The launch lineup of the PlayStation VR snuck up on me.
I’m not sure how it happened — I’ve been covering the device since E3 2014, back when a VR shark encounter was the best of what Sony had to offer. Two years later, I’m now finding it difficult to remember the last time a console had such a compelling collection of software on day one.
In order to illustrate this point, I thought we’d go back a few years and reexamine the launch lineups of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.
Technically, PlayStation VR isn’t a console, so this comparison might be somewhat misleading. Still, there’s no denying that a significant portion of the games available for the headset are quality, worthwhile titles that feel like they could have launched years into the device’s life cycle.
Using PS VR requires a PS4, so let’s start with some of the PlayStation exclusives that lined store shelves back in November 2013. The first game that comes to mind is Killzone Shadow Fall, which you might have forgotten existed altogether. It wasn’t a terrible game, but it felt more like a tech demo than a full retail title. The campaign was cut short, the multiplayer was a shell of what previous Killzone titles had to offer and I genuinely can’t remember the last time anyone mentioned this game.
Knack was another PS4 launch title, and a picture of this goofy mascot might appear next to the word mediocre in the dictionary. What could have been this generation’s Ratchet and Clank ended up fading from view almost immediately. A middling third-person action platformer that doesn’t even hold a candle to Kameo.
There was also Resogun, which was actually a pretty solid space-based shoot-em-up, but it was a relatively shallow experience that also happened to be available for the PS3. So, not exactly a reason to upgrade to a PS4.
In retrospect, the PS4 might have one of the weaker launch lineups in recent history. Even lumping in the best third-party games (which we’ll get to in a bit) doesn’t make me want to retroactively run out and buy the next-gen console.
Speaking of which, the Xbox One launch lineup wasn’t much stronger. Dead Rising 3 (much like Killzone Shadow Fall) felt like it was rushed out the door in order to hit a deadline (which is all too common with console launches). Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the best looking games on either console, but it wasn’t much of a game. Forza Motorsport 5 might have been the strongest title on either console at launch, but it would be overshadowed less than a year later by Forza Horizon 2.
Then there are the third-party games. Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts were both ready for the next-gen launches, but they were pretty much just ports of the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Need for Speed: Rivals won over plenty gamers, but it remains one of my least favorite entries in the series.
Finally, before we get to the PS VR lineup, let’s look back at what Nintendo unleashed alongside the Wii U back in 2012. New Super Mario Bros. U, Nintendo Land and ZombiU headline the exclusives, while ports of wildly varying quality make up the rest of the list (Assassin’s Creed III, Black Ops II, Madden 13).
Over the past few generations, our expectations for launch day masterpieces have been lowered significantly. The only great games available at launch are typically games that are launching on both current- and last-gen platforms, which has convinced some gamers to wait until the lineup becomes respectable.
With PS VR, you don’t want to wait.
You can check out our ranking of every PS VR launch title we’ve played so far right here, but of the games on that list, I can think of at least seven that I’d recommend to anyone with a PS VR: RIGS, Rez Infinite, Batman: Arkham VR, Thumper, PlayStation VR Worlds, Superhypercube and Headmaster.
Even The Playroom VR, which is just a free download from the PlayStation Store for new PS VR owners, is actually worth your time.
All of this does come with an important caveat: Many of these launch titles aren’t full games. In other words, you’re not going to find something equivalent to Call of Duty or Skyrim or The Legend of Zelda on PS VR. But what you are going to find is a collection of affordable, entertaining and often replayable VR experiences that will prove that virtual reality is a viable medium for gaming.
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my PS VR review.