The Lab is one of the best free VR applications. Here are a few more. Credit: Valve

Your new Vive has no shortage of titles to choose from, but money doesn’t grow on trees. At the time of writing, Valve’s Steam sale features a number of VR titles you’ll want to grab if you got the gift of VR from Santa this year. Once that sale ends, you’re paying full price or waiting for sales if you want good deals on games. Any decent game library includes some fun free titles that can show off the hardware, so while you’re hunting for those big titles that will push your physical fitness, be sure to make some time for these free experiences to test out your new hardware.

The Lab

Valve’s “Lab” is exactly what it sounds like. Think of this as your “Wii Sports” for VR, especially for the Vive. If you were fortunate enough to get one this Christmas, then The Lab should be one of the first things you check out as you get oriented in VR.

For all intents and purposes, this is like a first-party title for Valve. First-party games are great because they get to show you how the developer sees the platform, and so there is a wide variety of things to do. Longbow and Robot Repair offer interesting experiences that give you an idea of the kinds of motions you can do in VR, while Postcards and Human Medical Scan show off the potential for VR. Xortex is just plain fun. Which one will be your favorite?

Compound

Movement is a little wonky in this title, but Compound will give you your first taste of what a first person shooter game plays like in Virtual Reality. The developer is still working on the title, but an update hasn’t happened in a while. The game uses different forms of locomotion to show off what’s possible, and takes advantage of room-scale with some limited movement around obstacles.

Acan’s Call

Acan’s Call is your first introduction to the sword and shield genre. Gorn is a good step up from here, and it’s roughly the equivalent of taking a walk if you play for long enough. Both games have the ability to work up a sweat depending on how hard you choose to play them. Acan’s Call’s first act is what the developer calls a proof of concept. There’s no solid information on whether development will continue, but you can expect about 10-15 minutes for a session with this one.

Iota Project

Iota Project just ceased development with a super huge update that added some cool room-scale features like turning by head and body, and free locomotion. The developer calls this a virtual reality giant robot game that fulfills [your] childhood fantasies, and the presentation looks very bright and colorful. Buildings take more damage with this last update, so you can squeeze a few extra minutes out of this one before calling it quits. Your next step up from here might be Thrill of the Fight or Fastest Fist.

Taphouse VR

Taphouse is like a variety of pack of bar themed games. It all takes place in a fun-filled world of drunken tavern dwellers who fight and drink like it’s going out of fashion. Taphouse is a lot of upper body work as you try and fill glasses as quickly as you can. It quickly becomes repetitive, but as a free title it gives you some potential for fun. Sandbox mode has a lot of interactive elements to it, and the hard mode offers a fun party game for friends who have never experienced VR.

That said, maybe don’t show this one to kids.

For the next step up, check out our year end review of the best in VR Fitness games and accessories.


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