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7 games like Half-Life: Alyx that don’t require a VR headset

Half-Life: Alyx is great, but you probably can't play it. What are some alternatives?

Half-Life: Alyx was released for VR headsets on March 23 to critical acclaim, transforming the gripping narrative of the Half-Life franchise into an immersive virtual reality experience. For anyone who doesn't have the luxury of owning a viable VR headset to play Alyx, here are similar video game experiences that might whet your appetite.

Considering the last Valve-developed Half-Life content released in 2007 and left off on a major cliffhanger, fans have been foaming at the mouth for more and Valve finally delivered. But VR headsets and the computers required to run games like Half-Life: Alyx are still very expensive, and even those interested have to work around hardware shortages. If you can't play Half-Life: Alyx right now but need to scratch that Half-Life itch — or want to some new non-VR games to play afterward — you can do so with these 7 games.

7. Black Mesa

Developer: The Crowbar Collective

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the compelling Half-Life universe and want to experience the original.

Half-Life: Alyx wasn't the only Half-Life related project to release in March 2020. The Crowbar Collective also launched Black Mesa, a remake of the original Half-Life. While this project earned Valve's attention and seal of approval, it's technically a fan game that has evolved into something greater and just exited early access in March after almost 15 years of work.

Black Mesa recreates the entirety of the 1998 FPS classic in Valve's Source engine, making the game look like you remember it. It's impressive to see what a small team of passionate fans can actually do, as it has the quality of an actual Valve game. If you plan on playing the original Half-Life again instead of Alyx, definitely consider doing so with Black Mesa.

6. The Orange Box

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... Valve's development style and want to play the studio's other games.

The Orange Box is a bit of a catch-all for this list as it contains most of Valve's heavy-hitters that you'd want to experience before playing Half-Life: Alyx. It includes Half-Life 2, that game's Episode One and Episode 2 DLCs, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. It's available on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, and each game within the collection is excellent.

Half-Life 2 is a highly influential FPS game that's still a blast to play. Experience the story will make Half-Life: Alyx an even more fulfilling experience if you can play it beforehand. Team Fortress 2 is Valve's flagship multiplayer shooter and a precursor to hero-based shooters like Overwatch and Valorant. Finally, Portal is a mind-bending puzzle game with the sharp wit we've come to expect from Valve.

5. Portal 2

Developer: Valve

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the humor and puzzles, and you want something of equal quality.

A sequel to one of the games within The Orange Box, Portal 2 stands as one of Valve's best games alongside Half-Life 2. It takes the excellent portal-based puzzles on the original and expands on them in exciting ways to create one of the most fun puzzle games over. To top it all of, it features lots of funny dialogue in a story that follows Chel as she tries to escape Aperture Labs.

If you are a Valve fan, you've probably already played Portal 2, but for anyone that hasn't tried it yet Portal 2 is totally worth it. A third entry might never happen, but the second remains one of the best puzzle games of all time.

4. BioShock: The Collection

Developer: Irrational Games

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the atmosphere and narrative, but you also love steampunk.

The BioShock series is often paired with Half-Life when gamers discuss the most impactful FPS games of the 2000s. The first two games in the series deal with philosophical issues in the dystopic underwater city of Rapture, and the first BioShock features one of the most iconic plot twists of all time in gaming.

BioShock Infinite (the third game) takes to the skies with the floating city of Columbia with a more character-driven story that's just as engaging as the first two games in the series. All three games feature respectable gunplay mechanics used in tandem with special magical powers. All three BioShock games are worth playing for any fans of these genres, and BioShock: The Collection bundles all three into a nice package to tide you over until BioShock 4.

3. The Talos Principle

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the puzzles, and you want more mind-bending problems to solve.

The Talos Principle is a puzzle game with a focus on lasers. The overall experience is just as engrossing as games like Half-Life: Alyx and Portal 2. Developed by Croteam, it follows an Android being guided along by an entity named Eloheim. As players begin to solve more puzzles, they'll find that the world of The Talos Principle is a bit more dystopic than it initially seems.

Some of the puzzles in The Talos Principle can be tough, but it's intricately designed and follows many of the same cues that Valve games do. If you've already played both Portal games, this is the next first-person puzzle game that you should check out.

2. Firewatch

Developer: Campto Santo

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the witty writing and want to check out some of the developers' previous work

Firewatch might be considered a "walking simulator" by some, but it tells the gripping story of a man who has retreated to the Shoshone National Refuge in Wyoming as a fire look. While the main plot of the game has the player uncovering a years-old mystery, Firewatch really focuses on the relationship between Henry and Delilah, the park ranger that talks to him over their walkie-talkies.

Firewatch is atmospheric, expertly written, and received well-deserved critical acclaim when it first released in 2017. Its developer, Campo Santo, began work on a new game called In the Valley of the Gods and was eventually acquired by Valve in 2018. While In the Valley of the Gods was put on hold, Valve confirmed that many Campo Santo developers played a part in creating Half-Life: Alyx, which helps explain why the VR game has such a well-written story.

1. Hunt Down the Freeman

  • If you love Half-Life: Alyx for ... the world, but are curious about the single worst Half-Life game.

We started this list with a fan game and are ending with one. Hunt Down the Freeman is objectively terrible, but if you've burnt through everything else Half-Life related (or just want to play a dumpster fire of a game) then Hunt Down the Freeman is available on Steam.

Funded on Indiegogo and released by Royal Rudius Entertainment in 2018 during the Half-Life drought, this game uses Half-Life assets to tell the story of a soldier that wants to kill Half-Life protagonist Gordan Freeman. Unfortunately, this game makes missteps at almost every turn due to poor design and awful writing, which is to say nothing of the many technical issues. It's baffling that Valve let this game be released on Steam to sully the Half-Life franchise's credibility. Yet that only gives yet another reason why it's worth playing for Half-Life fans. Hunt Down the Freeman isn't for the faint of heart in that regard, but if you don't love Half-Life at its worst, do you deserve the franchise at its best?

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