VR is about so much more than just gaming. Let us prove it to you with our list of the best VR movies and experiences.
Defining what exactly separates VR movies from other types of experiences is tough. There’s certainly a number of great stories you sit and watch but the industry also continues to blur the lines between movies and games, resulting in unique experiences in which you ‘play’ as a character but perhaps don’t carry out game-y tasks. If you’re looking for our best games lists, check them out below.
This list recognizes both those experiences and more definable VR movies, then. You might notice some overlap with our other gaming lists if we feel a certain title fits both categories well, but rest assured that anyone not into VR gaming will still be able to enjoy these apps. Also don’t forget we’re listing cross-platform releases you’ll find across the Oculus Store, SteamVR and the PlayStation Store. Finally, these are all experiences you can try for yourself now – not anything we’ve seen in festival circuits etc that are yet to see release.
Best VR Movies And Experiences
Honorable Mention – Felix & Paul Studios — Quest, Rift
Felix & Paul Studios is the group behind some the highest quality 360-degree videos. They’ve put cameras aboard the International Space Station as well as at the center of Cirque Du Soleil performances, and 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.” We recommend checking them all out — you can find a full listing of Felix & Paul Studios projects and respective store links on the company’s website.
Honorable Mention – The Last Guardian VR Experience – PSVR
As a gaming platform first and foremost, PSVR has precious few non-gaming experiences to its name. But in 2017, Sony Japan extracted a handful of sections from Fumito Ueda’s wonderful PS4 exclusive, The Last Guardian, and transplanted them into PSVR as an experiment. The results are absolutely stunning – the game’s brilliant bird-dog star, Trico, towers above you and feels ready to reach out and stroke. We decided not to put this on the full top 10 given it’s essentially a very abridged experiment, but if you’re a fan of Ueda’s worlds, you can’t miss this.
10. Gloomy Eyes – Quest, PC VR
Colin Farrell narrates this cutesy narrative that’ll delight fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas. We follow Gloomy, a young zombie that falls for a human girl. As you can imagine, the warring factions of living and undead aren’t so happy to hear this. What follows is Romeo and Juliet with a gory twist and a really fascinating piece of VR storytelling. If you love the diorama-sized antics of VR games like Moss and Astro Bot then you’ll love what Gloomy Eyes has on offer, making it one of the best VR movies you can see today.
Baobab Studios makes some of the most polished, family-friendly VR content around, with many coming to refer to it as the Pixar of VR. Some of its early films like Invasion! are great, but the studio took a significant leap forward with the 2019 launch of Bonfire. For the first time, the studio experimented with interaction, letting viewers get involved with the story and make friends on an alien world. Ali Wong lends a welcome hint of comedy to the experience which, for our money, remains the studio’s best work to date. That said, if you want more VR movies, Baobab’s catalog is a good place to start.
8. Star Wars: Vader Immortal – Quest, Rift, PSVR
Vader Immortal is one of two titles on this list that comes closest to blurring the line with games (so much so it’s in our best Rift and Quest games lists too) but, at its core, its 90+ minute story can be experienced by just about anyone. Basically a Star Wars movie in which you play a part, this three-part series sees you travel to the fiery planet of Mustafar to confront the Dark Lord himself. Vader Immortal has epic action moments that put you front and center, but it’s at its best when you’re in the intimidating presence of one of cinema’s most iconic characters. Developer ILMxLAB calls this storyliving, and we think that’s a pretty great description.
7. The Line – Quest
Pixel Ripped developer Arvore tries its hand at VR storytelling with this wonderful little short. It brings to life a 1940s São Paulo using an intricate scale model. We follow Pedro as he delivers newspapers and falls for a local girl. The Line is an incredibly smart use of VR that gives you the feeling of visiting a model museum just as much you are diving into a VR movie. It’s that sort of storytelling that really highlights what makes this new medium special. Plus if you’re watching on Oculus Quest you can experience the narrative with controller-free hand-tracking as a bonus.
6. Dear Angelica – Quest, Rift
The now-shuttered Oculus Story Studio put out three main projects in its short time working on VR content. Lost and Henry were cute first steps, but it was Dear Angelica with which the studio really found its footing. Released as a beautiful showcase for the team’s creative tool, Oculus Quill, Dear Angelica told a touching story of a daughter remembering her mother’s Hollywood career, brought to life with vivid realization. It was the first VR movie to really explore VR scale as a means of mirroring human emotion and was never anything less than amazing to look at. If you can, see it on Rift, where you’ll get full six degrees of movement. The Quest version is still worth it, but only presented as a 3DOF video — so feel free to turn your head but don’t lean around.
Spheres is the VR equivalent of going to an IMAX theater, grabbing a pair of 3D glasses and watching a nature documentary on the biggest screen possible. Just leave the popcorn at the door or things could get messy. This is a hypnotic three-part exploration of our universe that mixes user interaction and arresting visuals together to create something surprisingly profound. Millie Bobby Brown, Jessica Chastain and Patti Smith lend their voices to an experience that perfectly highlights how VR can be used as a powerful educational tool as much as an entertainment one.
4. Accounting+ – Quest, PC VR, PSVR
Another project that you could call a game, Accounting+ is an eccentric and unpredictable take on the future of VR. First developed as a collaboration between Rick & Morty’s Justin Roiland and Crows, Crows Crows, it’s an absurdist rollercoaster that offers something equal parts crazy and compelling around every corner. Whether you’re thrust into the middle of a high-stakes police chase or, uh, playing a xylophone made up of human bones, there’s always something weirdly wonderful to interact with, and it’s all fueled by Roiland’s screechy, awkward and hilarious brand of comedy.
3. Wolves in the Walls
One thing that makes VR so compelling is characters, and interacting with what you believe is a living, breathing human. That’s incredibly tough to capture; we’re unpredictable, expressive creatures with unlimited freedom, and current AI just can’t measure up to that. But one of the strongest early examples of character interaction in VR is Wolves in the Walls. Fable Studios’ delightful adventure pairs you up with Lucy, a young girl that needs your help. Building a bond with her over the course of three episodes is one of the most compelling, fascinating experiences you can have in VR. Take a good look at Wolves in the Walls; it might just be the future of this platform.
2. Battlescar – Quest, PC VR
It’s been five years now since major VR headsets launched but, while VR gaming has come a long way, lots of VR movies still feel like they’re wrestling with the new medium. A lot of passive content simply doesn’t feel like it needs to be seen inside a headset. That’s absolutely not the case with Battlescar, a fast and ferocious short film that follows two young girls thrust into the middle of the 1970’s New York punk scene. Battlescar makes it its mission to stay fresh, changing up storytelling styles every few minutes and making great use of scale and proximity. Plus it’s one of the few VR movies that aspires to more than Pixar-style semantics and tells a truly mature story. If you want to see what the best VR movies can really do, look no further than Battlescar.
1. The Under Presents – Quest, PC VR
After a strong VR debut with Virtual Virtual Reality, Tender Claws decided to dive in at the deep end with its incredible next project – The Under Presents. There a lot of different aspects to The Under. For starters, it’s a virtual club where strangers can meet, explore a dystopian wasteland or kick back and watch one of the pre-recorded shows in a theater. There’s also a main exhibit that tells a fascinating story of its own unique way. But, finally, there are the live performances. If you’re lucky, you might catch actors dotted about the environment and follow them for a unique experience, or maybe to take part in live shows and experiences like their recent VR rendition of The Tempest. Sadly the live element has been scaled back since its launch but you still might get lucky if you dive in, which we fully recommend.
What do you make of our list of the best VR movies? Let us know in the comments below!