Steam-compatible VR Headsets:

  • Valve Index
  • HTC Vive
  • Oculus Rift
  • *Oculus Quest using Oculus Link
  • Any WMR (Windows Mixed Reality) headset
  • Pimax

The standalone Oculus Quest can’t play Steam games, but by using an Oculus Link cable (an extra $15-$79), you can basically transform your Quest into an Oculus Rift S and it runs perfectly well. This is a new feature that was added in earlier this year in 2020.

Alternatively, you can use a paid app called ‘Virtual Desktop‘ to play Steam games wirelessly, although this requires a 5G router in proximity to run without lagging.

Which Headset to Buy?

Here are the main selling points of each headset:

Windows Mixed Reality: Cheap and decent.

Oculus Quest: Wireless, but uncomfortable.

Oculus Rift S: Wired, but comfortable.

Valve Index: Expensive, but comes with superior comfort, field of view, audio quality and refresh rate. Also requires an ultra powerful computer to run.

Pimax 5K & 8K: highest field of view makes it the most immersive headset, but highly experimental.

HTC Vive Pro: Slightly worse than the Valve Index in every single way except for it’s wireless capabilities if you buy the wireless adapter which is pretty expensive.

Here’s a simple breakdown for you:

If you’re on a tight budget: Try looking for a Windows Mixed Reality headset that’s on sale or in used condition (they frequently go on sale). The headsets you wanna look for are: HP Reverb, Lenovo Explorer and Samsung Odyssey (which is more expensive, but an upgrade from the others). These headsets a bit hard to find nowadays because they’re always sold out, but if you can find one, try and grab it. If not, you can try buying a used Oculus Rift S or a used Oculus Quest.

Mid-range option #1: Oculus Quest. The Oculus Quest is unique headset in that it is completely wireless and doesn’t require your PC to run games. However you can transform your Quest into a Rift S for an extra $15-$79 by purchasing an Oculus Link cable and that’ll allow you to play Steam games. Having a wireless headset is a HUGE advantage, so this is the headset we’ll recommend.

Mid-range option #2: Oculus Rift S. It’s slightly cheaper than the Quest, but lacks wireless capabilities. However, for those who value comfort, the Rift S is one of the most comfortable headsets on the market. Meanwhile the Quest is not comfortable at all and I had to buy some comfort mods in order to use it for long periods of time. So if you don’t want to deal with comfort, I recommend getting a Rift S.

High-end option: Valve Index. The best of the best. It’s ultra comfortable and comes with the higher field of view than the other headsets mentioned. This makes the whole experience more immersive. It’s also the most expensive by far and requires an ultra powerful computer to run at max refresh rate. If you don’t have at least an i7 processor and a RTX 2070 graphics card, then I recommend you go with the mid-range options instead.

Best VR Headsets for Steam

Top VR Headset For Steam Games

Category Best Pick Rating
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

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: It requires an extremely powerful computer to run (at least an RTX 2070 to run on 120 Hz).

If you don’t have thousands to spend, I recommend skipping this section and checking our ‘runner up‘ choice which suits most 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.

If you’re after full-body tracking, this is the headset to get as other headsets with inside out tracking can’t track your body.

Compared to the HTC Vive Pro, 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:

  • Expensive
  • 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.

Best Mid-Range: Oculus Quest

Oculus Quest and Motion Controllers

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

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 Budget Option: Samsung Odyssey+

Samsung Odyssey Plus

These are a bit hard to find nowadays, but they’re the cheapest entry into Steam VR gaming. They work perfectly well and have beautiful picture quality.

Samsung Odyssey+ Features:

  • One of the best picture quality out of any headset. It even rivals the Valve Index in this category and even has more vibrant colors than the Index.
  • Cheap

Samsung Odyssey+ Cons:

  • Doesn’t have the best image sharpness, making text harder to read.
  • It’s quite heavy and uncomfortable to wear.

 

Best for Comfort: Oculus Rift S

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

Most Immersive: Pimax 8K X

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.

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.

Summary

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.