While much of the VR conversation gravitates around heavy hitters like the Valve Index and newcomers like the Oculus Quest 2, you may already own a device capable of delivering the most affordable VR experience yet – a Samsung Galaxy phone. Pair it with a Samsung Gear VR headset, priced at a cool $99.99 – a fraction of what you’d pay for a device from HTC, Valve, or even the more budget-friendly Oculus range – and open yourself up to VR’s uniquely immersive brand of gaming.
Thanks to Samsung teaming up with Oculus VR to develop the Samsung Gear VR, owners have access to more than 1,000 games, apps, 360-degree VR videos, and interactive experiences through the Oculus Store or Oculus Gear VR app, that is, if you can stomach the mandatory Facebook login. It’s certainly not a case of scrounging for games among an anemic selection, but rather a case of being spoiled for choice. And, because most are essentially mobile apps, they cost as little as your standard fare Android apps.
So, which are the best games to fire up on the Samsung Gear VR? In this guide, we’ll be answering that very question, shining a spotlight on this oft-forgotten and underestimated headset’s must-play games.
Products at a Glance
With so much said about Samsung ceasing production of the Gear VR and shutting down its XR applications alongside Oculus halting support for its in-house apps like Oculus 360 Photos and Oculus Video on the Gear, you’d imagine there isn’t much out there for owners to experience on the gaming front. You’d be sorely wrong; despite the successive nails in Samsung Gear VR’s coffin, the Oculus Store is teeming with great Gear VR games that highlight just how much potential lies in the ill-fated headset.
We’ve handpicked five of the best ones available to play right now. In the spirit of showcasing the versatility of the Samsung Gear VR, we’ve pulled together various genres from gentle puzzlers to high-octane shooters and everything in between. In terms of methodology, we favored games for their fun factor, offering a unique spin on a tried and tested formula or providing a masterclass in mobile VR immersion.
Read on to find out everything you need to know about each of these Samsung Gear VR games and why they are worth your time and money.
Best Samsung Gear VR Games in 2022
Psychological horror experience
Jump scares aplenty
Well-crafted, unsettling atmosphere
Little in terms of gameplay mechanics
Given the immersive qualities of VR, we’d be remiss not to include at least one horror game among our recommendations. Affected: The Manor brings all the eerie atmosphere and unsettling psychological terror of a well-crafted horror experience to mobile VR users.
It makes the most of the hardware at its disposal to give players a memorable series of quality jump scares as they venture through a haunted manor. Affected: The Manor doesn’t reinvent the horror formula by any means but has all the right ingredients to have even the most weathered horror fans quaking in their boots.
Strong audio work brings the manor to life as you investigate different objects from lone dolls to disturbing paintings by way of departed rodents and Ouija boards. As is so often the case with horror games, Affected: The Manor’s strength is in having the player fear the unseen and the unknown, creating a rising sense of tension before a well-timed, unexpected scare.
While Affected: The Manor hits all the right notes in creating a tense, thrilling atmosphere for the player, it severely lacks substance in the gameplay department. Besides moving forward, scrutinizing various creepy objects, and occasionally opening doors and changing direction, there’s little else: no narrative to guide the player, few interactive elements, and no puzzles or challenges to overcome to advance. It’s more akin to visiting an immersive, digital representation of a fairground haunted house than a genuine video game.
As such, it’s best defined as an experience rather than a game, and a short one at that: no more than 30 minutes for a single playthrough, possibly a little more if you fancy unearthing all of the four alternate endings.
Charming adventure puzzle platform game
Simple, clever mechanics
Suitable for all the family
On the short side
Along Together is a charming Gear VR game that marries elements of adventure, puzzle-solving, and platforming for an overall fun and light experience that’s pleasantly challenging while still being extremely accessible. It keeps its VR mechanics simple, all while allowing for plenty of satisfying interactivity.
You jump in as a child’s imaginary friend, guiding said child through a colorful, vibrant world made up of various biomes from lush forests to empty deserts, besting puzzles, navigating platforming sections, all in search of their lost dog, Rishu.
Along Together’s world manipulation lends itself well to VR as you shape the environment to clear paths and move forward via intuitive hand movements; there’s a slingshot to trigger switches, trees to move, platforms to align, machines to power, and puzzles to solve as a giant helping hand.
Symptomatic of games made for mobile, Along Together is on the short side, and more competent players will blast through the game in no time at all, especially if the puzzles don’t pose too much of a challenge. Most players will complete Along Together in no more than three hours, which feels a little light given what is quite a high asking price for what is essentially a glorified mobile game.
That said, the charming characters, world, and story are ideally suited for players of all ages, positioning Along Together as a great, bite-sized game to introduce younger players to the marvels of VR. Along Together is an excellent pick for all the family.
Gear VR exclusive
Deep turn-based strategy
Compelling story and characters
Hours of gameplay
High production value
Augmented Empire is a turn-based strategy RPG designed exclusively for the Gear VR. While exclusivity means this is an experience unique to the Gear VR, Augmented Empire backs this up with thrilling, deep strategy elements, a compelling story and characters, and a high production value, making it one of the platform’s must-play games for anyone that wants a bit more meat in their mobile VR experience.
While the top-down grid-style gameplay of turn-based strategy games doesn’t necessitate VR, Augmented Empire makes the most of it to put you at the center of its satisfyingly tactical combat that will see you devise clever strategies to make your way through various environments, find cover, use upgrades and powers judiciously, and fire at enemies at the opportune moment.
Augmented Empire is set in the city of New Savannah in the year 2058. The city is broken up by the Citizen Grade System, a tier system that decides where citizens live based on their societal value. This setting is complemented by a narrative teeming with compelling, fleshed-out intrigue that will drop you into one of the most in-depth VR worlds available for Gear VR.
Unusually for Gear VR games, Augmented Empire delivers loads of content and story to sift through, culminating in roughly 10 to 12 hours of gameplay per playthrough thanks to 26 missions, 6 playable characters, and 60 environments to discover. Compared to experiences numbered in minutes for most mobile VR games, Augmented Empire bucks the trend and scores many points in the process.
Satisfying arcade shooter
Plenty of weapons to choose from
Wave after wave of Zombies
If high energy, first-person shooting goodness peppered with a pinch of arcade-style fun sounds enticing, then Drop Dead is a must-play option for Samsung Gear VR owners. It’s an on-rails shooter where you blast through wave after wave of zombies that takes a light approach to the genre with plenty of craziness and a surprisingly good B movie-inspired story to boot, something we wouldn’t expect from this type of game, especially for mobile VR.
Drop Dead proposes three different timelines to explore, plenty of weapons to hone, a survival mode to test your mettle against an endless stream of zombies, multiplayer mode, and a stripped-down beginner mode to get some practice in before jumping into the full-fat story experience. Gameplay is bolstered by accurate weapon targeting, satisfying combat, and overall outstanding performance that delivers a smooth experience across the board.
Drop Dead’s formula is a little repetitive, it has to be said, and the graphics aren’t exactly something to write home about, even considering the hardware limitations of using a Samsung Galaxy phone to power the game. There’s a decent amount of variety to the enemies and environmental elements such as explosives to set off, though. The multiplayer mode does improve re-playability, but this isn’t a game you’ll be playing for months on end. It’s one for short, fun bursts indiscriminately mowing down zombies in immersive VR.
Space dogfighting sim
Intense space battles
Looks and plays great
Massive space environments to explore
End Space channels the dogfighting elements of PC games like No Man’s Sky and Star Wars: Squadrons to deliver a space-faring sim fit for the Samsung Gear VR headset. It’s not just one of the most visually polished games for the Gear VR; it’s also one of the most enjoyable whether you are a fan of space shooters or not.
As a freshly-recruited contractor, you join up with the United Trade Federation to halt the Tartarus Liberation Front’s advance into the Tartarus Sector. As a pilot, you’ll venture into expansive VR space environments, hunting down enemy ships, twisting and swaying to deliver a maelstrom of firepower from a range of weaponry from pulse laser cannons to homing missiles, while sourcing new upgrades as you best levels that surge in difficulty as you progress.
The gameplay experience is immersive thanks to good use of the Gear VR controller and responsive flying mechanics. As noted above, developer Orange Bridge Studios has put considerable effort into bringing End Space’s world to life with incredibly detailed ships, structures, and space debris.
While End Space has plenty going for it, it does suffer from a lack of content. Yes, there are missions to get through, but there’s little else to sink your teeth into once completed. A multiplayer mode would have been a great addition, especially given the quality of the dogfighting experience, but a PvP option is glaringly absent from End Space.
Things To Consider
Thanks to two nifty USB Type-C and Micro USB port converters that ship with the Samsung Gear VR, the headset pairs it with a decent range of Galaxy phones: Galaxy Note9, S9, S9+, Note8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge, A8 Star, A8, and A8+.
Sadly, with Samsung slowly moving away from the product, the latest Galaxy phones aren’t compatible. Samsung released five different models of the Gear VR from 2014 to 2017 to accommodate new Galaxy phone launches in those years, so do check your model to ensure compatibility.
While Samsung Gear VR games are fairly undemanding when it comes to phone specifications, we suggest checking requirements before committing to a purchase, especially if you’re running an older Galaxy model. Similarly, some games require a more or less up-to-date version of Android to run, so do make the necessary checks beforehand on that front, too.
What About Google Play Store VR Games?
Anyone with even a slight inkling of how the VR world is structured knows that it’s a jumble of headsets, platforms, and manufacturers, with many using proprietary software that prevent users from dipping into third-party VR libraries.
Unfortunately, the Samsung Gear VR is among the most draconian, forcing users to download and consume content exclusively from the Oculus Store or Oculus Gear VR app. As such, the growing number of VR experiences on the Google Play Store, specifically those designed for the Google Cardboard and Daydream, are sadly out of bounds. That is, unless you are comfortable toying with third-party apps to circumnavigate the restrictions, but their utility and reliability fluctuate enormously, so they don’t come recommended.
There is a small silver lining to all this: apps, games, videos, and experiences on the Oculus platform, and there are plenty of them, guarantee plug-and-play functionality. Slide your phone in the Gear VR, choose your game, and you are off. No complex hoop-jumping or setup: the games just work.
Can You Play PC VR Games on the Samsung Gear VR?
The short answer: no. As the name implies, PC VR games such as those found on Steam or the standard Oculus Store are designed for headsets tethered to a PC, ideally a high-end gaming rig. The Samsung Gear VR relies exclusively on a Samsung Galaxy phone to power the VR experience and simply doesn’t have the hardware to run PC VR games.
Much like on Android and iOS platforms, there’s no shortage of free Gear VR games for you to sample and experience on the Oculus Store or Oculus Gear VR app. The free cost of entry doesn’t always guarantee quality and often conceal pretty poor or slim gameplay pickings. Still, if cost is an issue, there’s no shortage of content to keep you busy.
For horror buffs that want their fix of immersive VR jump scares, Affected: The Manor isn’t to be missed. The unsettling atmosphere of the haunted manor offers plenty to send shivers down the spine, despite the very short playtime on offer here.
A charming adventure oozing with clever puzzles and platforming, Along Together is one to play with the family. It’s a little on the short side, but the diverse worlds, endearing characters, and pleasantly challenging puzzles make up for this in droves.
Available exclusively on the Samsung Gear VR, Augmented Empire marries satisfying turn-based combat with plenty of depth thanks to a rich world and story. There are hours of gameplay to enjoy and a high production value to match, making this a must-play for Samsung Gear VR owners.
Zombies, fast-paced wave-based combat, and an arsenal of weapons: Drop Dead is the perfect recipe for a fun arcade-style shooter experience that translates incredibly well to VR. The lack of depth and repetitive nature of the gameplay may bother some players, but in short bursts, it’s easily one of the most enjoyable Gear VR games out there.
End Space’s stunning visuals aren’t the only highlight; the game excels at bringing a deep dogfighting sim experience to Gear VR with massive environments and intense battles for space shooter fans to devour.
Feel free to get in touch via the comments section below with any questions, concerns, or suggestions. Happy gaming!