Virtual Reality is finally taking off and shedding the skin of being a small sub-niche, something it wore for far longer than initial enthusiasts expected. That said, the medium is really coming into its own, with more AAA experiences propelling us into the most popular worlds in gaming alongside the creative independent VR ventures, adoption by major developers is giving VR a huge push.
Most recently, announcements that Resident Evil 4 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will get VR treatments further broadened the horizons of virtual reality fans, and new developments on the hardware side of things is also finally making the medium more accessible financially.
Now that the training wheels have seemingly been taken off at long last, let's take a look at some of the franchises and games that we think would work fantastically in virtual reality environment, benefitting the most from the extra layer of immersion the medium provides. To make things a bit harder, we've opted to skip horror titles, because if the internet has taught us anything, it's that horror seems to have the most animated response from VR players.
Naturally these aren't the only games out there which should make jump, but they're the ones we'd be most excited about. Let's proceed in no particular order.
Arkane's arcane assassin action-adventure title is a fantastic example of the "immersive sim" subgenre which has criminally been underrepresented in the video game industry throughout its history and particularly in recent years. Open ended level design with a high degree of intractability and actually having multiple routes to complete any given objective set in game worlds with a keen attention to detail and depth seem like the perfect match for virtual reality.
Clearly, we're not the only ones to think as much, since there have been VR segments to other major immersive sim titles - Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Prey both had brief VR portions, but these were plagued by being incredibly short, and also coming out at times when virtual reality still had a lot more rough edges.
The Dishonored games give you a delightful toolbox full of game mechanics to play with, both magical and conventional, and sets you loose in an astonishingly stylish world to sneak or murder your way through. Unfortunately the game does fall into the typical immersive sim trap of giving you ridiculously fun lethal options and then punishing you for not sneaking, but that's what multiple playthroughs are for. We'd definitely love to use the Outsider's magic in VR sometime - and see more immersive sim titles in virtual reality in general.
Another Arkane game, and also another immersive sim, but this one gets a special shoutout for the whole time loop mechanic going on. Much like Dishonored, Deathloop is also a game that oozes visual style with a very deliberate aesthetic and art direction going on. This approach will always leave a much deeper impression than raw graphical fidelity, meaning that games relying more on style than fancy graphics will weather the translation to VR better - hardware restrictions usually mean VR games take a torpedo in the graphical department.
Deathloop also gets points for not pushing a stealth play style, giving you no grief for taking a more lethal approach. The floaty cross-temporal messages the game's plot uses also really seem to lend themselves well to VR, and is the sort of design we'd expect to have seen in a made-for-VR game to begin with.
Becoming Master Chief, despite all the incredibly dark and problematic Spartan Program backstory the expanded Halo lore has added to the story, is still one of the biggest power fantasies in gaming. While he was hardly the first, by sheer mainstream popularity he's become the quintessential faceless mister space soldier action hero with the bulky power armor and enhanced physical abilities.
The Halo games have, for the most part, put us behind the golden visor of Master Chief already in FPS format, but transplanting the huge ringworlds and alien enemies of the sci-fi shooter into a virtual reality environment would sell the illusion even more.
Alternatively a VR Halo could eschew the usual trappings of the series and style itself like some other virtual reality approaches have and frame the experience as a sort of Spartan training simulation where players would assume the identity of custom characters - or, as is the point of VR, themselves.
Grand Theft Auto 5
San Andreas is already making the jump to VR, and as welcome as that news is, it's also rather weird. It definitely wouldn't have been our first pick from the Grand Theft Auto franchise - hopefully the VR version isn't built on War Drum Studios/Grove Street Games' mobile port like The Definitive Edition - but it's happening and hopefully that opens the way for more.
Grand Theft Auto 5 lends itself much better to virtual reality we think - and apparently, so does the community. While no official way to play the latest in the series in VR exists, multiple fan-made mods that mash together head tracking and motion control compatibility have been made. Many of these are pretty damn advanced at this point too, but none are as polished as an official VR release would be. Even so, they already handily prove that this would be a fantastic mix.
It makes a ton of sense, too - GTA 5 already has a first person mode, and is absolutely filled to the brim with intractability and immersive detail. Say what you will about the game - though reception has, throughout its history, been overwhelmingly positive - you definitely can't fault Rockstar for skimping on the game world and how lived-in it all feels. Exploring this biggest, newest version of Los Santos and Blaine County in VR would be the ultimate virtual reality experience for the time being.
Supreme Commander - or any RTS, really
This might seem like an odd one, but bear with us - virtual reality has passed over the strategy genre almost entirely, and you'd say with good reason. The whole point of VR is to increase immersion and to put you "in" the game world, which works best with first person games. What benefit does VR have when you are controlling far off units on a vast battlefield from a top-down perspective?
Strategy games often frame the player-game relationship as one where the player does exist in-universe, sort of. Units, commands and briefings are worded such that "you" are a commander actually issuing these orders and actually directing this scenario from a leadership position. In sci-fi strategy games in particular, you're not sitting in your living room with a laptop but up in an orbital station with a huge tactical battlefield display.
Remediating RTS games like this in a VR setting would definitely up the immersion of being a, well, supreme commander.
With VR spreading its big, immersive wings we can only hope that these and other major games and franchises make the jump to virtual reality soon.