27 of the best AR and VR apps and games

2016 is the year that virtual reality and augmented reality hit the mainstream - here are our picks for the best games and apps you can download for iPhone and Android.

6th July 2016
27 of the best AR and VR apps and games (iStock)

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INCELL

INCELL
INCELL
iOS, Android

This multi-coloured action-cum-racing game takes place in a unique micro-world, which recreates the anatomy of a human cell in impressive detail, giving it an educational angle, too. Players ride along capillaries and connections as they take in inner space. The depth and scaling of the scenes really makes the experience worthwhile, and it has a rousing soundtrack to boot.

 

DINOTREK

DINOTREK
DINOTREK
iOS

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to walk with dinosaurs then here’s your chance to find out. DinoTrek VR lets you get right up close to the prehistoric action, in which dinosaurs roam, fight it out amongst each other and, every now and then, just kick back and relax in the sun. Kids should love this app, which doesn’t even require a headset to be enjoyed. T-Rex included.

ORBULUS

ORBULUS
ORBULUS
iOS, Android

It’s not just video that can be transformed with VR – Orbulus shows how still images can take on a whole new dimension, too. The app’s virtual environment allows you to explore a variety of 360° photospheres, in which you can stand on Mars, ascend Glastonbury Tor, experience New Year fireworks on Hong Kong harbour and a whole lot much more besides.

WAA!

WAA!
WAA!
Android

WAA! lets you adopt the role of a cute little astronaut whose mission is to seek and destroy asteroids or face a certain death. The game uses the focus control as a targeting device for launching homing missiles that, in the main, works extremely well. You can also collect batteries, screws and wrenches, which improve your aim, adjust gravity and restore shields.

VR TANK TRAINING

VR TANK TRAINING
VR TANK TRAINING
iOS, Android

VR Tank Training uses a graphical ‘mesh-blending’ technique reminiscent of the popular Battlefield games to simulate the experience of commanding a cannon on wheels. The idea is to destroy as many targets as you can while you manoeuvre your tank to the next checkpoint. There’s also an in-game leaderboard for players to compete against each other for the top spot.

HANG GLIDING

HANG GLIDING
HANG GLIDING
Android

Strap on your immersive glasses and explore a realistic and beautiful Alpine landscape from the vantage point of a hang glider. At least, that’s the theory. Tilting your smartphone left and right steers the glider and lets you explore the surroundings reasonably well, but the physics can be a little bit wonky. Still, it’s a free download so we can’t complain too much.

ROLLERCOASTER

ROLLERCOASTER

Hurtle past city skyscrapers or zoom through a tropical island setting in this enjoyable and visually appealing simulator.

Android, iOS

CMOAR ROLLER COASTER

CMOAR ROLLER COASTER

Flaming lava pits, deserted mineshafts and devastated fantasy lands feature in this refreshing twist on classic rollercoaster games.

Android, iOS

VR CRAZY SWING

VR CRAZY SWING

This virtual ride is hundreds of feet high and swings all the way round, making it a darn sight scarier than your average playground swing.

Android, iOS

SWIVEL GUN! LOG RIDE

SWIVEL GUN! LOG RIDE

The carriage on this rollercoaster is fitted with a cannon and it’s your job to shoot as many barrels as you can as the ride progresses.

Android

COSMIC ROLLERCOASTER

Tour the Solar System from the comfort of your virtual carriage in this interstellar twist on classic rollercoaster games.

Android

REFUGIO 3D SPACE STATION

Refugio 3d space station

Explore the vast interior of a space station orbiting the planet Refugio, complete with glass floors, viewing windows and a wicked sci-fi soundtrack.

Android

DEBRIS DEFRAG

DEBRIS DEFRAG

Look around a beautifully rendered 3D space environment, and shoot asteroids from your path using your Cardboard headset and a controller.

Android

GALAXY

GALAXY

This space-flight simulator is a demo of a game still being developed, but its arcade shooter elements are well worth a blast.

Android

SISTERS

SISTERS
SISTERS
Android, iOS

This first-person ghost story sends you into a haunted mansion on the evening of an approaching storm. You’re all alone in a Victorian-era room – apart from an array of ominous-looking dolls beside the fireplace and the sinister noises echoing around the hallway. With numerous events triggered by your interaction with objects around the house, Sisters offers creepy set pieces and a good dose of suspense.

A CHAIR IN A ROOM

A CHAIR IN A ROOM

A CHAIR IN A ROOM

Horror experiences don’t get any simpler than this. You begin in said room, a dark and dingy environment, with no explanation as to where you are or how you got there. Soon the lights begin to flicker and falter, and the terror of your situation gradually becomes painfully clear. Interaction is minimal at best, but it’s another fine example of VR’s potential in the horror genre.

Android

JURASSICLAND

JurassicLand
JurassicLand
Android

This dino-themed VR experience has more in common with Jurassic Park than other titles thanks to its safari-style narrative. You’re given the opportunity to drive off-road in a jeep and get up close with the most famous dinosaurs, including Giganotosaurus, Triceratops and T-Rex. This gives kids a real sense of scale to the animals, which makes up for some mediocre graphics.

WAR OF WORDS

WAR OF WORDS
WAR OF WORDS
Android, iOS

This BAFTA-nominated animated reading of Siegfried Sassoon’s poem ‘The Kiss’ is a brilliant demonstration of virtual reality’s storytelling possibilities. To recap, The Kiss was written just before the Battle of the Somme – where more writers and poets fought than any conflict in history – while Sassoon was on an army-training course. Narrated by Michael Sheen and developed in partnership with BBC Arts, War of Words may be on the short side, but it is beautiful and poignant, and perfectly captures the controversial and battling spirit of the original work.

CARTOON VILLAGE

CARTOON VILLAGE
CARTOON VILLAGE
Android

Cartoon Village drops you into a colourful medieval cartoon settlement where you’re free to investigate any nook and cranny you fancy. The extreme level of detail gives the rural enclave a real lived-in feel, and you can simply change the season and time of day to see how it affects the habits of its dwellers and the surrounding natural world. It’s also available on Android but only as wallpaper. Additionally it can run in Daydream mode on devices with Android 4.2 or higher. Cartoon Village has already taken the mantle as cutest CG-rendered app in the world of virtual reality.

Within (formerly VRSE)

Within
Within
iOS, Android

Within is a production company specialising in telling stories through live-action VR filmmaking, and this app is the best way to experience their selection of high-quality 360 videos on your smartphone. Collaborations with the likes of The New York Times, the UN, Vice and Saturday Night Live ensure a well-rounded exploration of the medium’s potential. Within also worked with U2 on their ‘Song for Someone’, so viewers could sit with Bono in their living room.

JAUNT VR

JAUNT VR
JAUNT VR
Android, iOS

Jaunt is another production company that aims to send viewers into story-driven worlds, simply through use of their mobile device. A virtual Nepalese mountain adventure, a front row seat at a Paul McCartney concert and a trip inside North Korea as the country holds military celebrations highlight the breadth of scenarios Jaunt is covering. They also send you into film, like the 360° fashion photoshoot with Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) in Zoolander 2.

11:57

11:57

Horror lends itself well to VR, and this was one of the first apps to make the spectator the main character in a 360° nightmare. The dark atmospherics are supported by bone-chilling binaural audio.

Android, iOS

THE BLACK MASS EXPERIENCE

Black Mass Experience

Jaunt’s eagerly anticipated immersive horror short certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. What’s more, it comes complete with an interactive sound field mixed in Dolby Atmos to really freak you out. You have been warned.

Via Jaunt VR (see above)

INSIDIOUS VR

INSIDIOUS VR

Elise Rainier (actress Lin Shaye) guides you into the horrors of the afterlife in order to navigate its furthest, darkest reaches, in this chilling VR experience based on the hit film franchise.

Android, iOS

STITCHERS VR

Stitchers cast
STITCHERS VR
Android, iOS

This app is based on the television drama Stitchers. You’re able to investigate crimes by transporting yourself into the deceased’s memories. You can select the crime scene, discover clues about the murdered protagonist’s last moments and, using observation and logic, catch the criminal. You can also explore the crime scene without a VR viewer if you so wish.

GOOGLE CARDBOARD

GOOGLE CARDBOARD
GOOGLE CARDBOARD
Android, iOS

If you’ve just got hold of a Google Cardboard headset, then this is the app you should download first. Its ‘Explore’ section features guided tours of cities around the world, while the ‘Exhibit’ section allows you to view museum collections as 3D objects. There’s even a fun stereoscopic take on a classic kaleidoscope.

GO SHOW

GO SHOW
GO SHOW
Android

Movies are made for the big screen, and this app is a way to experience your video collection as the filmmakers originally intended. Simply, Go Show allows you to view your own 2D and 3D movies (including panoramic 360° videos) on a virtual cinema screen. As long as the video is stored on your device in MP4 format, the app can render it in split-screen for true theatrical viewing.

VOLVO REALITY

VOLVO REALITY
VOLVO REALITY
Android

VFX-studio Framestore partnered with R/GA and the Swedish car company Volvo to create this trio of experiential videos that allow you to get behind the wheel of the XC90 SUV carrier. It’s the sights and sounds along the way that make the trip really worthwhile, including some spectacular mountainous scenery.

 

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