If you've been following the VR craze, you've probably noticed that the headsets can cost several hundred dollars, and the games and apps aren't free, either. However, you can try VR on the cheap with free Android apps and the Cardboard VR viewer, available on Google's site for $15, along with several similar viewers. Cardboard's app helps you set up your phone and add apps to your library, though Google's app store doesn't do a good job of helping you sort through its vast number of VR games. Cut to the chase with our three top picks for Cardboard VR games.
In this game, you ride on a rail, leaning left and right to pick things up -- or to avoid them. Your rail floats in a wide space, making for some vertigo-inducing moments. You're also being chased, so you have to pick up speed boosts and evade traps that will slow you down.
Nival, InCell VR's developer, has been around for 20 years and previously made games for Ubisoft, and their experience shows. This is one of the most polished VR games in the Google Cardboard universe, with high-quality visuals (for a mobile game), immersive music, smooth control, and several levels of difficulty to keep you coming back for bigger challenges. Nival's older game InMind is similar and also worth checking out. IncCell VR is also available on iOS, using the iOS version of Google Cardboard.
In Voxel Fly as in InCell, you are on rails, in the sense that you move at a set speed while dodging oncoming vehicles and objects. Voxel Fly doesn't look nearly as fancy, but it's arguably better at giving you a feel for how Google Cardboard can sense when you lean, duck, crouch, or tilt your head. The game's more basic visuals also make it run smoothly on a larger number of devices.
In Little VR Shooter, you're protecting a location that's swarming with aliens who can approach from any direction. You have to shoot the aliens before they reach you. But don't get too happy with that trigger finger -- some targets are traps and will make you lose points if you hit them without thinking. This is definitely a game where you want to be standing instead of sitting: We got dizzy pretty easily from spinning around in a chair. The game also has a progressive unlock system that gives you the option to change the types of creatures you fight.
Cardboard VR gaming tips
- Check your battery: Games consume a lot of battery power, so start with your phone fully charged and check battery level periodically.
- Use earbuds: These games use music and positional audio cues that will sound a lot better with earbuds or headphones instead of your phone's speakers.
- Download via Wi-Fi: These games are 50 to 100MB in size, which can eat into your phone service's monthly data cap -- unless you're on Wi-Fi.
- Take off your glasses: The Cardboard VR lenses will be close to your eyes, so you'll need to either take off your glasses or switch to contacts.
- Stand up: VR can upset your stomach and your sense of balance, but simply playing on your feet instead of sitting down can help your equilibrium.
- Remove your phone's case: Your phone may be too thick to fit inside the Cardboard VR, but removing the phone's case can help.