It may be hard to believe but its been four years since Samsung and Oculus first announced their smartphone-powered Gear VR headset. Since then, Marvel has released not one but two Guardians of The Galaxy films that people actually love. I’m not sure which impresses me more.
The mobile headset has gone through more redesigns and updates in the past four years than the LinkedIn homepage. Fortunately for all of us, the Gear VR have been much more successful.
What began as a somewhat clunky chunk of luminescent white plastic has transformed into a sleek, dark headset packed with a surprising amount of features including touch panels, ergonomic head straps and an honest-to-goodness motion controller. The only thing that hasn’t changed about the Gear VR in the last four years is its status as the best mobile VR headset on the market.
Whether you’re a new Gear VR owner or an early adopter looking to keep things fresh, there’s never been a better time to fire it up. This is our list of the seven must-have Gear VR apps and experiences. Let’s get lost.
In darker times, the best 360° videos we had access too were grainy, nauseating clips of GoPro stunts and claustrophobic concerts. But now everywhere you look, amazing creators are creating high quality VR videos our past selves could only dream of. All of that great content needs a quality player to match. That’s where Skybox comes in.
Skybox is an in-VR 360 video player that actually seems to care about the little things. From the beautiful aesthetics to the intuitive UI, this is the first VR video loader that makes choosing your videos as enjoyable as watching them.
At the whopping price of “free,” Skybox deserves a place in every Gear VR owners app library.
Samsung and Facebook/Oculus are on a mission: to bring the full-internet experience inside of your virtual reality headset. Phonecast is the latest, and best, attempt to win that battle for the mobile space.
Phonecast is a Samsung-created dashboard that gives you access to a suite of intelligently designed web-apps, browsers and popular services like YouTube. Its not the first Gear VR app to combine the internet with the HMD, but it is a great attempt at making the overall experience useful, entertaining and functional.
We’re still a few big steps away from using our VR headsets to do everyday computing, but Phonecast is proof that we might just get there someday soon.
Netflix was one of the Gear VR’s earliest adopters. The streaming juggernaut created and released a fun little app for the headset that sits you down in a cozy log cabin to Netflix and (literally) chill as the snow falls outside.
The functionality and aesthetics of the Netflix Gear VR app have not been changed or updated much at all since launch, but the overall experience still holds up well today.
This is one of the few VR apps across any headset that actually enhances an existing non-VR counterpart. You’ll actually enjoy watching Stranger Things or The Office (again) inside this rustic wonderland for hours on end.
Ok, look. Ripoffs happen. They’re part of any successful industry. VR is no exception. But if you’re going to make a ripoff, you’d better make a good one. VR Canvas is a good one.
It may be a blatant imitation of Google’s all-time-great VR painting tool Tilt Brush, but that doesn’t stop VR Canvas from being a truly fun proxy on a much more affordable device.
The lack of positional tracking on the Gear VR is an obvious limitation for VR Canvas, but this knockoff is still the best way to get your artistic kicks on a mobile VR system. There’s plenty of tools, animations and other ways to create here that don’t require a pricier HTC Vive headset and corresponding powerhouse PC.
Sometimes Daniel Day Lewis just isn’t available and you’ve gotta settle for Jim Caviezel. But he’s worth at least $3.99.
Gala360 and VISO Places are the two better travel apps available for the Gear VR and they’re similar enough to earn a dual-recommendation here.
Anyone who has tried the life-changing experience of Google Earth in VR will tell you that there is something magical about soaring around the planet without ever leaving your living room.
These two apps have slightly different, but overall similar functionality, and the end result is the same: hours of amazing globe-trotting experiences all for zero dollars and zero cents.
Wevr is about as OG as it gets when it comes to VR content creators. These talented guys and gals have been here since the beginning and their crown jewel is Transport: a collection of all the best Wevr produced VR cinematics ever made.
Whether you want to spend some time inside the strange mind of Reggie Watts, or participate in a few fever-dream dance numbers, Transport has a work of immersive art for everyone.
Be warned: there are paywalls to access this content but you know what’s priceless? Memories.
Minecraft is totally a baby game for dumb babies that want to spend all their time watching dumb YouTubers scream like dummies. It’s also the best gaming experience on the Gear VR.
Don’t judge. There’s a reason this game has enough ports and sales to be considered the Tetris of this generation. There’s a reason that Microsoft spent $2.5 billion to acquire its developer, Mojang. And there’s a reason that the Nikolai Tesla of computing, John Carmack himself spent over a year personally optimizing all those blocks and creepers for mobile VR.
This is the full experience of Minecraft, not some watered down port. The world may be simple but that doesn’t make it any less fun to explore inside the Gear VR. This is the most polished game on the system and the passion project of a living legend. What more could you want?
No matter how you use yours, lets all take a moment to appreciate the Gear VR. Its the little headset that could. And it did. And it keeps doing. Thanks for the memories little buddy.
What do you think? Did your favorite make the list? Are we missing any home runs? Let us know in the comments below.