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The best VR apps in 2021

Best VR apps: Gravity sketch
(Image credit: Gravity Sketch)

Are you looking for the best VR apps? This guide rounds up top options for experiencing virtual reality on your mobile device, and for creating VR yourself. Yup, you can now utilise your smartphone or tablet to view or create virtual experiences, so you no longer need to spend buckets on a VR headset to try it out. There are a lot of apps available, both for viewing or playing with VR and for designing your own. 

We start with some free apps you can download right now for experiencing VR in a range of contexts – including games, news and more. Then we move onto listing the best VR apps for creating your own work, which can be pricier (jump straight to that section here). If you'd like to browse a wider range of iPad apps, check out our pick of the best iPad apps for designers. And be sure to read why VR is the future of design.

The best VR apps: Viewing

01. YouTube

Best VR apps: YouTube

(Image credit: YouTube)

Yes, really. The world’s most famous video app has a ton of original VR content from a bunch of top-notch providers. YouTube's own virtual reality channel hosts videos from creators like National Geographic, Discovery, the NBA, and more. Get up close and personal with sports stars, tour stunning locations the world over, and try out new experiences.

02. Within VR

Best VR apps: Within VR

(Image credit: Within Unlimited, Inc.)

There is no doubt that VR can enable some absolutely stunning experiences, and Within VR is a great example of that. It’s a platform for high-quality videos from pro creators, including documentaries, music, horror, mindfulness, and fitness. It works with all major VR devices and headsets, so you can immerse yourself no matter what output you want to use.

03. The Guardian app

Best VR apps: The Guardian

(Image credit: The Guardian)

Reading a news story is nothing compared to viewing it in VR, as The Guardian VR aptly proves. Like Within VR, this app crafts videos and documentaries, only with a news slant covering the big stories of the day. Not only do you get more context than you might from simply reading an article, but you’re also put face-to-face with the subjects for a more in-depth experience.

04. InCell VR

Best VR apps: InCell

(Image credit: Nival)

You've probably never played a game like InCell VR before. It combines high-speed racing and action elements with biological science, teaching about cell structures and the way life works inside your cells. Armed with this knowledge, you shrink to microscopic level to do battle with advancing viruses and protect the body. Who says learning can’t be fun?

05. 11:57

Best VR apps: 11:57

(Image credit: Wemersive Ltd.)

With its all-round immersion and ability to transport you to another world, VR lends itself well to horror stories. This is perfectly demonstrated by 11:57, a '360-degree nightmare' that puts you at the centre of the action. Rather than simply observing what is going on, things revolve around you, drawing you into the story and creating an experience you won't forget.

06. Provata VR

Best VR apps: Provata

(Image credit: Provata Health)

At the other end of the spectrum to 11:57 is Provata VR, a VR meditation app that aims to promote calmness and better health. Using the app, you can travel to a range of relaxing locales, from coral reefs and breathtaking waterfalls to the majestic northern lights. You choose a guided meditation exercise and then track your progress with the Health app.

The best VR apps: Creating

07. Occulus Medium

Best VR apps: Occulus

(Image credit: Occulus)

For those wanting an immersive sculpting experience you can’t go wrong with Oculus Medium. It has a full feature set, for sculpting, painting and stamping, as well as a built-in camera and light system, making it ideal for rapid concept work and much more.

08. Quill

Best VR apps: Occulus (Quill)

(Image credit: Occulus)

Also from the Oculus camp, Quill feels more like a traditional painting app but is in fact full 3D. Artistic brush strokes live in 3D and can be fully animated. Stay in VR space to view your masterpiece or export to your chosen 3D software to light and render.

09. Gravity sketch

Best VR apps: Gravity sketch

(Image credit: Gravity Sketch)

Comparison has been made to Illustrator and we think that’s fair. Gravity Sketch is a full-on VR content creation app, but it has some really cool and intuitive tools for creating shapes, using splines and curves. It's great for product visualisation, modelling vehicles and the like.

10. Tilt Brush

Best VR apps: Tilt brush

(Image credit: Google)

Tilt Brush was one of the earlier art apps in VR to make a big splash and it’s still an enjoyable experience now. It features some interesting animated brushes, a pro mode for the more advanced user and a superb UI. It may be a little more casual than others on this list, but it’s a fun way to rough out ideas or to simply doodle in VR.

11. Beat Saber

Best VR apps: Beat games

(Image credit: Beat games)

As much as the apps mentioned above are great fun and also allow you to create content in a truly immersive way, we all need some downtime and Beat Saber is a joy. Get your groove on and spend some time moving to the beat and using a pair of sabres to chop those flying bricks. For the Jedi Master that enjoys Tetris.

This content originally appeared in 3D World and MacFormat.. subscribe to 3D World here and subscribe to MacFormat here.

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Rob Redman

Rob Redman is the editor of 3D World and has a background in animation, visual effects, and photography.  

As well as being a multi-instrumentalist, Rob is also an avid beard grower.