Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in 2016 but gets updated every few months to account for new releases and events, such as May the 4th.
Science fiction and virtual reality go together like medieval fantasy and LARPing. Two intergalactic peas in a space pod, if you will. So naturally, the popularity of the latest and greatest form of interactive entertainment – VR headsets – means it was only natural that one of the largest and beloved sci-fi properties on the planet – Star Wars – got in on the action.
But despite that obvious overlap, we still don’t have a comprehensive, commercially released, AAA-quality Star Wars VR experience on the market. Fingers crossed unannounced VR support makes Battlefront 2 that game.
We’re still waiting on that epic jedi VR simulator that everyone wants deep down in their heart of hearts, but there are a few concepts sprinkled around to satiate a bit of the appetite. Below, we’ve compiled a sampling of the very best Star Wars VR experiences that we’ve seen so far – most of which you can experience right now, some you can’t quite yet. May the 4th (and the force) be with you!
Star Wars Battlefront Rogue One: X-Wing VR Mission
This is the big one. After you try to say that name five times fast, just look at it. You get to fly an actual X-Wing and shoot down Tie Fighters! It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s incredibly short and currently exclusive to the PlayStation VR (PSVR) but it’s by far the best Star Wars experience you can have inside of a VR headset right now. Easily.
The whole mission will only last you maybe 10-20 minutes, but everything from the way it starts to the way it ends is incredibly polished. You can inspect the ship beforehand, look around inside of an insanely detailed cockpit, and really feel like you’re flying an X-Wing into battle. This is free if you own Star Wars Battlefront and it’s totally worth a download.
Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine
When word came out that Star Wars would have a big presence at GDC in 2016, excitement was at an all-time high. Would we finally get a full game announcement that lets us use the motion controllers as lightsabers? Can we pilot ships in space dogfights now? Can we have multiplayer lightsaber duels?
Well, sort of, not really, and no are the answers to those questions, but Star Wars: Trials on Tatooine is still an excellent tease at what could be coming in a full experience some day. Developed by ILMxLAB, Trials on Tatooine is sort of like the Bullet Train of the Star Wars universe – an amazing tech demo that may lead to a larger experience down the line.
Rogue One: Recon – A Star Wars 360 Experience
The new hotness is releasing a 360 video to coincide with the release of your new movie and the folks behind Star Wars are no different. Since this one is uploaded in high quality on YouTube with up to 8K resolution it’s definitely one of the prettiest videos we’ve seen.
It’s only a little less than two minutes long, but is a great teaser of what could be. The content is similar to the X-Wing VR Mission from Battlefront, as it puts you behind the controls of an X-Wing during a routine recon mission, during which things naturally take a dramatic turn.
Remember that scene from Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope where Luke is training with a floating orb, deflecting blasts? Lightblade VR is that, but not officially licensed by Star Wars. It’s a simple little game, but it really does a good job of making it feel like you’re holding a lightsaber.
The higher difficulty levels are nuts and you can even unlock different “lightblade” colors and hilts as you progress through the ranks.
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR
Augmented reality technology just isn’t as advanced as virtual reality technology yet, but it’s getting there. This device, which was created in collaboration between Disney, Lucasfilm, and Lenovo, uses your smartphone to project images onto lenses that hang in front of your eyes in the headset in such a way that it looks like holograms exist in the real world around you.
Combined with a tracking beacon to center your surroundings and a lightsaber hilt replica, you can engage in intense lightsaber duels, epic war-themed conquests, and even play a few games of holochess. The lightsaber fights are the real highlight of the package and the new upcoming content from The Last Jedi early next year makes it a fun Christmas present.
You can read our full review of the device and platform right here.
I know that Raw Data, a cooperative multiplayer wave-based survival game by Survios for the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, is not a Star Wars experience. But come on. If you watch the trailer or play it for yourself and experience the satisfaction of reaching behind you to pull out the hilt of a laser sword, press down on the activation button, and see a long crackling blade ignite from the base before you mow down advancing evil cyborgs, you’ll start to feel like a Jedi in no time.
They can’t call them lightsabers and it’s not based on Star Wars, but the feeling those lightning swords gave me was unlike anything I’d experienced before or since. I could deflect lasers back at flying robots to destroy them and pulling it out from the holster on my back established such a convincing sense of presence I accidentally punched my couch at one point because things got so intense. ILMxLAB and Disney should definitely be taking notes.
Robo Recall’s Lightsabers Mod
If you haven’t had enough unofficial Star Wars VR content, don’t worry: there’s more! Robo Recall is one of the most popular and talked about VR games to date, which isn’t too surprising when you consider it was created by none other than Epic Games. As a fully moddable game, players are already hard at work tweaking things and adding in their own content.
Star Wars: Droid Repair Bay
This is the newest VR experience on the whole list and is partially intended as a marketing piece leading up to the release of Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. As an embrace of the more lighthearted elements of Star Wars (namely the droids) it does a great job of offering something a bit different for fans.
It’s extremely short (only about 10 minutes long, similar to ILMxLAB’s other Star Wars project, Trials on Tatooine, which is mentioned above on this list) but it’s hard not to smile the entire time. Since it’s free and on Steam you really have no reason not to give this one a go if you’ve got the means.
Here’s our full write-up about it.
Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire
For die-hard Star Wars fans and VR enthusiasts, there’s absolutely a lot to love here. Secrets of the Empire is a tantalizing trip to a galaxy far, far away unlike any you’ve ever taken before, offering a glimpse of the kind of experience we might one day get to have in our homes whenever we please.
Using the power of The Void to deliver one of the highest quality location-based VR entertainment packages around, Secrets of the Empire absolutely delivers. You can read our full thoughts here for more.
Honorable Mention: Skyrim VR Star Wards Mods
It’s no secret that there are tons and tons of mods for Skyrim VR. We’ve highlighted a bunch of our favorites in a massive list, livestreamed some really impressive ones that add things like Zelda items, the Resident Evil mansion, and even a whole quest line to rebuild Helgen. But did you know there are also Star Wars mods too?
You can use force powers, get lightsabers, add authentic sound effects, go on an epic quest, and much more. There are tons of small mods you can piece together to craft your ideal Star Wars-meets-Skyrim adventure.
May 4th, 2018 Update: May the 4th be with you! For today’s update we’re upgrading Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire to a full entry on the list to replace the Disneyland fan thing and we’ve also added Skyrim VR’s Star Wars-themed mods as honorable mentions.
December 15th, 2017 Update: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi launched today! We’ve updated the list by adding Jedi Challenges AR and Droid Repair Bay to the list, while removing Jakku Spy and the Star Wars Battle Pod to make room. We also added an honorable mention for Secrets of the Empire from The Void since that’s not launching until 2018.
May 4th, 2017 Update: This article was originally published last year on May 4th, 2016, but we’ve updated it for this year’s “May the Fourth” with the better Star Wars VR experiences we’ve seen over the last year.