With 2021 officially winding down, it’s that time of year for best-of lists, retrospective compilations, and annual reviews across all major media platforms. In the case of gaming, virtual reality immersion continues to push the technological envelope through such groundbreaking companies as Oculus, Microsoft, Google, Unity, Magic Leap, and many more.
Among the most excellent VRgames of 2021 are big brand names like Star Wars and Resident Evil, as well as smaller and newer titles such as Demeo, YUKI, and more. There’s quite a variety of every type of VR gamer.
10 Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife – 76
Released by Fast Travel Games in April, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife puts players in the purgatorial perspective of a deceased spirit following a seance, allowing them to torment the souls of the living in a wildly thrilling virtual space. Harder yet, players must solve the cause of their own death, leading to a series of supernatural puzzles to solve and clues to unlock.
Praised for its slow-burn intensity, ability to get under one’s skin and linger, nightmarish atmosphere, and surprisingly affecting ghost story, Wraith: The Oblivion – Afterlife proves that VR and horror go hand in hand.
9 Lone Echo II – 78
Released by Oculus Studios four years after the original, Lone Echo II continues the epic quest of Jack and Liv as they set out to destroy an evolved biomass of alien “ticks” aboard a condemned space station. Between the ultra-compelling narrative and truly challenging puzzles, the adventure game has drawn positive reviews since its October release.
A classic example of a bigger, better, and bolder sequel, Lone Echo II has been noted for its improved gameplay mechanics, stellar graphics, and deeply engrossing combat scenarios that grip gamers from the first moment to the last.
8 Song in the Smoke – 79
Featuring peerlessly gorgeous artwork from iconic illustrator Katsuya Terada (The Legend of Zelda), Song in the Smoke is one of the most original and imaginative VR games released in 2021. Despite a few rough edges, the immersion into a mythical prehistoric land full of strange beasts and odd creatures is second to none.
With eight magnificently designed levels that use nature and weather as a key element to a player’s survival, the game has been lauded for its sprawling open-world layout that players can spend endless time exploring, and the lifelike sensorial vibrations offered every step of the way.
7 Star Wars Pinball VR – 81
Star Wars video games are especially popular come year-end, but few top the exultant fanfare of Star Wars Pinball VR and its unique collection of eight tables to choose from. For Star Wars fans with nothing but time on their hands, Pinball VR is the most comprehensive immersive experience out there.
Critically adored for its lifelike authenticity, major replayability, and a marked upgrade from previous Star Wars pinball titles, the virtual reality plunge of the game offers nostalgic fan service as well as state-of-the-art tech to create a mind-blowing thrill ride.
6 YUKI – 82
Released by Arvore Immersive Experiences in July, YUKI is a relentless rogue-like bullet hell VR that has been almost universally lauded as the first of its kind. Set in a vivid anime setting conjured from a child’s imagination, players are thrust into a hail of gunfire in the most viscerally engaging ways imaginable.
Beyond the sheer onslaught of violence that keeps players in combat mode, YUKI has been noted for its excellent level designs, genuinely difficult challenges that increase as the game progresses, and awesome Japanese-style boss fights.
5 I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy And The Liar – 82
Released on PC and PS4 in August, I Expect You To Die 2 has been called a great introduction to VR for beginners who aren’t sure how to operate the advanced tech. Funny, charming, and highly addictive, the game tasks players with acting as a spy to defeat the ruthless Zoraxis criminal organization and restore order to the streets.
Praised for its funny scripting, hysterical acting, and mordantly dark violence, the escape-room layout makes for a genuinely claustrophobic setting to go with thought-provoking puzzles that will keep players glued to the screen for hours.
4 Demeo – 83
Demeo is a superb virtual reality tabletop RPG that has very few critical detractors. Aside from the sheer entertainment of slaying dark forces inside a cavernous dungeon, the smooth and seamless gameplay allows players to explore for long durations without getting dizzy or nauseous, one of the biggest downsides to VR games.
Released on PC in May of 2021, Demeo’s biggest triumph comes from its social VR experience, allowing players to battle vicious hordes with their friends right beside them at every turn in the most thrilling and non-glitchy ways.
3 Subnautica: Below Zero – 83
It’s difficult to happen across any best-of gaming compilation and not see the wildly popular Subnautica: Below Zero. Indeed, the universally beloved game with a VR mod allows players to feel like Jacques Cousteau in its immersive and ensorcelling underwater exploration on an alien planet.
The open-world survival game allows players to make eye-opening discoveries on their own with little direction and guides, which gives the lifelike VR element even more splendor. The game was extolled for improving the mechanics of its predecessor, increasing the dramatic stakes, and having more hostile enemies.
2 Resident Evil 4 VR – 85
Always one of the most preeminent titles in first-person survival horror games, Resident Evil 4 VR (Oculus Quest 2) has garnered rave reviews for its next-level sense of immersion and highly visceral zombie action. It is a must-play for RE die-hards who really want to test their skills.
Aside from the exhilaration of the hyper-engaged, first-person perspective, the game has been praised for the kinetic pacing and frantic energy that keeps players on their toes. The fusion of classic and cutting-edge mechanics makes the game feel nostalgic and refreshing at once. RE 4 is so influential that it’s said to have inspired games like Dead Space.
1 Microsoft Flight Simulator – 90
Boasting an official Metacritic “Must Play” seal of approval, the best title in VR gaming in 2021 was Microsoft Flight Simulator. Tallying the only 90 Metascore of all VR games released in the year, the comprehensive sim is both educational and enthralling at once, allowing players to bolster their flying skills with the utmost realism.
Hailed for its stunning visuals, exciting adventures, and large expansion of the game engine that allows players to spend hundreds of hours without getting bored, the striking 4K resolution will hypnotize gamers, especially on Xbox Series S where the game is offered for the first time in July of 2021.
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