Christmas is over, and that means three things. First, a lot of you are stuffed from feasting on Who pudding and rare Who roast beast. Second, it’s way, way, way too cold to go out and exercise. And third, a lot of you found brand new PSVR and Playstation 4 units under the three.
One tradition I had when I used to blog about Wii fitness games was releasing my annual Best Wii Fitness Games list right after Christmas. There’d be a huge spike in Google traffic looking for the best games that were both fun and also helped provide a great workout for trimming some of the fat that the one-two punch of Thanksgiving and Christmas eating.
And so here’s my list of the best exercise games for the PSVR. My schedule has been such lately that I haven’t been able to write an in-depth review of these, but those will be coming in the near future. But in the meantime, I wanted to share what I found so you can start your workouts now.
Most of these games are available as downloads to the Playstation Store, so you’ll need a Playstation Store Gift Card to find your account.
1. Beat Saber – Hands down (and up, and to the side), this is the best video game workout for the PSVR, and one of the best video game workouts ever. The concept is deceptively simple: you hold a move controller in each hand and as blocks come toward you, you need to swipe at them, in the right direction to the beat of some catchy music. Think of it like Dance Dance Revolution for your hands.
Of course, this isn’t your father’s DDR. What VR brings to the table is incredible precision–it’s no longer “swipe and pray” as it’s been with every other motion control game in the past. As long as your camera is set up in the right place, the game can pick up your full range of motion as you swipe your light sabers and duck to avoid giant blocks. As with any great video game exercise, it’s so much fun you won’t want to quit, and as each level gets progressively more difficult your dopamine and adrenaline kick in to the point where you don’t want to stop until you conquer the level. This game is the perfect balance of fun and exercise, which means it should be on the top of everyone’s workout list.
2. BoxVR – While Beat Saber takes the prize for the most immersive and fun workout, BoxVR tops the list for a good cardio workout. The concept here is simple as well. You hold a Move Controller in each hand, and through the magic of VR they turn into boxing gloves. Targets come hurtling towards you that direct you to throw jabs, hooks, upper cuts, or blocks. There are multiple levels ranging from easy to intense. The workouts are designed by real instructors, so the programs feel just like the kind an instructor would give you at a gym. In fact, you can choose from a handful of gym motifs to put you in the mood.
3. Creed – Rise to Glory – Creed: Rise to Glory launched with the release of the movie Creed 2. While most movie tie-in video games are horrible games that are rushed to market and where most of the money went into paying for licensing vs. paying actual video game developers, this one completely bucks that trend. It’s developed by Survios, creators of other huge VR hits like Raw Data and Sprint Vector. And while it’s not the same as real boxing, with the power of VR it’s by far the most realistic boxing simulation ever on a video game console.
You can play as Adonis Creed or as other characters from the film universe. You can get trained by Rocky Balboa himself (an uncanny valley representation of Sylvester Stallone) and then go straight to different venues where you fight various opponents. The VR is done well–the environments really do feel realistic when you look around, from small gyms to giant arenas. The boxing basics are there–punch, block, and dodge, and learn the patterns of your opponents to beat them.
4. VirZOOM – VirZOOM is not just a game, but comes with its own accessory–a full-sized exercise bike that’s surprisingly solid and sturdy and lets you control resistance. There’s also a VZ Sensor that turns any existing stationary bike into a VirZOOM controller.
The star of the show are the games, all of which you use the exercise bike to control your speed and buttons on the exercise bike to do things like shoot. There’s not just one game but multiple, including driving a race car, flying a helicopter, riding a horse, driving a tank, riding a pegasus, and rowing a kayak. While the $400 price tag may seem pricey, bear in mind that you get a number of these games as part of the price. I’ll describe more when I write my full review, but there are moments in the game that are truly jaw-dropping (the most amazing of which is when you’re riding your Pegasus off the side of a cliff into the air and look down for the first time).
If you look at VirZOOM’s founders and team, you’ll see that it isn’t just a startup of wide-eyed millennials. Among its team is are multiple former executives and staff at Harmonix (behind the creation of Rock Band, among other things), and the head developer of the Nintendo Wiimote, so there’s some impressive DNA in this product. Try it and you’ll see how amazing it is, and how $400 is a steal when you consider the hours you’ll be spending getting effective cardio vs. at the gym.
5. Knockout League – Released on February 13, 2018, Knockout League is a game that evokes the spirit of the old Punch-Out!! game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but takes it to brand new, virtual reality levels. In it, you’re a boxer fighting through round after round of cartoon fighters with their own idiosyncratic styles. You can block, duck, punch, get an up-close look inside your opponent’s mouth, and do just about everything you can in real life, without getting punched for real. Read our full review here.
6. SuperHOT – Released on July 21, 2017, SuperHOT is a shooter game where you’re shooting hoardes of people chasing after you. For the faint of heart don’t worry, it’s rated “T” for teen, so you won’t see see blood and guts splattering everywhere; you’re just shooting at red block figures that disintegrate as you shoot them. This is another surprisingly good workout as you’re constantly turning and aiming and shooting.
7. Sparc – Sparc is a virtual sports game that was released on August 29, 2017. It takes the single-player concepts of Holoball and Proton Pulse Plus (see below) but brings it to a whole new level. Like those games, it’s a virtual game similar to racquetball or squash. Unlike them, you can play against real people around the world. You stand inside an enclosed court and use your Move controllers to control your hands just like you’re playing racquetball. The graphics are simple, stylized line art, but the gameplay physics are remarkably similar to playing real racquet sports. In fact, after a while of playing, you get a workout similar to tennis, fencing, or boxing.
8. Sprint Vector – The object of the game is–to sprint. The PSVR, of course, doesn’t allow you to run very far on your legs, so this game has you swinging your arms to propel forward. Like a speed skater, you’ll be in a crouching position for much of the game, which ultimately will help you work out your core. You time your arm swings to move forward, as well as to jump, glide, shoot, use power ups, and climb. As confusing as that sounds, after completing the training and playing a few times the motions become surprisingly intuitive, and then it’s off to the races.
9. HoloBall – Holoball was the first of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Racquet sports is one of the more obvious applications of virtual reality fitness–true racquet sports requires you to run back and forth, and of course that aspect of the sport is missing in PSVR (until they invent wireless VR headsets and shatterproof table lamps). But just moving within a few square feet of space and moving your hands produces a surprisingly effective workout. Between this and Proton Pulse Plus (below), this was definitely the stronger of the two.
10. Fruit Ninja VR – Released on December 20, 2016, Fruit Ninja VR is the ultimate incarnation of this classic game. Fruit Ninja on your smartphone was a nice diversion, and Fruit Ninja on the Xbox was the first to give your whole body a workout. But the PSVR version of the game brings the game to a whole new level, and is just about the closest you can get to the real thing without a set of machetes and fresh fruit. Watching animated fruit fly all around you in 3D is something everyone should experience.
11. Headmaster – Headmaster is a heady (sorry) game where you head off soccer balls just like in read life. There’s a fair amount of ducking, squatting, jumping, and moving that gets you a decent workout.
12. Carnival Games VR – Carnival Games on the Wii was a fun set of games that you might find in your local carnival or amusement park. The VR version brings it to a whole new level, where you can play 12 different carnival games. Most of them don’t provide a workout, but there are a few where you do build up a sweat, especially as you get obsessed into beating them (without having to spend $5 a pop as in real life). The standout, by far, is the climbing wall game where you need to race the clock to climb walls way up high going from hand hold to hand hold.
13. Dick Wilde – Dick Wilde is a shoot-em-up game that a lot of people have reported provides a pretty good workout, thanks to a lot of dodging and ducking as you shoot everything in sight.
14. Proton Pulse Plus – Proton Pulse Plus was the second of two “racquet sports” PSVR games released on November 22, 2016. Again, it’s a game where you use your Move controller as a paddle to hit a bouncy ball; the goal is much like “brick breaking” arcade games. There’s a frenetic soundtrack and constantly flashing graphics that the game publisher touts as a throwback to the 90’s. The gameplay is a level lower than Sparc and Holoball, but at $10 it’s still a worthy addition to your collection, as it does some pretty good cardio as you get into the game.
As I said, in time I’ll be providing in-depth reviews of all these games, but I wanted to get this list to all of you with brand spanking new PSVRs who are looking for ways to get your heart pumping and your body sweating.
Working out with the PSVR does have its disadvantages, the main one bring that perspiration and VR headsets don’t really mix. I’ll dedicate an upcoming post to that as well, but the spoiler alert is that you typically need two things: a good fan blowing right at you (helps with motion sickness too), and a good sanitary mask to protect your headset from sweat.