Samsung’s Gear VR has been rocking mobile VR for months now. The Gear VR requires a much less expensive overall investment, especially if you already have a recent Samsung flagship phone, and it already has dozens and dozens of apps to check out in its own Oculus Store. Here are the 11 Gear VR games and apps you ought to start with.
SMASH HIT VR
Smash Hit VR is adapted from a pretty great mobile game, but it’s even better when you’re immersed in this wonderfully destructive experience. As you’re automatically nudged through rooms filled with minimal geometry, you must toss balls to shatter the glass panes and sculptures peppered along the way.
It’s an arcade experience, really: continued play requires careful aim and smashing every last piece of glass, which gives you extra balls with each toss. In VR, it’s a dazzling experience, full of satisfying thrills and beautiful sights – and amazingly, it’s totally free too.
Land’s End shares some visual commonalities with Monument Valley, the stunning mobile puzzler, but ustwo’s first VR effort is much simpler in approach than that earlier game. Rather than twist around the environment to solve brain teasers, you’ll look freely around the sparse, beautiful terrain and use your gaze to progress through breezy puzzles.
While not especially challenging, Land’s End is a delight to take in, as it creates a real sense of atmosphere in the calming, natural terrain – and has just enough mystery to keep you pushing ahead to each new landmark.
Netflix in VR? Yep, Netflix in VR. No, sadly, not all of the service’s myriad films and TV shows are magically transformed into ultra-immersive, 360-degree wonders. In fact, as of this writing, Netflix doesn’t have any VR-optimised content. So what’s the point?
It turns out that watching films on a fake flat screen in a virtual viewing room is kind of great, and here you’ll browse your queue and soak in Netflix’s best amidst a cozy pad with ace décor. Popping on a headset is a surprisingly nice way to immerse yourself in whatever you’re watching, and some content really benefits from the in-your-face approach.
Price: Free (Subscription required)
KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES
VR might shut you off from the outside world, but it doesn’t have to be a completely solitary experience. In fact, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes might be the most hilarious example yet of how to put that awkward scenario to brilliant use.
With the headset on, you’ll stare at a randomly generated bomb covered with wires and buttons – and your nearby friends are looking at a manual, either printed out or on another screen, and must walk you through the disarming process as you describe a bomb that they cannot see. Who knew one VR headset could power an awesomely social party game?
If you’re looking for EVE Valkyrie, the stunning space shooter on Oculus Rift and other higher-end headsets, we’re sorry to disappoint: it’s not on Gear VR. Gunjack suffers slightly from the comparison, but spend a few minutes blasting enemy spaceships and you’ll surely find it pretty entertaining.
It’s a straightforward arcade shooter, as you look around to aim the cursor and blast the waves of zippy foes that zoom into view. Gunjack‘s levels get progressively tougher, tossing in a bit more strategy and challenge along the way, and it looks great for mobile VR. Although straightforward, it’s rather fun.
In these early days of VR filmmaking, VRSE is setting the standard, delivering experimental short films, music videos, and captivating mini-documentaries that both benefit from and drive the 360-degree format. Grab the VRSE app and you’ll find plenty of free, intriguing video content to savor.
A particular highlight is Evolution of Verse, a fabulously weird CG short with a train that chugs across water and explodes into a swarm of bugs (and then gets weirder still). Muse and U2 both contribute music videos, meanwhile, and there are several bits of video journalism courtesy of The New York Times.
Proton Pulse is a game so impressively simple that it’s even great on low-level Google Cardboard, but it’s a smoother ride on Gear VR with a 2K screen. Essentially, it’s a throwback to arcade classic Breakout, where you’ll break bricks by keeping a ball in play – only here, it’s in 3D.
And not only that, but you’re situated right behind the paddle, which you’ll move solely by looking around the stage. You don’t have to press buttons or do anything remotely complex, yet this is still a prime example of pure, refined VR gameplay: it’s immersive, fun, and dazzling to look at, and it works like a charm.
The isolation of a VR headset can make games more immersive, but it also makes games more terrifying – and Dreadhalls certainly benefits from that. This first-person dungeon crawler sends you wandering into unknown terrain, with each new opened door or turned corner potentially scaring the life out of you.
It’s the uncertainty of what’s ahead that really amps up the excitement: that tension and apprehension that comes before you tiptoe into the shadows. For some, Dreadhalls might be a form of torture, but anyone who likes sudden scares should love it.
SAMSUNG MILK VR
Samsung’s own 360-degree video portal has some neat highlights, including trippy animated clips and other short films, not to mention a super slick hub for everything. But the real highlight is Gone, an original series from the creators of The Walking Dead TV series.
Gone tells the story of a young girl who suddenly vanishes from a public playground, and you’ll have to piece together what happened across several episodes, zooming into highlighted areas to examine clues. It’s a bit creepy and totally unsettling, but it’s a nice glimpse at the very new and exciting form of immersive and lightly interactive storytelling.
Composing music in virtual reality seems challenging, to say the least, but Soundscape makes it wonderfully impossible to screw up: you’ll be dropping trippy, electronic bangers in no time. And it’s all done by tapping squares on a big board.
As you add in notes, the song starts to take shape—and it’s on the pentatonic scale, so even haphazard note placement tends to sound pretty solid. You also have access a control board with various modifiers, which are similarly easy to use, and while Soundscape isn’t terribly expansive in scope, it is very entertaining to fiddle with.