How to Pick the Best Virtual Reality Headset for Gaming in 2019

Photo: RgStudio (Getty Images)

In recent years, virtual reality headsets have become much more mainstream, with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive becoming popular with PC gamers, and the PlayStation VR headset bringing the hyper-immersive experiences to PS4 players. Cell phones, too, have evolved to be compatible with various VR peripherals, allowing the more casual gaming fans to dabble in a seemingly tangible world. As the years have gone by, VR hardware has gotten better and better — and also cheaper — becoming more accessible to a greater number of people. What’s more, there is now a huge selection of must-play VR titles, with impressive hardware finally finding its matching exclusive killer software.

If you’ve not yet taken the plunge and picked up a VR headset, but you are perhaps considering it, allow us to answer the question: Is VR worth it for 2019?

VR Gaming on PC: Oculus Rift

Is VR Worth It
Photo: Oculus

Even in 2019, the OG Oculus Rift is still a key player in the VR space. Thanks to its acquisition by Facebook, the Rift is still booming, boasting some compelling exclusive games and applications. This VR headset remains a solid choice for those on PC, and deals for older models can be found pretty easily.

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Great titles for Oculus Rift include: Lone Echo, Robo Recall, Chronos, Beat Saber, Creed: Rise to Glory, Echo Combat, In Death, Pixel Ripped 1989, and Transference. There is plenty in the store to keep you entertained, with multiplayer titles like Vox Machinae guaranteed to suck up a ton of hours.

VR Gaming on PC: HTC Vive

Is VR Worth It
Photo: HTC

If you’re looking to buy the latest Oculus Rift, then you’ll definitely want to also consider the latest HTC Vive. While older models are still capable, the HTC Vive Pro boasts some incredible specs that put it in a league of its own. What’s more, the ability to purchase a wireless add-on means being tethered is no longer a caveat that VR users are forced to endure.

In the same way that Oculus Rift has Facebook behind it, the HTC Vive also has a big business backing it: Valve. Choosing to purchase the headset supported by Valve is obviously a smart move, as the company owns the largest PC gaming platform in the world. If privacy concerns regarding Facebook make you nervous, then the Valve-backed HTC Vive might feel safer to you.

Though the Vive’s tracking functionality has recently been matched somewhat by the Rift, the flagship HTC Vive Pro pushes things further in terms of performance and available resolution. If you have an enormous space to play VR in, then the support for larger 33’ by 33’ play spaces may definitely be a deciding factor. (Do note that Oculus could reveal some improvements of its own soon into 2019, however!)

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As you might have guessed by the fact that Valve is backing the HTC Vive, this VR headset has access to a wide range of purchasable games through SteamVR, as well as the HTC VivePort subscription service. Must-play Vive games include Beat Saber (again, I know, but it’s so good!), Raw Data, Sprint Vector, LA Noire VR, Pavlov VR, Torn, Moss, Project CARS 2, Super Hot VR, Onward, Surge, and Accounting.

If the significantly higher price doesn’t make you balk, and you’re fine with going through a few extra steps to configure the headset to work optimally, then the Vive currently trumps the Rift.

VR Gaming on Console: PlayStation VR

Is VR Worth It
Photo: Sony

If you’re a console gamer — or, more specifically, you own a PS4 — then the PlayStation VR headset is the only real option for you. As we enter into 2019, there are a ton of great deals for bundles that can make a PSVR purchase very tempting. Early into the product’s launch, the main problem with the hardware was that it wasn’t supported by enough must-play software titles. While, yes, the lower resolution screen and poor graphics also leave something to be desired, these are pretty much expected when working with base-level and “Pro” PlayStation 4 hardware. This is the cheap but cheerful virtual reality experience, which provides “proper VR” (unlike phones) at a price that’s easier to swallow.

Thanks to Sony’s continued support of the hardware, and developers pumping out more and more VR-supported titles, PlayStation VR is in a fantastic place. The adoption rate is already impressive and, what with the current sale prices, this will likely continue to grow. This can only mean good things for 2019, as Sony continues to push for VR games on its platform.

Big PSVR games that came out during 2018 include: Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Moss, Tetris Effect, and Deracine. Beat Saber is also incredible, so be sure you pick this up with the Move Controllers. These join a catalog of must-plays like: The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, Resident Evil 7, Superhot, Farpoint, Thumper, Until Dawn: Rush of Blood, and Rec Room.

VR Gaming on Console: Three Recommendations

As we enter into 2019, the three true VR headsets that we can recommend purchasing are the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR. Support for all three has been very impressive, and each has evolved to offer top-tier hardware supported by a plethora of fantastic games. While there are other VR headsets out there — as on the mobile side the Oculus Go and Samsung GearVR do some things right — only the HTC, Oculus, and PlayStation options get a “YES” from me. Grab one of those and you’ll be ready to rock VR hard into 2019 and beyond.

The coming year promises to be an exciting time for VR enthusiasts, and we’re looking forward to seeing how existing hardware continues to improve, and how newcomers like the Odyssey+ shake up the market.