The number of great apps, games and shorts for the Samsung Gear VR just keeps getting bigger. Everything has clicked into place for Samsung’s (and Facebook’s) mobile VR plans, even with the likes of PlayStation VR, Daydream View and Oculus Go around.
Here’s our roundup of the best apps, games, demos, short films and interactive experiences available for Gear VR right now. The list will continue to grow, so we’ll update this feature as and when demos become games and teasers become full experiences.
The verdict: Samsung Gear VR (2017) review
These can all be downloaded from the Oculus Store, either directly from your smartphone or once it’s slotted into the headset. Samsung’s new VR video & experience platform, launched in 2017, can also be accessed from a new Samsung VR app, as well as from SamsungVR.com.
The best Samsung Gear VR games
Let’s face it, you probably bought this as a gaming device, so your first stop will be games you’ve heard of from mobile or titles with environments and characters you want to experience in VR.
In this one, you play a child’s imaginary friend. The kid’s dog, Rishu, goes missing and it’s up to you to help save the day. You’ll be able to guide the child through the world to find the dog, doing very normal things like lifting up trees and moving boulders.
Virtual Virtual Reality
We’ve got an odd title here, but it’s all part of the charm. Here’s a narrative-focused comedy-adventure game in a world where AI is so rampant that humans have lost their purpose. You’ll play a human trying to break out and find freedom among our AI overlords.
Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay
Alright, you rebel scum. Poe Dameron needs your help in the Star Wars universe. You’ll need to get down and repair BB-8 and other adorable droids so that they’re ready to take on the First Order. Each of the droids has its own personality, and this one is even connected to the story of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. May the Force be with you.
IT: Escape from Pennywise
Also available for Google Daydream, Escape from Pennywise takes its cues from the blockbuster horror movie IT. You’ll be trapped by Pennywise the Dancing Clown, and you’ll have to choose your path and escape. Sounds simple, right? Well, if only these things were that simple. Just as Georgie discovered.
Micro Machines VR Racer
The table-top racing favourite has been brought into virtual reality, but don’t worry, it looks just how you remember it. You still play with a bird’s-eye view, but with the added immersion of VR. The main drawback is the lack of multiplayer, but it’s still as addictive as hell, with some inspired tracks to pick from.
Blade Runner 2049: Replicant Pursuit
Now you can jump into the world of Blade Runner yourself. A rogue replicant has murdered two people, and it’s up to you to track him down. You’ll be piloting a spinner, searching futuristic Los Angeles while in pursuit. Ryan Gosling not included.
Hitman Go: VR Edition
A kind of third person, turn-based strategy board game, Hitman Go in VR is more fun that it sounds. It looks amazing, as anyone who has played the Square Enix game on PC or console will know and is downright tricky as you help Agent 47 navigate around a grid layered on top of model-like environments. You can get it on the Oculus Rift (where it’s slightly more expensive) as well as the Gear VR. Supports both the trackpad and Bluetooth controllers.
Do your best Gloria Gaynor rendition in this new multiplayer karaoke title from Harmonix, the name behind Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Using the built-in mic and a pair of headphones, you can sing your heart out in a virtual karaoke room with a bunch of pals. It’s not as terrifying as it sounds when you’re all embarrassing yourself equally (apart from that one person who nails it every time). It also comes with support for the new Gear VR controller.
Please Don’t Touch Anything
More than just a brilliant premise and name, PDTA is a reworking of a 2D puzzle game and it’s a hoot in VR. It’s a little short, especially if you race through the puzzles (looking for clues, solving riddles, pushing buttons), but there’s new ones for fans of the original and gameplay is littered with geeky easter eggs/references.
There aren’t many really great first-person shooters in VR right now, but Drop Dead is definitely one of the best on Gear VR. Yes, it’s a wave shooter, but there’s a good amount of variety, while gameplay is smooth and you have the added bonus of multiplayer. Not one of the priciest titles out there, so we’d recommend giving it a look.
Minecraft: Gear VR
Minecraft in virtual reality isn’t a perfect experience yet, but with a bit of patience and a controller (you need one of those here) this will blow Minecraft fans’ minds with Pocket Edition modes like Creative and Survival. If the full on immersion isn’t what you’re after, you can choose to play in 2D i.e. viewing your blocky gameplay on a ‘display’.
Also on Google Cardboard, BombSquad VR belongs to the type of third person, god’s eye board game-style title that we’re seeing made for VR – with a splash here of Super Smash Bros. It’s cheap, it’s cute and it’s great fun with (local) multiplayer options including co-op, teams and free for all for things like capture the flag. Oh and the explosions are the bomb.
Smash Hit VR
An example of a VR arcade game from Mediocre Games that we could play for days, this is a great transition from the smartphone game of the same name. You’ll have to get used to shifting your head from side to side to hit all your targets but when you get in the zone, Smash Hit VR can be actually pretty relaxing with alternately hued environments to experience. Plus, you might find gazing and tapping easier than the mobile version.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Most of the apps and games on the list can be passed around the group pretty easily but Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is an example of a game that’s designed for a bunch of you to play.
Only one person needs to wear the Gear VR and the rest give the headset wearer instructions (via pages and pages of a printed manual) to defuse the bomb they’re trapped in a room with. Also on regular Steam but comes into its own in VR. A special treat rather than an everyday go-to. Who said VR is anti-social?
Ustwo’s first VR game is mesmerising and to fans of Monument Valley, that should be no surprise. It’s a slow, relaxing puzzle game over five chapters (for now), which makes lovely use of the Gear VR’s head tracking as controls.
Serene sunsets, blocky mountains and a range of easy peasy to slightly head scratching – but always mysterious – puzzles. It’s best played while standing or on a swivel chair.
This CCP Games VR game started life as Project Nemesis, which we played way back in early 2015. It’s an arcade space shooter with big attention to detail. You get a body to look down at in your fixed cock-pit and there’s cracks in the glass as you get hit by enemies.
It’s set in the EVE universe so the sequences are pretty and it’s quick to get the hang of the controls, like sliding back on the touchpad to reload. A game game for those who just want to bash a controller.
This is another virtual environment in which you do things in 2D but hey, it’s a virtual arcade so shut up. Play Pac-Man, Sonic, Galaga and more in three arcade rooms. Everything is free for a while but you have to pay to unlock unlimited play.
Esper shows off the potential of VR for puzzle games, not just first person shooters. If you liked Portal, you’ll have the patience to play along with the puzzles here with your ‘telepathic’ powers using the Gear VR’s touchpad as well as appreciate the intriguing 70s visuals and playful dialogue. Plus, once you’ve played this, you can play Esper 2 – slightly more expensive at $9.99.
First person is where VR really comes into its own and the Gear VR is no exception. The journey through creepy dungeons in Dreadhalls, picking locks, opening doors, keeping your lamp going and checking behind you is damn scary especially considering how long it makes you wait to get attacked. Then you run away, heart genuinely pumping. Super terrifying. Also being developed for the Oculus Rift.
An arcade-style, strategy hacking game with neon visuals and a stern voice giving you instructions, Darknet sees you spread viruses through a network of nodes, banking the Bitcoins and causing carefully constructed mayhem.
The hacking takes place in more of a 2D game environment and a lot of Darknet reminds us of any well-crafted smartphone game that doesn’t just rely on graphics.
Anshar Wars 2
There’s two Anshar Wars games on the Gear VR now. It’s a neat space shooter in which you control the direction your ship is going with your head movements. Firing missiles is taken care of through a Bluetooth controller or the headset’s touchpad. One more thing – it’s games like this that make you realise you need to invest in a good swivelling office chair to get the most out of the Gear VR.
Temple Run VR
Making the graduation from smartphones to the realm of virtual reality, Temple Run is back at it again and forcing you to run away from wild beasts while racking up points.
Turning your head will allow you to see the Arctic Gorilla Monkey hunting you down, with tilts helping you pick up coins and avoid blocks on the winding path. If you can tolerate consistent motion and happen to enjoy free things, this is a no-brainer download.
And for the brave and co-ordinated among you, we imagine combining this with a treadmill makes evading the monster all the more satisfying.
The best Samsung Gear VR Apps
It’s not all about games, here’s a few surprising things you might not have realised you can try out in virtual reality on the Gear VR.
YouTube has finally made the jump to Samsung Gear VR with an official app – it’s already available on Daydream, Vive and PlayStation VR. As well as years and years worth of quality 360 degree apps, Google is also hyping some exclusives including 360 backstage footage of Portugal The Man. Plus there’s a new social ‘watch together’ option that will appear under the regular controls which is actually cross platform with Daydream. Pretty cool.
Another gap filler, Plex VR lets you browse your local media and then – if you like – watch it in a virtual 3D environment such as a swanky apartment or retro drive-in. Plus there’s reworked Plex UI controls for virtual reality. Now on Gear VR and Oculus.
Virtual reality can transport you anywhere, so why not transport you to live events? That’s exactly what Oculus Venues does, taking you to concerts, comedy shows, sporting events and more. You can watch by yourself if you want, but by default you’ll be watching with a whole crowd of people.
CNN’s big jump to VR is like being inside a newsroom for the future. You’re at the control panel here, picking and choosing stories by taking these orbs and tossing them in the center of the control panel. You’ll also get 360 videos from CNN reporters across the world in addition to the more traditional 2D news and clips from stalwarts like Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper.
Pixar’s first attempt at virtual reality just so happens to be a social experience. Here you’ll put together your own character, rock your own style and then meet both friends and characters from the new movie. You’ll also be able to take gondola rides and be the star of a concert.
Make Jaunt one of your first Gear VR app downloads, it’s one of a few live action libraries but the quality here is really high. Stream short experiences from backstage at concerts to 360-degree journalism from ABC News.
Last year Facebook launched its first dedicated VR app, a new way to view 360-degree photos and videos on the Gear VR. Facebook 360 surfaces 360 content from your news feed and plonks it in front of your face, with a bunch of different ‘feeds’ to choose from, including content not within your own network. And best of all, it costs nothing.
A nice choice to get a hit of that travel rush without leaving the sofa, VISO Places is surprisingly easy to navigate with really great controls for selecting tourist attractions or natural beauty spots around the world and looking around the area. They are stills, of course, but it’s still freaky when you re-visit a panorama that you’ve visited before.
Previously called Streetview VR, there’s 3,000 locations and the ability to bookmark images and even lead a group via audio chat. Also on Oculus Rift.
Lots of people have complained that there’s no way they would pick up a mobile VR headset without a browser and Samsung has listened. You can open up sites via voice or by selecting from favourites like YouTube. Use Gaze mode to select stuff but there’s an onscreen keyboard too; and there’s even a private browsing mode.
Facebook knows that VR is going to be social – that’s why it bought it – and Oculus Rooms is about demonstrating the power of shared virtual reality. It’s essentially just a hangout space where you and your friends can mess about, play minigames, watch a virtual TV, or jump into one of the more substantial multiplayer games mentioned above. Parties is the name of Oculus’ built-in voice chat that lets you see what friends are up to and add them to your party if you so wish.
If you really want to feel like you’re at a sports or news event, download NextVR. It livestreams events to VR headsets like the Gear VR in 180 degrees and has tested its system out on the US Open and NASCAR. During the US election it livestreamed the US Presidential debate in collaboration with CNN. Many more live sports events are to follow.
One for music makers, Soundscape is a very cool experience that lets you tap to add musical notes, change effects, add drums. Jam alone or with two random people in a multiplayer mode. The theory is that because the notes are based on a pentatonic scale, no matter what you do, it’ll sound good-ish.
Yep, Netflix. You can now download and view the movie and TV streaming service on a Samsung Gear VR. Like Oculus Cinema, it simply gives you a private, virtual space (a luxe/rustic cabin living room with a big screen) in which to watch regular 2D content. Still, people are very much spending their time doing this.
Free (with subscription)
Disney Movies VR
Here’s a must for Disney fans. You’ll be transported into the many, many worlds that Disney owns. You can hang out at Cinderella’s Castle or stand at the base of Avengers Tower. Want to jet through Star Destroyer ruins on Jakku or hang out with BB-8 on the Millennium Falcon? Be their guest. Yes, there’s a Beauty and the Beast experience, too.
The social platform AltSpace VR is pretty exciting. It’s cross-platform (Gear VR, Oculus, HTC Vive) so it’s a virtual hang out space that one-ups Oculus Social. You can watch streamed videos with other headset wearers and even share virtual web browsers. Well worth a look, especially since Microsoft is backing it.
Best videos / animation for Gear VR
There’s interactive games then there’s interactive experiences. Many of the below VR apps blur the lines between active and passive consumption. All are pretty magic.
Jurassic World Blue
Life finds a way to keep opening theme parks with dinosaurs. Jurassic World has been closed for four years now, but there’s a volcano threatening the lives of these dinos. You’ll head back to Isla Nublar with Blue in this episodic adventure as she looks for signs of life. Welcome (back) to Jurassic World.
Affected: The Manor
We don’t want to spoil the VR horror scares too much but if you want something jumpy and squealy, give Affected a go. Try it out in the privacy of your own home then subject your mates to it and make sure you have a spare phone to capture the reactions.
Notes on Blindness
One of our VR highlights from the selection at Cannes 2017, Notes on Blindness is a must download. It’s a meditative VR experience that uses minimalist animation and sound to put you in the shoes of a professor who lost his sight and documented becoming blind. Note: it’s 2GB so clear some phone storage.
Song of the Sea VR
Inspired by the Oscar-nominated film of the same name, Song of the Sea VR takes you into the film’s Great Storyteller’s Cavern. You’ll get to fully immerse yourself in the film’s environments and see a mixture of animation of VR. Like the film itself, the animation and art style here are absolutely gorgeous.
The Night Cafe
This one is nestled in the ‘Concepts’ area of the Oculus store. Part animation, part VR experience, it is a wholly odd way to spend a few minutes – or more. The Night Cafe is a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh and his oil paintings – sunflowers, the chair in his bedroom, self portraits – from Borrowed Light Studios and this VR app lets you well, walk around inside them. It’s somewhat surreal (lower case ‘s’) and feels a little like intruding on someone else’s dream.
This is a big deal and well worth checking out, via the Samsung VR store. Gone is a episodic thriller from the creators of The Walking Dead and it shows.
It’s a TV show-style narrative, which enfolds in front of you but you can follow ‘hotspots’ via your gaze to zoom over to a clue or conversations that might be relevant. So it’s interactive but you don’t seem to impact the plot. The storyline and ‘clues’ are very much in the True Detective style, which is not a bad thing. You’ll race through the episodes.
One note: This experience is only available in Samsung VR in Gear VR. For whatever reason, it won’t show up in the Samsung VR store outside of Gear VR.
Cirque du Soleil – Inside the box of Kurios
This is a great intro for someone who is putting on a VR headset for the first time. A classy Felix & Paul Studios production, you get a private performance of Cirque du Soleil’s steampunky Kurios show and it’s pretty magical.
Everything is perfectly choreographed to stun and unlike the previous Zarkana effort, it’s a decent length too. You’ll be clapping to yourself by the end.
This app is designed to be the home for CG animated VR shorts and the first one – Rosebud – is blooming adorable. It’s by Penrose Studios which was founded by ex Oculus Story Studio head Eugene Chung.
We won’t give away the plot too much, but do the tutorial first to get the hang of zooming in and out for the charming action in front of you. You can also hold to ‘grab’ an object to make it and anchor point and rotate round it, which you should try out towards the end of this short.
Within (previously VRSE) is a must if you’re looking for quality. You can watch some of the most impressive VR vids made so far, including Vice News and Spike Jonze’s VR broadcast from a NYC protest – it’s rough around the edges but you really do feel like you’re right there in the middle of it – and Evolution of Verse, the beautiful short film by Chris Milk which debuted at this year’s Sundance.
Also, in the Within collection is the collaboration with the UN which includes the short films Clouds over Sidra and Waves of Grace.
Let us know your favourite apps, games, shorts and experiences for the Gear VR in the comments.