It should come as no surprise that some game genres work better in virtual reality than others.
Also unsurprising, the best genres for VR are the ones that use the player’s position behind the camera to increase the emotion and excitement that a player experiences within the game. Some of the best fits are a natural evolution of existing game genres which already provide this kind of experience.
Here are five game genres that will particularly excel in virtual reality, and a few games to keep an eye on within them:
There’s probably no genre already dedicated to placing the player behind the camera that’s as widely popular as the first-person shooter. Games where players can’t see their own avatars have grown in popularity to become the dominant genre in AAA gaming, and for good reason—there’s a sense of immersion in these games that comes from the viewpoint, as players feel closer to the action because they’re looking through the eyes of the protagonist.
In VR, this genre takes a logical step forward, removing the final barrier to player immersion: the screen. Instead of pretending that the view players are seeing comes from their own eyes, VR lets players see directly through their avatar, making for far more immersive, exhilarating combat experiences.
Fighting a robot gets real with a laser sword in Raw Data. (Source: Tech Crunch)
To get a good look at a first person shooter that really nails the opportunities presented by VR, I’d recommend checking out Raw Data. The game isn’t just an FPS with VR output—it lets the player physically run around (in a limited space—otherwise players would collide with the walls of their homes) to interact with enemies, allows for multiplayer cooperative play, and provides a lot of fun weapons, such as laser swords, for players to use to take out their robotic foes.
First person adventure titles such as Gone Home and Firewatch are already growing in popularity at the moment, and it’s likely that VR will help more, similar games find an audience. Adventure games rely on puzzles and character interactions to tell a story, and virtual reality helps to make that story all the more personal and believable as players no longer watch passively from a distance, but become a part of the narrative. It’s hard not to develop trust in an NPC when they’re talking directly to your face, and this personal level of interaction is what will drive adventure games in VR.
There are a few solid examples of VR being used for adventure titles currently in development. One such game is The Assembly, which has players switching between two controllable characters to uncover the secret of a shadowy scientific research facility. The game uses its VR setting to make the peril of the story feel more immediate and dangerous.
The setting in Loading Human is amazing, but so are all the puzzles and adventures you’ll encounter.
There’s also Loading Human, a science fiction adventure game which allows players to inhabit a single playable character, getting to know their new role intimately and in depth. This game features a story about intergalactic travel and the quest for immortality, but is grounded by in-depth relationships that the player builds with the characters that they come across. Players push the narrative forward through interacting with the environment and solving puzzles, as is the traditional adventure game formula, while the game also uses its unique VR perspective to tell an emotional and personal story.
Horror games are going to work particularly well on VR systems. It’s one thing to see monsters attacking characters on a screen—even ones that the player is controlling—but it’s a completely different experience to be watching through the eyes of the protagonist.
The usage of lighting in VR games means that exploring the shadows or hearing noises in 3D audio is a genuinely disturbing experience, and when monster attacks come there’s no way of hiding behind the sofa and hoping it’ll go away.
Dreadhalls is full of terrifying monsters lurking in the shadows. (Source: dreadhalls.com)
For some truly terrifying experiences, it’s worth checking out games like Dreadhalls and Lost in the Rift, both of which have the player exploring a dark maze of tunnels with haunting monsters creeping around in the shadows. Watch out for the inevitable jump scares.
VR isn’t perfect—the technology does have its limitations, such as the fact that players can’t usually move outside of a very small area of play, so it’s not possible to stride confidently across endless landscapes without being stopped (for now). One genre in which this isn’t a problem is racing games, as the player spends all of their time seated in a chair (just as they are in real life), and it’s part of the reason why fast-paced vehicle titles work well on VR.
The other part of the reason why VR racing games are fun is wish fulfillment, pure and simple. These games give players the exhilarating opportunity to have their faces inches from the ground while speeding at a phenomenal pace across racecourses in far-flung settings, trying out expensive cars and competing against other fast-moving chunks of metal.
There are plenty of great VR racing games available already, but if you’re wanting to try something fun, I’d recommend DiRT Rally—the VR game is a natural evolution of the existing DiRT series, so it’s a solid delivery—plus, the dirt-track setting is full of beautiful visuals and a little more excitement than you’d find on a more traditional tarmac racing course.
What other VR genres allow the player to stay comfortably seated whilst moving forward at insane speeds? Anything that involves a spaceship, of course.
Again, these games are pure fantasy fulfillment. Who hasn’t wished they could pilot their own Millennium Falcon, blasting TIE fighters out of the sky? The space setting and the proliferation of explosions combine fantastically in VR, where the player is able to put themselves right in the heart of the action and watch in wonder as their own projectiles take down enormous spaceships and other enemies. A game genre that’s exhilarating enough in traditional gaming becomes all the more heart-stopping in VR.
There aren’t many Star Wars VR games in development just yet, but the next best thing is a VR game set in the universe of the popular mass multiplayer online game EVE Online. If you want to find out what it’s like to pilot your own spaceship, I’d recommend checking out EVE Valkyrie for a game that really sells the experience of shooting down enemy fighters in an intergalactic dogfight.
Flying through space takes on a new perspective in VR with Eve: Valkyrie. Source: YouTube
The Sky is Not the Limit
Games that will work best in virtual reality are the ones that focus on providing an experience that can’t be matched in any other gaming medium. Taking advantage of the unique capabilities of virtual reality while finding ways to overcome its limitations can mean creating an experience that’s unlike anything gamers have seen before.
It’s very likely that the best upcoming VR games don’t even fit into traditional categories—they’ll borrow the concepts from existing genres, such as adventure game puzzles or face-to-face first person conversations, and blend them together to make a brand new genre of virtual reality gameplay.
Whatever’s coming in the near future, it’s going to be very exciting.
To experience a game that’s perfectly blending together the opportunities of VR while borrowing from popular games of the past, preorder Loading Human today.