Hand to hand combat feels like what VR was made for when it’s done right. Roomscale arenas, a virtual opponent programmed to be the aggressor, and your skills. Like hitting the bag, you will feel these sessions in your arms, your shoulders and your legs as you dance and jive to avoid taking hits.
For us, a good combat title offers something fun and unique. We opted for a range of combat titles that test physical fitness in from light to heavy. Knockout League is a full-body workout, while Gorn will prove fun for shoulder and arm days. Vanishing Realms is a progressive title that will keep fitness gamers coming back, while The Ranger and In Death have a pre-packaged feel that lends itself well to a workout.
So strap on some gauntlets and get ready to lose weight while you prove yourself.
Publisher: Grab Games
Fitness Potential: Moderate to Heavy
We are huge fans of Thrill of the Fight too, but Knockout League’s recent departure from Early Access gives any player a reason to dive back in. 9 characters are in the full release, with a grudge match mode that ups the intensity. Make sure you clear your space, and follow through on those punches.
Similar to Punch Out on the NES, players are rewarded with golden gloves when they score hard blows and use variety. Punches are well telegraphed, so dodging is important if you want to survive. Also, like Punch Out, opponents have special moves. The release update makes it possible for players to spot openings before the special move comes out, a valuable few seconds to score some hits.
A new mechanic added is the ability to guard break. Mix up attacks to the body and face to find ways into your opponent’s opening, but wild punches also leave you open to attack.
All of this adds up to a cartoony boxing experience that does a solid job of using basic boxing mechanics. More arcadey than TotF, Knockout League is a fun game to time attack. Plus, you can finally style on opponents with longer stun states if you can fulfill certain conditions.
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Fitness Potential: Light to Moderate
Gorn is still in Early Access, but a recent update gives players a new reason to dive back into the arena. The game is a physics-based brawler that combines extremely stupid meatbags and quasi-intelligent gladiators in waves thrown mercilessly at you.
The good news is there are no shortage of blunt and sharp objects to brutalize the aggressors. This one is… shall we say: visceral. Fitting for a title published by Devolver Digital, which seems to specialize in hyper-aggressive and ultra-violent games. But fear not, blood-averse reader! Gorn’s recent Giant Update adds the ridiculous pinata mode that turns opponents into candy and confetti.
Not as boxing-oriented as Knockout League, Gorn’s Job Stauffer suggests players try some arm weights to add a bit of resistance. There’s a lot of flailing in Gorn, so be careful to stretch before you start. Generally speaking, though, Gorn is a low or moderate fitness title and is great for both off days and light days.
Publisher: Indimo Labs
Fitness Potential: Light
Vanishing Realms is attempting to be a fully realized RPG in VR, so this is all about questing and moving around in this virtual world. Monsters are life-sized, so expect hulking beasts and snarling demons to keep you on your toes as you scout for loot and learn the mechanics of fighting.
The game makes your weapons feel like they have heft to them, and scaling difficulty that is common in RPGs. Your foes will gradually get stronger and take more blows to go down. Never to the point of Thrill of the Fight levels of stamina, but definitely requiring hard swings of heavy swords.
This game is ongoing, so the fitness potential changes the deeper into it that you get. As you learn mechanics, you can expect a light challenge that could be easily augmented with weights. Practice strafing and shuffling like you would in boxing, and you will quickly find a good opportunity for cardio. Swinging weapons also feels gratifying, so put some weight into your strikes.
The Ranger: Lost Tribe
Publisher: Leiting Interactive
Fitness Potential: Light
One heck of a tech demo, but it’s free to play and will work up a sweat. These developers previously worked on Deadly Hunter, so this game relies on a combination of melee and archery to dispatch the many enemies in the game. Your basic weapon set consists of a sword, shield, spear, and crossbow. Stealth kills are a part of the game too, so you can approach these conflicts using any means.
There’s a lot at play with The Ranger, and it tries to accomplish some immersive ideas. You will want to sneak, scout for observation points and get a lay for the land before you approach conflicts. You’ll be doing a lot of teleporting around the map between intense bursts of combat. Shields degrade, so you can’t just block. Equipment is carried on your back, along with your quiver. You will be feeling this game in your arms and shoulders after an hour of playtime.
There’s about 4 hours worth of content here, and it feels like the development is in a good direction. Fights are more like frantic scrambles, where you need to use your weaponset and room scale to overcome foes. You will need to dodge sword strikes, figure out how to get around shields, and scout for opportunities to stealth kill. Handling more than one enemy at a time gets complicated, so be prepared for a fight!
Publisher: Solfar Studios
Fitness Potential: Light to Moderate
In Death is a fairly new title, but we recommend it for anyone looking to get their archery fix in VR. It uses teleportation mechanics and randomly generated battlefields, but it throws waves of difficult enemies at you rather quickly. You can dodge roll for quick escapes, but you will largely need to knock and loose arrows as quickly as possible.
However, the game features a bash mechanic that allows you to push back enemies that get too close. Swarms feel overwhelming quickly, but combat pacing is never overwhelming. In Death is good at attacking you from many angles, so you will need to stay on your toes at higher difficulties. We think players who are limber, excellent at pivoting from the waste, and don’t mind cardio are the ones who will find success here.
We think this title has potential for a moderate workout. Pace yourself in game and in real life. Levels can be arduous and daunting, so take water breaks as needed and don’t be discouraged. Try and remember the point of a rogue like is to die gloriously. Put yourself in situations that test your fitness potential and keep failing till you win.