It's been a weird year for VR games. The medium seems to be stuck in limbo as support for peripherals like Oculus, the HTC Vive, and Valve's Index increase despite a lack of must-have titles. Beat Games' Beat Saber may continue to shift units, but, sooner or later, VR will have to innovate beyond a seemingly never-ending stream of shallow, hour-long demo titles.
That said, 2019 did see the release of some worthwhile software, and, from horror to action to tests of your deductive reasoning capabilities, here are 10 of the best virtual reality titles that came out in 2019 (according to Metacritic).
10 Defector (Metascore 75)
Developed by Twisted Pixel exclusively for Oculus, Defector is an action-heavy titled wrapped around a bond-esque espionage narrative that mutates into some weird Blade Runner stuff before the credits roll. It's an unabashedly ambitious title, featuring everything from shooting and driving to boxing and skydiving. In 2019, it's an unparalleled VR experience.
That said, it falls flat in terms of length and replayability. Like many VR titles, Defector feels like a proof of concept meant to illustrate what could theoretically be done in VR. A leisurely playthrough will clock in at somewhere around three hours, and, after that, there's no real reason to return barring those who want to re-live their death-defying spy fantasies.
9 Space Junkies (Metascore 77)
Space Junkies is a Ubisoft-developed VR multiplayer-only first-person shooter that sees players engage in zero-G shootouts. Similar to the previously-released Lone Echo, it didn't necessarily feel all that inventive, and low player counts made it a risky investment, but it was a relentlessly fun time which prooved exactly how great well-tuned weaponry can feel in VR.
That said, with a launch price of $40, most were scared away from what was, in all honesty, a fairly anemic experience. So far, Pavlov VR has been the only multiplayer VR shooter to maintain any semblance of a player base, and it's hard to get excited about niche games like Space Junkies which live and die on user interest.
8 Trover Saves The Universe (Metascore 77)
Trover Saves The Universe is probably the most fleshed-out VR game to come out in... well, possibly ever. A 3D platformer from the mind of Rick and Morty co-creator and voice actor Justin Roiland, it's a crass, hilarious romp that sees the player guide the titular trover through a variety of bizarre encounters on varied worlds.
Though VR isn't required to experience Trover Saves The Universe, the experience was absolutely developed with the tech in mind. It also uses it to great effect, constructing the story and gameplay around the headset's limitations and crafting a story which, while short, is absolutely worth playing through at least once, especially for fans of Roiland's brand of dark humor.
7 Vacation Simulator (Metascore 77)
Released in 2016, Owlchemy's Job Simulator was a preeminent VR title in the medium's early days, and, in 2019, the studio returned with the equally witty, arguably more in-depth Vacation Simulator.
Though it doesn't exactly have a central narrative or any real core gameplay elements, Vacation Simulator is an amusing time thanks to its good-natured humor and an incredible variety of available interactions. Players can go from building sandcastles to making waffles and hot cocoa to answering emails and playing video games on an old tube TV. It feels a little listless at points, but few can deny the fun of going buck wild in such a detailed world.
6 Vader Immortal - Episode I (Metascore 78)
Multimedia franchise tie-ins are few and far between in the world of VR, and the Vader Immortal trilogy likely represents the most important media crossover the burgeoning platform has ever seen.
Set in the beloved Star Wars universe, Vader Immortal Episode I tells the story of an intrepid smuggler who has a run-in with Imperial forces. Though it weaves an engaging narrative, it's tough to describe this as a game, as it plays more like a movie which takes periodic breaks to allow the player to interact with the environment a bit. It may have disappointed those who were hoping to engage in some high-stakes lightsaber duels, but it was a fun time, nonetheless.
5 Five Nights At Freddy's VR: Help Wanted (Metascore 80)
Originally released as a budget horror title back in 2014, Five Nights At Freddy's has enjoyed half a decade of success at this point. Though, in 2019, the gimmick is all but played out.
Or so we thought. Five Nights At Freddy's VR: Help Wanted serves as a compendium of previous Five Nights experiences, but with a horrifyingly-real VR twist. The game is exponentially scarier in virtual reality, and, though the constant threat of jumpscares will turn some players off, its the sort of horror experience players have been hoping for since the early days of the medium.
4 Blood And Truth (Metascore 80)
An action-thriller on par with any of the Fast and Furious films, Blood and Truth is probably the best shooter available in VR. A nonstop thrill ride featuring an endless amount of weapons, customization options, and, of course, baddies to fill with lead, its one of the few PSVR titles that managed to break the "feels like a demo" mold and deliver a fully-fledged experience.
Though it's still on the shorter side when compared to more traditional titles, Blood and Truth offers plenty of reasons to come back for more, and its the sort of pulse-pounding PSVR premiere we've been waiting for since Sony's peripheral first dropped back in 2016.
3 Stormland (Metascore 82)
Stormland is one of 2019's most overlooked games. While Oculus store exclusivity reduced its market visibility, those looking for something to do with their expensive VR headsets will definitely want to give this a shot.
The most well-designed open-world VR game to date—not that there's much competition in that category), Stormland allows players to explore every inch of its world via an utter one-of-a-kind mechanic which allows players to fling and propel themselves any and everywhere thanks to an in-game android jetpack. It may sicken some more sensitive Oculus users, but, for those with sturdier sealegs, it's a must-play.
2 LA Noir: The VR Case Files (Metascore 82)
Though it's technically a remake of 2011's groundbreaking LA Noire, this year's LA Noire: The VR Case Files has, in every facet, been retrofitted to incorporate VR gameplay. The cases may be the same, but the environment is now far more reactive and compelling, facial animations and character models hold an incredible degree of verisimilitude, and patrolling the streets of Los Angeles as officer Phelps has never been more entertaining.
Another of the handfull of VR-exclusive titles that feels like a fully-developed experience, it's certainly worth playing, especially for those who've felt spurned by the medium's traditionally superfluous software.
1 Sairento VR Untethered (Metascore 82)
It's absolutely not for the faint of heart—or weak of stomach, for that matter—but Sairento VR Untethered is perhaps 2019's most enjoyable VR shooter. With a gun in one hand and a sword in the other, players are tasked with ninja-ing up their enemies as they explore a futuristic version of Tokyo.
To be perfectly honest, Sairento VR Untethered is kind of ugly, especially when viewed outside of VR, but the gameplay more than makes up for it. Players can jump, flip through the air, and even slow time in what is VR's closest approximation yet to the Matrix movies. Those who loved 2017's SUPERHOT VR will need to check this out.