The best new games and apps for the Gear VR
Whether you're buying a new Samsung Gear VR or holding onto a previous edition, this could be a good time to refresh your content library and get behind the goggles. Oculus software updates have made the experience easier to navigate, and there are some intriguing new releases in the Oculus Store.
We've selected the following apps, games and experiences as some of the most intriguing new content for your Gear VR. While not everything on this list may have wide appeal, some titles were selected as representatives of their genre. We've included assorted content to give you a sense of the breadth of experiences currently available through mobile VR.
None of these apps require the new Gear VR controller – we'll investigate that content later on. These titles are compatible with any edition of the Gear VR.
This first-person choose-your-adventure-style game isn't for those who seek lots of quick moving and button mashing in their gaming experiences, but it does feature rich graphics, a soundtrack that adds to the experience and a storyline that draws you in and holds your attention.
You play the role of Guunthar, a warrior-for-hire sent to destroy the evil plaguing your world. Navigate your way through a creepy dark-magic-infused lair and make decisions where your life is on the line.
Play is refreshingly comfortable. For the most part, you're along for the ride, until it's time to make a decision. To indicate your choice – such as which direction you'd like to turn or whether to fight or flee from a hissing monster – simply turn your head to the correct symbol. You don't even need to reach for the trackpad, making this a game you could easily get lost in – if you don't get your throat torn out by a mutant dungeon lurker first. US$1.99 in the Oculus Store.
Swords in Space
Why would you need in a sword in space? Well, don't expect an explanation from this intergalactic fighting game, where you're venturing toward an intergalactic keep where you must battle zombie-like foes with sword and shield.
But instead of a traditional swordplay, you fight by looking at moving targets across the screen, and either tapping the trackpad or a controller once your gaze is in place. Look at and select different targets to attack, block, power up your health and more. All that darting your head around leaves you with a crick in the neck and a bit of a headache, so Swords in Space ($3.99) is a fighting game where the fighting isn't always fun.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg makes no secret of his belief that VR is the next major computing platform and has long been evangelizing social VR. Facebook 360 (free) is the first Facebook-branded VR app (it arrived before Facebook Spaces hit the Oculus Rift) and as such, it gives us a glimpse of what the powerful social network envisions for the future.
Facebook 360 is all about browsing 360° photo and video. You can browse recommendations from the network, content from your friends and Facebook timeline, or view and post your own.
Given this limited niche, we were surprised with its evocative properties. Being immersed in 360° content featuring your own family and friends and familiar locations creates a stronger connection than taking a tourist's look at a staged setting in an exotic locale. VR evangelists often preach that we'll one day virtually interact with one another all the time – viewing friends' videos with Facebook 360 let us picture that possibility a little more clearly.
That being said, Facebook 360 is one of the first places we've encountered VR advertising, so fair warning – it's awful. In other formats, it's easy to let your eyes glaze over or let your attention drift off when you're faced with an advertisement for a product you don't want. In VR, that product is in your face.
When the app autoplays ads between content, it's alarming and often unpleasant. For example, when on ad placed me onstage with a cringe-worthy band, I struggled not to tear off the headset. If this medium catches on, we hope advertisers adjust the approach.
In SingSpace ($4.99), you perform karaoke in VR represented by an intergalactic cartoon avatar. You can perform yourself, or you can watch and rate friends and strangers. Quirky, yes, but theoretically not more so than any other mobile VR game at this stage.
In reality, however, it ends up being a more off-putting experience. It's not easy to suspend the discomfort of sending your actual voice out into the metaverse with a digital creature representing you, while in real life you're blinded to the world around you and singing into your goggles.
Of course, it could still be a hit for singers and karaoke fans, especially those with remote friends to connect with virtually. The app includes a decent karaoke song lineup of 20 top 40 hits from the last few decades, but you'll need to pay a monthly subscription for access to new songs.
Disney Movies VR
With this free app, you sit back and experience various scenarios borrowed from Disney and Star Wars universes (Marvel coming soon). It has thorough, finished-looking graphics, high-quality production and extremely comfortable movement mechanisms. Kids and die-hard fans should enjoy it.
Otherwise, we'd count Disney Movies VR amongst those with big-name branding that feel more like promotions for the brand than standalone VR experiences. Without real gameplay or compelling new narratives, this one sort of feels like walking through a gift shop at a movie studio.
This title experiments with VR as an artistic medium, reimagining a graphic novel in new dimensions. As the narrative moves along, it becomes increasingly imaginative, but just as the action builds, the story falls away and you see text asking you to check out the app's namesake novel Annihilator by Grant Morrison and Frazer Irving.
While this seems to be nothing more than a VR trailer for a graphic novel with a fantasy-meets-film-noir spin (full disclosure, we haven't read it), it's an elaborate and gripping one.
Oogie Gear VR
This is an educational game from BBC Earth in which you play the role of Oogie, a beetle in the South African desert. Kick stinging ants and dodge predators while you chase the girl of your dreams across varied terrains. Learn facts along the way, as the game is peppered with commentary much like a nature documentary.
Oogie may not be the most pulse-quickening of games, but its cheerful approach represents a nice mix of informative and engaging. It's designed for use with a separate gamepad – trackpad navigation on this game can be tricky. Oogie GearVR costs $2.99.
Space Rift - Rogue AI
This is one of many interpretations of a classic arcade-style space shooter in the Gear VR library, but this one is more comfortable and better adapted for mobile VR than most.
You play the role of a rogue space drone, zapping obstructions, mining gems and destroying enemies while hurtling through the cosmos. Play should accommodate a wide audience: It lacks some of the darting, frenetic movement that is common in similar games, which can cause major VR-induced nausea. There are also easy, medium and hard modes.
It can be played with a gamepad, but it's not required – we actually thought aiming was easier firing from the touchpad on the headset. Space Rift - Rogue AI is $4.99.
This content roundup has been limited to recently released items. For more, check out our picks for the best Gear VR content, which rounds up apps, experiences and games since the Gear VR's launch.