It's funny that, just a couple months ago, we were unsure how deep the HTC Vive's game library would be at launch. While its launch game collection isn't necessarily deeper than the Oculus Rift's, it's arguably better – soaring to higher heights with the Vive's room-scale magic. After playing the hell out of the Vive since last week, we have 10 picks for the best Vive games to download on Day One.
If you have a Vive, we recommend putting Vanishing Realms at the top of your buy list. Imagine The Legend of Zelda, only instead of controlling Link as a character on a screen, you play his role inside a fully realized 3D world, using your own body to walk, pick up objects and duel with sword-wielding skeletons.
Being a room-scale game, you walk around your physical space, but there's also wider world-scale movement via teleporting. Hold down a button, aim your controller and zap! – you're there.
The battles in Vanishing Realms are one of the most exhilarating experiences in VR today, as you physically swing the controller (sword) to parry attacks and counter with your own well-placed hits. Along the way you'll also unlock a bow and arrow, shield and a badass magic wand that will have you channeling your inner Gandalf.
Vanishing Realms is in Early Access on Steam, so it's an incomplete game. The part that's available now, though, gave us almost two hours' worth of gameplay. We look forward to seeing this become a full-length epic, but what's finished now is well worth the US$20 price of admission.
One of the three games bundled with the Vive at launch, Owlchemy Labs' Job Simulator is a hilarious simulation/sandbox game that's a great introduction to motion controller-based VR.
Set in the future, when humans are little more than curiosities to our robot overlords, you run through the robots' constructed simulations of what today's human jobs were like. Only the robots don't quite get it, so you have things like copying machines that clone physical objects and microwaves that can turn a piece of bread with a tomato and triangle of cheese on top into a perfect slice of pizza.
It's all very tongue-in-cheek, with the satirical, deadpan comedy serving as the perfect backdrop for the action of the game. Like Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, Job Simulator combines set tasks with open-ended sandbox freedom. The gameplay may sound mundane, but there's something immensely satisfying about picking up a coffee mug and chucking it into the cubicle next to you. The game is both a showcase piece for tracked controllers and a playground for your inner id.
These first two games show the range of experiences you can have with the Vive's room-scale. Vanishing Realms gives you huge worlds to explore through teleporting, while Job Simulator makes hanging out in a fixed room about as fun as possible.
We've already run detailed pre-launch impressions of Hover Junkers, so we'll invite you to hit that up for more on one of the best Vive games at launch.
StressLevelZero's multiplayer shooter uses a moving platform technique to give you wider world-level locomotion, in addition to room-scale movement – which, in this case, means walking around the deck of your makeshift, post-apocalyptic hovercraft.
The Gallery Episode 1: Call of the Starseed
The Gallery takes the classic adventure game genre, and brings it to room-scale VR. Along similar lines as Vanishing Realms, you not only walk around your physical space, but also move around the larger world by teleporting.
The popularity of adventure games fizzled out in the last decade or two, as attention spans shortened and the Internet made solving their puzzles just a few clicks away. But the genre could find a resurgence in VR, as slower-paced, atmospheric and story-driven titles can hold modern minds' interest better here than they would on 2D screens.
Valve's only self-made game at the Vive's launch, The Lab is a free series of VR mini-games for the Vive.
This is one of the best apps to use when showcasing the Vive for friends and family, as it introduces the basic concepts of room-scale VR, Chaperone boundaries, tracked controllers and teleporting.
Final Approach is the kind of game that doesn't sound very exciting, but once you try it you'll want to keep playing. It has you tracing flight paths for the little planes and helicopters flying around you (you're basically a flight control giant hovering over the airports, cities and aircraft carriers below you), trying to keep them all running as expected and avoid crashing them into each other.
There's something delightful about towering over your miniature world, walking around via room-scale VR, using your hands like a conductor to orchestrate the goings on of the teeny little aircrafts buzzing around you. It's a powerful feeling.
Think Wii Sports' tennis, only much better because it uses the Vive's far superior controller tracking and room-scale VR. Oh, and instead of playing against a real or computer opponent, you're playing against yourself.
The game makes this work by teleporting you from one side of the net to the other, in the general area where the ball is heading. Since you're playing both sides, your goal isn't to win the match but to keep the back-and-forth volleys going as long as possible.
Oh, and you can cruelly abuse the cartoony tennis ball head characters hanging around the court. The game is more fun than you might imagine (and not a bad way to get a light workout).
Also bundled with early Vive orders, Fantastic Contraption is a quirky engineering game where you build wacky vehicles to try to return a jelly ball to its home base (which is, naturally, a jelly wall).
The game works well with room-scale, as you walk around all sides of your contraption, placing wheels, resizing wooden axels and trying to get the right structure and balance to deliver the ball to the right spot in increasingly difficult maps.
The last of the three bundled games at launch, Tilt Brush is the Vive's paint app.
Drawing in a 3D space with a wide variety of traditional and psychedelic substances and patterns makes Tilt Brush one of the trippiest experiences you can have on the Vive (or, for that matter, anywhere else).
If you attended a public demo of the Vive anywhere in the last year, there's a good chance you tried a short demo of theBlu; the demo had you walking around the deck of an underwater shipwreck as you encounter a blue whale who takes a mild interest in you. It's ultimately a game of scenic underwater eye candy.
The whale encounter is one of three settings/experiences in theBlu at launch, which requires a higher-end graphics card than the Vive itself does. We're using the Vive-minimum Nvidia GTX 970 card on our PC, and theBlu ran a little choppy in places (you'll see why when you see some of the incredible scenes in this one), so you'll only want to pay for this one if you have the recommended GTX 980 or better.
For more on the best first-gen VR headset, you can read our full review of the HTC Vive.