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It could be a big holiday season for virtual reality companies.
The buzz over the new slate of VR headsets has been growing all year. And with the holidays here, the devices will finally start to make their way into homes on a broader scale. The Consumer Technology Association predicts 700,000 units will be sold before the end of the year.
But hardware is no good without software, and when it comes to VR, games are the star of the show right now. Whether you're planning on buying a VR headset for someone or even for yourself, here are a few suggestions on titles to download once you've got it set up. Each will transport you to a different world — and make you quickly lose track of time in the real one.
Rigs: Mechanized Combat League ($50) —There aren't a lot of multiplayer VR games worth playing, but Rigs is definitely the exception. It's an action sports title that has shooter elements as well. It's fast-paced, but masterfully made, so queasiness is less a factor than with some other VR titles. For PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR Worlds ($40) — Some might call this collection of short VR experiences an extended demo disc. That's not entirely untrue, but they're some of the most polished examples of VR gaming. From "Ocean Descent," which will make you rethink going to the beach more than any entertainment property since the original "Jaws," to "The London Heist," which is a breathtaking action title, you'll want to play every minute of every game — sometimes twice or more. For PlayStation VR.
SuperHyperCube ($30) — A lot of VR games defy description. This is one of them. Imagine, though, if Tetris were played from a first-person perspective. You'll have to rotate and fit shapes through an oncoming hole, but first you'll need to look around them to get a better sense of what positional adjustments you'll need to make. It's unique, challenging and addictive. For PlayStation VR.
Thumper ($20) — This blend of high-speed action and rhythm works well, testing your reflexes as you (a space beetle) travel along a fast-moving rail and quickly perform the correct onscreen actions to move farther down the path. It's a psychedelic, feverish game that will keep you entranced. For PlayStation VR.
The Lab (Free) — The best game for Vive is a free one. This collection of mini-adventures developed by Valve software is what you want VR to be — immersive, breathtaking, addictive and oftentimes funny. It's the quickest way for any Vive owner to understand the potential of VR. For HTC Vive.
AudioShield ($20) — Technically a music/rhythm game, AudioShield will also give you quite a workout. It's so much fun, though, that you won't notice you're burning calories. Deflect incoming beats (in a style reminiscent of first-person "Missile Command") with music from your own library or streamed from YouTube. Just set a timer so you don't lose track of the day. For HTC Vive.
Tilt Brush ($30) — Virtual reality opens up new frontiers in a variety of fields — and budding artists will have a field day painting on and in this 3-D canvas. Create something unique using brush strokes, fire, light and/or stars — and walk around to explore your art once you've completed it. For HTC Vive.
Minecraft (Free) — You're undoubtedly familiar with "Minecraft," but there's a difference between playing it in two dimensions and entering the world. Your buildings are more grandiose. The creatures are scarier. And the sense of exploration is much more exciting. For
The Climb ($50) — A good VR experience takes you to a different world. "The Climb" puts you on the face of a very realistic looking mountain, tasking you to scale as high and fast as you can. (A "tourist mode" lets you climb at your own pace for those who are working through their acrophobia.) For Oculus Rift.
Chronos ($40) — Facing a giant enemy isn't especially terrifying on a 2-D game, but imagine standing and looking up (way up!) as one bears down on you. That's the sort of thing that makes this role-playing game stand out. More importantly, though, it has solid game play and an intriguing puzzle system. There are some really creepy elements and a strong incentive to stay alive, as each onscreen death ages your character when they come back to life. For Oculus Rift.
Job Simulator ($30) — A VR game about the workaday world might seem like a poor subject choice, but your job is nowhere as fun as what you'll find in this game. The tongue-in-cheek workplace, where robots have replaced all humans, is hilarious and full of Easter Eggs that will thrill people of all ages. For multiple platforms.
Eve: Valkyrie ($60) — Ever wondered what it was like to be in a deep-space dogfight? This is the game to figure that out. It's a fast-paced combat title that puts you in a variety of ships against a variety of opponents. This is an absolutely gorgeous game, but be sure you've logged some VR time with other titles first, as it's a bit too high speed for first-time wearers of the headset. For multiple platforms.
Eagle Flight ($40) — Fifty years after humans have vanished from the Earth, you'll sail over Paris as an eagle. It's a thrilling experience on its own, but the game's six-person multiplayer mode is especially thrilling, as you soar through trees and underpasses and through city streets, dodging opponents and hoping not to accidentally collide with the landscape around you. For multiple platforms.