The Best Games To Play On Steam Deck
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Valve's Steam Deck isn't a brand-new concept. Portable PC gaming devices have existed for years. But the Steam Deck looks poised to be the breakthrough for the platform because it's cheaper than many alternatives and, of course, because it's coming from Valve itself. Who better to handle a handheld Steam machine than the makers of Steam?
The Steam Deck has been in players' hands for a while now, and the rollout of deliveries mean more players are getting to try it out for themselves every single day. You can read our Steam Deck review to see what we thought of it, but more than likely, you're ready to dive in for yourself already. As soon as you boot it up, you'll find your Steam library is intact, which is exciting, but not all games are created equal when it comes to playing them via Steam Deck.
We've rounded up a few dozen of the best games to play on Steam Deck, including major AAA hits, under-the-radar indies, and everything in between. In most cases, these games have already been declared as "Deck Verified" by Valve, meaning it's fully supported without any caveats. We've personally tested all of the games on this list, however, so even in cases where things do come with asterisks, like needing to use the touchscreen momentarily to log into Xbox in one example, we find the games themselves outweigh these minor hiccups and still recommend them as a result.
You can even install Epic Games Store on Steam Deck to broaden your library even more. In most cases in our experience, these games work just as they would on your home PC, which is great when you consider how often Epic hands out free games on its platform. If you want to get the most out of your new toy, check out our list of the best Steam Deck accessories As the list of Steam Deck-compatible games grows, so too will this list here. Keep checking back for recommendations on the best games to play on Steam Deck.
Elden Ring’s The Lands Between are vast and rich with activities to undertake. At any given moment you're a stone’s throw away from a hidden dungeon, a brand new area of the map, or a challenging mini-boss. Although the game tells you to seek the shards of the Elden Ring and become Elden Lord, it's easy to spend dozens of hours doing other things instead. The Steam Deck is a fantastic way of undertaking some of these shorter tasks in bite-sized chunks, before returning to the main task at hand on a bigger screen with a beefier PC. Steam's ability to seamlessly upload and download cloud saves makes this functionality a breeze. But, if you're playing entirely on the Steam Deck alone, Elden Ring runs very well--no doubt because Valve took steps to ensure the biggest game of the year, which launched around the same time as its Steam Deck, actually worked. Elden Ring looks and plays excellent on the handheld, so you can hop into the Lands Between whenever is most convenient for you. -- Tamoor Hussain
Half-Life 2 being great on Steam Deck is basically a given, considering Valve’s long-term support for the 2004 game. Valve likes to use it and games like Portal as testing grounds and showcases for its new technology, and there are some Steam Deck bells and whistles that make the already fantastic, landmark first-person shooter shine on Deck. Gordon Freeman’s second adventure still looks and plays great more than 15 years later, but the default control setup also incorporates motion controls. Using Deck’s capacitive tech, simply laying your thumb on the right control stick activates the motion controls. Setting it up this way means you only use the motion when you are aiming (a bit like Breath of the Wild’s default controls) and it also allows you to play it like a standard controller FPS game without diving into menus if you so choose. Using motion controls to take out headcrabs is a feature I never knew I wanted, but immediately found myself using and enjoying on Steam Deck. -- Kyle Hillard
Spiritfarer is unlike any other farm-life sim you've played. For starters, its "farm" is actually a boat moving through the underworld, which reminds me of another key difference: You're dead. As the operator of the underworld's ferry, you'll meet characters, help resolve their unfinished business, then wave them goodbye as they coast into the Everlight--some unspecified what-comes-after space. All the while, there's plenty of recipes to learn, items to craft, plants to harvest, and more. Your list of duties and quests is long, so you'll have plenty to do over the course of many on-the-go sessions with the game. Just know that passengers aboard your train, plane, or bus may catch you drying your eyes. -- Mark Delaney
Hitman 3 is the culmination of a half-decade of hard work from IO Interactive, and that's admirable. But also, on Steam Deck, it's a diverse world tour of portable murder playgrounds, and that's pretty neat too, don't you think? If you happen to have access to the earlier games in the Hitman reboot series, this third game houses every level, weapon, and ridiculous costume into one central hub, giving Hitman fans the totality of the franchise's best entries all in the palms of their hands. -- Mark Delaney
Disco Elysium is so text-heavy that it can feel like you're actually holding a Kindle when playing it on a Steam Deck, but for fans of deep RPG experiences, it's exactly what you're probably looking for. The latitude for true role-playing is vast and the story goes places that are both smart and unpredictable. The painterly art style also looks great in handheld mode and may have fellow train passengers looking over to see what it is you're doing, which admittedly is a little awkward when you start the game hungover in your underpants. -- Mark Delaney
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters
The classic Final Fantasy series has gotten lovingly restored with the Pixel Remaster, but its other available platform is less than ideal. The mobile versions lack a lot of the customization options that you'll find on PC, and they don't even support controllers so you're forced to use (shudder) touch controls. Gross. But these classic RPGs feel readymade for portable, making Steam Deck the best place to play. Not only can you grind levels while binge-watching a show, but it looks and plays great, and you can even install mods to (for example) fix the font. If you can only get one, Final Fantasy 6 is an absolute masterpiece. -- Steve Watts
God of War
Some games fit Steam Deck because their genre or gameplay elements just feel right at home in a handheld device. Others, Like God of War, are just proof of how powerful the Steam Deck is. God of War is a game that once seemed unlikely to ever come to PC, but in 2022, not only is it available on the platform, it's fully verified and ready to go on Steam Deck. It's so cool to see it in this way, it almost makes one wish for some sort of PlayStation handheld device. Imagine that! -- Mark Delaney
Left 4 Dead 2
Few games scream "Valve!" more than Left 4 Dead 2, so it should be a no-brainer for the Steam Deck, and I'm happy to report that playing it on the handheld is actually even better than playing it on console. It runs very smooth and the PC lobbies have always stayed active even after the Xbox community largely fell by the wayside. The controls are simple too, so even if you've been playing for years on PC, you'll quickly intuit how to pick up an axe and start chopping off zombie limbs with friends on the go. -- Mark Delaney
Much like Slay the Spire, which clearly inspired it, Monster Train is a game well-suited to quick bursts of gameplay. Because it's already available on Xbox, it features controller support, so controlling it on Deck is easy. But just as importantly, the action is readable on the screen, and its turn-based nature lends itself to the type of portable/toilet gaming that Deck enables. However you play it, the gameplay remains some of the very best in the roguelike deckbuilder genre, giving you a great deal of freedom in how you assemble your deck and combine cards from different factions to make each run feel distinct. -- Chris Pereira
Children of Morta
I like to think of Children of Morta as an underappreciated gem in the dungeon-crawler genre. In it, you play as the pixelated Bergson family, each member of which has their own unique fighting style and weaponry. Clearing out damp and dark caves around your immaculate home is made more engrossing thanks to a fantastic narrator, carrying you off into a fantasy world on even the most tedious bus ride to work. -- Mark Delaney
Rogue Legacy 2
This anticipated sequel has finally gotten a full release after an extended early access period, and it might just be the ideal use-case for Steam Deck. The rogue-lite action game has you once again battling through a castle as a cascading series of hiers, each with their own powers, making incremental progress all the way as you inherit new traits and buy permanent upgrades. The new 2D/3D hybrid art style looks fantastic on the Steam Deck screen, and it's the perfect type of easy-to-pick-up, hard-to-put-down experience that thrives on a handheld. -- Steve Watts
If Switch players get Breath of the Wild, at least Steam Deck users get to have Sable. This clearly BOTW-inspired open-world puzzler foregoes combat of any kind in favor of a chilled-out coming-of-age story set in a unique fantasy world full of quests, characters, and secrets. The open-ended game lets you see its credits in as little as three hours or as many as 20+. It's up to you to decide when your ride is over, be that when your flight ends or perhaps months down the line. The music is done entirely by Japanese Breakfast too, giving the entire game a meditative quality that is perfect for a long trip you may not otherwise be looking forward to. -- Mark Delaney
Sea of Thieves
While you do need an internet connection to play Sea of Thieves, that isn't too hard to come by in 2022. Past iterations of Rare's pirate sandbox have been less short session-friendly, but the team has taken strides to improve the game in that area, offering short and sweet daily challenges for all players and introducing new Sea Forts, which are meant to be challenged and won in as little as 15-20 minutes including the time it takes to sell all your loot. Sea of Thieves, like God of War listed earlier in this feature, is the kind of game that you once could only dream about playing on a handheld. But today the future has arrived by boat. -- Mark Delaney
Unpacking is another one of those games that feels welcoming to short or long sessions alike. In this 2021 wordless wonder from Witch Beam, you learn about unseen characters just by unpacking their boxes on various moving days spread across their life, from childhood into much older age. The point-and-click nature of the game is welcoming to the Steam Deck's multiple input modes, including analog sticks or the touchscreen. -- Mark Delaney
If you didn't play Valheim when it first blew up in 2021--or even if you did--it makes a great Steam Deck game. In large part, that's due to the way it's friendly to both short and long play sessions. Chop down a few trees and work on building your home in the early hours, or party up with friends and take on the game's most unfriendly beasts many hours later. Whether you're new to the Viking survival game or you think you've scoured over every inch of the sandbox, seeing it on Steam Deck can feel like arriving in a whole new world. -- Mark Delaney
An early access game you can grab on the cheap, Vampire Survivors is very simple but shockingly fun. The single-stick shooter has you navigate around hordes of enemies while your weapons fire off automatically, building up experience to buy new weapon upgrades. The deceptively simple premise gets increasingly fiendish and chaotic as more enemies join the fray, and your weapon upgrades get ever-more destructive. It's enough to tempt you to play just one more round until you realize, oh whoops, it's 3 AM. -- Steve Watts
The Witcher 3
Whenever you can take one of the best RPGs in the world with you on the go, you've gotta do it, I say. The Witcher 3 is also playable on Switch, but it looks and runs better on Steam Deck in my personal experience. Though the game is now seven years old, it's still a benchmark in video game storytelling, especially when it comes to those incredible side quests. Exploring the world, meeting colorful characters, and slaying monsters makes any train ride or picnic so much more interesting. -- Mark Delaney
The Banner Saga Trilogy
The original Banner Saga was the first game I installed when my Steam Deck arrived, and what a debut it was. The tactical RPG and part-time Nordic-styled Oregon Trail is still a lovely experience so many years since launch. The former Mass Effect writers on the team help breathe life into a new cast of characters whom you'll be glad to take with you wherever you go. The first two games are already Deck Verified, while the third one is yet to be tested by Valve, but it plays as intended for me. -- Mark Delaney
Into The Breach
For my money, Into the Breach is one of the best-designed games in recent memory, and it's perfectly at home on Deck, thanks to its turn-based nature and bite-sized missions. As the previous Switch release demonstrated, the controls work perfectly well with a gamepad, and the screen here is well up to the task of displaying all of the information you need. Performance is great (it's not terribly demanding from a hardware perspective), and it's a terrific game that you can sink hours into at a time or occasionally glance at while watching something on TV. -- Chris Pereira
Ori and the Blind Forest
The Metroidvania genre fits like a glove on Steam Deck, and among those, my favorite is the Ori series. While I haven't tested the sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the original remains an immaculate and tightly-designed genre standout, arguably the best of the past decade. Taking that on the go is already possible on Switch and even Xbox Cloud Gaming, so you've maybe had opportunities to play it in handheld mode before, but if you missed it until now, the Steam Deck is the best of those handhelds thanks to it not requiring an internet connection like Xbox and its larger, nicer screen than Switch. -- Mark Delaney
Steam Deck passes a very important test I have for determining how good any gaming platform is, which is, "Can you play Rez on it?" The answer, thankfully, is yes, and it does so well--Rez Infinite runs quite smoothly and its straightforward control scheme translates well to the Deck's pad. The relatively short nature of each level makes it easy to jump in and out of on Deck, and even with the system's relatively limited battery life, you can still play through everything here without needing to plug in. While you're better off plugging in some headphones to more fully appreciate the killer soundtrack--it sounds good coming out of the speakers, but Rez is all about blasting the music as loudly as possible--this is still an incredible experience and a must-have on Deck. -- Chris Pereira
Totally Accurate Battle Simulator
There's no shortage of ragdoll brawlers as of late, but for my money, TABS is the best of them. In a very crude way, it almost plays like Age of Empires or other deep strategy games. You'll set up your army of various fighters spanning centuries of human history and prepare to take on formidable foes on the other side of the battlefield. But the loosey-goosey, googley-eyed warriors make it all so silly, and the one-more-try design is perfect for a portable platform like Steam Deck. -- Mark Delaney
This list would feel incomplete without a horror game on it. SOMA, from Frictional Games--the team that also made the incredible Amnesia series--is one of the finest horror games and stories you'll find on Steam, and it's fully verified for Steam Deck. They say the best setting for a horror game is where the lights are off and the headphones on, and the portability of the Steam Deck means you can go find that setting for yourself even when your PC itself may not have allowed it otherwise. -- Mark Delaney