Games that are specifically developed for VR are always going to look and play the best in a VR headset, but let’s face it, most of us probably have huge libraries of traditional games, and you may be wondering “Can I play regular games on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive?”—the answer is yes (with a few caveats), and here’s two ways you can do it.

VorpX (Most Immersive)

VorpX is a made-for-VR ‘3D injector’ which adapts non-VR games into a VR compatible view. The program supports both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and works with “more than 150 DirectX 9, 10 and 11 games in stereoscopic 3D and many more without.” This list shows popular games which are known to work with VorpX.

For supported games, the program gives you a 3D view through the headset and headtracking (including positional tracking), which makes it feel like you’re looking around inside of the game. Some games don’t support positional tracking which means only head rotations will be tracked.

Although this can be an amazing way to play many of your favorite non-VR games in VR, the truth is that—depending upon the game—it won’t be as good as playing a made-for-VR game, for two major reasons.

First, games not specially made for VR will feature traditional movement like running with the keyboard and turning with the mouse. For many users, this sort of movement can lead to nausea, though sensitivity varies greatly from person to person and game to game.

Second, games not made for VR will do things to the game camera which are not comfortable when the game camera is your head (thanks to the headset): traditional games will often take control of the camera to zoom around during cutscenes, or send it falling or spinning when you die. In VR this can be quite uncomfortable, as if someone was taking your head and yanking it around. Non-VR games will also often attach a HUD to the camera as well as a gun, which will feel like those elements are ‘attached’ to your face, so as you turn your head your gun goes with it.

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It’s possible to have a great experience in many games this way, especially if you spend some time tweaking VorpX’s variety of options (there’s plenty of guides out there to help you get the settings just right for specific games), but be weary of the fact that games not made to be played in VR can be less than comfortable when played in a VR headset.

Virtual Cinemas (Most Comfortable)

Instead of wrapping the view completely around you as if you were standing inside the game, another option is to play traditional games on a virtual cinema screen. This is great for playing non-VR games that aren’t comfortable or simply aren’t suited for a full VR mode (like games played from a top-down or side-scroller perspective). In such a mode you’ll see your game as if it was played on a big screen TV, which can actually be quite immersive depending upon how big you make the screen.

VorpX 3D Cinema Mode (Included with VorpX)

VorpX has a virtual cinema built-in, which is nice because it means you’ll have the ability to play many games in a full VR mode or a more comfortable mode on a virtual screen, all in one package.

SteamVR (Free)

SteamVR has its own built-in virtual cinema mode which Valve calls Desktop Theater. Inside you’ll see a big virtual display which can be resized. To launch games inside of SteamVR’s Desktop Theater, just launch SteamVR first (the little ‘VR’ icon at the top right of Steam), then launch a non-VR game from your library like usual (or use the VR interface). As far as we know, only games that support Steam Broadcasting are compatible.

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Bigscreen (Free)

Bigscreen is another virtual cinema option with a cool twist. In addition to being able to see your computer desktop and play games on it in VR, in Bigscreen you can invite other VR players into your virtual space so that you can talk to each other and see each other’s screens, as if you were hanging out at a virtual LAN party. Bigscreen is available on both Steam and the Oculus Store, which means Rift and Vive players can play together.

Disclosure: Road to VR has an affiliate partnership with Vorpx.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • OhYeah!

    You forgot VirtualDesktop. The best way to get windows, non vr games and videos in VR.

    • Meh

      yeah but with virtual dektop you have to use a second program to split the screen into sbs

      • OhYeah!

        No you don’t, it does all the work for you. I’m talking about the oculus application “VirtualDesktop” (also on steam)

  • dogbite

    Play non-VR games? No thanks.

  • Francesco Fazio

    what’s the point of playing a game on a virtual screen in vr ? I dont get it

    • Tsvetomir Iliev

      wall sized display

      • Francesco Fazio

        Yeah but it is in super low resolution on the big virtual screen .. so again is it not better to use a normal monitor and have at least full HD instead of 4×2 meters screen in low resolution ? I’d go for the first all the way

        • Landyn J

          Wrong, i have experienced this and if you have a good GPU you can pump out 8k res at 60fps

        • valentds

          games are in low resolution (depends on vr set), videos are still in the right resolution if the vr headset is connected on pc, depending on your pc spec

  • Tsvetomir Iliev

    I have vorpx and some older games like battle realms cant get the 3D reconstruction effect which is a shame, but still enjoy watching it on the big display.

  • MekaBirb

    Non of those methods is good, i want to feel like i’m in the game but without vr features not play on virtual tv…

    • Francesco Fazio

      Do you also want a private jet, a ferrari and the Ironman suit ? lol

      • MekaBirb

        Nah, I just want to play fallout 4 non vr version displayed on vr using regular Xbox controller while sitting at my desk.
        PS Displayed the way vr version is and not on big fake vr tv.

        • Phil Jones

          This is exactly what I want and none of these app devs seem to get it… idiots. Why would we want a virtual desk and a virtual big ass monitor? I already have a 55″ 4k 120hz OLED TV for a gaming screen on my desk, but sometimes I want my valve index on my head for immersion, I want the SCREEN to be just like a VR game but move with mouse and keyboard. I dont need head tracking just keep the screen pinned to my head.

          • Bambi

            You are so right, i also want exactly this feature!
            Maybe theres a reason why this hasnt taken off yet (nausea maybe idk)
            Hopefully there will be a solution that works like that in the future!
            Another idea why there is no solution to this problem yet, could be because if you transfer the screen straight to the headset, it might seem like the screeen is too close and you have to “flick” your eyes around all the time when you want to look at a map at the bottom of the screen etc.
            What do you say about that? Might that be true?

    • Oh like Keyboard and mouse controls for VR games? I see no reason why that couldn’t be possible. You should still have head tracking as the mouse would be the extension of your “arm/aim” otherwise I can see a VIP ticket to Vomit City destroying any peripherals/furniture/pets within it’s arc.

      • MekaBirb

        Yes. Something like that because i don’t have enough room for motion controllers.