In September this year, I compiled a bumper list of the best fitness games to buy on the Oculus Quest. Now, as we head towards Christmas 2019 it’s time for an update. The last couple of months have seen some exciting original titles like Pistol Whip hit the store, as well as excellent ports of established PC VR hits like Thrill of the Fight and Synth Riders. The new list reflects these additions and as a result, some games previously touted as best in class have dropped down. Rankings are subjective to some degree of course, but I’ve chosen as the best game in each category the one that I feel delivers the hardest workout, and has the most replayability. Often these two go hand in hand. I’ve also denoted where each game was rated previously. As you’ll see below, there’s no change to my top two recommendations, Beat Saber and BoxVR remain essential purchases, that can provide a solid foundation for your virtual reality training, but there are some great new entries elsewhere.
I’ll start by covering the two essential games that anyone interested in VR fitness needs to own, These are the reliable staples that can form the backbone of any VR fitness routine, with proven results for weight loss, increased fitness and improved body composition.
I’ll then break down further active titles by genre, showing you the best titles you can buy that match your gaming preferences, be it punching, sword fighting, ball sports, shooting, etc.
By the end of the article, you will know exactly what games to buy that will give you the best exercise results as well as have the most fun in achieving them. Note, where available I’m also quoting the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise scores. This organization subjects VR games to scientific testing to determine how many calories a person can burn playing them and gives them a MET score. For more information on how they score games follow the link here.
Ok enough background, let’s get to the games!
Essential Fitness Games: Beat Saber & Box VR
First up, when it comes to using the Oculus Quest for exercise there are two titles that everybody should own. Combined these two games will give you a complete upper and lower body workout.
Beat Saber (=)
Hands down the best selling VR game ever, this game needs no introduction. Slice blocks with twin light-sabers to the beat of the music, this is a simple rhythm game at heart but with a style and polish like no other. It feels incredible to play, exhilarating rather than exhausting, with various difficulty levels that allow for both instant accessibility, whilst also providing a lifetime challenge to reach mastery. Check out our Beat Saber review for the PC version, the Quest version plays identically.
Fitness benefits – Solid steady cardio and hand to eye coordination workout. VR Institute score of 6-8 calories per minute, 6.24 avg METs, 7.18 METs
You can literally play for hours at a time. You’ll feel sharper, have improved reaction times, and can easily burn up to 400 calories or so in a one-hour session. There are a few squats and leg strides involved but it’s primarily an arm and hand to eye coordination workout.
Surprisingly the only current VR title that explicitly sets out to be a fitness product. BoxVR features a huge variety of workouts designed by real physical activity coaches to simulate the workout you’d get from a gym boxercise class. You punch orbs with a variety of jabs, hooks, uppercuts, and crosses whilst simultaneously ducking under obstacles or side-stepping them. Music in the game comes from PremiumBeat to avoid licensing issues but there’s still an excellent variety of dance, rap, rock, and pop to listen to. BoxVR is not quite as polished as Beat Saber, there are some occasional tracking issues, but the structured workouts focus on both the upper and lower body and I personally find it to be a much more complete workout than Beat Saber, if just a little less fun. This game has sold well on all VR platforms. Follow the link for my in depth look at BoxVR on Quest.
Fitness benefits – Full-body cardio and strength workout that also works the legs muscles. VR Institute score of 6-8 calories per minute, 5.82 avg METs, 6.42 peak METs.
Although it scored slightly lower with VR Institute I actually consider BoxVR to be more demanding than Beat Saber, providing you put the effort in. Punching with force will really work your back and shoulders, and stabilizing yourself from throwing air punches requires a strong core so you’ll feel the burn there too. Make sure you do the leg based workouts to work the lower body and add a weighted vest if you really want to feel the burn!
Something for Everyone! Finding your own go-to fitness game.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week and the two games above will definitely give you that. But you didn’t buy an Oculus Quest just to play two titles only so let’s also explore what other great fitness-oriented games are currently on the platform. There’s something for everyone here and I’ve selected below what I think are the best games for exercise in a variety of popular genres.
Best hand to hand fighting game: Thrill of the Fight (New entry)
With an aggregate review score on the Quest store of 4.9 and over 1000 overwhelmingly positive reviews, it’s fair to say that everyone loves Thrill of the Fight. It’s intense, with primal and visceral combat that feels as real as possible without actually getting punched in the face. Priced at under ten dollars it is quite simply the best value for money fitness game you can buy and the customization options allow for near-infinite replayability. If you like boxing games this is hands down the best one available and a must purchase. One caveat, it’s a full room-scale experience so a minimum of 2 meter x 2 metre playspace is recommended, and more is better. See my full Thrill of the Fight review for more information and if you’re struggling to win the tough fights then read my Thrill of the Fight Tips and Tricks Guide.
Fitness benefits – VR Institute 8-10 calories per minute, 9.28 avg METs, 14.59 peak METs.
Thrill of the Fight gives you an arm and shoulder workout like no other game. It’s great for your core too. Customization options allow for long fights that will allow you to gradually build your endurance.
Also recommended Knockout League (New Entry)
Knockout League is a simple Super Punch-Out style arcade boxing game, where you must complete moves in a scripted sequence to defeat opponents. The boxing fights themselves are an acquired taste and once-beaten, have little to no replay value. However, the game still comes highly recommended thanks to some superb training mini-games. Learn to punch mitts with your trainer, pound the heavy bag and then work on your speed and reflexes in Reflex Alley. The training has genuine longevity thanks to multiple skill levels and the ability to set up sessions up to an hour in length. One criticism that Thrill of the Fight gets is that it doesn’t teach you how to fight and punch. Well, Knockout League can help with that, and the training games are intensely fun and active in their own right. So I give this game a solid recommendation. Read my Knockout League Guide for more information.
Fitness benefits – VR Institute 8.3 calories per minute, 7.93 avg METs, 8.08 peak METs.
As with the other boxing games this is a great arm and shoulder exercise, but unlike TOTF and Creed, Knockout League is also a great leg workout thanks to the scripted ducking sequences.
Worth a look Creed (-2)
Creed by Survios was my previous recommendation for best boxing game but it has been surpassed by both Thrill of the Fight and Knockout League for content and value for money. Thrill of the Fight’s combat is much more satisfying, and Knockout League’s training has more depth. Creed does have the official Rocky license and multiplayer however, so it might be worth getting for those reasons. Still, at $25 it’s too expensive for me to recommend over the other two more affordable boxing games.
Fitness benefits – High-intensity fighting and training sections. VR Institute 6-8 calories per minute 6.30 avg METs, 7.43 peak METs.
With both the fights and pre-fight training being short but fairly intense, this game is ideal for a HIIT routine. You move around the ring using a controller however so your real legs aren’t utilized and the game’s inbuilt stamina system actually restricts you throwing too fast, meaning you don’t get the same workout as with the game’s above.
Best fighting with weapons game: Ninja Legends (+1)
Ninja Legends is a simple wave-based melee combat game that scores number 1 here for two reasons. Firstly the constant 360-degree action ensures an intense and sustained workout, and secondly, its weapons are fun and diverse, allowing you to hack your opponents to bits with a variety of movements. A recent archery update has made the game even better. One of my favorite Quest games, absolutely recommended.
Fitness benefits.- Not reviewed yet by VR Health Institute, my own testing saw an 8 calorie per minute burn, and it actually worked me harder than BoxVR.
Slicing, chopping, slashing, punching, blocking, this game features a variety of movements to work your upper body. Being forced to constantly change direction will work your legs, hips and core.
For more depth read my Ninja Legends review
Also worth considering – Swords of Gargantua (-1)
Swords of Gargantua is a big sword, big enemies melee combat game that features realistic physics and weapons handling. Whilst not as intense or gory as Blade and Sorcery on PC VR Gargantua has been well received on Quest garnering solid reviews. There are no official VR Institute stats for this game yet but VR Fitness Insider reviewer Gabriel covered the game in detail here and his playtest suggests a calorie burn of about 6 per minute.
It drops below Ninja Legends as its simply not as good a workout, but the physics are better and more realistic if that matters to you.
Vadar Immortal deserves an honorable mention here too. The lightsaber dojo is no joke. It features waves of enemies to dispatch and they literally come at you in every direction. I believe it has 40 levels and you’ll certainly get a sweat on working through them all!
Best bow shooter: Elven Assassin (=)
Bow fighting mechanics are tremendously satisfying in VR spawning a host of archery titles on PC. Now the Quest has its own archery wave shooter with the brand new port from PC of Elven Assassin. This game has you defending your castle from an Orc army and features both a single-player campaign and coop multiplayer. Orcs hurl axes at you so you’ll find your legs getting a decent workout as you duck under projectiles whilst simultaneously firing off your own arrows in retaliation. Not rated by VR Institute yet it’s probably a low-medium intensity game that will leave your firing arm sore the next day. Quest Youtuber BMF has just dropped a timely review of the game so check his video above for more detail if you’re interested.
Best Shoot Em Up: Pistol Whip (new entry)
Launching in November Pistol Whip has become the definition of an instant smash hit. Well over 1000 reviews already and currently riding high as the Quest’s top-selling game, Pistol Whip is a stylish, rhythm shooter that allows you to step into an action scene from John Wick or Equilibrium. Kill hordes of bad guys to a pulsating soundtrack, this is a must-own Quest game. Check out Ashley’s Pistol Whip review for more information.
Fitness benefits. Not yet assessed by VR Health Institute, Ashley’s review rates it 144 average heart rate and around 6 calories per minute. Interestingly having to constantly duck enemy bullets means this game is an unexpectedly great leg workout. Multiple difficulty levels ensure you’ll always be tested too.
Worth considering Space Pirate Trainer (-1)
Shooting aliens has been a staple of gaming since the early ’80s and it remains as popular as ever today. Space Pirate Trainer is a wave-based shooter that has you battling hordes of alien fighter ships armed with a variety of handheld laser guns and shields. It’s fast, frenetic and involves lots of dodging and ducking as well as firing your blasters. The Quest comes with a free taster demo of the game so you can see if you like it, and the full game is modestly priced too. An easy pick-up and play title that’s great to come back to when the mood takes you.
Fitness Benefits: This is low to medium intensity cardio, but the pace of the game feels fun and frantic. VR Institute 5 calories per minute 4.97 peak METs 4.91 average METs.
Also consider: Robo Recall
If you like Space Pirate Trainer you’ll likely enjoy Robo Recall as well. It’s more expensive and the graphics did not port quite so well from PC to the humble Quest but the game-play remains identical to its PC counterpart. Shoot robots and rip them limb from limb, and then use those limbs to beat other robots. It’s as fun as it sounds and a true 360-degree workout.
Also, consider Superhot. Superhot needs little introduction, it’s one of the most well known and beloved games available in VR. Fight red glass enemies with anything to hand, the hook being that time only moves when you do. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like Neo in the Matrix this is the game for you! It’s a low-intensity game, but a must-buy for any VR fan as it is cool as heck!
Best Ball Sports: Racket NX (=)
Racket NX is an incredible demonstration of the power of VR and the wireless Quest specifically to create a sporting experience that is both simultaneously beautiful and novel, and also only possible within the medium of virtual reality. It’s a visually striking, sonically gorgeous game that has you striking an electronic ball at walls inside an enclosed circular dome. The developers describe it as racquetball meets breakout inside a giant pinball machine. All you need to know is it’s super slick, futuristic and trance-inducing, and a great way to spend an hour burning off some steam. I’ve been playing this a lot lately. We reviewed the PC version a while ago here, but whilst the fitness aspect is the same with the Quest, the freedom you get from not being wired transforms this into an essential experience if you like ball sports games in VR
Fitness Benefits: Relaxing and hypnotic cyber squash game will give you steady-state cardio and also improve your reaction times and coordination. VR Institute 4.5 calories per min 4.36 peak METs, 4.03 avg METs.
Also consider: Sports Scramble and Racket Fury
Also worth considering if you enjoy ball sports is Sports Scramble, a fun and eccentric mash-up sports compilation featuring tennis, baseball, and bowling. I reviewed the game recently and certainly recommend it, especially tennis. For ping pong lovers Racket Fury is also well worth a look.
Best Dance/Rhythm Game: Synth Rider (New Entry)
Synth Rider is a dance rhythm that sits somewhere between Beat Saber and Dance Central in play style. Rather than slicing blocks to the beat of the music you are instructed to position your hands so that they glide through long streaks of musical notes, all in time to the beat of the music. It feels very much more dance-like than Beat Saber, but it is not an explicitly choreographed dance game like Dance Central, as I said it mixes the feel of both games. The music is techno/electro-pop, and the whole vibe has an 80’s retro feel. Check my full Synth Riders review for more information. I really enjoyed this. It’s not the most energetic game, but it can put you into a wonderfully relaxed flow state where you can dance and sway for hours. Great game and well worth a purchase if you like rhythm games!
Fitness Benefits. Not yet tested by VR Institute in my testing I burned approximately 5 calories per minute. Playing the game on the default game mode I felt it was low to moderate intensity but is playable enough to easily play for an hour or more. I have been informed by a veteran user, however, that playing on expert and master levels with punch mode enabled gives a much harder workout, and that the fitness scaleability, therefore, covers the full range from low-moderate to extremely vigorous!
Worth Considering – Dance Central (-1)
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to start an exercise program is with simple dancing. You can work the whole body and also improve your coordination, flexibility, and sense of rhythm. In fact, studies show that learning dance routines are good for the mind and can even help fight against dementia as learning new dance patterns is a form of problem-solving that stimulates the brain and helps strengthen neural connections.
If this sounds good to you then you’ll likely love Dance Central, where you get to dance choreographed moves to a variety of songs, from 70’s classics to contemporary pop. There are 32 songs to choose from. There’s even a multiplayer lounge where you can dance and chat with other VR users. If you’re interested to know more check out Gabriel’s Dance Central Review.
Fitness benefits – Low to medium intensity cardio, whilst also working the mind and helping to improve mood, cognition and neural function. Not yet covered by VR Institute but approximately 6 calories per minute.
Best Speciality Games system – VZFit Play and VZFit Explorer (New Entry)
VZFit Play is a suite of Oculus Quest games designed to be experienced on a stationary bike. Produced by VZFit, you will need to purchase their sensor which clips on to the pedal of any stationary bike and allows you to use the bike to pedal through a variety of games and experiences.
Ride the flying horse Pegasus, cycle around a beautiful beach island, fly a helicopter or control a tank. The games are fun and enhance any cycling workout.
Meanwhile VZFit Explorer literally opens up the entire world to you, allowing you to cycle through Google Street View either on your own, with a computer rider for company, or even a friend via multiplayer.
I’ve been using VZFit for a couple months now and can highly recommend it if you own a bike and want to make it more fun to use. Full review coming soon!
Turn any game into a fitness experience
Whilst the game listed so far were a roundup of titles you can consider specifically oriented towards fitness, the Quest catalog likely has dozens of other titles you want to play for fun, and you certainly should do that. In fact, with a little bit of creative ingenuity, you can turn pretty much any standing game into an opportunity to burn calories and get active.
As VR Fitness writer Richard Bashura writes in his recent article on the benefits of walking simulators, simply walking or jogging on the spot in time to your characters movement’s will both increase the physical challenge, enhance your feeling of immersion and game presence and even combat motion sickness if artificial locomotion can make you feel a bit queasy.
With that in mind, I can certainly recommend the following two games as being standout single player story driven games for the Quest, that you can turn into a great workout.
Best Single Player Adventure: Journey of the Gods (=)
In terms of wanting a full-fledged RGP sword and sorcery type experience Journey of the Gods is currently the best you can get on Quest. I reviewed the game here, and found its cute retro Zelda Esque graphical and gameplay style both fun and rewarding as a video game, and also a decent workout when I decided to jog along with my character. There’s a mix of sword, shield and bow action here and the full story lasts around 6 hours. It’s well worth picking up if you’re a fan of the genre.
Also consider: Apex Construct (=)
Apex Construct is another worthy game to add to your Quest collection. It’s a futuristic sci-fi adventure that combines bow shooting with exploration, puzzle-solving, and an intriguing storyline. I really enjoyed this one. It’s definitely light on the exercise side, but there’s a lot of ducking and crawling around, rummaging through boxes and drawers, and you could wear a weighted vest to add resistance. Your character wears armor and a heavy bow in the game so the vest can add immersion as well as give your legs and back a bit of a workout.
Rec Room One final title that is definitely worth installing (it’s free!) is Rec Room. Massively popular on both PC and Playstation VR the game was also a launch title for Quest. It’s a multiplayer social hub that features a multitude of things to do, from paintball to fighting alongside your friends on medieval quests. The player base can be quite young, but it’s a great game to play with your friends and family if you have more than one headset.
I hope you found this list helpful, and we’ll be sure to add to it when new Quest experiences become available. Considering the headset only launched at the end of May this year I think there is already a stack of excellent titles to choose from, and this will only increase over time!