Game of the Year 2023 – Best Virtual Reality Game

GOTY 2023 best VR game header

Seven years on from the first VR gaming headsets launching, it still feels like we’re finding our way with virtual reality. 2024 could change all of that, with Apple hoping to do Apple things for yet another nascent technology, but 2023 has relaid the foundations for gamers with PSVR 2 and Meta Quest 3 both launching and bringing big improvements.

Of course, there’s also been new games looking to take advantage of these new systems, and we’ve often delighted in popping a fancy hat on our heads to escape fully from the real world around us.

GOTY 2023 best VR game award

PowerWash Simulator VR shouldn’t be a good game. Arguably, it shouldn’t even be a game, as it is even closer to being a 1:1 recreation of a chore than the flat screen original. Meticulously cleaning stuff is a task most people would go out of their way to avoid, and even though it’s a thoroughly rewarding chore, there’s any number of other warmer, drier things you’d rather be doing.

PowerWash Simulator VR captures the rewarding part of the experience, and is considerably warmer and drier too. Somehow it makes the experience one of the greatest VR games of the year, as you hose down a series of thoroughly filthy items and bring them all up to a digital sheen. You’ve got a tool belt, with a myriad number of nozzles, and you can crouch, lean and peer at the dirty things you’ve been charged with for more hours than I care to mention. There’s no denying that this is an experience that’ll make you feel utterly guilty – you really could just be cleaning your car – but then, no one is going to pay you virtual money to do that are they?

– Dom L

C-Smash VRS – Runner Up

A Japan-only Dreamcast game probably wasn’t high up on your list for a VR adaptation, and yet C-Smash VRS is pretty much a perfect fit. Blending together they physical aspects of playing squash or tennis with the arcade block-smashing of Breakout, C-Smash VRS is easy to grasp, fun to pick up and play, but brutally difficult to master.

There’s an enjoyable and playful minimalist style to the visuals as you cruise through the cosmos – there’s always some cosmonauts doing some daft things out of a window – and that goes hand in hand with a soundtrack featuring DJ Ken Ishii, Danalogue and a special collaboration with UNKLE.

– Stefan L

Horizon Call of the Mountain – Runner Up

If you want a showcase for what PlayStation VR 2 can do once you’ve plugged it into your PlayStation 5, then Horizon Call of the Mountain is it. Guerrilla Games and Firesprite brilliantly translate the Horizon universe to VR, from lush forests and sweeping vistas, to intense battles with robotic beasts, many of which will tower over you.

One key factor for a new VR flagship game was keeping things accessible. The climbing mechanics are easy to grasp, the combat keeps you on the fringes of an arena without free motion, and there’s clear limits to what the game is trying to do. That said, it means that Horizon is a solid entry point into VR for newcomers.

– Stefan L 

Honourable Mentions (in alphabetical order)

Have you been putting a VR headset on through 2023? Let us know what your favourite games and experiences have been through 2023.