The VR headsets (and games) that we recommend to students

'Duck Season,' anyone?

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Will Lipman/Engadget
Will Lipman/Engadget

After long days of lectures, quizzes and research papers, you deserve to take your mind off school for a bit. What better way to decompress than by jacking into virtual reality for a few minutes of tranquility? It doesn't have to break the bank, either. The 32GB Oculus Go will only set you back $200 and it offers the most convenient mobile VR experience you can get. Unlike the Gear VR or Google Cardboard, you don't need a phone to power the Go -- just pop the headset on and that's it.

If you have some extra cash to spare (gotta love financial aid overages), you could pick up the headset responsible for starting the modern VR renaissance, the Oculus Rift. The flagship device is available as a bundle with a pair of Touch motion-control-wands and two motion sensors for $400. Sure, it costs twice as much as a Go, but if you want full-on AAA game experiences in VR it's the best option, assuming you have a capable PC. Choosing this over an HTC Vive will also save you $100, which leaves plenty of money to grab a few games.

Speaking of, Downward Spiral: Horus Station should definitely be on your list. A space-thriller at heart -- you're exploring a derelict orbital station -- it should fill the gap between late-night viewings of Event Horizon and Alien quite nicely. Maybe best of all, it makes use of the Rift's built-in 360-degree soundfield incredibly well.

If you were bummed that Nintendo didn't include Duck Hunt with the NES Classic Edition, there's a VR game called Duck Season with your name written all over it. Ostensibly, it's a tribute to the light-gun game of yore. There's an anthropomorphic dog, and he eagerly runs into the weeds when you've shot a duck out of the sky. Then the game takes a turn for the macabre. He returns, mouth frozen in a ghastly smile, holding the fowl by its limp neck. As the narrative progresses, it only gets creepier. Bet you didn't expect this would be a horror game, did you?

It's the type of thing you should definitely bring out next time your friends are over. The downside of Duck Season's chills is your hands and face are likely to be clammy when you pass the headset. To help prevent the spread of communicable disease on campus, pick up a VR Cover starter pack. The kit comes with a detachable padded ring for the eye-side of your headset, and a generous amount of disposable liners. Humans are gross, but sharing a VR headset with people from your floor doesn't have to be.

Find all of our picks for virtual reality in our 2018 back-to-school guide and while you're there, find 100-some odd picks in 13 other categories.

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