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Top Picks For Virtual Reality Gaming, Beginners

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If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.

VR has come a long, long way. In the early days, and up until fairly recently, VR was somewhat of a novelty and primarily used by only the most devoted gamers and tech enthusiasts. The graphics were rough, chunky, pixelated, and the price for a headset was sky-high. But over the years, VR has evolved, and accessible headsets now offer a fully encompassing and innovative experience for everyone, whether you’re a gamer or not.

With VR, you’re not just playing the game — you’re a part of it. The 3D interactive world provides a sense of presence and immersion incomparable to playing on a regular screen. While the logical part of you realizes you’re standing in your house with a headset on, your brain is tricked into thinking you’re floating, flying, falling, or shooting zombies in the face.

But you don’t necessarily need a high-tech, high-end headset anymore either. These days, anyone with a smartphone can get in on the action. There are plenty of great fully decked-out VR headsets but there are also decent VR viewing goggles, which simply hold your phone in place to let you look around and view your virtual universe, using your phone’s built-in gyro sensor. The goggles also free up your hands, so you can navigate the game with a controller when necessary. We’ve included picks for both advanced and accessible headsets on our list.

Note that if it’s your first time using a headset, it’s best to ease into it. Avoid the intense and dizzying games like rollercoasters for your maiden VR voyage, as these can cause motion sickness, and turn you off from future experiences.

As a beginner, shopping for a VR headset can make your head spin, but it’s really not as scary as it seems (unlike the hordes of VR horror genre games coming out right now). Whether you want a “game console”-style set where everything’s included or one that runs purely off your phone’s tech, we’ve selected our faves to help you find the right headset for you and the VR world you’re looking to jump into.

If you’ve been casually looking around for a VR headset, or even know about the basics, there’s no doubt you’ve definitely heard of this one from Meta, and with good reason: it’s one of the most popular options for an all-in-one standalone headset that offers a full home VR experience.

You won’t need a phone or a PC to use it, though you do need a phone for the initial setup through the app. But otherwise, the processor, display, and audio are all built-in, and after setup, you’re good to get started. You also won’t need headphones, as the sound comes straight from the unit.

This set also includes two fully-tracked touch controllers for smooth and instant interactions, like picking up objects, in the VR games of your choice (this headset is compatible with a wide variety of games). It goes far beyond games, too, allowing you to attend concerts or even the Apollo 11 moon landing. You’ll even be able to work out with your new VR headset. You can also set guidelines for the perimeter of your room before playing, so you don’t crash into a wall or trip over the couch.

For gamers, or anyone really, who wants to get into serious VR but lacks a powerful PC to process the higher-end games, this is a winner.

Promising Customer Feedback: “The Meta Quest 2 has revolutionized my gaming experience like never before. This cutting-edge virtual reality headset has completely transformed the way I interact with games, movies, and even social experiences. From the moment I put it on, I was transported to a world of limitless possibilities, making it an absolute must-have for any gaming enthusiast.” —Man K. Wong

If you’re looking for a VR headset with impressive specs, go with the Valve Index. It’s considerably pricier than other options on our list, but its hefty set of features makes it well worth the price.

It’s got incredibly fast refresh rates and visuals (2880 x 1600) that rival every other VR headset on this list. It’s comfortable, too, with the ability for lens and headband adjustment, meaning you can customize your gadget as you please. In fact, the padded headset is the most comfortable option on this list. Plus, the Index (knuckle) controllers are accurate and quick to track hand movements — even finger tracking — without missing a beat.

The smart built-in speakers also deliver immersive audio, great for when you’re gaming, very similar to the Merta Quest 2. That said, unlike the Quest 2, which features an inside-out tracking system, you’ll have to set up base stations for accurate tracking on the Valve Index. This can sometimes be a frustrating and rather time-consuming process, especially fo you’re a newbie to VR and just want to start playing. You’ll also need a strong PC gaming setup to use this VR headset — you won’t be able to use it otherwise.

That said, it’s got the widest field of view and the best graphics of any VR headset out there. And, if you’ve got a stellar PC setup for tethered gaming, the Valve Index is unparalleled.

Promising Customer Feedback: “I set up and tested the headset and base stations and everything works great! I mainly bought this to use in VRC and am happy with how it was delivered, thank you very much!” —Jonathan Schoell

This headset works well with your phone: pop it into the tray, slide it in, and strap it on.

Though it’s minimal and relies fully on your phone’s tech, this unit has some valuable and practical features built-in. For starters, a little lined ruler helps you ensure your phone is dead-center before playing. Though you can’t access your phone’s buttons during use, padding helps prevent them from being accidentally pressed and interfering with (or unintentionally closing) your interactive experience.

Up top, levers let you adjust the location of each individual goggle – both left/right and front/back, depending on where your eyes are, which can make a huge difference in how truly immersed you feel in the game. The sliding door on the front exposes your phone’s lens for any augmented reality (AR) games that overlay the real world or in case you want to see your surroundings without taking the goggles off.

Promising Customer Feedback: “I rated the BNext VR Headset 5 stars for what it is, an entry-level, affordable gateway to the world of VR. Just make sure your phone is equipped with an accelerometer and compatible with VR. With the right phone, The BNext VR Headset will give you access to the many 360 degree videos available on YouTube as well as the many new VR games available in the iTunes store and Google Play. I sat in delight as I floated to the edge of space attached to a weather balloon. Sitting in a swivel chair I could turn 360 degrees, look up and down and feel the experience. There are also some great roller-coaster VR games that work well with the headset that will also give you the sensation of movement.” —S. Dubin

An advancement on the Meta Quest 2, the new headset is more immersive and visual than ever before.

Rather than immersing you solely into the digital world, the new Meta Quest 3 blends your physical and digital realities for an AR gaming experience. The dual RGB camera delivers fuller, more vibrant colors to enhance your senses, bringing the game to life in your bedroom, living room, and beyond.

The new headset also has enhanced sound clarity for fuller bass performance and a louder volume range than the Quest 2. Whether your watching your favorite videos through the device or fully engaged in a game, the 3D spatial audio transports your senses for a richer experience.

For a limited time, the Quest 3 also comes with the new Asgard’s Wrath 2 (a $59.99 value) for free when you buy the 128GB device.

Promising Customer Feedback: “So, I started with the original Oculus Developer Kit 1, then on to 2, then the consumer Rift, Rift S, Quest 2, and temporarily had a Quest Pro (a great piece of tech, but too expensive..returned in 1 week). We’ve come a long way with Quest 3….

The clarity of the new “pancake” lenses are a marvel after dealing for years with the now primitive, Fresnel lenses. No more having to reposition the flipping headset around, over and over just to find that one tiny spot of clarity while their outer area remains blurry. These flat pancake lenses are just super clear all around, from edge to edge.

The resolution bump from the Q2 is another nice welcome. The blacks are not jet black like you would find on an OLED screen (like the PlayStation VR2), but that would bring the cost up. When you’re playing games or experiences, you won’t even be thinking about it. Would you rather have fresnel lenses like PS2VR? I don’t think so. In addition to these new features, the fieild of view has widened on Quest 3, another upgrade that makes a difference.

Trending

The sound is beefier and louder. No more tin can alley like the Q2, and the fantastic spatial sound adds more to the immersion. I went back and played some older games, finding sounds that I’ve never quite heard on Quest 2, which really surprised me. The haptics are also very much improved over the Q2, though not as potent as I would have liked. The Pro controllers are more advanced in this department, as is the PSVR2.” —JC


Customer reviews have been edited for length and clarityand size availability is posted at the time of publication. 


If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.

VR has come a long, long way. In the early days, and up until fairly recently, VR was somewhat of a novelty and primarily used by only the most devoted gamers and tech enthusiasts. The graphics were rough, chunky, pixelated, and the price for a headset was sky-high. But over the years, VR has evolved, and accessible headsets now offer a fully encompassing and innovative experience for everyone, whether you’re a gamer or not.

With VR, you’re not just playing the game — you’re a part of it. The 3D interactive world provides a sense of presence and immersion incomparable to playing on a regular screen. While the logical part of you realizes you’re standing in your house with a headset on, your brain is tricked into thinking you’re floating, flying, falling, or shooting zombies in the face.

But you don’t necessarily need a high-tech, high-end headset anymore either. These days, anyone with a smartphone can get in on the action. There are plenty of great fully decked-out VR headsets but there are also decent VR viewing goggles, which simply hold your phone in place to let you look around and view your virtual universe, using your phone’s built-in gyro sensor. The goggles also free up your hands, so you can navigate the game with a controller when necessary. We’ve included picks for both advanced and accessible headsets on our list.

Note that if it’s your first time using a headset, it’s best to ease into it. Avoid the intense and dizzying games like rollercoasters for your maiden VR voyage, as these can cause motion sickness, and turn you off from future experiences.

As a beginner, shopping for a VR headset can make your head spin, but it’s really not as scary as it seems (unlike the hordes of VR horror genre games coming out right now). Whether you want a “game console”-style set where everything’s included or one that runs purely off your phone’s tech, we’ve selected our faves to help you find the right headset for you and the VR world you’re looking to jump into.

If you’ve been casually looking around for a VR headset, or even know about the basics, there’s no doubt you’ve definitely heard of this one from Meta, and with good reason: it’s one of the most popular options for an all-in-one standalone headset that offers a full home VR experience.

You won’t need a phone or a PC to use it, though you do need a phone for the initial setup through the app. But otherwise, the processor, display, and audio are all built-in, and after setup, you’re good to get started. You also won’t need headphones, as the sound comes straight from the unit.

This set also includes two fully-tracked touch controllers for smooth and instant interactions, like picking up objects, in the VR games of your choice (this headset is compatible with a wide variety of games). It goes far beyond games, too, allowing you to attend concerts or even the Apollo 11 moon landing. You’ll even be able to work out with your new VR headset. You can also set guidelines for the perimeter of your room before playing, so you don’t crash into a wall or trip over the couch.

For gamers, or anyone really, who wants to get into serious VR but lacks a powerful PC to process the higher-end games, this is a winner.

Promising Customer Feedback: “The Meta Quest 2 has revolutionized my gaming experience like never before. This cutting-edge virtual reality headset has completely transformed the way I interact with games, movies, and even social experiences. From the moment I put it on, I was transported to a world of limitless possibilities, making it an absolute must-have for any gaming enthusiast.” —Man K. Wong

If you’re looking for a VR headset with impressive specs, go with the Valve Index. It’s considerably pricier than other options on our list, but its hefty set of features makes it well worth the price.

It’s got incredibly fast refresh rates and visuals (2880 x 1600) that rival every other VR headset on this list. It’s comfortable, too, with the ability for lens and headband adjustment, meaning you can customize your gadget as you please. In fact, the padded headset is the most comfortable option on this list. Plus, the Index (knuckle) controllers are accurate and quick to track hand movements — even finger tracking — without missing a beat.

The smart built-in speakers also deliver immersive audio, great for when you’re gaming, very similar to the Merta Quest 2. That said, unlike the Quest 2, which features an inside-out tracking system, you’ll have to set up base stations for accurate tracking on the Valve Index. This can sometimes be a frustrating and rather time-consuming process, especially fo you’re a newbie to VR and just want to start playing. You’ll also need a strong PC gaming setup to use this VR headset — you won’t be able to use it otherwise.

That said, it’s got the widest field of view and the best graphics of any VR headset out there. And, if you’ve got a stellar PC setup for tethered gaming, the Valve Index is unparalleled.

Promising Customer Feedback: “I set up and tested the headset and base stations and everything works great! I mainly bought this to use in VRC and am happy with how it was delivered, thank you very much!” —Jonathan Schoell

This headset works well with your phone: pop it into the tray, slide it in, and strap it on.

Though it’s minimal and relies fully on your phone’s tech, this unit has some valuable and practical features built-in. For starters, a little lined ruler helps you ensure your phone is dead-center before playing. Though you can’t access your phone’s buttons during use, padding helps prevent them from being accidentally pressed and interfering with (or unintentionally closing) your interactive experience.

Up top, levers let you adjust the location of each individual goggle – both left/right and front/back, depending on where your eyes are, which can make a huge difference in how truly immersed you feel in the game. The sliding door on the front exposes your phone’s lens for any augmented reality (AR) games that overlay the real world or in case you want to see your surroundings without taking the goggles off.

Promising Customer Feedback: “I rated the BNext VR Headset 5 stars for what it is, an entry-level, affordable gateway to the world of VR. Just make sure your phone is equipped with an accelerometer and compatible with VR. With the right phone, The BNext VR Headset will give you access to the many 360 degree videos available on YouTube as well as the many new VR games available in the iTunes store and Google Play. I sat in delight as I floated to the edge of space attached to a weather balloon. Sitting in a swivel chair I could turn 360 degrees, look up and down and feel the experience. There are also some great roller-coaster VR games that work well with the headset that will also give you the sensation of movement.” —S. Dubin

An advancement on the Meta Quest 2, the new headset is more immersive and visual than ever before.

Rather than immersing you solely into the digital world, the new Meta Quest 3 blends your physical and digital realities for an AR gaming experience. The dual RGB camera delivers fuller, more vibrant colors to enhance your senses, bringing the game to life in your bedroom, living room, and beyond.

The new headset also has enhanced sound clarity for fuller bass performance and a louder volume range than the Quest 2. Whether your watching your favorite videos through the device or fully engaged in a game, the 3D spatial audio transports your senses for a richer experience.

For a limited time, the Quest 3 also comes with the new Asgard’s Wrath 2 (a $59.99 value) for free when you buy the 128GB device.

Promising Customer Feedback: “So, I started with the original Oculus Developer Kit 1, then on to 2, then the consumer Rift, Rift S, Quest 2, and temporarily had a Quest Pro (a great piece of tech, but too expensive..returned in 1 week). We’ve come a long way with Quest 3….

The clarity of the new “pancake” lenses are a marvel after dealing for years with the now primitive, Fresnel lenses. No more having to reposition the flipping headset around, over and over just to find that one tiny spot of clarity while their outer area remains blurry. These flat pancake lenses are just super clear all around, from edge to edge.

The resolution bump from the Q2 is another nice welcome. The blacks are not jet black like you would find on an OLED screen (like the PlayStation VR2), but that would bring the cost up. When you’re playing games or experiences, you won’t even be thinking about it. Would you rather have fresnel lenses like PS2VR? I don’t think so. In addition to these new features, the fieild of view has widened on Quest 3, another upgrade that makes a difference.

Trending

The sound is beefier and louder. No more tin can alley like the Q2, and the fantastic spatial sound adds more to the immersion. I went back and played some older games, finding sounds that I’ve never quite heard on Quest 2, which really surprised me. The haptics are also very much improved over the Q2, though not as potent as I would have liked. The Pro controllers are more advanced in this department, as is the PSVR2.” —JC


Customer reviews have been edited for length and clarityand size availability is posted at the time of publication. 

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