Play video games and get fit? Thanks to VR, this nerd dream can come true. We show our seven favorite VR games with a workout effect and give tips.
If you want to play video games and do something for your health at the same time, VR is the right place for you. After all, the virtual reality systems not only record the position of your own head with a line of sight, but also the position and location of the controller. So the player moves comparatively freely in a previously defined frame. Depending on the game, the controllers then become swords, boxing gloves or tennis rackets. In many games, it is then hardly necessary to press a button; the game is played almost exclusively using your own movements.
It goes without saying that the players burn calories in this way Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise tries to scientifically investigate and quantify this effect. They have one for that Exercise rating created. This shows how many calories a player burns per minute. No matter how scientifically you approach calorie consumption, it cannot be transferred one-to-one to every player. For this, factors such as your own fitness or the intensity of the movements performed are decisive. For example, in the VR classic Beat Saber (guide), you can cut the rushing blocks with a casual movement from your wrist just as efficiently as with a significantly more energy-intensive sweeping arm movement. Nevertheless, the values give a good indication of how sweaty you can make a training with the VR games.
For example, the author of these lines has been playing Beat Saber for about an hour twice a week for months, a total of almost 70 hours according to in-game statistics. To reinforce the workout effect, he uses 1-kilogram weight cuffs (from 13 euros) for both arms. Those who are interested should choose cuffs that hold well with a Velcro fastener and are adaptable to the arm circumference. On the other hand, cuffs with variable weights are available. So you can start with a low weight and work your way up with increasing training success. We recommend cuffs with a weight of 1 kg or more, 0.5 kg might not be enough in the long run.
To reduce the stress on the skin from rubbing the cuffs, it is recommended to bandage the arms with an elastic bandage before the VR training. If you want to top it all off, you should take a look at weight vests (from 80 euros).
Important: After each workout, bandages, cuffs and other weights that come into direct contact with the skin must be cleaned to prevent germs and unpleasant smells.
In this guide, we focus on the three most popular VR platforms, Oculus Quest, Playstation VR (PSVR) and PC systems. The Oculus Quest is currently the most attractive choice for beginners thanks to its low price of 450 euros, the complete absence of cables and the large range of software. The Android-based system offers comparatively weak graphics, but this is rarely noticed negatively during gaming.
If you already own a PS4 or even a PS4 Pro, the Playstation VR (test report) could be worthwhile. As is currently the case, the first generation regularly costs only 180 euros. Anyone who prefers the successor, who differs primarily by integrated headphones, currently pays 230 euros, now and then also around 200 euros. Playstation VR glasses often come bundled with games.
The system itself offers the best wearing comfort and the most pleasant controllers, which pays off especially in the VR workout. Its tracking is not always perfect and the graphics also show the hardware’s age of four years.
If you want to use your PC for VR, you have the largest selection in terms of both hardware and software. A decent VR-compatible computer costs only 520 euros (guide), for the choice of the headset, interested parties should check out our detailed virtual reality buying advice: You need to read this for VR. We collect the individual tests for the headsets on our virtual reality topic page.
In the following we have selected six VR games that make players sweat and which are also really fun. Next to the title is the calorie consumption per minute calculated by the Virtual Reality Institute of Health and Exercise. When choosing a game, we made sure to cover as many different genres as possible. The table shows the major platforms on which the titles are available and how we assess training effect, fun and long-term motivation.
Creed: Rise to Glory
1: Beat Saber 6.55 – 7.45 calories / min.
Beat Saber is the classic VR game and for many users a reason to bring a virtual reality system into the house. What is particularly impressive is how easy the beginner is to play the rhythm. As a player, you stand on a kind of street like in a futuristic disco from the 80s. Now it is time to cut blocks that fly through the air with laser swords. To make matters worse, they specify a cutting direction and want to be hit with the correct one of the two laser swords. From time to time you have to avoid obstacles by taking a step to the side or a precisely timed crouch, which increases the training effect.
The learning curve is steep. After a short time you have the need to increase the level of difficulty. And it has it all. At the highest level, full concentration and physical effort are required. Those who have had enough of the songs at some point can buy additional packages. Via PC-VR it is even possible to integrate your own songs or to access the songs of a community. Find out more in our guide Oculus Quest vs HTC Vive vs PS VR – Beat-Saber-König wanted.
2: Box VR 5.7 – 6.89 calories / min.
Box VR is reminiscent of Beat Saber in terms of gameplay. However, the focus is on the workout factor. As a player you are initially in the middle of a gym and see different colored dots flying towards you. Instead of swords, you have boxing gloves on your hands this time. Accordingly you box away the symbols in time. Here, too, there are guidelines, so some need an uppercut to give full marks. Dodge elements force the player to move more than just their hands.
The workout effect is high, if not quite as high as with Beat Saber, because the movements are a bit more expansive there. Box VR is fun. Still not as long as Beat Saber because the levels are too similar and the song selection is limited. To counteract this, there are now several extensions.
3: Creed: Rise to Glory 6.62 – 7.8 calories / min.
At Creed: Rise to Glory, everyone is guaranteed to break a sweat. It offers the most intensive workout from our recommendations. The boxing game creates a successful balancing act from realistic simulation paired with arcade elements. The hands should be in front of your own face as a defense, you dodge with the whole body. The stronger the blow towards the opponent, the higher the damage. If your opponent catches you too often, it literally pushes you into a black hole, at the end of which the boxing ring is small. Now it is time to row with the poor like in a full sprint and to approach the light at the end of the tunnel. If you are too slow, go knockout.
When you play through it for the first time, story mode offers plenty of variety and surprises with training sessions and competitions. It is roughly based on the film of the same name from the Rocky universe – including the appearance of the legendary Rocky Balboa. However, the fun factor quickly subsides when you play through it a second time. Still an absolute recommendation for all boxing and VR workout fans!
4: Racket NX 4.23 – 4.57 calories / min.
Racket NX plays best with wireless VR systems like the Oculus Quest. Because you are in a kind of oversized cylinder and throws a ball against the wall with a bat. You always turn around your own axis. But that doesn’t make you dizzy.
Racket NX is not just a VR tip for workout friends. His physics are terrific, the gameplay is varied and the 360-degree freedom of movement is unique.
5: Sprint Vector 5.15 – 5.51 calories / min.
Sprint Vector is a fun first-person parcour racing game in which the player accelerates with arms running movements. The developers claim that the race does not cause nausea due to the colorful worlds. In our experience, sensitive natures could still get bad, especially if your character is hit by a large block and pushed aside. Overall, the game surprises with good controls and lots of new ideas. The multiplayer mode is a real highlight. Overall, however, we would have liked more and longer levels to enhance the workout effect. Still a great cardio workout.
6: Climbey 2.92 – 3.01 calories / min.
Climbey offers a VR experience of an unusual kind. Graphically rather rudimentary, the VR climbing game unfolds its charm mainly through its fantastically implemented controls, the countless community levels and the great multiplayer fun, in which one helps each other particularly difficult passages overcome. However, players who tend to motion sickness should avoid the title. The workout effect is the least compared to the other titles listed here, but with weights on the arm and long holding positions you can really work up a sweat.
7: Dance Central (no assessment by the VR institute)
Harmonix, the developer studio that is already responsible for the rhythm game classic rock band, shows with Dance Central what we think is the best cross-platform VR dance game. It is based on the title of the same name for the Xbox 360 Kinect. Basically, it’s about imitating the comic-like counterpart’s dance movements as much as possible. The motion detection is good. If you don’t exactly mirror the movement, you won’t get the highest score. Dance Central is a sweaty experience that also appeals thanks to the funky comic style.
VR brings movement into the video game world. The systems with the right games even offer a real workout. We recommend the Oculus Quest to absolute beginners thanks to the absence of cables, the wide range of games and the comparatively low entry price. If you already have a PS4, you can also flirt with the Playstation VR (test report). But be careful: the successor is already in the starting blocks. For real VR professionals there is no way around a PC headset (or an Oculus Quest with adapter cable). The PSVR leads the test field in terms of headset comfort during sweat-inducing VR exercises.
As a workout game, Beats Saber is a must-have. It is exhausting, demanding, driving and after a lot of practice it is almost more fun than at the beginning. Because at some point you feel like a Jedi knight in the fight against the Sith thanks to colorful lightsabers and flowing movements. In the guide Oculus Quest vs HTC Vive vs PS VR – Beat Saber King wanted, we examine the VR high-flyer in detail.
If you are considering building your own VR PC, you should read our purchase advice: Build a VR gaming PC for € 520. We will show you the most important headsets for this in the Virtual Reality guide: This is what you need for VR. Prefer to go out for sports? Then best with a tracker from our leaderboard: Top 5 fitness trackers for sports and everyday life.