My jaw dropped when I put on a virtual reality headset for the first time and played Elite Dangerous on Steam.
It’s one of the most spectacular, immersive experiences I’ve ever felt. I thought I was flying a ship across space for real.
After that day, I could never go back to 2D gaming. VR opened a new window of opportunities for me with games like:
- Half-Life: Alyx
- Elite Dangerous
- Skyrim VR
- Beat Saber
- Pavlov VR
Today I’m going to show you the Best VR Headset for Steam Games, so you can join the fun!
Top VR Headset For Steam Games
|Best Overall||Valve Index||4.7|
|Runner Up||Oculus Quest||4.4|
|Best for Skyrim VR||Oculus Rift S||4.2|
|Best for Elite Dangerous||Pimax 8K X||4.8|
|Best for VRChat||Samsung Odyssey+||3.7|
|Best for Sim Racing||Lenovo Explorer||3.5|
|Best for Beat Saber||Oculus Quest||4.4|
|Best for Half-Life Alyx||Valve Index||4.7|
|Best for Minecraft VR||Lenovo Explorer||3.5|
|Best for Pavlov VR||Valve Index||4.7|
Best Overall: Valve Index
If you’re a heavy gamer with a powerful computer to run VR, then the Valve Index is the absolute best VR headset for Steam games.
This is an ultra high-end headset that most people can’t afford. It requires an extremely powerful computer to run.
If you don’t have thousands to spend, I recommend skipping this section and checking our ‘runner up‘ choice which suits 90% of people.
The Valve Index uses SteamVR Tracking 2.0 which has external sensors that go on your shelf to track where your hands and body are. It is currently the best motion tracker on the market, making it ideal for competitive games such as first person shooters such as Pavlov VR.
Compared to the HTC Vive Pro (Valve’s other headset), the Index beats is superior in almost every way and is also cheaper.
Valve Index Gaming Features:
- Developed by Steam
- Can play Oculus exclusive titles using a program called Revive
- Valve Index controllers have 87 sensors and can detect where your fingers are as well as grip and pressure. They’re the best controllers on the market. ~7 hour battery life
- Comes with open-back, 37.5mm off-ear headphones which are rich in bass and have the best audio of any VR headset
- 130° field of view – higher than most headsets
- 2,880 × 1,600 resolution
- Dual LCD screens
- 144 Hz refresh rate – extremely smooth motion, higher than most headsets
- 9/10 comfort – I’ve fallen asleep with it on before. By far the most comfortable headset on the market.
Valve Index Cons:
- Requires two motion trackers to be set up in your room which is complicated and the most time consuming part of setting it up
- Requires a powerful PC to run at max frames per second (144), otherwise you’ll have to lower it. An RTX 2070 or 2080 is required for 144 Hz.
Overall it’s the best VR headset for PC gaming, offering the ultimate immersive experience, comfort and ability to play competitive games with an edge over other headsets.
Runner Up: Oculus Quest
The Oculus Quest is a wireless headset that can play Steam games if you tether it to your machine using the Oculus Link cable.
You’ll need a VR capable computer, but the requirements aren’t as high as the Valve Index.
The Oculus Quest is the most “bang for your buck” headset, with graphics quality on par with the Valve Index and the ability to play every Steam game on the market.
The main downsides are it’s comfort, lower frame rate and lower field of view.
Oculus Quest Gaming Features:
- Can be played wirelessly with Oculus store titles and movies (3 hour battery life). Having no cords that get in the way of gaming is a huge advantage, especially for games like Beat Saber.
- Doesn’t require external motion trackers like the Valve Index
- Easy to set up – even a kid could do it.
- 100° field of view
- 2,880 x 1,600 resolution (same as the Index)
- 72 Hz refresh rate
- Dual OLED displays
- Cheap and can handle all PCVR experiences
Oculus Quest Cons:
- Requires a link cable to play Steam games
- Refresh rate is much lower than the Valve Index, which makes it noticeably less smooth (72 vs 144 Hz)
- Lower field of view than the Valve Index, making it less immersive
- Darn uncomfortable. 5/10 comfort without mods. 7.5/10 comfort with a mod. I recommend getting a counterweight mod if you’re going to be using it for hours.
- Tracking is good, but slightly worse than the Index which could make a difference in competitive games
- Made by Facebook
Overall, this headset is the best VR headset in the $100-$800 price range. For 80-90% of people, especially beginners, this is the right VR headset to get.
Just be aware of the extra costs: $30-$50 for comfort mods and $20/$80 for the link cable. After factoring in those costs and it’s still the most bang for your buck headset.
Best for Skyrim VR: Oculus Rift S
Skyrim VR is a 500+ hour long game long game with plenty of mods which are the best part about the game.
So for playing Skyrim VR, I’m going to recommend a comfortable headset that’ll allow you to play the game for many hours at once.
Keep in mind that you can pick any of the headsets listed here and there won’t be much difference between them in terms of gameplay & picture quality.
Also avoid the WMR headsets (Samsung Odyssey and Lenovo Explorer) because it can be annoying to lose tracking in this game.
The Pimax 8K has great resolution, but I noticed frame drops whilst using mods on Skyrim VR (without the mods it was fine). The mods are the best part about the game, so I won’t recommend the Pimax for this one either.
Instead, the best headset for Skyrim is the Oculus Rift S, because it’s affordable and one of more comfortable headsets on the market whilst offering nearly the same picture quality as the others.
The Rift S isn’t as comfortable as the Valve Index, but spending that much money is overkill for playing Skyrim. If you’re planning on playing competitive shooters however, then consider getting an Index.
Oculus Rift S Gaming Features:
- 2560×1440 resolution
- 100° field of view
- Inside-out tracking and doesn’t require external motion sensors
- Easy to set up
- 80 Hz refresh rate (slighter higher than the Quest, but almost no noticeable difference)
- Comfort: 7.5/10 – a great improvement from the Quest. The weight is slightly lighter and is better distributed throughout your head meanwhile the Quest is very front-heavy on your face.
- Can handle all PC VR games like the Quest
Oculus Rift S Cons:
- The biggest con of the Oculus Rift S is that it needs to be wired to your computer. It’s pretty much the same as the Quest except it’s more comfortable, but not portable. That’s a trade-off you’ll have to make if you want comfort.
- Slightly lower resolution than the Quest
Best for Elite Dangerous: Pimax 8K X
Elite Dangerous is the most immersive space-flight simulation game which you’re going to spend hundreds of hours on. For that reason, I recommend spending your money on a really high end headset such as the Pimax 8K to get the most out of the experience.
There’s a lot of text on Elite Dangerous – so you need a headset with high resolution, otherwise you’ll be squinting to read the text.
Like the Valve Index, the Pimax 8K is ultra expensive, so consider picking up a Quest for this. That’s the minimum resolution you should be aiming for when playing Elite Dangerous.
The best VR headset for Elite Dangerous is the Pimax 8K, because it offers unrivalled resolution and field of view, making it the most immersive headset on the market.
Pimax 8K X Gaming Features:
- The highest resolution on the market (7680 x 2160)
- 200° field of view, near the limits of human vision. When I look to the sides, I struggle to see the black edges that you normally see on other headsets. It’s hard to go back once you’ve experienced the high FOV
- Optional deluxe headphone quality for a slightly higher price
- Used with the Valve Index controllers and base station
- Custom CLPL displays for best image clarity
- 75/90 Hz refresh rate
- 8/10 comfort: moderately comfortable (it’s lighter than it looks). 9.5/10 with the modular audio strap comfort mod (the strap is amazing!).
- Has eye tracking
Pimax 8K X Cons:
- Ultra expensive
- Requires a very high end PC to run (RTX 2080 GPU recommended)
- Experimental, so you’ll spend a lot of time getting stuff to work. Doesn’t support all games, but works well with Elite Dangerous.
Best for VRChat: Samsung Odyssey+
VRChat is a light, casual game that doesn’t require a powerful headset to run.
I’m going to recommend the Samsung Odyssey+ which is a cheap option and does everything a casual gamer will need (including playing most Steam games). Hardcore gamers can go with the Valve Index (if you care about competitive gaming).
Both of these headsets support full body tracking.
The Samsung Odyssey+ actually has amazing resolution and picture quality that matches the Quest and Valve Index despite its cheap price tag.
Samsung Odyssey+ Gaming Features:
- 110° FOV
- 2880 x 1600 resolution (same as the Quest)
- 90 Hz refresh rate for smooth viewing experience
- OLED displays
Samsung Odyssey+ Cons:
- Has tracking flaws which you won’t notice most of the time, especially if you’re a casual gamer
- You can lose tracking in first person shooters when using rifles
- Cable is 3.5 meters which is short compared to other headsets which are 5 meters
- More light bleed than other headsets (there are gaps which light can get inside which can ruin immersion).
- Uncomfortable. 6/10, only marginally better than the Quest. 7.5/10 with the Studioform Odyssey strap which is a must-have.
- Don’t buy if you’re planning on playing competitive first person shooters or Echo Arena. Get the Oculus Rift S or Quest instead.
Best for Sim Racing: Lenovo Explorer
Looking to play racing simulators such as Assetto Corsa, Live for Speed, iRacing or Project CARS 2? Also looking for a cheap VR headset for PC gaming?
The Lenovo Explorer is one of the cheapest options for PCVR and does everything you would need in a racing sim. It has good picture quality, decent tracking and supports nearly every game on Steam. Also it’s one of the more comfortable headsets since it’s super light (380 grams).
The Samsung Odyssey+ is also good if you can find that one sale, as it has excellent picture quality (better than the Lenovo Explorer).
Combine one of these VR headsets with a steering wheel for VR and you got yourself a truly immersive sim racing experience.
Lenovo Explorer Features:
- One of the cheapest PC VR headsets
- No external sensors/cameras needed
- 2880 x 1440 resolution (only slightly worse than the Index and it’s hardly noticeable)
- 110° field of view
- Dual LCD displays
- 90 Hz refresh rate is pretty smooth
- 8.5/10 comfort – one of the lightest VR headsets available at 380 grams
Lenovo Explorer Cons:
- Same tracking flaws as the Samsung Odyssey+ (not too important in racing sims)
- Poor in first person shooters with rifles (it’s easy to lose tracking)
- Controllers don’t have vibrations from Steam games
- Don’t buy if you’re planning on playing competitive first person shooters or Echo Arena. Get the Oculus Rift S or Quest instead.
Best for Beat Saber: Oculus Quest
The Oculus Quest is the best VR headset for Beat Saber, because not only is it wireless, but it has accurate inside-out tracking (meaning it uses the in-built cameras to track and doesn’t require external sensors) and if you miss a note, it most likely won’t be due to the tracking.
Beat Saber requires a lot of arm swinging (many songs have over 200+ BPM) and body movements/turning (for 360° songs). For this reason it’s beneficial to get a wireless headset so the cords don’t get in the way of your arms and you get to turn without tangling your wires. And you get to dance freely as you like!
Best for Half-Life Alyx: Valve Index
Whilst Half-Life: Alyx is not out yet, it will be supported on all PCVR headsets.
List of supported headsets for Half-Life Alyx: Valve Index, Oculus Quest, HTC Vive Pro, Oculus Rift S, Pimax, HTC Cosmos (least reliable) and all Windows Mixed Reality Headsets (Samsung Odyssey, Lenovo Explorer, HP Reverb and Acer ConceptD OJO).
The best VR headset for Half-Life: Alyx would be the Valve Index – since it was practically made for this headset so it’ll be the most compatible.
PLUS if you own a Valve index, you’ll get Half-Life: Alyx for free along with several other bonuses:
Customers who have purchased Valve Index hardware before the game is released on Steam will have access to unique bonuses starting in early 2020:
- Explore environments from Half-Life: Alyx in your SteamVR Home space
- Alternate gun skins to embellish Alyx’s arsenal
- Special Half-Life: Alyx-themed content for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
As quoted from the Half-Life: Alyx Steam page.
Best for Minecraft VR: Lenovo Explorer
For a game like Minecraft, you don’t need to shell a huge amount of money on an Oculus or Valve Index.
The Lenovo Explorer is the cheapest PC VR headset and it can play almost all Steam VR games including Minecraft.
Since the image quality and resolution are on par with the higher end headsets, the Lenovo Explorer is the best VR headset for Minecraft.
Best for Pavlov VR: Valve Index
For competitive first shooters, your VR headset needs to have amazing tracking.
It can be frustrating when you get killed by an opponent, not because of skill, but because the tracking was slightly off or malfunctioned. So that’s why I’m going to recommend the Valve Index which has the best tracking on the market.
Whilst most the headsets are good, if you’re planning on getting to a high level in this game and other competitive shooters, you should invest the extra money on a Valve Index. The second best choice here is the Oculus Quest if you want something cheaper.
Who Should Buy a Steam VR Headset?
The current state of VR is absolutely breathtaking. However, not many people own a VR headset and anyone who does is still considered an early adopter.
With Half-Life: Alyx coming out in March and Valve teasing Left 4 Dead 3 (their flagship VR title), VR is going to explode in popularity soon and there’s no better time to join.
If you’re a gamer who can afford any console, you should pick up a VR headset over anything else, because it’s super affordable nowadays and it’s the best investment you’ll ever make. Not only do you get to experience immersive, spectacular games, but you get to exercise in the process!
Where can I buy a VR Headset?
The easiest way to buy a VR headset is from Amazon. It usually arrives in 3 days unless it is heavily back-ordered.
The Valve Index isn’t available in stores, whilst only a few stores sell the Oculus Quest/Rift. If you live in America, you might be able to find it in stores, but if you live in another country, it won’t be available on shelves.
Frequently Asked Questions
What computer do I need to run VR?
Each VR headset is different and will require different specs. You can also lower the refresh rate on some headsets to accommodate for some PCs. Check out our guide to building a computer for VR to learn about the specs needed to run VR.
Why is the Valve Index the best VR headset for Steam games?
Immersion, comfort and tracking – it aces in all those categories, whilst being able to play any SteamVR game out there. It does cost a tonne, but you get what you pay for.
Is it worth spending the extra money on the Valve Index as opposed to the Quest?
It depends. You’re essentially paying extra for:
- Better comfort
- Better immersion due to better audio, higher FOV and refresh rate
- Slightly better tracking (for competitive multiplayer games)
- Cooler controllers
- But lack of wireless
So you decide if that’s worth paying the extra cost for.
How big of a difference does Field of View (FOV) make?
A lot. A higher field of view gives better immersion. The 30° field of view difference between the Valve Index and the Quest is very significant, but is by no means a deal breaker.
If you’re planning on playing as many SteamVR games as possible and want to compete in competitive multiplayer games, your best purchase is the Valve Index.
For 80-90% of people, the budget option, the Oculus Quest is the best choice.
However, if you think you’re going to spend the majority of your time playing one game such as Skyrim VR or Minecraft VR, then get the headsets I specifically recommend for that game.