The Steam Deck marries the joy of PC gaming with the convenience of a portable handheld gaming device. If you’re looking for the best titles to take your new Steam Deck for a spin or simply want a change of pace from what you’ve been playing, we’ve created a list of some of the best must-play games that your Steam Deck deserves.
Read First: new to using your Steam handheld device? Read our complete guide to the Steam Deck.
1. Red Dead Redemption 2
Rockstar’s universally-acclaimed Western epic, Red Dead Redemption 2, stands above countless RPGs nearly five years after its initial release on consoles and PC. Playing Arthur Morgan as he traverses a fictionalized Old West in the late 1800s, you’ll likely get swept in deep by the stellar narrative and the meticulously-crafted open world gameplay. Still a graphical challenge for most gaming PCs, you’ll have to turn down some settings to run it smoothly on the Steam Deck. But rest assured that it won’t take away from the game’s gorgeous visuals. Red Dead Redemption is an easy pick for the Steam Deck, thanks to its meaty primary campaign and a truckload of side missions.
- Incredible feats of storytelling
- Awe-inspiring attention to detail
- Jaw-dropping visuals and top-notch voice acting
- Plenty of sidequests peppered with memorable side characters
- PC port may still have the occasional bug
- Some animations can drag the gameplay down
2. Superhot: Mind Control Delete
The third entry in the time-bending Matrix-meets-John-Wick franchise, Superhot: Mind Control Delete, retains all the fast-paced action of its predecessors and allows players more levels and more weapons with which to experience its mysterious cyber-reality. The “time-only-moves-when-you-move” mechanic still retains its novelty, and the game mixes things up by adding some roguelike elements to the gameplay.
If you’ve played Superhot or Superhot VR before, there is still much to like about Mind Control Delete. The gameplay is supported by the same meta-commentary you would be used to and some new superpowers you’re sure to like. Some gameplay changes may subtract from the amount of fun you’ll be having, but overall, this should be a great addition to your Steam Deck library.
- Signature Superhot gameplay is still super-fun
- Minimalist yet hauntingly beautiful graphics
- Sparse story handled well with meta-commentary
- Intelligently-crafted environments feel like real locations
- New perks give the player superhuman abilities, heightening gameplay
- Procedurally-generated levels can get boring toward the end
- Punishing permadeath-like mission structure
Good to know: you can also add non-Steam games to your Steam Deck if you would like.
3. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
The Yakuza franchise has always been a bulwark of excellent JRPGs, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon is no different. Although this title replaces the good ol’ “beat ’em up” mechanics with turn-based combat, you’ll get the freedom to play as a party of characters who each have their own progression paths. The combat feels satisfying, and the well-rounded storyline won’t disappoint.
- Turn-based combat system that feels fresh and satisfying
- Brilliant writing and memorable characters
- Gripping story filled with great locations
- Side missions don’t lack depth
- Performs well on the Steam Deck
- Can feel a bit dated in some aspects
- Story experience is sometimes hurt by the RPG structure
4. No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky overpromised and underdelivered (by a lot) in 2016, but the developers continued to release free updates for everyone who invested in their grand vision. The game has evolved not only into one of the greatest comeback stories of all time but simply a thoroughly enjoyable space exploration title, no matter the platform you’re on. After major design and gameplay overhauls, No Man’s Sky has delivered the limitless interstellar voyage fantasy it initially promised.
- Procedurally-generated world with impressive variety
- Stunning visuals and attention to detail
- Flexible play increases replay value
- Space combat can be satisfying
- Exploring, crafting, and establishing bases can be enjoyable if you’re into it
- Crafting items and mining resources can become a grind
- Different planets can quickly start feeling all the same
- Barebones narrative may not be for everyone
Tip: don’t forget to track your Steam stats and keep up with play time.
5. Elden Ring
Elden Ring was widely received as one of the greatest RPG games in years. FromSoftware somehow improved their years-old formula, creating a gratifying open-world experience that ticked all the boxes. A tantalizing fantasy world to explore, a perfect combat system, and fierce creatures to fight – everything manages to shine, thanks to the top-notch world building. It’s a fortunate surprise that the game runs as well on the Steam Deck as on a high-end PC. If you’re a sucker for Souls-like mechanics and storytelling, you should pick up Elden Ring on the Steam Deck, as it’s easily one of the best titles for the platform.
- Combines the best of Souls-likes with a beautiful open world
- Highly satisfying combat system
- World-building adds gravitas to the narrative and encourages exploration
- Runs great on the Steam Deck, despite demanding visuals
- Enemy AI can feel half-baked at times
- Difficulty may be off-putting for some gamers
Tunic is one of those games that you’re likely to fall in love with. An isometric adventure game where you play as a fox on a brave journey to unravel the secrets of a strange land, Tunic has tons of charm, wit, and fun. This is not to say that it’s a walk in the park. It’ll take you some time to learn the tools you need to speak the game’s language, but once you manage, you’ll be delighted to uncover a deep, rewarding experience. A perfect fit for the Steam Deck, Tunic looks gorgeous, feels warm, and plays beautifully.
- Visually striking world filled with limitless exploration
- Challenging but rewarding gameplay
- Plenty of sidequests to keep you engaged
- A great experience for handhelds
- Steam Deck-verified
- Souls-like difficulty may not be for everyone
- Often requires a restart if you get stuck behind obstacles
Tip: if you like retro games, you may want to invest in one of these retro-gaming handheld devices.
Another title just right for the Steam Deck, Rollerdrome is an action-packed, Tony-Hawk-meets-Max-Payne game you didn’t know you needed. If you’ve ever wanted to look incredibly cool while shooting enemies and wearing roller skates, you’ll love this third-person shooter that drops you into multiple arenas to perform cool tricks and deliver bullets to enemies. Also, there’s a conspiracy-laden story for you to uncover. What more do you need?
- High-octane combat combined with over-the-top stunts
- Time-bending shenanigans and other fun mechanics
- Visually striking art design
- Slick soundtrack
- Well-executed control scheme lets you focus on the core gameplay
- Thin narrative
- A few situations can be tough to clear
8. Devil May Cry 5
If you’re a fan of the Devil May Cry series or hack-and-slash games, Devil May Cry 5 should be at the top of your must-play games on the Steam Deck. Capcom has delivered with nearly every DMC entry to date, but Devil May Cry 5 might just be the best of them. With a combat system that feels fully evolved, a story that’s easily one of the best in the series, and three lovable characters in Dante, Nero, and V, Devil May Cry 5 does mostly everything right. Beautiful visuals and a killer soundtrack support the tension-filled gameplay. The game offers plenty of flexibility in how you approach its combat, and the level design is top notch. This, combined with highly replayable missions, makes Devil May Cry 5 an easy Steam Deck recommendation.
- Combat feels like a mixture of fine wine and nouveau
- One of the best narratives in the series
- All three characters are entertaining to play
- Great design and soundtrack
- Beautiful visuals
- Story pacing feels off
- Occasional unpredictability while performing some moves
Good to know: serious gamers will want to invest in these top modern gaming consoles.
9. Rogue Legacy 2
Roguelike side-scrollers and handhelds work great together, especially when the game in question is a slam dunk. Rogue Legacy 2 was a huge success, which is even more impressive considering the near-universal love the previous entry received. Rogue Legacy 2 is a “rogue-lite” that blends randomized levels with successive runs. You play as your heirs and use all the resources you scrounged up during your previous runs. The gameplay loop of surviving persistently in a shapeshifting castle and leaving behind riches for the next generations is still hugely rewarding.
- Doesn’t change what made the first game great
- Chaotic and fast-paced combat
- Gorgeous visuals and animations
- Level design and enemy encounters are well-crafted
- Equally impressive soundtrack
- Difficulty may not be welcomed by everyone
- Level navigation can become tedious sometimes
SOMA might be old, having been released in 2015, but the feelings of fear and existential dread it can evoke in players are evergreen. SOMA is one of those horror games that eschew cheap tricks in favor of a genuinely haunting narrative and world design to unsettle the player from within. Created by the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent, SOMA perfectly recreates the eerie sense of isolation and terror that’s the hallmark of horror games and stories.
- Genuinely scary gameplay
- Well-written, thought-provoking story
- Innovative pairing of familiar themes with videogame mechanics
- Flexible difficulty for players to sit back and experience the story
- Stays with you long after the ending
- Some of its ideas fall short
- Some puzzles and enemy encounters can be frustrating
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Steam Deck play non-Steam games?
Yes. You’ll need to boot into the desktop mode on your Steam Deck, then open the “Discover” app. Once you’re in, select “Applications” from the left-side menu, then filter by “Games.” You can choose the game you want to install, then make things easier by adding your non-Steam games to your Steam library so that you don’t need to boot into desktop mode to play a non-Steam game. Your non-Steam games will appear in your Steam library in the regular SteamOS environment.
Can I play non-verified games on Steam Deck?
Valve continuously updates support for many PC games, tagging them as officially “verified” for the Steam Deck. But even if your favorite game isn’t officially verified, you can still try it and see if it’s playable. Many are playable on the Steam Deck.
Are there any alternatives to Steam Deck?
Yes, there are many alternative handheld gaming devices similar to the Steam Deck, with the most popular being the Nintendo Switch. Besides first-party Nintendo titles like Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, you can also play many third-party titles like The Witcher 3, Skyrim, and Dark Souls. If you’re interested in more options, check out our roundup on Steam Deck alternatives.
Image credit: Unsplash
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