In his video series introducing aspiring developers to the basics of game development, Super Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai recommends viewers give VR a try to understand what it does uniquely well.

Masahiro Sakurai has had an illustrious career in game development. Though best known as the creator and director of the Super Smash Bros series, the first game in the series was actually his fourth game. He first got his start back in 1992 with another franchise you’ve probably heard of… Kirby.

With 30 years of experience under his belt, Sakurai recently started up his own YouTube channel to share his game design philosophy with the world. The series, straightforwardly called Masahiro Sakurai on Creating Games, covers everything from game pitching to game design to managing a dev team—all in bite-sized videos that are short, sweet, and geared toward aspiring developers.

'Half-Life: Alyx' on PSVR 2 Would be a Win-win-win for Valve, Sony, & Players

Sakurai briefly touched on VR in one of his recent videos that focused on choosing the right field-of-view for a given game. Speaking of both VR’s strengths and weaknesses, he ultimately encourages his viewers to give VR racing games a try to understand what a VR headset brings to the table in terms of field-of-view and immersive first-person perspective.

In racing games, a cockpit viewpoint would probably feel the most realistic. And yet, I feel like most developers tend to go for something different [like a third-person point of view]. [First-person] can make the game hard to play, since the screen space available for actual gameplay ends up severely decreased [because of the limited view out the car’s windshield].

You could try playing VR instead, but the lower resolution will make distant objects too blurry to really see. That’s a problem when the player is using it to see more. And when driving in real life, you can glance sideways like this… but the only way to do that in VR is to turn your entire head.

Still, I recommend you overlook these downsides and give VR racing a try, even just once. Motion sickness is always a possibility, but for games that separate your viewpoint and direction of travel, VR is truly the perfect fit. Back to the topic at hand…

Despite clearly appreciating the unique experience that a VR headset can bring to a game, Sakurai hasn’t created any VR content himself. According to NintendoLife, back in 2015 Oculus offered to contract Sakurai to create a VR game, but ultimately he declined, citing the medium’s small audience size.

While the VR audience is still far from the size of mainstream gaming at large, it has no doubt increased significantly since 2015; I wonder what if Sakurai would make of the VR landscape today.

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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."
  • Nevets

    The headline for this article implies a somewhat greater enthusiasm for the median from Sakurai than the article itself reveals.

    • Jubhub

      Yeah, being mentioned by a guy everyone knows is big enough news already

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    Psss… Nintendo is secretly working on VR.

    Sakurai’s best game is Kid Icarus: Uprising on the 3DS. Even today, very few video games has the exuberance that this game displayed. He clearly understands how to make good use of Stereoscopic 3D – which is a natural aspect of VR.

    Nintendo is the only video game company that truly understands game design. They can write a bible on game mechanics and they know the philosophy of usability when it comes to developing games.

    • VR5

      Even before the Switch was officially announced and still went by the code name NX, Miyamoto talked in an interview how they were prototyping VR gameplay. He also mentioned that they had to still solve how to enable players to play for a longer time. He didn’t specify what he meant by that but motion sickness or wearing comfort come to mind.

      After the Switch released and didn’t support VR at first, then Nintendo president Kimishima did confirm that they wanted to support VR later. Despite all these confirmations that Nintendo was researching VR, a lot of people said they wouldn’t do VR because it is not suitable for children and then they released Labo VR, which was explicitly marketed towards children.

      Many projects Nintendo works on are secret until they finally announce them, often mere months before a game releases. But we can tell from precedent what kind of games to expect, since a lot of them are building on previous franchises or gameplay ideas Nintendo has released in the past.

      Kid Icarus: Uprising which you mention is rumored to be the HD remake Namco is confirmed to be developing for Nintendo. Sakurai also recently hinted at such a port being worked on, although it might not mean anything.

      I really hope they keep the stereoscopic 3D for the remake, if it is indeed in the works. They could use Labo VR to give it pseudo VR mode like BotW already has. Could be even somewhat comfortable if played lying down.

      I also hope that the next Nintendo hardware that is heavily rumored to be announced any day now has some VR functionality. Compatibility with external headsets would be nice though seems improbable.

      It would be cool if instead of a handheld hybrid, the next hardware was a beefed up Switch that is an HMD hybrid, which of course also can be docked to play on TV, like the current handheld Switches. Play Labo VR (which hopefully gets more titles) with a comfortable HMD and a sharp 4K screen.

      If they keep going with slot in VR like Labo only, the screen won’t be high res enough to have good IQ in VR. Even 1080p is overkill for a handheld and only wastes battery life. And even 1440p would not exactly be good IQ in VR.

      Nintendo definitely had plans for VR and also released some of it. Question is, did they keep pursuing VR and do they have something ready for release soon?

      • kraeuterbutter

        sounds a little bit what Pimax wants to do with there portal (but Android)..
        Handheld, but 4k Screen so VR is working as well

        • VR5

          I was going to comment on the article reporting about that device, saying how it is not a viable model for Nintendo. Because 4K is overkill for a handheld.

          I really want Nintendo to do something VR. But it is difficult to imagine what form that will take that will also be worthwhile.

          • kraeuterbutter

            it needs to be 4k for the VR-part
            does not mean, that this resolution is rendered for the hand-held-mode…
            full-hd would be enough and easy to do, because its 1/4 of 4k

          • VR5

            Question is, would Nintendo include a 4K screen only for VR? And slot in HMDs have their own problems (dust getting between the screen and the lenses, in case of Switch the device is also very big and heavy).

            A smaller screen as a dedicated HMD would be better but it wouldn’t work as a handheld anymore. If comfortable enough it would be a great portable huge screen though. Difficult to tell how that would be accepted by customers.

            I really hope we get something VR by Nintendo though, whatever form factor they decide on. Fingers crossed.

          • kraeuterbutter

            well – it was your initial idea, a handheld which can be used as HMD as well..
            thats why my comment: “like Pimax is planing with the portal for Android”
            for me, as somebody with 9 VR-Headsets so far: if you want a good VR-Experience: forget about that handheld which acts as a HMD as well-Idea
            yes, pimax does it now (again, after GearVR and Google Cardboard)
            but its a bad idea, to put all the heavy staff in the HMD AND put it even behind the lenses, so far far away from your face, so the HMD tends to sink down
            so, you dont get me with that idea… i own some Quests and now also the pico4 – and its clearly to be seen how much the comfort profits when the weight of battery is not in front

            you said, the portal idea is nothing for nintendo because of 4k
            – you need 4k if you wana have descent image quality..
            and the handheld als a HMDidea is from you, so… ;-)
            i think its the least of a problem
            maybe the handheld will run 20% less runtimewise.. ok..
            but as said: ressolution is necessary for VR
            with full-HD or less you can forget the idea right away

      • Till Eulenspiegel

        Nintendo is unpredictable, you will never know what their next console is going to be. It could will be launched next year and will probably be powerful enough to drive a high res VR headset – it’s said to use Nvidia’s latest Lovelace chip.

        Seeing that their old rival Sony is already on the 2nd gen of their VR headset, I don’t think Nintendo wants to wait any longer. They must be aching to show their VR games.

        • XRC

          Mario kart VR developed by bandai namco using IP licensed from Nintendo, not developed by Nintendo themselves. Used custom racing seats with wheels, pedals and two Vive Tracker, huge fun went many times as we had 2 different sites here in London.

          • Till Eulenspiegel

            Did you know that Nintendo is a shareholder of Namco? Namco also helped Nintendo develop Mario Kart 8 for the Switch and all the recent DLC for MK8 are completely made by Namco.

            They already has a MarioKart VR ready for home console.

        • VR5

          Mario Kart VR would make a lot of sense. (a) We already have one by Namco for arcades. (b) The Mario Kart team made Arms which clearly was designed to be a VR game, just missing the actual VR component. It had a split screen multiplayer which still ran at 60 fps, so they could easily have added low latency stereoscopy. It makes sense to assume that Arms was MK team’s VR research, while simultaneously be playable without even motion controls. Hybrid design.

    • Cless

      Just wait until they release a VR headset, its going to use only RED LEDs, and we’re gonna LIKE IT this time.

      • Till Eulenspiegel

        Sony is already launching their 2nd generation VR device. There’s no doubt that Nintendo is experimenting with VR behind the scene.

        It’s very different from 5 years ago when they launched the Switch, now VR is ripe for the mainstream – especially when Apple is doing it.

        • Cless

          Man, good times ahead.
          I’ll be happy as long as I get a VR headset, with OLED displays and over 2K resolution for PC.
          Then, I’ll be extra happy when all games have a “VR mode” similar to what Senua’s Sacrifice has lol

          • kraeuterbutter

            i would prefer something like PImax Crystals QLED with good local dimming
            much less prone for Mura and Black-Crush
            in most OLED-Headsets until now there was also no “TRUE BLACK”, because they didn´t shut of the pixel completly

            there is more to consider for a good image quality than just “black blacks”
            i preferd i some games my lcd headset over my oled odyssey+ because in many dark scenes it was too dark, i could not see some details i still could see with my lcd headsets

            iam so far not that impressed with oled in HMDs

          • Cless

            Mura becomes meaningless with subpixels getting smaller and smaller, and black-crush will barely be an issue with HDR displays like the ones we are getting now.

            No “true black” is still orders of magnitude darker than any LCD. And good local dimming ain’t happening on VR anytime soon, tech like OLED or microLED will be here before that.

            The problem about you not being able to see in the games with your OLED headset is… funily enough, also LCDs fault.
            Since most of the HMDs started to be made for LCDs, they had to mess up completely the lights and balances so it would look well on an LCD. Again, HDR together with 10bit should be quite good on at least fixing partially that.

            There is literally no reason not to want OLED except for higher price or FOV (since current fabricated displays are microOLED that can’t be magnified massively without distorting the image ridiculously.

        • kraeuterbutter

          Apple – i think – will not much contribute for gaming
          and the rumored prices of there headsets… 3000Euro ?
          dont think that apple will be a competition in fields of vr-gaming very soon at all

  • NL_VR

    If japanese developers start making “real” vr games then we will get a new push.
    People in Asia seem more welcoming to VR than people in the west, were some people even are hateful against VR (for what in the hell reason?).
    It feels like most VR devs are small enthusiastic western developers. But I don’t know maybe there are also small devs in Asia just we never hear about the games.

    • Andrey

      Just to add about hate – in russian-speaking gaming community (in general) most gamers tend to hate VR. They say “it’s not real VR” (meaning that only potential full-dive technology is “real” virtual reality), that “those screens will ruin your eyes and brain (lol)”, that it is just a “pricey toy with no real games or practical usage”, etc. Moreover, if there is any kind of way to downvote an article/comment on a particular site and there will be something about VR – 90% it will be downvoted. Everytime I see something like this, it brings me so much emotional pain. I mostly understand why it happens, but at the same time even after all this time still can’t stand to see it. Ironicly, most of people who “hate” VR in post-soviet space never actually tired it or only tried roller coasters for DK1/2 many years ago (not even talking about owning a VR headset). Can you imagine? People who buy and play all or at least a decent part of new games, buy new hardware (both consoles and PC components) and call themselvs “gamers” hate an optional (and pretty cheap in case of Quest 2) device that can give them plenty of new experiences, especially in perspective.
      So yeah, asia is our only hope in that aspect.

      • Jubhub

        Also it would force all the greasy gamers to stand up and simulate touching grass instead of just having there avatar do it

  • ViRGiN

    After your Vail VR sponsorship expires, I would recommend to make an article about it.
    That game flopped extremely hard, which was totally predictable. Yet they go away with millions, building fake userbase and fake hype around the game.

    • Jubhub

      This! I only seen one youtuber speak out against the game saying how generic it is with no special thing to make it stand out

  • Jeff

    A smash brothers type game in VR, where you are a giant watching the action from any angle, could be amazing. So could a lot of games. I’m more than a little surprised he didn’t imagine that instead of saying racing(though I get what he was saying for sure), and even more surprised VR hasn’t been used more for that kind of gaming. You could fit a large mario level in a 8×6 play space, especially vertically…

  • Mike EY

    A big problem in racing games is depth perception (for finding when to brake, turn in).

    A bigger problem is bad vehicle handling.

  • Anonymous

    Great, more walled-garden headset to come!

    In case you don’t get it, Nintendo is notorious for always wanting to release on ONLY their console instead of using established ones. The only exceptions are a couple smartphone games mostly due to investor pressure before the Switch become a hit.

  • ContesaRubia

  • WolDra

    Bruh i believe the next chapter will be misunderstanding