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Best free VR games and apps for PC

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Proud of your high-end VR setup, but don't have the money to splurge on all the apps and games out there? Or new to VR and want to experiment and discover? There are plenty of great apps and games that you can try for free, and we've rounded up the best to recommend to you.

PC-connected VR still has the most amazing experiences available, but let's face it, it's expensive. Not even counting the cost of your VR-ready PC/laptop, you'll need to spend around $400 for the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or latest Samsung HMD and up to $1,000 (or more) for the mighty Vive Pro. So the chances are that you won't have too much left over to buy apps and games to actually use it with. 

Oculus Rift and Vive headsets often come bundled with a few titles to get you started, or in the case of HTC, a trial subscription to the Viveport content platform. This list has been curated with an eye to cross-platform compatibility where possible, so that whatever your choice of headset, you can start off with a well-rounded library of VR experiences that show what's possible with the medium.

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Best Free VR games

The Lab

Valve serves up a free treat for VR adopters with The Lab. It is a collection of simple yet highly entertaining mini games set in Aperture Labs, which video game veterans may be familiar with from the Halo and Portal games. The different experiences on offer are great for newbies who want to get a handle on different kinds of controls and play around with VR physics.

You can wreck havoc knocking things down with a slingshot, shoot a longbow from castle ramparts, play around with a virtual dog, teleport to exotic locales (even outer space), and poke around in the human body using real CT scans. The robot repair puzzle is particularly fun. Fans of the Portal games will appreciate the change to come face-to-face with GLADOS at full scale. After trying everything once, I can't see myself coming back very often, but it'll remain my go-to experience for showing off the potential of VR to friends.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality

Waltz of The Wizard

Wizard simulators are a new genre in VR, thanks to the realistic feeling of casting magical spells through gestures using tracking hand controls. Games like The Wizards (duh), The Mage's Tale and Skyrim VR provide the full-fat experience, but Waltz of the Wizard is a short and sweet taste of what it's like to wield arcane powers in your hands.

The visuals are incredibly polished and wreaking havoc with magic and physics in the arcane laboratory is great fun. You mix potions, trace spells in the air, levitate objects around and travel through portals - all under the tutelage of a mysterious spirit trapped in a skull. There's also a dungeon-crawling style level where you have to navigate a maze of traps, fending of enemies with swords and a crossbow. An enchanting experience that makes you wish for more, and I'll admit that it immediately motivated me to check out the bigger, paid VR spellcasting games out there.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality

The Red Stare

The Red Stare is a nice little indie adventure puzzle game that drops you into 1950s New York at the height of the 'Red Scare'. Your goal? Observe your surroundings and deduce which of your neighbors is a dirty commie traitor! You'll be receiving tips from your HQ via fax and telephone, but it's still a reasonable mental challenge to be alert for the telltale signs of communist agents - from their actions and their belongings.

This is a fully fledged game, not just a demo, and provides about a couple of hours worth of gameplay for free, which isn't bad at all. Multiple endings are possible and even though I usually enjoy more action-oriented VR games, I found the immersive historical atmosphere (complete with day/night cycle) and logical challenges quite engaging. And at a price that can't be beat!

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality

Apex Construct (Demo)

Game demos aren't as popular as they used to be, but I remember when collecting hours of game demos from magazines as a kid, many of which gave a good hour or so of fun before ending and prompting me to buy the full game. With VR needing to court new players, demos are making a comeback, and this taste of Apex Construct is a fully fledged game for free, up to a point.

This game sees you take up a high-tech bow and shield and set out into a post apocalyptic world in which robots have taken over, reminiscent of Horizon Zero Dawn. The story is intriguing and the archery is fun and challenging. Even if you don't end up purchasing the full game, the demo is well worth your time.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, PSVR

NVIDIA® VR Funhouse

Similar to The Lab, NVIDIA® VR Funhouse is a collection of mini-games united by a theme. Instead of Aperture Labs, you're in a fairground, in which you can try out classic games like skeet-shooting and whack-a-mole, as well as slightly more exotic sideshows like shooting flaming arrows and playing with green slime.

Although there's only about 20 minutes or so of gameplay here (depending on your tolerance for repetition), the graphics are absolutely stunning. Basically, it's an excuse for NVIDIA to show off what it can do in VR. Providing that you have a high end GeForce GTX GPU and CPU to run it well, it can be absolutely breathtaking. The variety of games and fairground atmosphere also make it a good choice for parties where you and your friends take turns at the sideshows.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

Best free VR apps

Rec Room

Rec Room is basically a social app, but it contains many games, too. The focus is on getting together with real-life people and doing different activities, including kid-friendly shooting experiences like Paintball, Dodgeball and Lazer Tag. You can also build your own custom play area.There's even a battle royale mode that gives you some of that Fortnite feeling in VR. 

Rec Room has been around for a few years, but regular updates and a strong community keep the game fresh with new content. 'Quests' are also issued to motivate your to reach new goals. The cross-platform compatibility is impressive, even PSVR and non-VR users can join in.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, PSVR

The VR Museum of Fine Art

Art lovers, have you ever looked forward to seeing a much-desired piece in a museum, only to gnash your teeth at waiting hours in line, then trying to get a peek in through all the annoying tourists (hey, you're a real connoisseur, not like them), security guards, glass panels, barriers, flashing cameras and so on?

Then this is the app for you. The VR Museum of Fine Art is what is says on the tin: it is a virtual museum stuffed with famous artworks at a true-to-life scale. This allows you to get up and close with the Mona Lisa and do the things you always wanted to do (probably). The fine detail of the 3D models is amazing and just like a real museum, there's written information to provide context. Great for education or just to relax.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive

Google Earth VR

Google Earth has always, for me at least, been one of the most fascinating pieces of software ever created. But it's only in VR that it feels like it reaches its full potential. Google Earth VR gives you a god's eye view of the world, letting you invisibly explore faraway locations you've only dreamed of. Walk the streets of New York or Tokyo or 'climb' mount Everest or 'descend' the Grand Canyon from your living room.

A tip for using Google Earth: while my first instinct was always to wander in places I've never been before, it's worth taking some time to visit your old hometown, or places you've actually been on vacation in the past. You'd be surprised at the emotional memories that rise up when you're VR Google Earthing a place you're nostalgic for.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality

Microsoft Maquette

Microsoft Maquette is a VR construction kit that lets you unleash your inner creativity. It allows you to create scenes with customizable 3D models - rooms, objects, animals, people, clothes, landscapes - you name it. The UI is reasonably intuitive (for me, it was a completely new kind of experience, but it didn't take too long to get the hang of it).

While you can have some fun screwing around and building scenes, this app will be more interesting to people with a professional interest in VR: preparing presentations, making game levels, storyboards, 3D mockups, and so on. Game designers will be especially pleased that creations from Microsoft Maquette can easily be ported to Unity.

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality

Google Spotlight Stories 

Another one from Google, Spotlight Stories isn't a single app, but rather a collection of VR animated movies by different directors, animators and voice actors. The 'Spotlight' part refers to how the animation usually gets moving at the center of your gaze, with the action on the periphery slowing down to let you focus on your point of interest.

Although short, the Spotlight Stories are charming and very well-made. Even though it's an older VR project, it's still getting regular new stories every few months, with the latest, The Age of Sail, from November 2018.

Check out the flat version of The Age of Sail below:

Platforms: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, also Cardboard and Daydream

Have you tried these free VR apps and games? Are there any others you would recommend? Let us know in the comments.

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Nicholas Montegriffo

Nicholas Montegriffo

A cyberpunk and actual punk, Nicholas is the Androidpit team's hardcore gamer, writing with a focus on future tech, VR/AR, AI & robotics. Out of office, he can be found hanging around in goth clubs, eating too many chillies, or at home telling an unlucky nerd that their 8th level wizard died from a poisoned spike trap.

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