So, let’s say hypothetically you are under a stay-at-home order, are quarantined, practicing social distancing, or your gym is just closed. What is a gaming warrior like yourself to do to stay in shape? More importantly, how do you stay active inside, and not hate the act of doing so? Well, fear not, we’ve got you covered with some VR suggestions, Ring Fit (if you can FIND it), and some good ole between match mini-workouts you can do to keep the old dad (or ma) bod at bay.
First up, we’ve got Beat Saber. Beat Saber has a great reputation that’s well-deserved as one of the best VR offerings to date. I tend to think of it as the game you show someone to show them the potential of VR. It’s easy to pick up, understand, and jam out to. You use your sabers (each of the hand held controllers) to slice blocks in the direction indicated to the beat of whichever song you are playing. Also, playing most songs on medium and up for about a half hour can equate to one heck of a workout, as long as you get into your saber swings and aren’t pulling the minimum effort ala lazy wii sports. It’s available on PC, PS4, and Quest, although the PC version is the definitive version, as the song library is near infinite. Also, from a workout standpoint, each round is one song, so stretching and water breaks are built in.
Blasters of the Universe
Blasters of the Universe is a pretty unique game in the VR space. It’s a bullet hell shooter where you get to create your gun and try to survive against an omnipotent nerd overlord. The longer you live, the crazier it gets. Obviously, as it is VR this means YOU physically dodge and block the incoming shots. This is a perfect game for accidentally working out just because you’re having such a good time, especially if you’re like me and can’t resist chasing that next high score. Blasters is available on PC and PS4, often goes on sale, and is only $15 even when it isn’t.
Next on the list is Box VR. I am not ashamed to say this game beat the crap outta me, in a good way (I think, I’ll tell you tomorrow). It’s actually what inspired this article, I had it sent to me on sale for about $10 and just got the chance to try it today. This game has some similarities to Beat Saber, in that there are indicators flying at you to hit to the beat, but expects a fair amount more technique in your movements. You’ve got jab, hook, uppercut, block, duck, and dodge indicators to contend with at a fast clip. It doesn’t very much hold your hand at all, aside from defining what it expects you to do with each icon when you boot the game for the first time and play the tutorial. This is a double-edged sword, as the actions themselves are easy to understand and straightforward, but the beginner playlist is pretty lacking. You have 4 or so 2 minute workouts tailored for beginners, then it’s mostly time based playlists from then on. These range from less than ten minutes to sixty plus minute marathons. Speaking of the time expectation, the suggested daily goal is 60 minutes a day. Let me tell you as someone currently expected to complete a military PT test. No. Don’t do it. 30 minutes is still extremely respectable, and for me playing around 40 minutes today (to include tutorials, beginner playlist, and one 30 minute workout), burned around the equivalent of a 5 mile run. So it definitely gives you some bang for your buck in the fitness department. One warning while playing, you will change stances a fair amount, and for me at least in my play area i was just a little off after each stance change, nothing a quick position calibration can’t fix though, and even with that I was still around 85% accuracy on the targets for the longest playlist. Box VR is probably the most effective VR workout on this list, but you will have no doubts you ARE working out.
Creed: Rise to Glory
Creed: Rise to Glory is the closest you can get to real life Punch Out without actually being punched. Take that as you will, but this sweet science simulator can get no higher praise from me. With Creed you fight through opponents that become more and more skilled as you progress akin to the classic Nintendo formula, but with more movement on your part. The game actually prides itself on punishing you if you lack technique and attempt to spam punches to win, however, so don’t expect to get too spastic. That said, it is a boxing game at the core, but extremely fun thanks to the approach. Creed won’t have you doubting you’re boxing, but you just might doubt you’re doing a workout. Creed is available on PC, PS4, and Quest.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR
What list would be complete without Skyrim in some form. Not to be confused with the version you can play on your fridge, the VR offering is a little more involved. Movement is normal controller based fare (unless you’re filthy rich and have an omni-directional treadmill), although I highly recommend using the tracking controllers available with your VR system of choice. The reason the controller is so key to the experience and the workout is due to the physicality it provides, placing you into the….hands…of the Dovahkiin. Trust me, that first time you are using a bow and do a crouching turn around shot on a Draugr, it is hard to go back. You feel like you are Hawkeye or Emperor Palpatine (pictured above) when you use the abilities. The workout aspect of the game presents itself in two ways here. Firstly, the fights are just as chaotic as normal, but now you are swinging and slinging the spells and arrows physically. The second is the classic Skyrim magic of being able to get lost in the world for hours at a time, which now that you are standing and fighting physically yourself, is a secret workout itself. This version of Skyrim is nowhere near the best in terms of graphical fidelity or mod support (PC SE always), but the motion control and health benefits more than make up for that. Skyrim VR is available on PC and PS4.
Ring Fit Adventure
First of all, good luck getting this if you don’t have it already. That said, Nintendo offers Ring Fit Adventure with all the needed accessories for $80 (scalpers right now are looking to snipe you out of $250+). Ring Fit is super adaptable and has been compared to the Wii Fit from back in the day. This comparison doesn’t do Ring Fit justice in my opinion. There is much more engaging modes, customization of workouts, and overall fun that it blow Wii Fit out of the water. The main adventure I like to think of as Final Fantasy-like, but your attacks are the individual workout moves. Ring Fit is a great choice for Switch owners, the unfortunate current scarcity of both Switches and Ring Fit is an unfortunately high barrier to entry at the moment.
Just About Any Game
“But, I don’t have VR, a Switch, or the desire to get one!” I hear you saying. That bring us to the final gaming fitness option, old as round based gaming (or time, pending your outlook). Back in the early days of Counter Strike, I wasn’t very good and had a fair amount of time after I had died for the rest of the round to play out. I’m sure you can imagine what I started doing with that extra time (it wasn’t watching my teammates flashbang themselves and others) just based on context clues. Fill the time with some sit-ups, planks, push ups, or anything else that can be quickly done between rounds. It’s simple, free, such a small quick amount that fatigue isn’t noticeable until the next day (most of the time). This easy add in to any game with any downtime at all will add fitness to your frags. You can also define specific checkpoints in whatever game you’re playing. Killed a boss? 20 sit-ups. Died to a boss? 20 push ups. Cleared a level/area? 20 second wall sit. The only limit is your creativity and will. Secret bonus tip, just because I’ve been there myself, there is ZERO shame in doing modified exercises. In fact, doing a modified version of a push up, for example, is much more effective than doing bad “full” push ups. By no means am I some sort of work out warrior, but it is still part of my job to pass a PT test once or twice a year. I hope these game suggestions and modifications help some of you hate working out just a little less. Stay happy, stay healthy, and stay gaming!
Jeremy “Danger” Tharp is currently a Technical Sergeant in the USAF working as a Ground Radar Systems Evaluation Supervisor (1C873). A gamer for life, his first systems were the Atari 2600 and the Apple IIe. Go ahead and ask him how he feels looking back on Hitchhiker’s Guide on the Apple IIe (VERY challenging for a ~5yr old). Since then, he has grown up gaming through all console and PC generations, with no intention of stopping. These days he has way, WAY to many games to work through and less time to do it. Regardless, he has a few genres that stand out as favorites today. Roguelikes, Action RPGs (especially with a hardcore mode), FPS, MMO, MOBAs, TBS, RTS, Soulslikes, and more. In fact, the only thing he won’t claim to be well versed in is the sports genre. He enjoys a challenge and an engaging, deep story. He believes at their greatest heights video games can be art, especially when you consider the connection a player has to the protagonist they control. But, that’s getting a little deep for a biography. Suffice it to say, he enjoys a great many games and would like to share his joy with you.