Best Google Cardboard apps: Top games and demos for your mobile VR headset

Your dose of homemade virtual reality with these top games and apps
​The best Google Cardboard VR apps

While the big names like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR are making the most noise about their VR experiences, Google Cardboard and its apps offer the easiest and cheapest way to experience virtual reality today.

So what exactly is Cardboard? Well, it consists of a low-cost, DIY virtual reality headset that anyone can build, and a software platform that makes it incredibly easy for app developers to add VR support to their creations.

Essential reading: The best VR headsets

Google sells its own headsets which work with iPhones and Android phones. It's already talked up what comes next after Google Cardboard in the shape of its new Daydream VR platform.

You can also buy a headset from DodoCase, or the Freefly VR will do the job of creating a virtual reality experience, with your smartphone providing the visuals. Look for the Works with Cardboard badge.

Once you've got your headset set up, you'll want some experiences to test out. Here's our pick of the best VR-enabled apps you can find in Google Play right now. So get downloading...

Within VR (formely VRSE)

The name may have changed but Chris Milk's app is still one of the best ways to get a slice of cinematic virtual reality. There's short movies, documentaries and comedy from the likes of the New York Times and Saturday Night Live. Grab a pair of headphones as well to complete the fully immersive experience.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Chair in a Room

Horror is the perfect fit for VR and this indie gem is guaranteed to give you a fright. Plunged into darkness, objects to pop out of from everywhere with just a flashlight to guide you. The first story is about a missing girl but the new Greed story takes the horror to another location. If you scare easy, you might want to avoid this one.

Free, Google Play

Expeditions

Google has been testing its Expeditions program for a year and now it's rolled out an official app so teachers can make field trips to far away lands a whole lot easier. VR tours range from stepping out on Mars to hanging out in Antartica. The good news is that Google is promising an iOS version for the iPhone owning students.

Free, Google Play

InMind

InMind is a fun, but short, little game that takes place in you guessed it, your brain. It essentially allows you to journey into a patient's brain to search of the neurons that cause mental disorder.

Free, App Store or Google Play

YouTube

Since YouTube's addition of 360-degree videos, there's a lot more content you can browse through. From experiencing the 2016 elections, to virtual tours of random offices you'll probably never step foot in and even VR shorts, you'll probably lose just as many hours watching 360 videos as you do watching YouTube normally.

Read this: The best 360 degree and VR videos on YouTube

Free, App Store or Google Play

Star Wars VR

If you love anything to do with The Force Awakens, the Cardboard experience puts you in the role of a Resistance secret agent on Jakku, the desert world that features in the film. You can feel the VR force on your iPhone or Android phone.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Google Cardboard camera

Google recently introduced the photography app that now lets you take 360-degree, virtual reality photos and view them through Cardboard. To take a suitable pic, download the app to your Android phone (iPhone support is coming), hold you phone and move it around in a circle. The app will do the rest, stitching together images and capturing audio. It even works with Google Street VR so you can add 3D locations to your favourite locations as well.

Free, Google Play

NYT VR

If you want a dose of news and documentaries, NYT VR is your app. Beginning with the 11 minute The Displaced and 5 minute Vigils in Paris, The New York Times promises to post new virtual reality stories "every month or so". A little slow in use but we're sure the bugs will be ironed out. It's available for both iPhone and Android.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Street View

Street View now has Cardboard VR support

Google has updated its Street View app for iOS and Android and okay, okay, it's not strictly VR but it is 360 degree images from around the world that you can look around. Virtual tourism, here you come. Just tap the Cardboard icon anywhere that Pegman can access.

Free, App Store or Google Play

The North Face: Climb

A visually stunning, high production experience from Jaunt, this app lets you follow two The North Face climbers as they climb and base jump their way around Yosemite and Utah. We want to go to there. Jaunt recommends a new 5-inch or 6-inch phone and some users have reported it isn't working, so give it a try.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Lanterns

Immersing yourself in VR – even Cardboard – can be relaxing and this Lantern festival experience is a terrific example of precisely that. It's basically just scenes of lanterns floating on moonlit water (there's a day-night cycle) and off into the mountainous distance. Lovely.

Free, Google Play

Proton Pulse

There are a few fun little VR games and Proton Pulse is a good'un. It's a neon, arcade style brick breaker that's amusing for a quick hit. It's not just a demo either; there are a bunch of levels and all proceeds go towards development of the devs' next game for VR Vanguard V. Also, give WAA! VR a download if you have a bit of cash to spare.

$1.99, App Store or Google Play

BeerBox

For something a bit sillier, download BeerBox. This AR-style game, if you can call it that, uses your phone's camera so make sure you're using it with a viewer that has a cut-out or one that can secure your phone without the faceplate.

You can choose to experience ten levels of being drunk and your view of what's in front of you blurs, doubles and moves slowly. Scary, but funny, stuff.

Free, Google Play

War of Words VR

best Google Cardboard apps

Beautiful, poignant and possibly the best VR experience app so far, this wartime experience – based on the BBC series of the same name – takes you back to the battlefields of the Somme in 1916. You're treated to a reading of Siegfried Sassoon's controversial poem 'The Kiss', all the while surrounded by an incredible depiction of the horror – at one point you can even follow a bullet in slow motion as it strikes down a soldier.

It's a shame there's only the one poem available right now, let's hope an update lands soon – we didn't see one in 2015.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Sisters

best Google Cardboard apps

Creepy. Strange. Addictive. We're not sure we can tell you about Sisters without ruining the surprise. Turn the lights off, plug your headphones into your phone and prepare to be utterly freaked out.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Orbulus

A must download for anyone wanting a bit of VR culture in their lives, Orbulus brings the work of the Photo Sphere community to life, putting you dead centre of some incredible landscapes and venues. You start off in outer space and select an orb that you like the look of, simply by holding your gaze on it.

You're then placed where the photographer was but, rather than seeing a flat image, you are presented with their location around you, whether that be a city by night or an art gallery by day, in 360 degree glory.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Titans of Space

best vr apps and games

Fancy having a little look around the solar system without leaving your living room? That's possible with this app, which takes you on a scaled down (1:1,000,000) tour around space, complete with 3D models and to-scale distances between planets and moons.

You can control the speed of the tour using either a Bluetooth control pad, or simply by looking and selecting menu buttons, and there's also a premium add-on that adds 50 minutes of narration.

Free, Google Play

Google Cardboard

It would be amiss not to give an early mention to the official Google Cardboard app in this list. As well as teaching you the basics of virtual reality, it lets you fly around in Google Earth, take a Street View tour, examine a series of tribal masks, watch YouTube videos on a giant screen, enjoy a short animation of a mouse on a windy day and watch 360-degree video.

But the best feature is the ability to view photospheres captured with your smartphone's camera. By stitching together a series of photos taken in every direction, you can create a panorama that you can enjoy in your headset.

Free, App Store or Google Play

Glitcher VR

There are relatively few virtual reality apps that use your smartphone camera to layer things on the world around you, but one of the best so far is Glitcher. It lets you superimpose nine different filters on the camera input, including selective colour, edge detection and Predator vision.

But the most impressive feature is voice control. Use the magnet switch and speak commands to flip between filters, record video, take photographs and even activate the flashlight. If you don't yet own a VR headset, you can also activate a non-VR preview by pressing the volume down button.

Free, Google Play

Roller Coaster VR

top Google Cardboard VR apps

You can't have a VR app roundup without including at least one rollercoaster themed one can you? The pick of a very big bunch is this one, which adds beautiful jungle scenery – and some water travel – to the equation as well.

Out of the apps and games that we've selected, this is also the VR app most likely to make you puke. You've been warned.

Free, App Store or Google Play


Shop for mobile VR headsets on Amazon

Cardboard
Cardboard
$9.88
Freefly VR
Freefly VR
$74.40
Homido
Homido
$59.99
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung Gear VR
$97.98

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37 Comments

  • CorvusVR says:

    Check out the Google Cardboard app I made: Make it Rain VR

  • Smileway says:

    How about give Nightmares VR app a try? It's like mini Counter-Strike VR and you can use PC keyboard and mouse to play as well. : )

  • marq says:

    Check out "Insects 2" you can also find it if you do a search for BowersLLC in the google playstore.

    In this first person shooter episode 1, you'll incorporate the newly developed point walk/stop system. Stay tuned for episode 3 with complete inventory system to top off this series with a full blown RPG.

    Story:

    The people of Earth are finally starting to populate the universe. You're marine space astronaut Sergeant Major Bowers sent to Mars to clear out this insect infestation and ready the planet for habitation. Upon your arrival (episode 1) you are surprised to see a space ship. It was always believed these insects lived beneath the surface of the planet but it turns out we might have been wrong. You decide to investigate the origins of the ship and head inside.

    Instructions:

    - Look at the footprints for 2 seconds to start the auto walk features. Look at them again to stop.

    - Look at the insects for 1 second to start the auto shoot feature. Simply look away to stop shooting.

    Hints:

    Retrace your steps! This game is a maze of doors and trigger events. If you get stuck, you have probably missed a key or a room somewhere.

  • VRCraftworks says:

    Thank you for you review.  Really appreciate it and glad you enjoyed it. Cheers 

  • oddknot says:

    I recommend this:

    Play as an anti-aircraft gunner and defend your warship from fierce airborne attacks.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....

  • BDHtweets says:

    Huge thanks for the great review of our War of Words VR app. We've had a fantastic response to the project. You can read more about it on our website:

    www.bdh.net/warofwordsvr/

    The animation appeared in a very moving, feature length documentary, War of Words, for the BBC. We made 7 animated poems in all. With more 5 star reviews like this, we feel compelled to do more poems for VR!

    There will definitely be more VR projects to come from us. Follow us on Twitter: @BDHtweets

  • keaukraine says:

    You might also want to check two of our experience apps. They are included in latest list of Cardboard-compatible apps hand-picked by Google so we believe they are worth looking at:


    Village for Google Cardboard

    Lanterns for Google Cardboard

  • Manikness says:

    Google has done it again by giving a common man to use the Future technology at affordable price. I Just bought my first  Google Cardboard and it was an amazing experience and installed VR apps after reading your article. Truly an Outstanding experience. Highly Recommended Buy Google Cardboard

  • marc123 says:

    Can i propose you our first VR experience named A TIME IN SPACE VR ?

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....

    Thanks for all !

  • Sorduea says:

    Have you tried that drunk simulator one yet that was on reddit? It is called beerbox

  • SiliconDroid says:

    I'm building this multiplayer VR space dogfighting sim, with full body avatar, spatialised audio and responsive head tracking. It's a bit like the baby brother of Elite Dangerous for mobile.

    Existing players have said its the "best game available on cardboard"

    Free app is here for anyone wanting to try it:

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....

  • shehroz says:

    hey guys try our new game for iOS ORBIT JUMP its really interesting and fun game. you guys will love it. its worth trying 

    here's the linkhttps://goo.gl/HfsC5t

  • richard1111 says:

    Let's try Floating Web Browser, a multitasking browser that can use over other apps like popup window.

    It will save your time from switching between apps. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.floating.web.browser

  • techaroid says:

    Nightmare VR apps is really nice one and better than Insidious VR or Sister VR app.

  • mikej7_2000 says:

    Maybe it's just me, but I have a ton of issues with these cardboard headsets, at least with my S6. The quality always just looks blurry or otherwise off. Does anyone else have these issues?

    Mike (http://www.thegamingonline.com/android/home)

    • mackie says:

      Yes, if you are using the cardboard boxes, just release the lid and allow the top of your phone to lean forward and it will come into focus. The focus point is about 1/2" to 1" past where it should be. I bought the vr box 4"-6" and it has focus and eye centering controls and it works quite good. Hope this helps!

  • Evert says:

    BeerBox isn't free (anymore), unfortunately.

  • Derek says:

    I'd give Bible VRX Lite a vote!

  • Sik says:

    Can we play coz with cardboard  will it works with canvas mega 4g q417

  • Logan02 says:

    oui


  • shaneh says:

    Everyone should try Just Cause 3 (the Experience).

  • qifahs1993 says:

    hello...why my vr apps display became small?its not full screen

  • NoBody says:

    Wizard academy and Germ Buster vr add hand interaction with a basic DIY controller. By far the most immersive and interactive app out there.

  • Denis9 says:

    For me, Insidious is the only game that made me thank myself for investing into VR so far.

  • cindyloo says:

    also please have a look at the beta version of www.vrdoodler.com - you can draw/sketch in 3d then render it in mobile VR.  storytelling beta www.vrdoodler.com/doodleverse.html

    thanks!
    Cindy

  • Bria06 says:

    I propose the best VR experience " A TIME IN SPACE VR 2 "

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.creanet3d.atis2

    Thanks for all !

  • RobLaPointe1 says:

    2016 is the year of Virtual Reality. There is no other way to describe it – we’ve discussed it often over the last few months. Just when we think we’ve reached the peak of VR movement in 2016, Google goes and drops Daydream.

    Daydream is a new VR ecosystem that will run on top of Android. It’s a different product than rival VR competitors (i.e. Samsung’s Gear or Oculus) in that it is a comprehensive VR platform. It’s the headset, the software, the actual VR programs; everything.

    Daydream isn’t Google’s first foray into the world of VR. Google also runs the VR platform called Cardboard. Cardboard was and is actually quite successful, with over 1,000 cardboard apps being launched in just about 2 years. This doesn’t even compare to the fact that the Cardboard platform itself was downloaded over 25 million times in the same amount of time.

  • jumpjack says:

    The "VR killer application" is a VR+AR app: Augmented Reality in 3d in immersive fashion thanks to VR headset!

    But till now I can only see apps which are VR-enabled or AR-enabled; the only VR+AR apps just change colors of what camera sees! Developers should join effports to build apps which superimpose 3d objects to what camera sees!

  • Kjodo says:

    Check out my first app for Cardboard, it's a multiplayer apocalypse shooter.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.EndGame.defConZ

  • modelan3d says:

    I propose different VR free experience "ModelAN3D" for Android.

    Create your own 3D world (with custom objects, photos and videos) and view with your CardBoard!.

    Try it for free at : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.modelan3dpro&hl=en

  • elfslaughter says:

    Try "Block Blaster VR", it starts as a puzzler mix between connect-the-colors and block-breaker, and eventually moves into more arcade-style shooter with obstacles

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.VehicularElfslaughter.BlockBlasterVR

  • SoftKitty says:

    Just released this guys, VR Puzzle Room, an escape room in VR. Mind checking it out? 

    VR Puzzle Room

  • Bartolab says:

    Nice post. Thanks for the list. Roller Coaster is my favorite game. For VR video player I thing Fulldive VR must be added as one of Best Virtual Reality Application for Android

  • suryakumar says:

    All the above stated mostly works with gyroscope,In some cases If the mobile doesn't have Gyroscope which games and apps are best in that situations. There are some players and google cardboard app/camera all work with the gyroscope.

  • johanvs says:

    Many types of apps with Cardboard are listed here : 

    http://www.app-types.com/en/selection/10

    You can even add new types if you know them.

  • ted says:

    You missed Fulldive VR--its a content platform with over 1 million VR videos and games for the Cardboard.

  • biggedibass says:

    Hi everyone,

    i´ve published my first mobile vr game, a shooter with controller movement.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com....

    Feel free to test it for free with tis codes:

    6PC8JEAR5YPAHLTSUE1L4M1

    344FD9SV4YUTM5R2M3QUBP6

    HLHTN4KX4Z8N688CG691SJN

    CDX2X4APZGT2SWNPHU9EHVF

    9DJQWGER8DQKY8DXCABL4MB

    have a nice experience...

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