VR on the Cheap: Six Free Things You Can Do With The Oculus Quest
You just blew your wad of cash buying the hottest tech toy of 2019 — and the empty wallet isn’t helping fund your new found virtual reality addiction. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can experience on your new headset without dropping a dime. Updated 2020–10–16. Note: Some of these only apply to the original Quest or “Quest 1” — and not the Quest 2.
As a middle-aged, middle-class Quest owner, I have the luxury (and good fortune) of being able to allocate some disposable income to my VR addiction on a regular basis. This isn’t the case for everyone and especially with the high price tag of the Quest (starting at $400) and all the accessories and fun you wanted to buy (check out my Day One guide) — possibly riding the rails of the holiday shopping season — everyone is looking to get some budget entertainment.
I present you six free things you can do with your Quest. The skills necessary to engage in these varies — but there is something for everyone here.
One: Free Quest Games
We’ll start off with the obvious — free games available on the Oculus Store.
These may not be totally obvious because for some reason when you sort the store listings by PRICE: LOW TO HIGH no free experiences show up at the top (I’m going to resist evoking a conspiracy theory here). They are all at the bottom. Even if you sort PRICE: HIGH TO LOW — they all still appear on the bottom (maybe there is something to that conspiracy theory after all).
Regardless, at the time of writing there nearly 60 (!) free things for you to download. Now, some of those were pre-loaded already on your Quest and many are just demos — but as they say #freeisfree.
Here are just some of my selections I feel worthy of your precious time and Quest storage space (no particular order).
Note: I’m told that it is egregious that I d not mention free to play social games in this list. I am not a fan of social games — and I don’t recommend games to people that I have not played. But, to remove my egregious label — I’m told you need to get PokerStars VR, Rec Room and VRChat.
Two: Free Web VR Games
There has been a lot of work done in field of WebVR — an open specification for building VR experiences that run on a web page, within a web browser.
The web browser included with the Quest can play a great may of these titles and this offers dozens of free possibilities.
The folks at XRcade have done a lot of the work for you — curating a fantastic list of Quest-compatible WebVR experiences (give it a minute to load).
You could spend a hundred hours working your way through all this great free content.
Three: Free Oculus Go Games
You may not know about the Quest’s spiritual predecessor — the Oculus Go. This is a wireless headset too — a little less power and no Touch controllers but produced some fine titles in its heyday.
Now, not every free Go game is compatible with the Quest — you’ll need to do some list cross-references — but you would be amazed and your complimentary options. If you’re willing to part with just a little cash? Tons of Go games are just a couple of bucks (literally).
Four: SideQuest — A Safe Haven of Sideload Freebies
The term “sideloading” represents the action of installing “unknown” or “untrusted” programs/games on an Android device. This is often to get around security measures or load stuff found outside official stores.
Oddly, that’s sort of what we’re talking about here — only in this case, you can think of SideQuest as an “alternative storefront” where games and experiences that either aren’t approved or aren’t accepted by the Oculus Store.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some amazing things to see and do here.
Unlike the above suggestions, using SideQuest isn’t as simple or as easy. You will need to roll up your sleeves and get a little “virtual dirty”.
Everything you need to do in order to get SideQuest up and running can be found here. Should take you less than a half an hour — and the effort is worth it.
Once you have it set up, you use it similar to any other digital storefront. Find stuff you want and install it.
Some games, like the insanely awesome Crisis VRgade here … FOR FREE!
Other titles you simply must have from SideQuest’s app are:
Five: Free Content for A Paid Masterpiece
Let’s be straight with each other. You already bought Beat Saber. It’s probably the #1 reason MOST people buy a VR headset these days.
… and why not? The game wins awards, gets tons of great press and is a legitimate workout — plus with the right music, it is an awesome way to get your groove on.
What was that? You don’t like $100 Bills? No love for Panic at the Disco? Could totally do without Green Day? Bored out of your mind already with the included music?
My friends, I have fantastic news for you. No matter what kind of music you want to dance’n chop to — it is probably available right now. Not as a paid pack you buy in the store; but for FREE — compliments of the incredible community of Beat Saber enthusiasts that spend hundreds of hours creating custom maps for the game you love.
“Won’t custom maps get me banned???”
“Aren’t custom songs dead on Quest???”
“Isn’t it REALLY hard to get custom songs on Quest?”
The answer to all three is NO!
All you need is my companion website found here. It will answer all the questions above, take you through the process and explain the joys (and limitations) of getting your favorite custom maps and music on Beat Saber.
Did I mention that custom maps and music are free?
Six: Your Media — Your Way
If you’re a die hard media consumer like me, chances are likely you have a nice library of media files; possibly on your network powering a Plex Media Server you’re sharing with family and friends.
Maybe you’re like this old movie collector and have a couple thousand DVDs and Blu ray discs spanning decades of amazing (and not available streaming anywhere) films and television shows.
Perhaps you jumped on the 3D train a bunch of years back and are looking for a new way to watch those 3D movies without breaking out the active shutter glasses and special player (or maybe your 3D TV was replaced by a hot Black Friday deal).
Of course, you may be part of Generation Stream; those that never watch the same movie or TV show twice and have subscriptions to every service (which you probably did to avoid a cable bill — yet somehow you’re paying more than you were for cable … crazy world, ain’t it?).
One of the neat niche uses for the Oculus Quest involves media consumption — from any or all of the above sources.
Most services have an Oculus native application you can use to consume sources — such as Netflix and AmazonPrime Video. youTube is here too, of course … along with pay television staples like Showtime.
There are many expected services that are oddly missing; like Hulu, Disney+ and even the venerable Plex (which has a client everywhere — very strange).
Of course, most of these services have web page equivalents that can provide services to you as well.
For those that have carefully crafted your personal collection of media, you’re looking for the amazing freebie (it won’t be free much longer) app known as SkyboxVR. It plays pretty much everything — including 3D (SBS, OU — doesn’t matter) media. It plays very nicely with your internal network — full SMB support as well as DLNA server access (here is how you get to your Plex server without the Plex app). For those looking for the “premium” video playback solution? A fiver will get you the community-favorite and responsive developer supported Pigasus VR Media Player.
You can always rip your own movies (even the 3D ones) and throw them on a share and consume them too.
Bonus: Don’t Forget The Refund Policy!
Maybe you have some Christmas cash coming or a little extra scratch coming in your next paycheck.
While not necessarily “free”, trying out games and getting a refund is a lot like getting a game demo. You can play for a little while and refund it if you don’t like it.
“We will refund many digital purchases you’ve made through Oculus for any reason if the request is made within fourteen days of the purchase date and you have engaged with the content for less than two hours. Our policies surrounding these automated refunds are described more below.”
You can read Oculus’ policy on refunds here.
Note: Refunds take about three days to process. Be sure to keep that lag in mind when tying up your cash in pursuit of a demo.
Well, that’s it for this article. Did I miss something you love doing for free on your Quest? Leave a comment below!