Cologne, Germany – The annual spectacle that is GamesCom unfolded in the bustling city of Cologne, Germany, from August 23rd to the 27th. Drawing in an awe-inspiring crowd of over 300,000 gaming enthusiasts, this event stands as a mecca for the global video game industry. Amidst the vast landscape of gaming innovation, one thing became abundantly clear: virtual reality (VR) has firmly rooted itself in this gaming carnival, albeit somewhat incognito.
Unlike the extravagant booths we’ve come to expect from industry titans like Bethesda, Xbox, Ubisoft, 2K Games, Nintendo, and Bandai Namco, VR game developers opted for a more subtle presence. In fact, some didn’t have booths at all. To uncover the world of VR, attendees had to become adept at recognizing the subtle hints and cues. As you wandered through the cavernous halls of GamesCom, your eyes might drift left, where a group of people immersed in Quest 2 headsets huddled in a corner, or right, where an exciting game like “Hubris” beckoned. And then, lo and behold, amidst the giants, you’d spot sizable VR booths showcasing games like “Vampire: The Masquerade” by Fast Travel Games, or “Power Wash Simulator” by Ndreams.
Indeed, the hunt for VR experiences was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. However, keen-eyed enthusiasts could spot a Quest 2 headset, a Pico 4, or even the coveted PSVR 2 or Quest Pro hidden in plain sight. The treasure hunt extended beyond the exhibition halls; VR aficionados casually passed headsets between bites at the eating areas, offering sneak peeks at their upcoming creations.
Despite their elusive nature, VR games and the passionate individuals and studios behind them were undeniably present. The VR gaming community at GamesCom was a testament to the dedication and drive of these individuals striving to propel VR into the mainstream. You’d find them showcasing their creations wherever there was space for a headset, and you’d also spot them mingling throughout the city, strengthening the bonds that bolster the VR community. The overwhelming presence of VR enthusiasts at GamesCom 2023 was a reassuring sign of the industry’s vitality and continuous growth.
But let’s shift our focus to the real stars of the show—the games themselves. Here are the top five VR experiences that stood out at GamesCom 2023:
1. Arashi: Castles of Sin – The Final Cut: Originally launched on the PSVR 1 with challenging controls, “Arashi: Castles of Sin” made a triumphant return at GamesCom 2023, showcasing its breathtaking visuals, immersive haptics, and refined stealth and combat mechanics. The game is breaking free from its PlayStation roots, with confirmed releases on the Quest and PC platforms, making it an exciting prospect for VR enthusiasts.
2. Vampire: The Masquerade – Justice: Fast Travel Games brought Venice to life in their stealthy vampire adventure. As a vampire seeking vengeance for your mentor’s death, you’ll utilize your supernatural abilities to hunt and feed on your prey. The Quest 2 headset showcased the game’s stunning visuals and polished gameplay, offering a thrilling experience that truly immerses players in the role of an apex predator.
3. Drop Dead: The Cabin – Home Invasion MR Experience: Mixed Reality (MR) experiences made a strong showing at GamesCom, and “Home Invasion” was a standout. Zombies assault you from doors, windows, and walls in your own surroundings, elevating the terror to a new level. This MR gem left a lasting impression and raised anticipation for the full release of the free DLC for “Drop Dead: The Cabin.”
4. Max Mustard: The VR platformer genre is set to receive a promising addition with “Max Mustard.” Developed by the team behind the beloved “Richie’s Plank,” this game fuses elements of “Astro Bot Rescue Mission ” and “Lucky’s Tale” into a unique and visually captivating experience. Third-person platforming in VR shines when executed correctly, and “Max Mustard” appears poised to deliver another epic adventure.
5. Outta Hand: “Outta Hand” proved to be the surprise hit of GamesCom 2023. With movement mechanics reminiscent of “Gorilla Tag” and “No More Rainbows,” it initially appeared that it may be outside the comfort zone for some. However, the ease of movement and the ability to navigate environments at breakneck speeds quickly won me over. The sci-fi, humor-infused platformer left a lasting impression, and we eagerly await its full release this fall.
1. Smash Drums MR
2. Toy Trains VR
3. Slot Car VR
5. Glassbreakers: Champions of Moss
8. RUINSMAGUS Complete
10. A new title by My Dearest
11. Tank Arena
As GamesCom 2023 demonstrated, VR gaming may hide in the shadows of the gaming industry’s titans, but it’s alive and well, driven by passionate creators and a growing community eager to embrace the immersive experiences it offers. The future of VR gaming seems brighter than ever.