When it comes to non-standard gaming gimmicks, virtual reality has to be one of my personal favourites. There's something special about blocking out everything but the game, separating camera movement and hand movement, and allowing the scale of a game world to really set in around you. However, VR gaming still has some issues to overcome, and chief among them is motion sickness.
Here's the problem: while VR can show your eyes a convincing world, and headphones can trick your ears into believing you're surrounded by a 3D space, your brain is just a little too good at knowing when something isn't quite right. In VR games where you can use an analogue stick to walk around (like Resident Evil 7), many players find themselves becoming motion sick due to their body getting confused about a missing sense of motion. The fact that you're accelerating and decelerating, but not feeling any forward or backwards motion, really freaks out the bit of your brain that controls compensating for movements as they occur.
While a number of VR games are known to cause motion sickness, there's some that manage to avoid causing it, usually via creative ideas about movement (or a lack thereof). If you've played a game on PlayStation VR and felt too ill to continue, why not jump into one of the following games instead? These are all games that mitigate motion sickness by ensuring that your body is as comfortable as possible knowing where it is located, and how it is moving in 3D space.
While it's not immediately clear from the name, Superhot VR is not just the original Superhot ported into virtual reality. It's actually a totally separate second game. It has a new unique story, completely recreated levels, and some major tweaks to the game design to accommodate being in VR.
In Superhot, players moved around levels, with every footstep taken causing the bullet time world to slowly move. In Superhot VR, however, levels are are played with the player in a stationary position. You stand in one spot, with access to a variety of weapons, and enemies run towards you trying to kill you. You can move your head at will, but moving your hands will cause the world to move. You can dodge projectiles and attacks by leaning out of the way, you can slice bullets out the air as they fly at you, and you can look in one direction while shooting in another.
By making the game a stationary position experience, Superhot VR reduces movement to leaning in physical space, an action which generally doesn't cause motion sickness. Nothing feels cooler than cutting bullets out the air with one hand while shooting enemies with the other.
When played in 2D, Tetris Effect is a solid Tetris game. You drop blocks to make rows while lovely music plays in time with your actions, and interesting visuals float around the screen, occasionally obscuring your view. However, it's when you play Tetris Effect in VR with headphones on that its true beauty shines through.
Tetris Effect's psychedelic visuals can be a distraction when playing on a TV, but in VR the added depth of the game's environment makes them easier to enjoy. The wonderful visuals surround you as they fill up your whole field of view, the rest of the world shut away.
Maybe it's the increased refresh rate of the VR headset, or the fact that everything but the Tetris board is gone as a distraction, but I found I played Tetris more effectively in VR, while also getting lost in the gorgeous audiovisual landscape the game provided. And since Tetris Effect is played from a single stationary point in space, momentum-based motion sickness isn't a concern.
If you've ever been a fan of music rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution, but bemoaned the lack of lightsaber wielding in both (and who didn't?) then Beat Saber might be just the game for you. Boxes fly at you in time with music, and it's your job to slash them in the correct direction and dodge out the way of incoming projectiles. Imagine you're stood on the Guitar Hero note track, and the notes are flying at your face rather than falling from the top of the screen.
Beat Saber is another game where you play stood in a set position, and the game cleverly leaves a gap between the platform you are stood on and the moving note track. This means that your brain can tell things are moving towards you, rather than thinking you're moving towards them, and as such avoids motion sickness issues.
Initially included as a small part of the Playroom VR demo for PlayStation VR, Astro Bot Rescue Mission is a collection of platforming levels where you float about a world, guiding an adorable robot as he finds his missing friends and kicks them into the safety of your controller. It's a straightforward platformer in many ways, but one that makes fantastic use of 3D space.
While most of the games on this list are experiences that keep the camera in a set position, Astro Bot actually reduces motion sickness while still allowing for movement through 3D levels. It does this by moving the camera on guided rails, which move predictably, smoothly, and rarely enough to avoid lurching stomachs.
Your playable hero Astro can run around levels as freely as he likes, but as the player you can only watch progress from above, leaning around to look behind you, under platforms, around corners, and above ledges to see if there's a secret that you can direct Astro towards.
The boss battles in Astro Bot have a fantastic sense of scale, the game makes amazing use of the PS4 controller to ground you in Astro's world, and the world design is some of the most believable and immersive I've seen in VR so far. It's not too lengthy a game, but it's well worth playing. A rare VR game that manages to make 3D movement work comfortably.
Space Pirate Trainer
Another VR game played from a stationary standing position, Space Pirate Trainer has you shooting incoming waves of robot aliens. While it's a simple concept, what makes Space Pirate Trainer so fascinating to play is the way it frees each of your limbs and their actions away from your camera. You can hold a gun or a shield in either hand, and managing your defence and offence is key to success.
You'll have to constantly be scanning around your environment looking out for enemies, and often shooting at things without looking at them so you can focus on positioning your shields correctly. It's a game about feeling the right place to aim rather than looking at it, and it makes great use of the 3D space while doing so. It's a fantastic little VR shooting gallery, and probably the best example of how VR's physical space allows for gameplay types that simply do not work outside of VR.
Pixel Ripped 1989
Pixel Ripped 1989 is a bit of a budget game, but one that excels because of its superb concept. You play a young girl in primary school, trying to play video games any chance she gets, who ends up intertwined with the fate of the protagonist of her game. You'll do things like distract the teacher with spitballs to whip out your handheld console during lessons, but as you progress through levels the game starts to unfold around you in 3D space. You might be jumping across the books on your classroom table to reach the boss Dragon, or climbing up platforms falling like tetronimoes in the window of the headmaster's office while he shouts at you for being distracted. It's a blending of games and reality that really captures the magic of gaming.
All the levels are set in environments where the player character is sat down in a chair, be it a classroom set or the benches outside at lunch. Best of all, your own DualShock 4 acts as your physical handheld console. By holding the DualShock closer to your face you can look closer at the in-game handheld, and by putting it down on your lap you can hide it from the teacher. Pressing buttons on your controller presses them on the handheld on screen, and together it really helps to maintain a real sense of physical presence in the game's world.
Co created by Justin Roiland, the man behind TV show Rick and Morty, Accounting + is a surreal game about travelling between worlds and causing mayhem along the way. I don't want to spoil too much of this short experience, but it's all about absurdist comedy and unexpected consequences for seemingly minor actions.
Accounting + manages movement by allowing players to walk around in small physical spaces, which does require you to clear a pretty big square of your room empty, but handles larger movements via teleportation. Because teleporting moves you instantly between positions without any momentum involved, it diminishes most of the issues that cause motion sickness. You're either teleporting, or warping, rather than using the analogue stick to move.
If you enjoy surrealist comedy, Accounting + is well worth an hour or so of your time.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a VR game, but it's also not a video game at all in some regards, thanks to how it's played. One player puts on their VR headset and is shown a bomb which only they get to see. The bomb features batteries, serial codes, wires, times, lights, and a bunch of other component types which all need to be diffused as fast as possible. However, outside of VR, another player (or group of players) has a real-world instruction manual full of convoluted and tough-to-parse bomb defusal instructions.
While this game can be played without VR support, VR is a really smart way to shut off any visual communication between teams, without having to turn your whole TV screen away from the rest of the room. The person diffusing the bomb is sat in a stationary position in the game world, simply moving the bomb in front of them, so it avoids most of VR's movement issues.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is great fun, so long as you're okay with a lot of frantic and frustrated shouting as you and your friends misunderstand complicated nonsense instructions against the clock.
I Expect You to Die
If you're a fan of the concept of escape rooms, as well as escape scenes from spy movies, then I Expect You to Die might be just up your alley. You play a James Bond-style spy, trapped in a series of supervillain scenarios designed to finally kill you and prevent you saving the world. All these scenarios take place sat in a stationary position, and you have only the tools at arms' reach to escape.
From escaping a car in the back of a cargo plane surrounded by poison gas, to stopping a laser from killing you while strapped to a chair, you'll have to look everywhere and use everything to get out alive from very well-designed death traps.
And there you have it, our favourite VR games that might help you enjoy VR gaming if motion sickness has previously put you off. I can't promise you won't get motion sick with these games – everyone is different, after all! – but their design decisions around movement give you the best chance possible of a fun and pleasant experience.