Sure, they’re not all exactly on the same level, but the Gear VR requires a much less expensive overall investment, especially if you already have a recent Samsung flagship phone (like the Galaxy S9 or Galaxy Note 9). And it has more than 1,000 apps and games to check out in the Oculus Store. There are plenty out there that support the current-generation Gear VR, too – including its bundled motion controller for more immersive experiences.
From games to 360-degree VR videos, there’s plenty to dig into – and we’ve got some favourites, naturally. Here are the 25 Gear VR games and apps you ought to start with.
Virtual Virtual Reality
One of the best Google Daydream games is also on its chief rival, as well, as the brilliant Virtual Virtual Reality is now available for Gear VR (and Oculus Go, too). It’s a delightfully strange game built in the comedic mould of Portal, albeit with a very different experience in mind.
Virtual Virtual Reality takes place in a future dominated by artificial intelligence, and the A.I. minds that be are now looking for humans to provide "artisanal companionship" by strapping on VR headsets and completing odd jobs. That’s the "Virtual Virtual" of it. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds, and it’s one of the true VR highlights on any platform today.
Also Read › The 25 best Google Daydream apps and games
Minecraft in VR? If this doesn’t have Gear VRs flying off of store shelves, then we don’t know what will. The Gear VR edition is effectively the same as the other renditions, offering survival and creative modes as well as multiplayer action… only now you’re immersed in the blocky worlds.
Playing in first-person is a real trip, but it can also be overwhelming – which is why a tap of the touchpad can switch to you a windowed view, wherein the game is played on a TV inside a pixelated lodge.
In either case, if you love Minecraft, you’ll certainly want to have it all around you in VR. And if you don’t know Minecraft, now’s the time to try it.
Zombie Gunship Raptor
Not thrilled with the idea of getting up close and personal with the undead? Why not pick them off – or pulverise them en masse – from afar? That’s the proposition offered by Zombie Gunship Raptor, which turns the entertaining mobile game into an immersive VR blaster.
From your floating perch in the sky, you’ll mow down the shambling invaders using machine guns and rockets. It’s pretty straightforward and isn’t the longest-lasting experience you’ll find on the Gear VR, but it’s hard to resist the allure of raining hell down from above.
Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay
The Last Jedi put a bit of Star Wars fever back into (some of) its many, many fervent fans, and luckily Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay is here to let us immerse ourselves in a small little segment of the film’s universe.
It’s a pretty simplistic game, but an attractive one at that: you’ll take a role in the titular repair center, fixing up BB-8 and other roly-poly droids as they come in with defects. You’ll pull open the droids, fiddle with their innards, and send them on their way. Droid Repair Bay isn’t the most consequential part of The Last Jedi‘s media barrage, but it’s free and certainly worth checking out if you have a Gear VR.
Like Hitman Go, the Gear VR-exclusive Augmented Empire doesn’t really need to exist in virtual reality. After all, you’ll spend most of the game looking down at a grid board, moving characters around and waging turn-based battles.
Even so, this is an incredibly cool game that you can only play on Gear VR, and it might sate your urge to use the headset for something deeper. This cyberpunk-meets-steampunk tactics game offers up great graphics, voice acting from the likes of Kate Mulgrew and Nick Frost, and about 10 hours of gameplay to savour.
They Suspect Nothing
Coatsink makes some of the most memorable and entertaining Gear VR games around, like the just-listed Augmented Empire and the Esper series, and now you can add They Suspect Nothing to that list.
They Suspect Nothing takes place in a futuristic world dominated by robots, and you’re trying to blend in as a human wearing makeshift robo-gear. But you’ll have to prove your android origins to the robot leaders by performing a series of tests.
It’s a mini-game collection, and the games themselves are solid fun – but like Coatsink’s other games, it’s the humour and atmosphere that really make They Suspect Nothing stand out.
Got pals who also have the Gear VR? If so, you’ll want to snag the free Oculus Rooms right away – and if your friends have a recent Samsung phone but not the headset, maybe this app will convince them to give Gear VR a shot.
As the name suggests, this app lets you and your mates pop into a virtual room together, allowing you to chat, play a handful of board games, watch videos together, and launch into multiplayer games. It’s the ultimate VR lounge, and an ideal space to hang out – complete with compatibility for your customisable, cartoonish Oculus avatar.
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.
Hitman Go: VR Edition
Hitman Go scaled down the stealth assassination series for mobile but, surprisingly, it proves a perfect fit for VR, too.
The core concept hasn’t changed here: each hit takes the form of a puzzle on a game board, challenging you to find the best way through threats and around hazards to complete the stage.
Given the game’s perfect faux-plastic look, in VR it really feels like you’re playing on a physical surface with tiny miniature figurines. Hitman Go was already great, and the move to VR makes subtle, smart tweaks that lightly enhance the experience. If we’re lucky, successor Lara Croft Go will make the VR leap anytime now.
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 twisting 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, aside from a Stranger Things experience mastered for VR, Netflix has very little 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 (without headsets) 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?
Also Read › Oculus Rift review
Face Your Fears
VR is absolutely the best gaming platform for horror experiences, and while the Gear VR lacks Resident Evil 7 and Paranormal Activity found on other headsets, it does have Face Your Fears. And Face Your Fears is headlined by a Stranger Things experience right now.
Expectedly, it’s pretty eerie. You’ll explore a couple of spaces from the Netflix smash, with creatures attacking through the walls and creeping around in the dark. Face Your Fears has other spooky non-licensed levels that you can buy, as well, but Stranger Things is the star attraction if you like the idea of being terrified with a phone strapped to your face.
In these early days of VR filmmaking, Within (formerly 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 Within app and you’ll find plenty of free, intriguing video content to savour.
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.
The Gear VR may lack the impressive EVE Valkyrie from other headsets, but End Space is the next best thing. It’s a deep-space dogfighter that finds you commanding your spaceship in head-to-head shootouts against the stars.
The action is intense – and potentially dizzying; be careful out there! – and the backdrops are beautiful, making this one of the true showcase titles for Samsung’s headset. You might be surprised that your smartphone can even contain an experience like this.
VR is all about breaking through the limits of flat screens – and amazingly, that’s true of painting as well. Paint VR opens up the 360-degree environment around you for your virtual brush, but you won’t be limited to walls or canvasses: you can paint right onto the air.
And then you can move around a bit and turn your initial brush strokes into the 3D masterpiece of your dreams. It’s best with the Gear VR Controller, which doubles as your brush – and while Paint VR isn’t as expansive as Tilt Brush on the Vive and Rift, it’s less than two quid.
Also Read › HTC Vive review
Rangi – not to be confused with Rango – is a first-person puzzler than finds you exploring environments filled with switches and movable objects. You’ll need to shift and manipulate those items to guide streams of light around and open up a portal to the next area.
This Gear VR original is inspired by African culture and has a deeply intriguing mystical feel to it, along with surreal moments like riding in the hand of a giant or being surrounded by chanting guardians. It’s best with the Gear VR Controller, but this appealing atmosphere is worth soaking up even without it.
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.
Also Read › Sony PlayStation VR hands-on review
Gunjack is basically the kid brother of EVE Valkyrie from higher-end headsets, with a simplified arcade spaceship-blasting design. It suffers slightly from the comparison, but spend a few minutes blasting enemy spaceships and you’ll surely find it pretty entertaining.
It’s a pretty straightforward arcade shooter: you’ll look around to aim the cursor and blast the waves of zippy foes that zoom into view. Gunjack‘s levels get progressively tougher, though, tossing in a bit more strategy and challenge along the way, and it looks great for mobile VR. Although straightforward, it’s rather fun.
Don’t have a good view of the night sky from your city – or just prefer to strap on a headset in the comfort of your own flat? Well, Star Chart can help in either respect, as it provides all of the major constellations for you to see and explore as you glance upwards.
Even better, you can hop right up into space and examine every planet, as well as wield 3D stars in your hand and eye the little details. It even has Apollo 11 moon landing and Mars Curiosity rover experiences to take in, making this the perfect pick for outer space junkies.
Melita: A Human Journey
If you think this world seems pretty dire sometimes, just have a look at the one in Melita: A Human Journey. This sci-fi short story takes place in 2026, and things are rapidly falling apart thanks to climate change – so Anaaya and her A.I. companion Melita are on the hunt for a new planet to send all of humanity to.
That might sound grim, but Melita is actually a stunner of a 360-degree video experience. It looks like a vibrant anime world, as you see the pair search and struggle, with some compelling twists along the way. It’s not interactive aside from the ability to freely look around, but you’ll have trouble looking away from this beauty. It’s just 24 minutes in length for now, but two more chapters are coming eventually.
Also Read › The 10 best Oculus Rift games
Damn, that’s a pretty game. The Well hails from Left 4 Dead developer Turtle Rock Studios, although it shares little in common with that multiplayer masterpiece. Instead, The Well is a gorgeous dungeon crawling role-player that works surprisingly well in VR.
You’ll need a controller for this one, as you move in first-person through the terrain in search of treasure and turn-based battles, with the fabulous fantasy aesthetic surrounding you all the while.
If you haven’t played a zombie shooter in VR, have you even played VR at all? Thankfully, Drop Dead makes it addictively easy to get shooting, with its look-to-aim immersion and action-packed gameplay.
The green undead coming at your face might be thoroughly cartoonish, but that doesn’t stop Drop Dead serving up its fair share of scares, not to mention a combat system that makes accuracy fun. Who doesn’t love lopping off zombie body parts?
Turn-based games might not seem like a prime candidate for the VR treatment, but give Skylight a go and you’ll soon find it hard to return to the 2D equivalents.
Set on the deck of a spaceship, battles play out in neon 3D, with ships and squadrons hovering, moving and blasting before your eyes.
Gameplay itself is engaging enough, with 30 campaign missions to play through – though the full game costs US$4.99 to unlock – but it’s the hologram-like interface that’s really worth enjoying.
Eight pounds might seem a little steep for a game that literally involves looking at fish, but Ocean Rift is seriously immersive stuff.
With 12 habitats to swim through, there’s no better demo for the striking power of VR than its sea-floor environments. Shoals will swim around your head, turtles will paddle beside you and, if you’re lucky, dolphins might even turn up for a frolic.
It’s fairly straightforward stuff, but with a whole variety of underwater creatures to meet and little touches to discover, this one’s well worth a look.