As soon as VR became a viable platform, everybody knew what would come first: swords. Being far, far more important than any of the other practical applications of VR, simulating the unvarnished experience of stabbing a full-sized opponent in the face with the pointy end of an archaic weapon took number one priority for early developers and, fortunately, or unfortunately, ran into one hell of a learning curve.
Developing sound melee-combat for VR has turned out to be harder than it might have seemed, with things like weight, collision, wriggle, and VR sickness to account for. But, with several years under its belt, the industry has put forth some incredible VR sword fighting games to sink your teeth into.
Down below, we’ve rounded up our favorite 9 games (and one honorable mention) for you to check out whenever you want to get your up-close-and-personal combat fix.
Related: How to create videos in VR
Blade & Sorcery
Released: 11 December 2018
While many VR sword fighting games have branded of themselves as “the most realistic sword fighting simulator ever,” Blade & Sorcery may be the only one on the market that can confidently say — magical abilities notwithstanding — to have earned that title with solid physics and a sound combat system. Its unrelenting emphasis on gritty, intense combat and extravagant but somewhat-realistic environment design makes it unusually immersive for a fantasy game and keeps anybody entertained for hours on end. Aside from the wide variety of weaponry and environments to play through, the sorcery itself adds a wonderful touch of chaos to gameplay with abilities like telekinesis, time dilation, and gravity manipulation among others. Those looking for straightforward, fantasy-rich VR sword fighting that feels something like an immersive Skyrim will feel right at home in the well-loved Blade & Sorcery.
Released: 9 April 2020
Developer: E Mcneill
Ironlights is one of the more unique sword fighting games on this list, playing out in something like a science-fantasy UFC using a variety of weapons and styles. The game’s combat system is a little unusual in how it solves the sword-spamming problem, departing from the usual emphasis on realist open combat and opting for something a little different. Players in Ironlights do not attack simultaneously, instead of either attacking or defending in short, time-slowed exchanges in which you’re either swinging for the mark or parrying your opponent’s blow — but with an extra catch: your weapon shatters upon contact, every time, and must be “reloaded” before you can swing again. It’s a distinctive and enjoyable combat system that feels a lot more fluid than it sounds, and with a wide array of weapons and styles to choose from, players will be able to reap numerous hours out of this Kickstarter-bred indie title. The one oft-mentioned downside is the online multiplayer which has, reportedly, a pretty salient problem with exploits right now.
Swords of Gargantua
Released: 6 June 2019
Developer: Yomuneco Inc.
Platform: Windows, PS4, Oculus Quest
With beautiful concept art, a rewarding, easy to learn but difficult to master combat system, and over 100 floors of enemies powered by intelligent, well-developed AI, Swords of Gargantua is one of the more highly-rated games on this list, and for good reason. The gameplay is simple, as is the objective; players dive into floor after floor of enemies that are initially little more than a few squads of easily vanquished pushovers before eventually clashing with some titanic, terror-inducing bosses. There are numerous, distinct weapon types and a buffet of enchantments that players can use to tailor their character to specific place styles and a properly skill-based combat system that involves more than just wild swinging for the fences to get the job done. Players parry, dodge, learn their opponent’s timing and target critical-hit zones within their enemy’s finely-tuned hitboxes. Anybody looking for a rewarding dungeon crawler with high-replay value and solid multiplayer will be enthralled with what they find in Swords of Gargantua.
Released: 18 July 2019
Developer: Free Lives, 24 Bit Games
Platform: Windows, PS4
Gorn doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t; Gorn is an unabashed bloodbath of cartoonish, over-the-top violence and nothing more. The developers themselves describe Gorn’s gameplay as striking down “an infinitely supply of poorly-animated opponents with a variety of weapons.” And truly, all it takes is a cursory glance at the armies of stock-fantasy brutes being reduced to twitchy, high-chroma piles of blood and body parts to confirm this as true. Indeed, it is through its dead simplicity that Gorn differentiates itself; players can basically do anything inside the bounds of Gorn’s tiny arena, even going so far as chopping off an opponent’s limb, grabbing it mid-air, and using it to batter more opponents into pulp. Anybody looking for a simple, straightforward, and honest blood-soaked sandbox to practice being a fully-actualized psychopath will take well to Gorn. People looking for high-concept, story-driven action with bleeding-edge graphics should look elsewhere.
Until You Fall
Released: 27 August 2019
Developer: Schell Games
Platform: Windows, PS4
Considered by many to be the single best of the genre, Until You Fall is a brilliant, fast-paced neon-fantasy rogue-like that will test your reflexes, physical stamina, and timing in a brilliantly developed and utterly dangerous world. In Until You Fall, players step into the shoes of the last Rune Knight on an escapade through the broken land of Rokar, its ravaged landscape now teeming with a variety of distinctive enemies that take time and patience to adjust to. Many comment on just how physically demanding the game can be, with a typical gameplay session on par with a full-blown cardio workout, players can expect to feel the burn in their shoulders while galavanting across the richly detailed landscape, slaying enemies, upgrading their arsenal of weaponry, and seeing just far they can make it this time. With a riveting, synthwave soundtrack and impeccable art direction to accompany its sound level design and high-quality AI, anybody looking for VR combat will be thrilled with Until You Fall and probably lose a couple of pounds before they’re done.
Swords of Gurrah
Released: 21 April 2020
Swords of Gurrah may not have the graphics and style of some of the other games on this list, but has become a beloved cult classic through its fluid and intelligent gameplay, vibrant and receptive community, and engaging level design. Swords of Gurrah uses a similar solution to sword-spamming that Ironlights does, with weapons shattering upon every collision, but does so in an open combat system that forces players to play intelligently and focus on technique rather than bum-rushing their opponents. Players can take part in multiplayer battles with up to 11 other players in a variety of game modes with interesting level designs that promote cohesive, team oriented approaches to attack and defense that make it feel like you’re part of a real siege. With numerous weapons and a countless ways to mix-and-match your style and approach to combat, the gameplay is utterly addictive and the community even better; the devs are attentive, excited and engaged in actively improving the game and playerbase is friendly, non-toxic and very supportive of new players learning the ropes. Highly recommended for those looking for a game they can dive head first into and make real friends in, and at $14.99 Swords of Gurrah is an absolute steal.
Released: 31 July 2020
Developer: Nordic Trolls
Karnage Chronicles is a full-blown VR RPG with a sense of humor, riveting action, and expansive, story-driven levels that hearken back to old-school dungeon crawlers. Similar to Until You Fall, players can expect to break a sweat pretty quickly during a playthrough of a Karnage Chronicles chapter, with spacious level scaling that lets you run, duck, dodge and sidestep booby traps, enemies, and all sorts of other environmental hazards of which there are plenty. One of the game’s standout features is its seamless drop-in/drop-out co-op that instantly scales enemies to the size of your party, letting you change party size on the go without a hitch. If you’re looking for a VR game that feels less like an instance-based arena brawler in VR and more like an adventurous RPG with real progression, meaningful character building and a good sense of adventure, don’t hesitate to pick up Karnage Chronicles.
Released: 10 October 2019
Developer: Oculus VR, Sanzaru Games
Developed by and exclusively for Oculus, Asgard’s Wrath looks and feels like Warcraft meets Blade & Soul. The game offers everything you would expect in a VR brawler, with well-managed and exciting combat, high production value, and a variety of weapons and styles to choose from, alongside a few innovative mechanics like a bird’s eye view God Mode that alter the gameplay in novel ways. Aside from the numerous weapons to choose from, the game also offers a choice of among three stock-fantasy classes (spellcaster, rogue, and warrior) in case you ever get tired of the swordplay and want to change it up with some good ol’ energy blasts from afar. If you’re looking for a well-developed, Warcraft-like fantasy combat sim with sleek graphics and high production value, Asgard’s Wrath has got you covered.
Download Asgard’s Wrath: Oculus
Tales of Glory
Released: 30 May 2020
Developer: BlackTale Games
Often painted as Mount & Blade meets VR, Tales of Glory has to be the most down-to-earth, most realistic medieval combat sims ever created. With dozens of lush, immense battlefields and full-blown army vs army battles, Tales of Glory uses subdued, historically-accurate models and finely tuned physics to provide a brutally immersive exploration of what historical combat might have been. On top of the litany of weapons players can butcher and maim their opponents with, Tales of Glory offers realistic horse mounts and even jousting for players to recreate a Medieval Times experience as if it were directed by Quentin Tarantino. The best part about Tales of Glory is just how extensive its campaign mode is; while many VR combat games tend to be thin on story or game-hours, Tales of Glory is the gift that keeps on giving with an absolute treasure trove of content for players to dive into. If you want to know what medieval combat may have truly been like, Tales of Glory has to be the closest thing to the Real Mccoy we’ve ever seen.
Honorable Mention: Hellish Quart
Released: 16 February 2021
While it’s not a VR game — sorry about that — we thought Hellish Quart deserved an honorable mention because odds are, if you came here looking for VR sword fighting, you’re interested in realistic swordplay in games. If that’s the case, we’d highly recommend giving Hellish Quart a try. Not only is it Skallagrim’s favorite game, but many players with real-deal experience in HEMA and other blade-based martial arts hold it up as the most accurate and realistic take on swordplay in a long, long time — even though it isn’t as immersive as a VR. Thus, if you are interested in seeing how unflinching realism can be applied to a combat system, we think Hellish Quart deserves a second look.
Download Hellish Quart: Steam
What’s your favorite VR sword fighting game? Is it on this list? Let us know what you think of this roundup, and if we missed any of your favorite titles, in the comments down below!