Not only is the cold season now underway in the States; many of us are bored and lonely in the wake of the second wave of lockdowns and the continuing effort to ride out the COVID-19 pandemic in our homes.
The above is especially troubling given that we’re in the midst of the holiday season. The holidays are already a rough time of year to be alone, but making things worse is the fact that gyms are also starting to shut down again. It’s already easy to fall off of your fitness regimen when gyms close, so what are you to do?
At VR Fitness Insider, we love all things related to virtual reality. I mean, it’s right there in the title of the site! Let’s not cut corners with the praise: VR is tons of fun to get into, it’s potentially fantastic for your health and well-being, and a (well-kept) VR headset is a joy to share with your friends and family.
As a matter of fact, right now is the best time to get into VR. As long as you own a VR headset and have a decent enough space in your home, you can jump into any game that gets you moving around your room and you’ll find yourself building up a sweat in no time.
Of course, VR fitness gaming is good for workouts beyond light cardio exercise. And it’s great for other stuff than just working out.
For serious workouts, however, you can throw on a weighted vest and some ankle and wrist weights, and then you can go to town in a hardcore fitness game like Supernatural or Thrill of the Fight. You can actually train in VR as you would in a gym (just look at studies produced by the VR Institute of Health and Exercise), and the best part of VR fitness is that you can switch up your routine and keep things interesting. As long as you stick to a regimen that challenges you, especially in VR, you will eventually see results. In fact, we’ve recorded tons of testimonials from folks who’ve accomplished impressive fitness feats with VR alone.
VR fitness has something for everybody, whether you want to box, dance, fence, do yoga, or go on an adventure in games like Asgard’s Wrath and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, where you can put those skills to the test. Not to mention, a VR headset makes a fantastic holiday gift!
Whether you’re looking for the right VR headset for a family member, or you’re interested in getting into VR fitness and you want to know all about the best stuff, this VR Fitness Insider 2020 Holiday Gift Guide will make your last-minute holiday shopping far smoother and easier. We’ve covered everything from VR headsets to games to accessories and more. Let’s get started!
Recommended VR Headsets & Hardware
Note that most of the VR headsets listed here require the use of a nice gaming PC. We don’t specialize in gaming PCs, aside from that one-off article we wrote about how not to shop for one. Fortunately, there are tons of useful tips you can find on sites like Tom’s Hardware and PC Gamer!
Oculus Quest 2
The Oculus Quest 2 is the most sought-after VR headset you can get. It’s completely wireless and works entirely on its own without any extra hardware needed, but you can also plug it into a gaming PC and play Rift games if you’d like.
The Quest 2 is also our top recommendation since it doesn’t require any wires that’d otherwise get in your way, and you can carry it anywhere, making it the best fit for physically active VR games. This is especially great if you bring it into a studio or some other wide-open space that affords you more room to play in. Unlike older VR headsets, the Oculus Quest 2 has four inside-out cameras attached to its front panel that can track your controllers and even your hands in any well-lit physical environment, meaning you can walk around anywhere without additional setup. You can even double-tap the side of the device to unlock Passthrough+, a feature that lets you see the world around you from inside of the VR headset.
Not to mention, this headset packs in some serious power. It features a near-4k resolution at 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, runs at framerates up to 90hz (making it smoother than the Oculus Rift S and PSVR), comes with Wifi-6 for faster internet connectivity, and features the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform that offers a hefty performance boost; granting over twice the CPU and GPU power that existed in the original Oculus Quest.
The best part of the deal is the low entry price. While most other VR headsets still cost in the ballpark of $500 or more, the Oculus Quest 2 starts at $300 for its 64 GB edition. That’s a great starting point, but for $400 you can get the 256 GB version which is able to store even more apps and games — this is critical because the Oculus Quest 2 does not accept any kind of external storage. Visit our Oculus Quest 2 Buyer’s Guide for more information!
Note that the Oculus Quest 2 does require a Facebook account to sign in any time you’d like to use your device.
Buy your Oculus Quest 2 directly from Facebook or at any of these select retailers:
Newegg Oculus Quest 2 64 GB – $300
Newegg Oculus Quest 2 256 GB – $400
Oculus Rift S
The Oculus Rift S is quite fantastic as an affordable, easy to set up, and highly accessible PC VR headset. Unlike the Oculus Quest 2, this one does require the use of a gaming PC and it does need at least one free USB 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 connection on your PC so you can hook it in.
Like the Quest 2, the Rift S is covered in cameras that allow for inside-out tracking, meaning that you don’t have to hook up any external cameras or base stations to make the headset work. You can also use Passthrough to look around your real-world environment.
The Oculus Rift S library is much more robust than that of the Oculus Quest 2, and you can play your Rift S with SteamVR games as well — including games like Half-Life: Alyx and Skyrim VR. The cool thing about the Oculus Rift S is its halo-ring design that offers incredible amounts of comfort as the thing wraps around your head during use.
The Rift S outputs a display of 2,560 x 1,440, offering 1,080 x 1,200 pixel displays in each eye. The total refresh rate here is markedly lower, topping out at only 80 Hz. Regardless, at the affordable price of $400, it’s still a great choice for VR fitness gaming and especially for PC VR gaming.
Note that the Oculus Rift S requires a Facebook account to sign in any time you’d like to use your device.
Buy your Oculus Rift S directly from Facebook or at any of these select retailers:
Amazon Oculus Rift S – $400
Best Buy Oculus Rift S – $400 or $33.25/mo financing
Walmart Oculus Rift S – $400
Valve Index is the top of the line PC VR headset that offers both the best controllers and the most versatile display. Like the Oculus Rift S, you’ll need access to a USB 3.0 port and a DisplayPort 1.2 connection on your PC. Unlike the aforementioned Oculus headset, the Valve Index uses outside-in rather than inside-out tracking.
This means that the Valve Index uses base stations placed around your play area to track the movement of your headset and controllers, making your movements way more accurate but at the cost of freedom; you cannot take your Valve Index and play with it wherever you’d like at any time.
However, what you get here with the Valve Index is a much more comfortable headset with a much wider range of display options and some of the coolest VR controllers we’ve ever seen. The display, which is made up of two 1440×1600 LCD screens (one per each eye) can switch between 80 Hz, 90 Hz, 120 Hz, or 144 Hz refresh rates, which makes the Index not only visually crisp but also buttery smooth. The faster refresh rates mean that the gameplay looks and feels much more realistic as well when the display is turned up to max.
The Valve Index controllers, previously codenamed the ‘Knuckles’ controllers, are masterful in their design. Shaped to fit your hands inside like actual brass knuckles (pun intended in the working title), the included hyper-precise finger tracking of the Valve Index controllers let you use each individual finger in VR. This is best exemplified in social VR games that use complete finger tracking, but the frame of the Valve Index controllers is great for VR fighting and boxing games as well. You can find Valve Index units for $1000.
Buy your Valve Index at any of these select retailers:
Valve Index Kit – $1000
Amazon Valve Index Kit – $2200*
- – At the time of this article’s release, this item is sold at an extreme markup that does not reflect MSRP.
PlayStation VR (PSVR)
The PlayStation VR headset is the last on our list of recommended VR headsets. Based on the name, you can figure out that it requires a PlayStation to run off of. In this case, either PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5 will suffice. And while it remains one of the most accessible VR headsets you can buy because it doesn’t require a PC, it also offers its own catalog of great games like Blood & Truth and Astro Bot.
The PSVR display is a single screen that displays a per-eye resolution of 1080 x 960 pixels. Its base refresh rate is 60 Hz, but the PS4 and PS5 use something called ‘reprojection’ to double that to about 120 Hz. The ‘Move’ controllers used for fitness games on the PSVR are a bit outdated but still perfectly usable in popular fitness games like Beat Saber and BoxVR.
Two things you may want to be wary of here are the PSVR’s tracking style and the overall lack of variety in fitness games. The PSVR relies on an outside-in tracking style that only uses a single PlayStation Camera which you’d generally place on top of the TV set you’ve plugged your PS4 or PS5 into. As a result, it only does forward-facing tracking, which means you can only play games where you’re facing a single direction — there are no room-scale VR games on the PSVR as there are on the other headsets. As a result, there is only a limited selection of fitness games on the PSVR altogether.
Regardless, PSVR is still a fine choice if you want to use VR on your PlayStation console, if you want to tap into those PlayStation-exclusive VR games, if you don’t want to pay for a more expensive gaming PC and PC VR setup, or if you don’t want to pay for a Facebook-sponsored headset like the Oculus Quest 2. You can usually find a PSVR bundle that includes the required PlayStation Camera and two PlayStation Move controllers going for around $350.
Buy your PSVR bundle at any of these select retailers:
Amazon PSVR Iron Man Bundle – $350
Target PSVR Iron Man Bundle – $350
Recommended VR Games
VR is great, not only because you can play fitness games in a VR headset — well, actually most VR games help you become more active — but you’re also far more immersed in whatever game you choose to play. Even if you’d rather play a simple puzzle game like Cubism or Astro Bot, there are ways to turn even the most basic gameplay into fitness.
Granted, here are our most recommended VR fitness games to try out first!
Beat Saber is the classic Jedi-themed rhythm game that has you slashing colored boxes to the beat of music. It’s a fantastic aerobic cardio game that also exercises those fine motor skills in your arms as you often need to slash with precision on the harder Expert+ levels. It’s also great for your legs and your core.
Beat Saber SteamVR – $30
Beat Saber Oculus Rift – $30
Beat Saber Oculus Quest – $30
Beat Saber PSVR – $30
Superhot VR is the quintessential action-adventure game that takes you through a tunnel of Matrix-inspired combat scenarios where you must engage incoming foes with any weapons at your disposal — including your fists. The twist is that time only moves when you move, making it incumbent for you to slow down and hold potentially uncomfortable positions when assessing how to handle the next few moments. This makes Superhot VR like yoga and playing for long periods can do wonders for your core.
Superhot VR SteamVR – $25
Superhot VR Oculus Rift – $25
Superhot VR Oculus Quest – $25
Superhot VR PSVR – $25
Creed: Rise to Glory
Step into the shoes of Adonis Creed and go to town as a boxing superstar legend. You can train in famous gyms like the historical Front Street Gym in Philadelphia alongside the legendary Rocky Balboa. Though the action here is arcade-focused with things like your virtual character’s stamina running out before your real-life stamina runs out, the training minigames like punching a fast bag and a punching ball are impressive.
Creed SteamVR – $30
Creed Oculus Quest – $30
Creed Oculus Rift – $30
Creed PSVR – $30
Thrill of the Fight
Thrill of the Fight is the most hardcore VR boxing sim we’ve come across so far. While it still offers a full gamut of fighters to battle your way through, the focus here is less on story (as in Creed) and much more on simulating the fight that goes down inside of the ring. Thrill of the Fight is extremely challenging and offers little to no feedback on how you’re doing, aside from the literal blood dripping down your opponent’s face as you wear them down. Knocking an opponent out can feel almost impossible until you learn their fighting style and adapt. However, there are no limits placed here either. As you grow in upper and lower-body strength and endurance in real life, you’ll also unfold and unlock the nuances of Thrill of the Fight.
Holopoint is a wonderful archery game that offers some truly difficult challenges as enemies and targets appear in every direction in a 360-degree radius. The challenge here really works your core, as you’ll spend a lot of time dodging attacks while quickly launching arrows in every direction.
Holopoint SteamVR – $15
Holopoint Oculus Quest – $15
OhShape is a bit like a dancing game but with a twist. It’s all about positioning your body into specific ‘shapes’ so as to fit through gaps in a wall that is fast closing in on you. Once you get into it, this extremely choreographed dancing game can push every muscle in your body.
OhShape SteamVR – $20
OhShape Oculus Quest – $20
OhShape Oculus Rift – $20
Supernatural VR is the most premium VR workout game in our rotation. Unlike everything else on our list, however, you will need to pay a monthly subscription fee ($19 per month) to use the service. But that cost comes with some serious benefits, as Supernatural offers tons of new workouts each day, constantly updating soundtracks, a direct connection to your Apple Watch, and one-on-one coaching by real coaches in virtual reality.
Supernatural VR Oculus Quest – $19/monthly after free trial
FitXR (formerly known as BoxVR) is the best pure fitness boxing simulator in VR. It comes filled with handcrafted VR fitness boxing workouts that challenge your entire body at three different speeds of intensity, packs a bangin’ soundtrack, and even has a brand new section dedicated to high-intensity dance routines. Those are some of the most challenging aerobics sessions I’ve faced in VR, and they mirror the time I spent learning real dance moves in a studio in college.
FitXR Oculus Quest – $30
BoxVR SteamVR – $30
BoxVR Oculus Rift – $30
BoxVR PSVR – $30
Pistol Whip channels the same Matrix vibes as Superhot VR but with a completely different twist. Instead of fighting through levels in slow motion, you instead have to dance and shoot your way through a long corridor filled with obstacles. The challenge here is that you will duck and dodge enemy bullets while returning fire and avoiding obstacles all at the same time. Pistol Whip is the type of VR fitness game that can make you do tons of squats and lunges all in a matter of seconds without you even really noticing, and that’s why we love it!
Pistol Whip SteamVR – $25
Pistol Whip Oculus Rift – $25
Pistol Whip Oculus Quest – $25
Until You Fall
Until You Fall is a roguelite action-adventure game that makes you move! As you venture through its distinct neon-colored world, you engage in incredibly deep melee weapon combat with monsters that offer a real challenge. Unlike other VR games that offer swordplay, Until You Fall requires you to parry and dodge at just the right times to make your attacks count. This means literally squatting and ducking incoming attacks, and the combined activity is great for cardio workouts.
Until You Fall SteamVR – $25
Synth Riders is a dance rhythm game where you stretch out your limbs and ride the waves to the flow of the music. It uses a lot of space, but it’s a great way to build flexibility and release tension at the end of a longer play session with other games. Also, as a dance game, it’s great for your heart.
Synth Riders SteamVR – $25
Synth Riders Oculus Rift – $25
Recommended VR Accessories
No matter what VR headset you buy, you should accompany it with the right accessories to make your VR fitness routine sustainable and fun. Here are the accessories we recommend.
In order to keep sweat and oil from mucking up your headset, we recommend always using a VR Cover on your headset’s faceplate. These are usually absorbent; at the very least, they provide a cushion for your face to sit comfortably inside of the headset. They’re also simple to set up and easy to wash, making them an ideal gift for any VR fan.
Weighted fitness gear like weighted vests, ankle weights, and wrist weights add resistance to your aerobic VR exercise. In doing so, you can tune up the potential fitness benefit of any game you play by making your heart pump harder and making your muscles work harder to sustain the extra weight. These can be dangerous when handled improperly, so take the right precautions!
Fitness trackers let you keep track of your fitness progress, even in VR fitness. The best fitness tracker is the one that you can afford, however, some fitness trackers like the Apple Watch offers more bells and whistles that allow you to do fancier things like track your heart health via EKG. Check out our list of budget fitness trackers for more info!
KAT loco S
KAT loco S ($200) is a device that lets you walk or run in place to literally move through a VR world. This is especially helpful in large-scale VR games like Skyrim VR or Half-Life: Alyx, where the invention turns simple movement through the virtual world into a form of cardio exercise.
Natural Locomotion ($10) is our favorite SteamVR app to turn virtually any SteamVR game into a great exercise game. Like KAT loco, it translates real physical movement into movement in a game, but Natural Locomotion achieves this without any need for additional instruments. You simply swing your VR motion controllers back and forth like you would when you’re walking, and Natural Locomotion will pick that up as movement in the VR game world.
VR fitness isn’t just a viable solution to people losing out on gym time during the pandemic, it’s also a phenomenal gift. Gaming in a VR headset is always a better alternative for your health than sitting in front of a screen, however, it isn’t always easy to shop for the right one when it’s for somebody else during the holidays.
Do you feel that you’ve learned everything you need to know to find the right VR headset for the holidays? Let us know in the comments!