Virtual Reality

Reality Bytes: Was 2022 a good year for virtual reality?

December still feels like a good month for VR games. Maybe it’s because Christmas and VR headsets go together like nativity scenes and messiahs, or maybe it’s because VR is the only place I’m likely to see sunlight before March. Either way, if you’re gifting or receiving a pair of magic glasses this festive season, I’ll recommend some stocking stuffers to go with it at the end of this article.

But first, it is time to make a more general assessment. 2022 has been a big shrug of a year for VR gaming. Which isn’t to say it was bad, lots of fun and interesting games released over the last twelve months, one of which I’d probably put in my personal top ten. But from a hardware and software standpoint, nothing released this year is likely to change the needle.

BoneLab was one of the best-selling VR games this year

The most notable VR hardware to drop this year was the Quest Pro, Meta’s high-end headset that, while functional as a gaming device, isn’t exactly suitable for your average consumer. It offers technically significant improvements over the Quest 2, such as face tracking and color mixed reality. But these upgrades just aren’t worth the “oof” inducing price tag. Other than that, the only other notable headset released this year was the Pico 4. Touting itself as an alternative to the Meta Quest in previews, with similar specs and price, it got quite a good buzz in the run-up to its exit. Sales, however, would have disappointed its creators. As for games, on Quest and Steam, your top-selling VR titles released in 2022 include Among Us VR, BoneLab, and After The Fall. Decent titles, all three, but none would have you scrambling to blow £400 on a screen for your face.

The Meta Quest Pro VR headset and controllers, seen from behind
Very meta

When it comes to major VR news of 2022, the year has been largely overshadowed by Meta’s painfully embarrassing attempts to convince the world that the Metaverse is going to be a thing. At this year’s Meta Connect, Mark Zuckerberg looked like an Enron executive desperately trying to convince everyone that the people knocking on his door are actually adoring fans and not a conga of irate shareholders. yearning to shake him by the ankles, while Meta Horizon’s infamous leg tweet will forever be etched in my memory. Yet Meta’s woes extended far beyond poorly-launched marketing. Meta reportedly lost $10 billion in its VR and AR department, a figure that former CTO John Carmack says did “I have a stomach ache”. Meanwhile, the company was struggling to get its own employees to use Horizon Workrooms, the commercial part of the metaverse project of Meta. All of this culminated in a vast and bitter series of layoffs, with 11,000 (!) people losing their jobs, and accusations that Zuckerberg’s obsession with the metaverse “kill the business”.

There was good news amid the chaos. A voucher Quest 3 is on the way, probably next year. Moreover, in June of this year, Meta had sold a valued 15 million Quest 2, which means that, combined with all the other headsets floating around, VR now has a solidly established user base for developers to sell their games to. It’s still a much smaller user base than, say, PS4 or Switch (or indeed, regular PCs), but it means you can make a VR game and have a good idea of ​​it selling well. To give an example, After The Fall, a four-player cooperative VR game from the creators of Arizona Sunshine, won $1.4 million in 24 hours of launch, more than Arizona Sunshine in its first month.

A screenshot of soldiers fighting monsters in a hallway in the VR game After The Fall
A wholesome scene from After The Fall

In short, despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts, VR gaming is currently in a pretty healthy state. The market is only a fraction of the size of your typical flatscreen games, and the added downsides of VR mean it’s likely never to lead the charge in video games. But we don’t see a repeat of virtual reality in the 1990s. The technology works. The games are good. Virtual reality is here to stay.

And while this year has been quiet compared to 2020 or 2016, next year is shaping up to be a lot more interesting. The biggest stuff is happening on PlayStation – at least until we find out more about Quest 3. But even aside from that, there are some exciting games on the horizon. Saints and Sinners: Chapter 2 – the sequel to what might be the best full VR gaming experience outside of Half-Life: Alyx – has already been released on Quest 2 and will launch on PC VR in February next year. Saints And Sinners developer Skydance Interactive is also working on a sleek-looking fantasy adventure called Freak. NDreams’ ghost hunters the game looks like a riot. Low-Fi aims to give you the closest thing to Blade Runner in VR, and I also love the look of VR Pirates: Jolly Roger. I imagine Meta has some stuff in the tank, for its full Quest 3 reveal as well, and who knows what magical surprise Valve might bring to the table in 2023.


Ho ho ho! Jolly Saint Rick here. I can’t quite handle the long white beard yet, but I’ve covered the waistline and unearthly sherry drinking rate. Either way, if you’re looking for a new VR game for yourself or a significant other this Christmas, here are three great titles from this year that I would heartily recommend.

The last winder

A screenshot from the VR game Clockwinder, with many identical little humanoid robots all doing different things in a small garden

The last winder is by far my favorite VR game of 2022, because it does something I’ve never seen in a VR game before. It’s a first-person puzzler in which you build elaborate Rube Goldberg machines using your own body. To explain, the game lets you record your body movements and then lets you create cute little robots that will play those movements on a loop. You use this system to create chains of bots performing different actions in a sequence. For example, you can record yourself picking up an object and throwing it across the room, then dashing across the room to record yourself picking up that object and placing it in a storage container. It’s super novel and equally fun, all wrapped up in a sweet story about you trying to save a big, magical tree.


A barren moonscape in the VR game Wanderer

Another game heavily oriented around clocks, although in this case it’s a time-traveling watch that’s talking. Vagabond sees you striving to avoid an apocalypse that has already happened by traveling to different time periods to alter the course of history. Interactively, it’s a fairly standard VR puzzler, with lots of rummaging around and playing with very tangible objects and gear. But the time-traveling conceit adds an entertaining dose of novelty, as you frequently have to transport items from one time period to another to solve the puzzles. It’s also one of the most beautiful VR games outside of Half-Life: Alyx, with impressive environments and pleasingly detailed interiors. I found the watch’s Southern Gentleman shtick a bit irritating, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this ambitious and supremely lush adventure.

Moss: Book II

A screenshot of Moss in VR, showing a little mouse in front of a huge snowy ice palace

Although I highlighted the sequel here because it came out this year, both Mousse the games are well worth your time for the way they synthesize first-person VR and third-person platforming. You take on the role of a divine storyteller who must guide a little mouse named Quill through a beautiful miniature fantasy world. But it’s the way Moss plays that makes him special. You control Quill like a regular platformer character, using the analog stick to move her and the buttons to jump and fight enemies. At the same time, you also use your hands to manipulate objects in the environment, solve puzzles, and move obstacles out of Quill’s way. The sequel is simply a bigger and better version of the original. But the only real problem with the first game was that it was pretty short, so a sequel that offers more of the same is just dandy.

Leave a Reply