If you’ve just got yourself a Steam Deck, congratulations – you’re the proud owner of one of the most powerful handheld devices around. The Steam Deck is essentially a gaming PC you can hold in your hands, giving you access to your full Steam library without needing to sit down at your desktop. As you might expect given the Steam Deck’s relatively compact form factor, however, some PC games are more playable on the system than others, so without further ado, let’s take a look at the top 10 games to play on Steam Deck.
1. Elden Ring
Elden Ring runs staggeringly well on the Steam Deck. Playing it feels like alchemy; although you probably won’t reach 60fps without some serious compromises to the visual fidelity, even playing the game at 30fps feels like it shouldn’t be possible on a machine that small. Elden Ring is a slick, smooth experience on Steam Deck, and it also remains one of the best games of 2022, so if you’re yet to experience it or you want an excuse to head back into the Lands Between, it’s right here.
2. XCOM 2
Again, XCOM 2’s performance might not wow you if you’re used to a high-powered gaming PC, but the ability to play it on a smaller console should more than make up for any performance hitches. XCOM 2 is hugely playable on the Steam Deck, and it’s just as absorbing and enjoyable a turn-based experience on the smaller console as it is on PC or consoles. XCOM 2 doesn’t quite have the same “wow” factor as its predecessor, but it’s a more well-rounded and streamlined experience in gameplay terms.
Hades runs like a dream on the Steam Deck, and its repetitive nature lends itself perfectly to brief play sessions of the kind that Valve’s handheld enables. Zagreus’ tale is essentially an attempt to escape from his parents’ basement; it’s a roguelite with an emphasis on building insane combinations of boons and blessings from the fickle Greek gods, and each time you fail a run (which you will at first), you’ll unlock more excellent dialogue between Zagreus and his friends in the Underworld.
4. Into the Breach
Into the Breach is another excellent strategy experience that plays brilliantly on the Steam Deck. At its core, it’s essentially a tabletop game; you manoeuvre a series of giant mechs around a map, trying to stop kaiju from destroying cities and minimising damage to as much of an extent as you can. It’s a simple setup, but it’s that same simplicity that makes Into the Breach endlessly replayable. Try and play it for five minutes and see how long you actually end up playing for.
You’d be amazed by how well Control performs on the Steam Deck, especially given that it’s not a particularly well-optimised game elsewhere. It’s pretty easy to achieve a 30fps lock, and though the game might start to chug slightly during busier moments, you likely won’t notice it, especially if you make a few minor graphical compromises in exchange for framerate. Remedy’s mysterious third-person shooter is perfect for the Steam Deck’s more intimate feel.
6. Disco Elysium
Have you ever had a night out so legendary that you literally forgot who you were? That’s the dilemma the protagonist of Disco Elysium faces, and on top of all that, he’s got a murder to solve as well. In this sharply-written adventure, you must attempt to piece together your personality essentially from scratch, all while navigating a melancholy town riven by politics and strange happenings. It’s hard to sum up Disco Elysium in a single sentence, so let’s just say you need to play it.
7. Divinity: Original Sin II
Speaking of well-written RPGs, Divinity: Original Sin II is another great game to play on the Steam Deck. Its beautifully-realised world is chock-full of interesting characters to meet and fun quests to take on, and while its plot won’t match the likes of Planescape: Torment (which is another excellent title to try out on your Deck), its moment-to-moment writing is enough to make up for that. The combat shouldn’t be overlooked, either; it uses a clever turn-based system that rewards experimentation.
8. Stardew Valley
There’s only one way to make Eric Barone’s Harvest Moon tribute more addictive, and that’s to make sure you can take it with you when you leave the house. Stardew Valley will appeal to you if you like Harvest Moon, largely because it basically is Harvest Moon. You must settle down in a new town, tending to a farm and getting to know the local residents as you try to carve out a new life for yourself. There’s a slightly dark undercurrent that undermines the peace of the game, too.
A world of mysteries and questions awaits you in Tunic, an isometric homage to classic adventure games like The Legend of Zelda. You are a small fox person in a world whose beauty belies its hostility, and you must collect pages of an actual instruction manual in order to piece together the truth behind the world. The only problem is that the instruction manual isn’t written in a language you understand, so you’ll need to use context clues, pictures, and deductive work to figure it all out.
10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
When The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt landed on the Switch, gamers and critics alike marvelled at the quality of the port. Unfortunately, the Steam Deck has largely invalidated the need to play Witcher 3 on Switch; if you’ve got a Deck, then the definitive handheld experience for Geralt’s massive adventure is in your hands. With a huge play space, tons of well-written quests, and satisfying combat to get to grips with, The Witcher 3 is a must-play if you haven’t tried it out already.