The 30 best Steam Deck games
Thousands of PC games are playable on the Steam Deck - here are some great ones to try
Now that you can order and receive a Steam Deck in a matter of days, rather than vegetate on a reservation list for months, it’s a good time to check in and make sure the best Steam Deck games are getting their due.
That’s if you can forgive the slightly wonky wording, as there aren’t really "Steam Deck games" as such: as creators Valve are always keen to point out, it’s basically a handheld PC, not its own platform. Some games might not run well enough on it, or are too reliant on mouse and keyboard controls to play comfortably, but big chunks of your existing Steam library should be at least playable on the Steam Deck as soon as they finish installing.
With that in mind, I might stress that this is not an organised ranking of quality in the way that (for example) our best strategy games or best RPGs lists are. But they are all games that I’ve found are particularly well suited to the Steam Deck life, be it through an ease of adapting to its onboard controls, high performance, or ideally both.
Of course, if you’ve recently acquired a Steam Deck of your own, feel free to ignore all of this and just play the PC games you already own – that in itself is one reason why it’s such a neat device. Should you want some inspiration on where to start, though, read on. Oh, and I’ve added developer/publisher info and store links, based on feedback on our most anticipated games of 2023 feature. We just love lists, innit.
Aperture Desk Job
The short and sweet Aperture Desk Job isn’t just one of the best games to play on the Steam Deck – it should probably be the first one you try. It’s essentially a free Steam Deck tutorial, designed to help you get used to the controls layout, but is entertainingly administered through a genuinely funny mini-jaunt through a pre-Portal Aperture Science. It’s a clever, surprising, and unrelentingly charming introduction to your new gadget, not a mention a reminder that Valve should really make more games.
At the suggestion of several RPS readers (and with the implicit recommendation of, apparently, scores of other Steam Deck owners), I finally got round to playing Vampire Survivors. And fine, FINE, it rocks. Simply moving around and auto-attacking sounds like a dreadfully dull premise but as the XP-unlocked weapon upgrades stack up, and the initial trickles of enemies become screen-filling bullet hell hordes, holding back the tide with time-stopping lasers and weaponised Bibles becomes almost hypnotically compelling.
It only really needs the left thumbstick and an occasional face button for inputs, and the framerate keeps above 40fps even with the most overwhelming of monster crowds, so chalk Vampire Survivors up as another Steam Deck special. It doesn’t suck (hahhhhhh) the battery too quickly either: although I haven’t done a full full-to-empty test yet, I’d say you can expect four to five hours of surviving vampires before the Deck runs dry.
Hades claimed, by Advent Calendar rules, RPS GOTY status back in 2020. And it’s just as tense, inventive and witty on the Steam Deck: it runs at a perfect 60fps, and only needs the face buttons and a single thumbstick for its slick, combo-happy combat. Being a rougelike – mostly – it wouldn’t normally be as suited for short bursts of portable play, say on a bus ride, but the Deck’s quick resume feature lets you take a break whenever and immediately hop back into a run.
Stray shakes off notions of merely being a haha-funny-cat novelty game with some stellar worldbuilding and intuitive puzzle-platforming, helped along by a sleek context-sensitive traversal style. This translates perfectly to the Steam Deck’s controls, and despite being a bit of a looker, Stray avoids any serious performance issues on the portable hardware. There’s some very occasional stuttering but that’s present on high-end desktop PCs as well, and if you simply lower the Effects quality setting from High to Medium, you shouldn’t drop below 30fps.
Wavetale runs as smoothly on the Steam Deck as your character does on water. An emotive platformer at its core, the greatest joy in Wavetale is catching a ride on your movement-mimicking merperson friend to zip across the rolling ocean. It’s a blast, especially once you also get the hang of chaining together jumps and hookshot moves to navigate the flooded world even faster.
Originally launched for the ill-fated Stadia before finding sanctuary on PC, Wavetale incidentally benefits from the Stadia controller inputs effectively matching the Deck’s, so it feels like it was meant to be here all along. Performance is good too: not quite a solid 60fps, but consistently about 47-50fps.
Marvel's Midnight Suns
Bestest Best badgewearer Marvel’s Midnight Suns loses none of its charm on the Steam Deck. Firaxis’ card-based superhero RPG leans heavily on the magical side of its source material, while distinguishing itself from most spandex-and-quip adventures by encouraging you to chat with and befriend your team of supes. It’s a game of relationship-building as much as it is of kicking goons through air conditioners.
There’s some performance inconsistency on the Deck, particularly when nosing around your home base hideout, but on default settings it can easily hit 60fps during combat. The slickly-designed UI doesn’t need any special control scheme customisations, either; I liked using the touchscreen to thumb through cards, myself.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection
The PC port of Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection did launch in need of some polish, especially in the cutscene animation department, but otherwise it’s one of the best-looking games you can play on the Steam Deck. That doesn’t mean it chugs, either: with some settings tweaks you can get a comfortable 40fps+ average without sacrificing some of the higher-quality graphics options.
Like several other names on this list, the fact that its component games (Uncharted: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: Lost Legacy) were originally designed for a PlayStation gamepad mean they fit the Deck’s paddish controls with ease. And it’s still a decent enough port that you get the correct ABXY button prompts.
For all of its performance hiccups on Windows, Elden Ring is such a good match for the Steam Deck that it’s earned Verified status from Valve. It’s certainly more comfortable to play and navigate menus with the thumbsticks than to deal with Elden Ring’s wonky mouse and keyboard support, and running on Proton – with its shader pre-caching feature - actually helps smooth out the stuttering that, on Windows, plagues the game to this day.
If you’re like me (or Katharine) and don’t have the patience, temperament, or hand-eye coordination for Soulslikes, you may find Death’s Door more palatable. It’s a less demanding, though still challenging, take on “How do I kill this dude no wait I am dead” RPGs that also happens to suit the Steam Deck very comfortably indeed. I actually tried playing it on my desktop after first trying it on the Deck, and quickly abandoned the mouse and keyboard for a return to the handheld’s twin sticks. It’s easy to get a solid 60fps, too.
Forza Horizon 5
Feel-good racer Forza Horizon 5 is a natural fit for gamepad-style controls, and the Steam Deck’s haptic shoulder buttons even give it a little shake to enhance that feeling of stomping the accelerator. When launching it from Steam I’d suggest lowering the graphics settings to Medium for suitably speedy performance, and if you’re a PC Game Pass Ultimate subscriber you can stream it instead.
Portal 2 was one of first games Valve showed running on the Steam Deck, and it’s clear why. It runs smoothly, doesn’t need a mouse and keyboard, and is even one of least demanding games I’ve tried in terms of battery life drain – most 3D games tend to quaff a full charge in around two hours, half of the four that Portal 2 took. It’s also a successful showcase of the device’s rear buttons, which let you jump or crouch without taking your portal-aiming thumb off the right stick.
When it originally launched, first-person speedrunner Neon White sparked a high score war that engulfed and possibly shattered the friendships of, nearly half the RPS team. It will indeed scratch any hypercompetitive itches you may have, though it’s also a good one to enjoy in a more relaxed state – say, in bed, or upside down on the sofa. That’s because Neon White runs like a dream on the play-anywhere Steam Deck, holding firm at 60fps throughout. Also, since individual levels take just seconds to complete, it’s perfect to dip in and out of using the Deck’s quick suspend/resume feature.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Steam Deck wouldn’t be a consumer electronics product if it didn’t run The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, only this time Todd H. won’t need to sell you a whole new copy. Other than some slight UI awkwardness when trying to type in a new character name, this is the enticingly sprawling Skyrim that we’ve known for years – just explorable on a handheld.
God of War
Dad jokes aside, the relationship-centred narrative and otherworldly beauty of God of War show how much it’s grown up from the series’ edgy early days. Still, the PlayStation link does help make it a natural fit for the Steam Deck’s controller-esque buttons and thumbsticks, and it runs decently on ‘Original’ graphics settings. You can always lower these or switch on its native FSR upscaling if you’d prefer a higher, smoother frame rate.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn is a former PlayStation exclusive that makes a seamless transition to the Steam Deck. Hopefully its sequel Horizon Forbidden West is up for a PC port next, as everything in Guerrilla’s original, RPG-tinged open world adventure works nearly perfectly on the Deck’s hardware. Also like God of War, there are higher frame rates to be by lowering the quality settings, though the 40fps-ish you’ll get on the Original preset is agreeable enough.
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Personally I find myself drawn back to Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance every few years, eager for a refresh on its breakneck hack and/or slashing and gloriously campy script. On the most recent replay I found it’s also an excellent Steam Deck game, the smaller screen doing nothing to constrict the joys of bisecting battle mechs and stealing cyborg spines for food. Also, the speakers are good enough for that bit in every boss fight where the lyrics kick in as a new phase starts. Y’know, the best bits in the entire game. Yessss, that’s the stuff.
Monster Hunter Rise
What better PC game to play on a handheld than one originally developed for a handheld? Monster Hunter Rise began life as a Nintendo Switch exclusive before a respectable PC port made it playable on Windows – and thus, the Steam Deck – as well. In places, particularly UI navigation, it often feels more natural to use the Deck’s more Switch-like controls than a keyboard, and the so-so visuals are a lot easier to forgive on a 7in screen than on a 27in, 1400p desktop monitor.
Playable MMOs are in short supply on the Steam Deck, whether it be down to anti-cheat software refusing to shake Proton’s hand or complex controls that just can’t go without a keyboard. Nevertheless, I was impressed by how the free-to-play Albion Online adapts to the Steam Deck’s inputs and screen. One or two button presses can handle a full loadout of items and spells, and if using a trackpad to direct the mouse cursor doesn’t feel quite right, you can just prod the touchscreen instead.
RimWorld is one of very few games – seriously, hardly any – to have been patched specifically to improve how it works on the Steam Deck. That means the interface, an easily overwhelming patchwork of icons, indicators, logs, tabs and other tiny-typefaced elements, remains legible on the 1280x800 screen. You can also zoom in further, and scroll through lists by swiping the touchscreen. All very thoughtful additions that might just help your sandbox base-building efforts end in survival rather than starvation.
Another Bethesda RPG with Steam Deck cred. Valve’s review system classes Fallout 4 as Playable, one step below the gold standard of Verfied, but as far as I can tell that’s just mainly because the initial launcher screen requires touch input (thumbsticks and D-pad inputs aren't recognised) and you can’t bind the rear buttons from the in-game settings menu. And there’s an easy workaround for that: just customise the controller settings in SteamOS so that the rear buttons can spoof a different one. Everything else works just fine.
Valve were so keen on making Half-Life 2 suitable for their portable PC that they went back, early in 2022, to optimise the 2004 shooter’s UI – so it would be more accommodating to a compact touchscreen. Unsurprisingly, it also takes maximum advantage of all the Deck’s bells and whistles, giving you a full choice between thumbstick, trackpad or gyroscope aiming.
Final Fantasy XV
I’ll confess, I’ve spent hours using Final Fantasy XV for hardware benchmarking, but had never sat down to properly play until trying it out on the Steam Deck. And it’s great – the controls adapt perfectly, and Medium video settings deliver fine frame rates without knackering quality. High is playable too, though you’ll be dipping close to 30fps at points.
Super Meat Boy
2D platformers rarely show off the Steam Deck’s upper capabilities, but they’re still an ideal match for the hardware. Thumbstick controls, no real advantage for frame rates above 60fps, low demands on graphics power and battery life? Few genres are as handheld-friendly, as Super Meat Boy capably demonstrates. Then again, maybe I should have picked an easier one – as fast, fun and ultimately rewarding as Super Meat Boy is, its bastard-hardness will require the self-control to resist hurling your handheld into the nearest wall.
Another top 2D jumper is Celeste. While sharing a wicked fondness for insta-death hazard dodging, it’s not quite the pressure cooker that Super Meat Boy is, and tempers the challenge with a stronger story emphasis and a more considered, melancholy atmosphere. The Steam Deck’s controls are up to the task, too, even if you only need a small selection of them.
Lovely little life-change sim Unpacking feels, appropriately, right at home on the Steam Deck. If anything, the leisurely pace of its stacking and arranging puzzles is a better fit for those moments of melting into a sofa or lazing around in bed, Deck in hand, than it is for sitting up straight at your PC's desk. I also love how you can use the touchscreen to drag your lifetime of bric-a-brac around the room, though the left thumbstick works well too.
Should you fancy a spot of portable dread, Alien: Isolation is a good bet. Some of the text is a bit small on the Steam Deck’s 7in screen – not ideal if you need subtitles – but it handles well, and runs beautifully. It seldom drops below 60fps on Ultra quality, not that you’ll be spending too much time looking at the FPS counter when there’s an entire space station’s worth of suspicious bangs, flickering lights and murder machines vying for attention.
As if I’d pass up an opportunity to recommend Deathloop. Arkane’s funky time looper-shooter is best served on the Steam Deck with Medium to High graphics settings: try to max them out and you’ll get dips below 30fps. But other than that smidge of technical detail, it’s all fun and games for Deathloop, with fully adapted controls and full support for its tricksy multiplayer mode.
Kentucky Route Zero
The streamlined point-and-clicking of Kentucky Route Zero helps it settle onto the Steam Deck rather effortlessly. I kinda wish it would use the D-pad to flick through menu options rather than the right thumbstick, but that’s a personal gripe that hardly dulls this game’s best bits: the story’s slow uncovering, the moments of quiet contemplation, and the gorgeous art. All of these are present and current whether you play Kentucky Route Zero on a Steam Deck or a £3000 titan of a desktop.
Ori and the Blind Forest
The newer Ori and the Will of the Wisps is classed as Unsupported on the Steam Deck, which is a surprise – I could load and play it for a while without issue, so maybe there are moments or mechanics further in which cause problems. The original Ori and the Blind Forest, by contrast, has full Verified status, and its lushly animated platforming plays as smoothly as you’d like.
“Outer Wilds is best experienced with a game pad”, says its opening splash. A Steam Deck will suffice as well, allowing you to to enjoy this cute, thoughtful generator of ill-fated space adventures away from your main PC.