Give your gamer friends the gift of virtual escapism this holiday season.
It’s time to level up their gaming experience by introducing them to the fully immersive world of virtual reality. If you’re looking for a VR headset yourself, you can ditch the keyboard and mouse setup and forget about using a monitor. No more holding down W and mashing your left mouse click. Instead, you and your friend can swing lightsabers to follow the beat, journey into space together or revolt against the Combine’s occupation of Earth.
VR is still very much alive with companies like HTC and Meta (née Oculus) releasing their latest standalone headset like the Vive Focus 3 and Quest 2; Sony’s teasing details about its second-edition VR headset for the PlayStation 5. VR may have been in its infancy years ago, but the space has developed into a growing community with a decent library of games through Steam, Oculus Quest Store and more.
There are a handful of VR headsets at varying price points, but the best ones keep you focused on the game with crisp resolution, smooth controller tracking, and intuitive and ergonomic controls. After all, the last thing you want is for a VR headset to break that immersion. Here are our picks for the best VR headsets, accessories and games that will show you a whole different side of gaming.
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If you’re looking for the most affordable and approachable way to get into VR gaming, the Oculus Quest 2 is still a solid choice. The standalone Quest 2 doesn’t require a PC connection and excels at how easy it is to use and set up. But Oculus’ headset falls short of the competition when it comes to specs and has a major downside of requiring a Facebook login. Read our full review of the Quest 2 here.
Maybe you’ve already tried the Quest 2 and want to see what VR gaming truly has to offer. The higher-end Valve Index and its highly polished design offers a super smooth experience with its amazing controller tracking, which can also track your individual fingers, and the highest refresh rate on this list. This VR headset kit comes with a way higher price tag and has some actual setup involved, making it more of an upgrade pick.
HTC released its latest in the Vive lineup, which offers some of the highest specs on the market. With its crazy high price tag, the Vive Pro 2 offers the best quality resolution on this list at 2448 by 2448 and the widest horizontal field of view at 120 degrees. But, it seems that HTC went all-in on just upgrading up the resolution specs as the Vive Pro 2 still has the same awkward trackpad controllers from the first edition and a shockingly bad mic.
For those who want to really feel like they’re in a VR first-person shooter, the ProTubeVR’s simplistic but practical MagTube lines up the controllers just like a rifle. The magnets allow for the quick removal of the controllers for when you need to use one hand to reload or throw a grenade. But, depending on the game, you might have to spend some time adjusting the MagTube to match the feel of the in-game firearm.
The Vive’s third generation VR tracker can offer a whole ‘nother level of immersion. The Tracker 3.0 can be attached to any body part for full-body tracking or fastened to any object to be translated into the VR world. But, these handy VR trackers will only work with the VR setups that have base stations, like the Index or Vive Pro 2.
Beat Saber is a great inclusion into any VR gamer’s library. This classic cyberpunk rhythm game is super easy to pick up and can actually get you to break a sweat. If you’re looking for something straightforward that puts your timing and stamina to the test, start here and get straight to slashing some musical beats. The developers also often collaborate with musical artists to release fresh content and recently updated the game with crossplay between Steam and Oculus.
More than a decade after the last Half-Life title, Valve dropped a bomb when it announced Half-Life: Alyx. This highly-anticipated game really pushed the VR gaming genre at the time by showing how VR could be merged with a highly story-driven game. Half-Life: Alyx still holds its own more than a year after its release, but may leave those new to the series a little lost.