I feel genuinely bad for CNet’s Dan Ackerman. Earlier this week, he wrote a sad breakup note to VR, explaining that his huge investment (including day one purchases of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Sony PSVR headsets, plus optional accessories) hadn’t produced enough enjoyment over two years to keep him happy. If you haven’t been keeping track of VR prices, that was at least $2,000 in hardware.
Emphasis on “was.” If you haven’t purchased a VR headset yet, congratulations: You missed the early adopter phase. Since then, these headsets have dropped by hundreds of dollars, new controllers have been released, and software has become more abundant — better yet, it’s cheaper. As is always the case, the earliest adopters subsidized VR’s lengthy R&D period, in some cases heavily.
As I’ve suggested in VR pieces over the past two weeks, the winner here is you, the lucky holdout. Now you can take the hundreds of dollars you saved by not buying a VR headset on day one and use them toward games — cheap games that similarly have been enjoyed by early adopters and fallen significantly in price since then. Here are my top 10 picks.
Hard to score on discount, but widely acclaimed as a true first-person shooting and fighting experience, this is the VR heir to SNK’s Super Spy and EA’s Mirror’s Edge. It requires motion controllers so you can separately use each hand to grab items that you can fire or throw at enemies. The “hook” is that time stands still until you move, so you can plan every bullet, knife toss, and dodge in 3D. (Normally $25; grab it for $15-$19.)
Resident Evil 7
You know Capcom’s series of survival horror games where you wander through dark, torn-up mansions and get attacked by zombies hiding in the shadows? Imagine that, except in full VR immersion, taking place in a superfilthy house — our full impressions are here. If your stomach and heart aren’t uncomfortable the moment you have to decide whether to climb down a ladder into a pitch-black space that somehow consumed two other people, you’re emotionally a lot stronger than I am. (Normally $50; grab it for $25 or less.)
This abstract heavy metal rhythm game is dramatically more compelling played in VR than on standard displays. Simple controls — left, right, up, and down, plus button presses — belie the challenge of memorizing patterns and hitting everything at the exact right second. When the monstrous environments begin to overwhelm you, you’ll know you’re playing well. (Normally $20; grab it for $8 or less.)
The classic Sega wireframe shooter is back and fully immersive thanks to a truly wraparound 360-degree presentation that you can turn your head to fully appreciate. It only adds a single new level, called Area X, but the overall VR experience here is a must-see for Rez fans. (Normally $25-30; grab it for $15 or less.)
Gran Turismo Sport
This PS4-exclusive racer failed to thrill when it came out, but Sony just updated it with improved VR support, adding time trials in VR. Additional cars are also helping to make it more compelling for fans of the prior GT games. (Normally $60; grab it for $30 or less.)
Eve: Valkyrie — Warzone
If you’ve ever wanted to fly an X-wing from Star Wars in 3D … well, there’s a single VR mission for Star Wars: Battlefront for that. But if you want to have a full game with equally great graphics, audio, and gameplay, grab this beautiful spacecraft dogfighting and mission experience. Supersimple multiplayer online support links you up with squads of other starfighters even if you don’t have friends with the game. (Normally $30; grab it for $15 or less.)
Sony took a lot of heat for the botched release of the PS4 exclusive DriveClub, which led to the dissolution of its development studio. But as many players discovered, the game was both drop-dead gorgeous and very playable despite its deadline and DLC dramas. This standalone VR version is stripped down, but when it’s on sale, it’s a steal. (Normally $20; grab it for $10 or less.)
Wipeout Omega Collection
Sony lowballed the price of this futuristic racing triple-pack in recognition that its content was recycled from two and a half PS3 and PS Vita games. But its day one 4K support was widely considered among the best of any game, and its just-added VR support has enabled it to be roundly acknowledged as killer app material. There are two entire games worth of tracks and vehicles to explore, all amazing. (Normally $40; grab it for $20 or less.)
Batman: Arkham VR
I would have been upset if I’d paid $20 for this very short but visually remarkable Batman adventure game, but at a lower price, you’ll be happy you experienced it. Rocksteady places you literally inside of Batman’s cowl and suit, with immediate access to Batarangs, a grappling hook, and the Batcave … plus brief looks at his most famous vehicles and villains. (Normally $20; grab it for $10 or less. I got it for $3!)
If you’re using PlayStation Move controllers, Bethesda places you on a virtual leash within Doom VFR, suggesting you just teleport from place to place to fight demons. If you’re like me, the prospect of motion sickness will be less annoying than the leash, so swap the Moves for a DualShock and let your weapons loose across Mars. The stereoscopic 3D effects in this cut-down version of 2016’s Doom will make up for a resolution drop to Nintendo Switch levels. (Normally $30; grab it for $20 or less.)
These are just 10 particularly great picks, but bear in mind that the entire VR hardware and software market is considerably less expensive — and better populated with options — than two years ago. Keep your eye on online stores and you’ll surely find that tons of great VR games are available at the $5, $10, and $15 price points, while everything from carrying cases to controllers can be had at major discounts if you’re willing to wait a few weeks for a temporary (or permanent) price drop.
It’s a buyer’s market right now for VR gear and games. Make the most of it while the sales last!