Happy New Year! New Year is a time for taking stock of where you’re at, looking forwards, and making goals for who you want to be this time next year. Usually people hit the gym, reevaluate their work/life balance, cut down on drinking, or quit smoking, but whatever it is it’s worth doing properly.
If your goal is to exercise more, VR is a fantastic way of getting the ball rolling. Most New Years’ Resolutions fail because the goal isn’t broken down into small, achievable chunks: ‘exercising more’ is vague, ‘join a gym and go every Wednesday’ or ‘get out and walk three times a week’ is much more easily doable. Throwing in a few sessions of high-intensity VR games a week could be an effective and simple thing that’ll help you reach your fitness goals this year, while also getting to play some pretty great games.
Knowing which games are the best to keep fit can be tricky though, so here are a few suggestions.
Box VR - PC VR (Oculus and Steam), PlayStation VR
As a game, Box VR is simplistic: punch the bags as they come towards you. Some bags require hooks and uppercuts, some require you to block them with both hands, and then there are obstacles to squat and weave beneath. It’s a lot like Beat Saber without the visual flair. The music varies wildly between genres and quality, but the ability to make your own set playlists helps cut out the particularly grating songs.
All of this sounds like faintly damning praise, but, as far as I’m concerned, Box VR is the quintessential fitness game for VR. All the songs’ courses are designed by professional fitness instructors, meaning each individual song, class and playlist is designed to provide the best workout possible. Add to that daily duration goals, a calorie tracker, multiple profiles, and even semi-regular online social events, and Box VR becomes an entire gym session in one program.
Beat Saber - PC VR (Oculus and Steam), Oculus Quest, PlayStation VR
With most of the other games on this list, the appeal is that you’re getting some exercise. You’re playing them for the fitness, whereas Beat Saber manages to be an excellent game in its own right that also, conveniently, totally counts as a decent workout.
You hit blocks in time with the music. That’s all you do. They whoosh towards you and you slice them and repeat until the end of the song. It’s such a simple concept, and yet between the base game, the DLC, and the endless mods and custom songs, there is so much to do in Beat Saber that it never, ever gets old.
For the maximum exhaustion, play songs slightly outside of your comfort level. The higher the BPM, or the more squats the level involves, the better. Out of the official songs, I really like ‘Crab Rave’ (yes, the meme) and K/DA from League of Legends, as both are catchy as heck tunes that also work up a sweat to play.
Beat Saber is a great purchase no matter what, but the added bonus of helping your New Year’s resolution isn’t one to ignore.
The Thrill of the Fight - PC VR (Oculus and Steam), Oculus Quest
The Thrill of the Fight
There are a lot of boxing games. Knockout League, Creed and Fastest Fist to name a few, but I think The Thrill of the Fight is the best one just because of its purity. It’s not cartoony like Knockout League, and it’s not overly gamified like Creed – it’s just pure boxing that will absolutely annihilate you if you let up for even a second.
I can’t even go ten minutes in The Thrill of the Fight without turning into a puddle. Ducking and weaving the punches while also aiming your own shots, hitting them with enough power to make a lick of difference, it’s an absolutely brutal simulation of real boxing that you can’t get anywhere else.
It’s important to note that The Thrill of the Fight is probably the VR game that most demands a room-scale playspace. There’s no locomotion, meaning you must physically walk around to position yourself in-game. If you don’t have the room, stuff like Creed and Knockout League is still a great workout, but if you do, The Thrill of the Fight is the boxing game you want.
The Climb - PC VR (Oculus exclusive), Oculus Quest
Unlike everything else on this list, The Climb isn’t particularly high intensity. And yet, after I’ve scaled a picturesque mountain in China, my legs feel like jelly and I’ve turned into a ball of sweat and slime.
The Climb is all about holding positions. Grab that wall, hold on tight while you reach for the next ledge, carefully manage tour stamina while re-applying climbing chalk. It all takes a precision and body control that even faster games like Beat Saber don’t have. Of course, you’re not actually having to support your body weight, but that doesn’t seem to matter: a few minutes in The Climb is enough to make my arms ache.
If you’d rather go a bit faster, you can always practice some speed-climbing too. Beat your time scrambling through each course, or on the procedurally generated endless wall. I personally prefer carefully picking my way across a landscape, but there is still something exhilarating (and exhausting) about hurling yourself up a wall as fast as you can.
Blade and Sorcery
Blade and Sorcery
While definitely not made for fitness, Blade and Sorcery is intense enough to get your heart pumping. More importantly, it’s great for mental health – nothing says calming and zen like ramming an axe through a barbarian’s sternum.
In all seriousness, when played in a specific way, Blade and Sorcery can be intense. A weapons combat game focusing on realistic physics and weapon handling, the more accurately and effectively you use a weapon, the better you’ll do in a fight – flailing won’t work here. Sledgehammers, claymores, daggers, sabres, rapiers, poleaxes, shields and more all offer up their own styles of play, and their own workouts too.
Try to avoid using magic or the slow-motion feature, shove it onto the endless enemies modes, and keep slashing, stabbing and hacking until you’re finally taken out. It’s remarkable how sweaty you’ll be after removing a few heads and stabbing a few eyeballs.