The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift might be battling it out for the upper end of VR, requiring a pricey new PC to even hit minimum specs with either – but Samsung's Gear VR still delivers a great mobile VR experience at a fraction of the cost.
Sure, they're not all exactly on the same level, but the Gear VR requires a much less expensive overall investment, especially if you already have a recent Samsung flagship phone and it already has dozens and dozens of apps to check out in the Oculus Store.
From games to 360-degree VR videos, there's plenty to dig into, but we've got some favourites, naturally. Here are the 15 Gear VR games and apps you ought to start with.
MINECRAFT: GEAR VR EDITION
Minecraft in VR? If this doesn't have Gear VRs flying off of store shelves, then we don't know what will. The Gear VR Edition is effectively the same as the mobile Pocket Edition, offering survival and creative modes and a large chunk of the core PC experience, only now you're immersed in the blocky worlds.
Playing in first-person is a real trip, but it can also be overwhelming – which is why a tap of the touchpad can switch to you a windowed view, wherein the game is played on a TV inside a pixelated lodge. In either case, if you love Minecraft, you'll certainly want to have it all around you in VR. And if you don't know Minecraft, now's the time to try it.
SMASH HIT VR
Smash Hit VR is adapted from a pretty great mobile game, but it's even better when you're immersed in this wonderfully destructive experience. As you're automatically nudged through rooms filled with minimal geometry, you must toss balls to shatter the glass panes and sculptures peppered along the way.
It's an arcade experience, really: continued play requires careful aim and smashing every last piece of glass, which gives you extra balls with each toss. In VR, it's a dazzling experience, full of satisfying thrills and beautiful sights – and amazingly, it's totally free too.
HITMAN GO: VR EDITION
Hitman Go scaled down the stealth assassination series for mobile, but surprisingly, it proves a perfect fit for VR too. The core concept hasn't changed here: each hit takes the form of a puzzle on a game board, challenging you to find the best way through threats and around hazards to complete the stage.
Given the game's perfect faux-plastic look, now in VR it really feels like you're playing on a physical surface with tiny miniature figurines. Hitman Go was already great, and the move to VR makes subtle, smart tweaks that lightly enhance the experience. If we're lucky, successor Lara Croft Go will make the VR leap anytime now.
Land's End shares some visual commonalities with Monument Valley, the stunning mobile puzzler, but ustwo's first VR effort is much simpler in approach than that earlier game. Rather than twist around the environment to solve brain teasers, you'll look freely around the sparse, beautiful terrain and use your gaze to progress through breezy puzzles.
While not especially challenging, Land's End is a delight to take in, as it creates a real sense of atmosphere in the calming, natural terrain – and has just enough mystery to keep you pushing ahead to each new landmark.
Netflix in VR? Yep, Netflix in VR. No, sadly, not all of the service's myriad films and TV shows are magically transformed into ultra-immersive, 360-degree wonders. In fact, as of this writing, Netflix doesn't have any VR-optimised content. So what's the point?
It turns out that watching films on a fake flat screen in a virtual viewing room is kind of great, and here you'll browse your queue and soak in Netflix's best amidst a cozy pad with ace décor. Popping on a headset is a surprisingly nice way to immerse yourself in whatever you're watching, and some content really benefits from the in-your-face approach.