and added into an alien landscape with pieces of Earth from unexpected times and places.”
You’ll need the Oculus, Vive, or PlayStationVR to experience the virtual reality version of Obduction.
7. PolyRunner VR
Want a spaceship-racing game you can play with a VR headset on your Android phone? PolyRunner should top your list of must-download virtual reality apps. You’ll “enter a world full of immersive alien landscapes through which you must navigate at high speeds, using lightning-fast reflexes to score points and earn your rep as the ultimate starfighter pilot.”
The game features immersive landscapes that change as you progress in the game. PolyRunner works with Samsung Gear VR and Oculus.
8. Sisters: Faye & Elsa
Another of the best virtual reality apps for horror lovers is Sisters: Faye & Elsa. The game, which you can download from the Google Play Store, is set in Willahauk, Massachusetts, in 1993.
“Aunt Faye has gone missing. That’s how you — Emmanuel Burke — came to be locked inside her old house at 11 Sansome Way, only to discover it may not be so empty after all.” You’ll have to puzzle your way through the house while you try to figure out what happened to Aunt Faye. The game is divided into Part I and Part II and is compatible with Google Daydream.
9. VR Karts
Consider yourself a Mario Kart fan? (Who doesn’t?) Then, you’re going to love VR Karts. You can play the game on Daydream, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus, or Vive. The app’s Google Play Store description explains you can “get in the drivers’ seat and race against other opponents in your own customized kart. Race through stunning tracks, collect power ups, and use weapons to gain the upper hand over other racers.”
The game is fun and approachable for beginners and VR experts alike.
If you want the most bang for your proverbial buck when downloading virtual reality apps, you can’t go wrong with Within. You can download the app on Android or iOS. Within offers a platform for a growing library of immersive virtual reality films and experiences. You can enjoy story-based content across a variety of genres.
The app works with Google Cardboard and Google Cardboard-certified viewers. And if you don’t have a VR headset yet, you can still enjoy Within. Your phone will act as a window into the 360-degree virtual reality experience.
Want a family-friendly addition to your arsenal of virtual reality apps? Wonderglade‘s theme park setting makes it a strong contender. The app offers mini games you can navigate with the Daydream motion controller. Check out a mini game called Hamster Hoops to play galactic basketball with space hamsters. And play Magic Mayhem to smash flying crystals with a magic wand. Or try Tinder Town to play a fireman putting out waves of cardboard fires.
You can download the app from the Google Play Store for plenty of family-friendly fun.
Additional reporting by Chris Reed.
Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!