Virtual reality (VR) is a hot topic in the entertainment space. Notably, the most popular manifestations of VR arrive in the gaming space. With powerful VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift (our review), HTC Vive (which we also reviewed), and PlayStation VR (yes, we reviewed it), consumers benefit from tons of VR gaming choices.
Unfortunately, these virtual reality gaming headsets are pretty expensive. Even when discounted, headsets like the Oculus Rift clock in at $400 or more. But for VR gaming on a budget, there’s a fantastic option: mobile VR games.
With the Google Cardboard, Samsung Gear, Daydream, and even standalone VR headsets, VR gaming on the cheap is totally feasible. Check out these awesome virtual reality games for your smartphone!
A Word on Mobile VR Gaming
While it’s likely you have a smartphone capable of virtual reality, you’ll want to double-check this. Even if your phone is compatible, you’ll need a headset. These range from inexpensive options like the Google Cardboard which you can buy or even build, to pricier alternatives such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream. Even the Daydream and Gear VR are pretty inexpensive, particularly when compared to the Vive and Oculus.
With the prices of VR headsets crashing, now’s the time to make an investment. If you’re getting into tethered virtual reality, check out how to set up the perfect VR room. If you’re debating, find out if the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift is right for you.
1. Adventure Time: I See Ooo VR (Cardboard)
Adventure Time is a Cartoon Network animated television series with a cult following. Because of the show’s immense popularity, a virtual reality game, Adventure Time: I See Ooo VR, spawned. It’s incredibly polished and enjoyable. Like the series it’s based on, each screen would appear gorgeous printed out as wall art. While the gameplay isn’t reliant on familiarity with the series, this is a VR mobile game best for Adventure Time fans.
Download: Adventure Time: I See Ooo VR for Android ($2.47)
2. Hidden Temple VR Adventure (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Don’t get too excited. Although Hidden Temple Adventure does include the phrase “Hidden Temple,” it’s not related to Nickelodeon’s classic Legends of the Hidden Temple game show. Which some of us are still hoping Netflix will add to its extensive catalog.
Nevertheless, Hidden Temple Adventure offers a point-and-click experience but in virtual reality. Its immersive gameplay and beautifully-rendered visuals make Hidden Temple VR Adventure a top pick. Bonus points for the Indiana Jones aesthetic from the logo to atmosphere.
3. VR Noir (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Although virtual reality is visually stimulating, gaming is often best when it’s story-driven as well. Enter VR Noir. It’s one of the best virtual reality video games for your phone. However, VR Noir delivers a cinematic experience and almost transcends pure gaming. The voice acting is top-notch, and the narrative is engrossing. Because of this engaging format, VR Noir is a top pick for mobile VR — and it’s free.
4. Vanguard V (Cardboard, Gear VR)
If you’re looking for an excellent VR shooter, check out Vanguard V. It’s a rail shooter that employs a third-person perspective. This epic title is fast-paced but a bit on the shorter side. Since many VR mobile games don’t take much time to beat, that’s not terribly shocking.
The visuals are excellent and the audio is phenomenal. Both voice acting and the soundtrack really shine. As reviews note, controls are slightly challenging and require lots of neck muscles. Better hit the gym before trying Vanguard V.
5. Proton Pulse (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Hailing from ZeroTransform, the company behind Vanguard V, Proton Pulse brings the classic Breakout to a new level. This arcade brick breaking game is way more intense than the basic one from the BlackBerry days. In Proton Pulse, there’s even a slight backstory. Its intuitive controls, mesmerizing colors, and eardrum-melting audio make this a must-download mobile virtual reality game.
6. Sisters (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Sisters is a survival horror title for Android and iOS. This game is creepy, but tons of fun. It’s a bit like playing Resident Evil without the archaic fixed camera angles. Instead, you benefit from a first-person perspective.
Game streamer Markiplier has an excellent playthrough of the Sisters demo for the HTC Vive. Though he plays on the Vive, it’s just as entertaining as the iOS and Android versions.
7. Zombie Shooter VR (Cardboard)
If you’re a fan of games such as House of the Dead (who isn’t?), Zombie Shooter VR is a VR smartphone game you need to try. Zombie Shooter VR appears like a retro arcade game and plays like one as well. The subway setting and zombie shoot ’em up format makes for tons of bloody fun. Note that while it’s a free game, there are ads so Zombie Shooter VR operates on a freemium model.
8. BattleZ VR (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Another zombie shooter, BattleZ VR presents a different take on the first person shooter zombie model. This one is a multiplayer game. You join up with a team and defend homes against hordes of zombies. Adding another element, players may turn their backs on one another for bonus powers. The artwork is pretty, and frenetic gameplay makes this an entertaining VR mobile game.
9. Chair in a Room (Cardboard, Gear VR)
Chair in a Room is a terrific and terrifying VR horror title. Since many survival horror video games adopt a first person perspective, it’s the perfect genre for mobile VR games as well. In true horror fashion, Chair in a Room features dark environments and plenty of jump scares. There’s an engaging narrative about finding a missing girl, and you’re armed with a flashlight and not much else.
Download: Chair in a Room for Android (Free)
10. Unicorn Happy Place (Daydream)
From developer Sparklepoo comes this delightful VR game, Unicorn Happy Place. It’s a multilingual title which centers on a purple unicorn in a magical forest. Unicorn Happy Place includes a few different modes like a relaxing meditation section. Plus, you can interact with the unicorn in neat ways like feeding it carrots.
Notably, there is more content to come so stay tuned as development continues. Unicorn Happy Place is an excellent introduction to VR for beginners.
Download: Unicorn Happy Place for Android ($1)
11. Hunters Gate (Daydream)
Shooting game Hunters Gate received a massive revamp as an arcade Daydream VR game. You play as a mage or gunslinger fighting your way through the town of Hunters Gate. It’s a basic but extremely fun game which includes a local co-op feature for multiplayer action.
Download: Hunters Gate for Android ($5.99)
12. Twilight Pioneers (Daydream)
Action role-playing game (ARPG) buffs, check out Twilight Pioneers. It’s a remarkably immersive VR title. As an ARPG, Twilight Pioneers remains unique in its gameplay with a mix of narrative, boss battles, and more. The mechanics are simple and Twilight Princess brilliantly showcases the capabilities of VR. It gets bonus points for being free.
Download: Twilight Pioneers for Android (Free)
13. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Daydream, Gear VR)
Valve dominates at its puzzle-based games. Notably, its virtual reality set of games The Lab is fantastic VR romp. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes stands out as one of the best virtual reality video games on account of its Valve-like animation and puzzle solving.
The premise is that you’re trapped in a room with a bomb that you must defuse with the help of other players. There’s local multiplayer for interacting with friends. It has a similar idea to the upcoming and promising Budget Cuts on account of its artwork and puzzle solving focus.
Download: Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes for Android ($9.99)
14. Need for Speed No Limits VR (Daydream)
This is by far the priciest VR mobile game you’ll find. But it’s also one of the few which you’re likely familiar with. Hailing from the EA series Need for Speed, this is a virtual reality game which puts you in the driver’s seat. The graphics are stunning, and it’s truly a AAA gaming experience on your phone smartphone.
Download: Need for Speed No Limits VR for Android ($14.99)
15. Horizons (Daydream)
This rhythm game uses the Daydream controller for music. The music that you play dictates the colors that appear. Horizons offers an excellent experience in both audio and video. It’s best with any virtual reality experience to use headphones. However, particularly with Horizons, you’ll want to experience this with headphones rather than speakers.
Download: Horizons for Android (Free)
The Best VR Games for Your Smartphone
Although VR has been around for a while, it’s just beginning to make its foray into the mainstream. With VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive catering to hardcore gamers, mobile VR gaming sees the widest adoption among the general population. If you’ve got a Cardboard-compatible phone or headset like the Gear VR, you’re set for most of these games.
However, you’ll also find standalone headsets such as the VR Sky CX v3 All-In-One Android VR headset, which we reviewed. Looking for more VR content? Download the 20 best VR apps for Google Cardboard. And if smartphone VR has tempted you to buy a full headset, learn which premium VR headset you should buy.
Which virtual reality smartphone games do you recommend?