The Oculus Quest is a great piece of tech—being able to play complicated VR games without needing to be tethered to a PC or console is, quite literally, freeing. But it can’t play everything. Oculus picks and chooses what games it allows on the Quest (mostly for performance reasons). However, you can sidestep that limitation with sideloading—a process that allows you to load any game you want onto your Quest.
Before we go any further, we should warn you—while sideloading is something the Quest is capable of, you can run into some issues. More intensive games can have performance issues and may even crash your Quest. Not to mention you have to jump through a few hoops to get sideloading working in the first place.
What Do You Sideload?
At its core, the Oculus Quest is an Android device, though you can’t tell anymore. That means sideloading on the Quest is a lot like sideloading on your phone—you need APK files, and you need to load them to the device.
To do that, you’ll take a few steps. First, you’ll put your Quest into Developer Mode to accept APK files from unofficial sources. Second, you’ll install an app called SideQuest on your PC.
SideQuest doubles as an unofficial storefront for Oculus games and your APK installer. You’ll find most of the sideloaded games you want to install directly in the SideQuest app. Just connect your Quest to your computer, find the game in SideQuest, and click “Install.”
Even when you find an Oculus game on another site (like itch.io), SideQuest can install the APK for you. You’ll download the APK, point SideQuest to the file, and tell it to install the game to your Quest.
The process isn’t complicated, but if you want a great step-by-step tutorial, check out the guide our sister-site, How-To Geek.
VR Homescreen: Virtual Desktop
Virtual Desktop ($19.99) is a must-have for any Quest owner. It allows you to stream your PC desktop to your headset (which is especially great for videos), but you can also stream games from it. That means you can use your powerful gaming rig to run more intensive VR games than the Quest can natively.
But Virtual Desktop is actually supported by the Quest (you can buy it right now from the Oculus Store), so why sideload it? Oculus actually blocks SteamVR (Steam’s VR platform) from use in Virtual Desktop, meaning you can’t stream your SteamVR games through Virtual Desktop. By downloading the Oculus Store version of Virtual Desktop and then installing the Sidequest add-on, you can circumvent that limitation and play your SteamVR games without issue (assuming you have a good enough connection).
Fitness Tracker: YUR
Many VR games can give you a good workout, but few actually make it clear how good that workout is. That’s where YUR comes in, an app that tracks your activities in all VR games and tells you how active you’ve been. This is done through fairly basic fitness tracking—stuff like a calorie counter and predictive heart rates. But it should still prove useful for those that want to optimize their VR workout sessions.
YUR is definitely worth trying out, but you should be aware that some users report it causing performance issues on their Quests. This isn’t a consistent issue among YUR users, but one you should know about nonetheless. Also, YUR does require you to make an account on its website.
You’re deep into a game, and you’re completely engrossed in what’s going on in your headset when suddenly, your phone beeps. It could be, and probably is, nothing important, but that notification keeps gnawing at you until you finally give in, take off your headset, and check your phone. Relay ($2.99) aims to fix this problem, connecting your phone to your headset via Bluetooth so notifications can be easily checked without taking off your headset.
At the moment, Relay only works with iOS devices, but Android compatibility is on the way.
Fast-Paced Platforming: To The Top
“Fast-Paced Platformer” is a genre that may not sound like it would work well in VR, but To The Top ($14.99) manages to make it work. You play a human-animal-robot-hybrid… thing and run, leap, and climb around obstacles. Basically, you’re Spiderman crossed with Sonic The Hedgehog, and if that doesn’t sound fun I don’t know what will. The environments look nice, and there are over 35 levels to conquer. Any fans of fast movement-based games have to check this one out.
God Simulator: Deisim
God simulators (games that give you extreme amounts of power to do basically whatever you want to the game world) are always a great way to unwind, and Deism ($7.99) allows you to do that in VR. Watch over the inhabitants of your world, and you can decide whether to bless them with miracles, or do nothing (or even actively inhibit them) until they slowly die out. It’s up to you, which also means this game has some fantastic replay value.
Quick Shot: Hyperdash
Competitive shooters are already pretty tense games, but that gets ramped up to 11 when you can see the bullets fly past you in VR. In Hyperdash (Free), you play in teams of five with dual pistols for each player. There are currently two game modes: Payload (similar to games like Overwatch), and Domination (capture the flag). You can play in crossplay between all VR platforms, which is great for boosting the player count and playing with friends.
Realistic Shooting: Pavlov VR
Another competitive shooter, this time with some added realism. Pavlov VR ($24.99) looks more like what you would expect out of a typical shooter, but that doesn’t diminish the fun you can have in it. You can play in both casual and competitive modes depending on how confident you’re feeling, and you can also play in offline mode if you don’t want the pressures of playing with other people.
Pavlov VR is currently in Steam Early Access, so you can expect some bugs. However, it will also likely be more expensive once 1.0 releases, so this is a good chance to grab it cheaper.
Pavlov Shack is also available on Sidequest, but due to running directly off the Quest, it had to be downscaled quite a bit. It is free to play though, so pick your poison. Crossplay is not supported between the two versions.
Survive the Waves: High Seas
High Seas (Free) fully takes advantage of the heightened emersion VR grants. You’re the captain of a little boat lost at sea, dealing with mechanical issues and the terrors of the ocean itself. Waves will crash into your ship’s hull, raising and lowering your ship into the air, rain will constantly spatter down onto your ship’s deck, and somehow amidst all that water a fire will break out in the engine room. That description alone is probably enough to tell you whether or not High Seas is something you’ll be into, but if you’re left unsure it is free—not much to lose when trying it out.
3D Jigsaw: Puzzling Pieces
A jigsaw puzzle with a twist, Puzzling Pieces (Free) tasks you with slowly rebuilding a 3D world with normal jigsaw pieces. There’s not much more to say besides that, and anyone who enjoys the slow methodical process of completing a jigsaw puzzle is sure to love this game.
Cozy Mystery: Vanishing Grace
Vanishing Grace (Free) has you playing as Joel, the childhood friend of the titular Grace who, you guessed it, vanished. You’ll pilot a cozy hovercraft, navigating desolate wastelands, all while maintaining your craft and slowly unraveling the mystery of what happened. The game is just a demo currently, so content is subject to change. However, even now, Vanishing Grace manages to deliver a unique story-based experience that’s worth playing.
Varied Beat: Song Beat: Quit My Tempo!
VR rhythm games have gotten very popular (particularly Beat Saber), but they usually focus on just one form of gameplay per title. Song Beat: Quit My Tempo! ($8.99) feels no need to have such limitations. You can use guns, fists, blades, and more to destroy blocks to the beat. Stages can have some added flash with video screens in front of the player, and there’s community-made song support as well—so you’ll never run out of stages to play.
Brain Training: ENHANCE
Many VR games focus on putting your body to work, and those are great, but it’s just as important to exercise your mind. This is what ENHANCE ($7.99) is for. It’s not your run of the mill puzzle game, but rather tests your attention and concentration. The various minigames included test different parts of your mind, such as “React,” which tests your focus and attention by making you hit colored cubes without hitting the incorrect colors. There are also games to test your memory, task switching, and motor control—and new games are being added every month! It may not be the most engaging game to play, but it’s a good thing to open up every once in a while just to get your brain moving.
Cooperative Shooting: Crisis VRigade
We already covered a couple of competitive shooters on this list, so let’s turn to the cooperative. In Crisis VRigade (Free), you play as a SWAT team and deal with terrorist situations. Take cover behind objects and complete your mission alone, or with a few friends by your side. It’s basically like Time Crisis for VR (for those who have played that). Fair warning though—you need a lot of space for Crisis VRigade, so just make sure you’re aware of the walls and furniture in your room.