There’s a lot more to virtual reality than just games. This selection of the top VR movies and experiences will serve to demonstrate our point.
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It’s difficult to pin down what makes a VR movie distinct from other forms of entertainment. Movies and video games are becoming increasingly intertwined, resulting in new kinds of ‘games’ where you can “play” as a character but don’t always do game-like actions. If you’re interested in seeing our picks for the finest games, continue reading.
The following list honors both of those types of VR experiences, as well as other, more clearly defined ones. It’s possible that some of these apps will appear on our other gaming lists, but be assured that anyone who isn’t interested in virtual reality will still be able to enjoy these apps. Also, keep in mind that we’re including cross-platform releases from the Oculus Store, SteamVR Store, and PlayStation Store. Finally, these are real-world experiences that have already been made available to the public; they are not concepts that have only been demonstrated at festivals or other live events.
Honorable Mention – Felix & Paul Studios — Quest, Rift
Video created by Felix & Paul Studios is among the best available. Their project Traveling While Black is “a cinematic VR experience that immerses the viewer in the long history of restriction of movement for black Americans and the creation of safe spaces in our communities,” and they’ve placed cameras on the International Space Station and in the center of Cirque Du Soleil performances. Our recommendation is to check them all out. The website of Felix & Paul Studios has a complete list of their projects and links to their various online stores for your convenience.
Honorable Mention – The Last Guardian VR Experience – PSVR
PSVR is primarily a gaming platform, and hence offers few non-game experiences to its name. Nevertheless, in 2017, Sony Japan pulled a few pieces from Fumito Ueda’s fantastic PS4 exclusive, The Last Guardian, and repurposed them for PSVR as a test. Trico, the game’s magnificent bird-dog star, towering over you and begs to be stroked. The effects are stunning. As a condensed experiment, we didn’t include it in our top 10, but fans of Ueda’s worlds will not want to miss it.
10. Gloomy Eyes – Quest, PC VR
Fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas will revel in Colin Farrell’s charming narration in this lighthearted family film. Our protagonist is Gloomy, a young zombie who falls in love with a human. The warring groups of the living and the undead, as you might expect, are not pleased. Romeo and Juliet gets a bloody makeover in this chilling virtual reality adaptation of the Shakespeare classic. Gloomy Eyes is one of the best VR movies you can see today if you enjoy the diorama-sized antics of VR games like Moss and Astro Bot.
Often referred to as the Pixar of VR, Baobab Studios produces some of the most polished, family-friendly VR content. Bonfire, the studio’s 2019 release, is a huge step up after some of its earlier films, like Invasion!, were excellent. For the first time, the studio allowed viewers to participate in the plot and make friends on an alien world, experimenting with interactivity for the first time. Our favorite piece from the studio thus far, Ali Wong brings some lightheartedness to the proceedings with her performance. If you’re looking for more VR films, Baobab’s collection is a wonderful place to start.
8. Star Wars: Vader Immortal – Quest, Rift, PSVR
Even though Vader Immortal is one of two games on this list that most closely resembles a movie (it appears on our greatest Rift and Quest games lists as well), its 90-plus minute plot can be enjoyed by just about anyone. This three-part Star Wars saga, in which you take on the role of one of the main characters, sends you to the scorching planet of Mustafar, where you must face the Sith Lord himself. When you’re facing up against one of cinema’s most recognizable figures in Vader Immortal, the game really comes to life. We like the term “storyliving” used by the game’s creators, ILMxLAB, to describe this experience.
7. The Line – Quest
We get our first taste of virtual reality storytelling from the developers of Pixel Ripped. Using a meticulous scale model, it recreates a 1940s So Paulo. The story revolves around Pedro, a paper boy who develops feelings for a local girl. In a clever use of VR, The Line gives you the impression of visiting a model museum as much as it does of being submerged in a VR film. This new medium’s storytelling potential is best demonstrated by narratives of this caliber. And if you watch on Oculus Quest, you can take use of controller-free hand tracking to further enhance your viewing experience.
6. Dear Angelica – Quest, Rift
In the short time that the Oculus Story Studio worked on VR content, it released three major projects. With Dear Angelica, the studio finally found its feet after the success of Lost and Henry. Dear Angelica, a moving story about a daughter’s memories of her mother’s Hollywood career, was released as a lovely showcase for the team’s creative tool, Oculus Quill. For the first time, a VR film explored the vastness of the virtual world as a means of conveying human emotion. To get the full six-degrees-of-freedom experience, see it on Rift. Even though the Quest version is only provided as a 3DOF video, it’s still worth watching.
To see a nature documentary in 3D, you need 3D glasses and the widest screen available. Spheres is the VR version of this. Popcorn should be left at the door if you don’t want things to get messy. Using user interaction and stunning images, this three-part tour of our cosmos is captivating and profound. Virtual reality may be a powerful instructional tool as well as an entertaining one, thanks to the voices of Millie Bobby Brown, Jessica Chastain, and Patti Smith.
4. Accounting+ – Quest, PC VR, PSVR
Accounting+ is another VR effort that may be considered a game, with its own unique view on what VR’s future holds. An absurdist rollercoaster, it was created by Justin Roiland and Crows, Crows, as a collaboration between Rick & Morty’s Justin Roiland and Crows. A high-stakes police chase or, eh, using human bones as xylophone strings? There’s always something oddly amazing to interact with, and it all comes courtesy of Roiland’s quirky, awkward and hilarious style of comedy.
3. Wolves in the Walls
One of the most alluring aspects of virtual reality (VR) is the ability to interact with what appears to be a real, breathing human being. Our unpredictable, expressive, and infinitely free natures make it impossible for present AI systems to match up. However, Wolves in the Walls is one of the best examples of character interaction in virtual reality. Lucy, a young girl in need of your assistance, is the star of Fable Studios’ entertaining adventure. One of the most interesting and fascinating VR experiences is forming a relationship with her over the course of the three episodes. Wolves in the Walls may represent the future of this platform, so take a careful look at it.
2. Battlescar – Quest, PC VR
Although major VR headsets have been available for five years now, many VR movies still feel like they’re struggling to adapt to the new medium. Content that doesn’t require a headset to view doesn’t feel like it should. As a short film that follows two young punk ladies in the 1970s New York punk scene, Battlescar is not at all like that. Every few minutes, Battlescar changes its storytelling style and makes superb use of scale and closeness to keep things interesting. Aside from the fact that it’s one of the few virtual reality films that goes beyond the typical Pixar-style semantics, it tells an adult story. Battlescar is an excellent example of what the best VR movies can achieve.
1. The Under Presents – Quest, PC VR
Following the success of Virtual Virtual Reality, Tender Claws decided to go all in with The Under Presents, a stunning follow-up. The Under has a lot of diverse facets. You can meet others and explore the dystopian wasteland or just relax and watch one of the pre-recorded performances at a theater for starters. Additionally, there is an exhibit that focuses on one of the most intriguing stories ever told. There are, of course, the live performances, as well. With any luck, you may be able to follow performers around the setting or participate in live plays and experiences, like their recent VR adaptation of The Tempest.. It’s a shame that the live element has been reduced since its inception, but you never know whether you’ll get lucky.
What do you think of our selection of the finest virtual reality films? In the comments section below, please tell us what you think!