by Mike Jones
While Sony aimed to compete with Nintendo and Microsoft in the fitness gaming niche with their PS3, releasing numerous fitness titles that crossed the line from fun motion gaming to legitimate exercise, they abandoned that fitness focus with the release of the PS4.
Sony has instead focused their motion gaming on the PlayStation VR, a compatible virtual reality system. The motion games designed for PSVR are not specifically fitness-focused, though there is a singular notable exception. Despite the lack of workout games for the PS4 console, though, there are a few PSVR games that will provide you a reasonable enough workout, provided you're willing to put in the effort.
As far as fitness video games go, VirZOOM is THE game for PSVR. Of the games on this list, it is the only one designed with legitimate exercise in mind, but it also isn't just a game. VirZOOM is really a game built into an exercise bike built into a gaming console. Yeah, it's trippy.
One of the main reasons the virtual reality world is lacking in fitness games is because the inherent danger in it. Eyes covered, real world obscured, you could go around smashing up your entire living room, or do real harm to yourself, if VR encouraged too much movement.
VirZOOM overcame this giant obstacle by locking gamers in place, while simultaneously providing for real, physical lower body movement by designing the VirZOOM bike, an upright exercise bike that has controllers build into the handles and integrates directly with VirZOOM video games.
And, as for those games, VirZOOM offers a pretty wicked arsenal. Use the bike to power a racecar, ride a horse, paddle a kayak, enter a bike race, or fly on the back of a Pegasus.
The major con of VirZOOM for many people is that, if you purchase the entire system at its $400 price tag, you are in for the cost equivalent of an entirely new console. However, there is an alternative option. VirZOOM also offers a VZ Sensor that attaches to any exercise bike for $99, so, if you already own an exercise bike, or think you can get a better deal, you can hook up your own VirZOOM system.
A game made to be played standing, HoloBall is basically racquetball in a badass futuristic setting. Since the main aspect of the game is hitting a ball with a paddle, much of the "workout" you get is focused on the arms, but HoloBall also requires some back and forth movement, or at least back and forth leaning, so you can get your legs and core involved too. You can also adjust the play area, so the bigger the room you're in (and the less things you have around to destroy), the more back and forth movement you can incorporate, so how much of a workout you get really depends on your setup and how you choose to play.
While VirZOOM may be the only game designed for fitness specifically, HoloBall is absolutely designed for movement, and the more games you win, the more difficult it becomes, increasing the physical activity potential with every victory.
Traditionally speaking, a shooter game shouldn't provide a full-body workout, even in virtual reality, but Dick Wilde isn't just a shooter game. In Dick Wilde, you're not just the hunter chasing after the prey; you are also the target of projectiles. Ducking and weaving is as much a part of the game as being a good shot, so your core is regularly called into play and, if you play standing, your lower body is constantly engaged. Hunt for a few minutes, and you'll be sweating. Play for a half hour, and you will get a pretty decent cardio workout that puts emphasis on your legs, back and core.
In this popular game, it's all about the slicing and dicing of fruit with katanas, so, like HoloBall, the emphasis is largely on your arms. While all of the modes in Fruit Ninja puts a fair amount of demand on your arms, if you play on your feet and in "Survival Mode," you can actually elevate your heart rate with this game and keep it up.
Once in game mode, that fruit flies at you fast, so you can expect constant movement. The major drawback here is that each session is short (around a minute and a half), so familiarizing yourself with the menus and going back into game mode as quickly as possible can be beneficial to almost elevating this game to actual exercise.
Most of the games in PSVR's Carnival Games won't get you moving all that much, but there is one, brutal exception. Carnival Games' Climbing Wall is a free climb that keeps your arms in constant motion, will definitely raise your heart rate if you climb at top speed, and can be extended in duration by the path you choose to take. The goal of the game is to get to the top of the wall as quickly as possible, so speed matters, but so does reach and precision, resulting in a game that requires quick, precise movements and a noticeable workout to your arms and core.
As far as fitness gaming goes, the PS4 (even with PSVR) lags well behind the PS3, due mostly to its incompatibility with the PlayStation Eye Camera. But, by playing on your feet, and adding purposeful leg movements to the arm movements the games require (lifting both arm and leg, for instance, when scaling the Climbing Wall in Carnival Games), you can upgrade much of your game play to legitimate exercise. PSVR won't replace your fitness routine - at least not yet - but can provide an additional source of physical activity and offer a fun maintenance alternative on rest days from your normal routine. Or, check out our list of the best gaming consoles for fitness.
About Mike Jones
As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family."