If you’re looking for the best Steam Deck games to play on Valve’s handheld console, we can help.
While the Steam Deck is still relatively new, it already has an absolutely huge library, thanks to the fact that it can play thousands of games from Valve’s Steam store. This includes many of the best PC games ever made, and ranges from stylish indie games to big-budget AAA titles as well.
The sheer breadth of titles available for the Steam Deck can be a bit daunting, then. Also, not every Steam game runs on the Steam Deck, and while Valve has a certification system in place to help you identify which games run well on the Steam Deck, but it can sometimes be inaccurate. We’ve found games listed as ‘Playable’ which in fact weren’t, and there are some titles that have yet to be categorised that run fine on the Deck.
The Steam Deck is a fantastically versatile bit of kit, and that means it is possible to play games from other stores, such as Epic Games Store, as well as run emulators for retro consoles, and you can even install Windows 10 for even more choice of games.
However, in this guide we’re going to focus on the best Steam Deck games you can buy and play from the Steam store, as it’s the easiest way to start playing some amazing games.
The best Steam Deck games of 2022
Hotline Miami is like a neon-hued fever dream, a top-down ultra-violent game with an equally out-there story and a brilliant soundtrack. It’s also perfect for the Steam Deck thanks to its addictive gameplay loop.
You play a nameless assassin tasked by a mysterious voice to take down Russian mobsters in an alternate 1980’s Miami. You’ll die, a lot, but with an instant restart, you’ll keep coming back for more as you learn the levels. It’s been out for a while now, but it’s super cheap on Steam, and it’s one of the games we keep returning to when playing the Steam Deck. Its sequel, which is just as addictive, is also worth installing.
Tunic is an adorable isometric adventure game. You play as a young fox going on a big adventure, exploring dungeons and fighting monsters on the way. This is a game that has charm by the bucketful, and the obvious Legend of Zelda influence means this is an ideal game for handheld play.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the Steam Deck is that while Xbox and some PlayStation games come to PC (and Steam), there’s no way to officially play Nintendo games. With Tunic, this is one of the closest ways to doing that.
Buy Tunic on Steam
Sonic Mania is a love letter to classic Sonic games of the 16-bit era, and it’s one of our favorite games to play on the Steam Deck. If you think Valve’s handheld looks like a beefed-up Sega Game Gear, then Sonic Mania makes that comparison even more apt.
Taking graphics and audio inspired by Sonic’s iconic games on the Sega Genesis (or Mega Drive for those of us who lived in countries with the cooler name) and mixing it with some modern twists, this is one of the best games Sega has released in years, and proves Sonic is best played in 2D.
Weird West is one of the most recent games on this list, and it’s one of the most unique as well. This immersive isometric sim oozes atmosphere, and combines classic Western tropes with Lovecraftian horror. It looks brilliant on the Steam Deck’s 7-inch screen, and controls brilliantly as well.
If you’re looking for a game that will shock, surprise and entertain you while you commute, Weird West is a fantastic choice.
When God of War first launched on the PS4 it blew us all away by reimagining Kratos. Instead of an over-the-top action hero ripped straight out of Greek myth, he was now a brooding father, somehow transported to Norse mythology. It was a masterstoke, and the deeper, more mature story and incredible graphics meant this was one of Sony’s finest PlayStation games.
Now available on Steam, God of War is also a fantastic showcase for the Steam Deck. It shows just how capable Valve’s handheld is, as it’s able to handle this graphically-ambitious game. Due to its cinematic story, it’s still best played on a big screen, but it’s a great game to show off the Steam Deck.
Cuphead is a 2D run and gun boss rush game (with a touch of platforming) that takes inspiration from classic cartoons from the 1930s, with a pitch-perfect jazz soundtrack. Due to its frantic, yet easy to pick up, gameplay, which balances punishing difficulty with a genuine feeling of accomplishment when you finally down a boss that’s been giving you grief, this is another Steam Deck game that’s perfect for the handheld.
It’s ideal for quick blasts, and you’ll keep wanting to have one more go in your quest to clear your debt with the devil.
Buy Cuphead on Steam
Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the ideal choice for anyone who thinks a handheld console needs a 3D platformer. Packing remastered versions of Naughty Dog’s classic games for the original PlayStation, this is a brilliant addition for your Steam Deck’s library.
As these games started live as console titles, they are ideally suited for gamepad controls, so they work brilliantly with the Steam Deck. For anyone who grew up with these games originally, it’s a wonderful slice of nostalgia, but newer gamers may get frustrated with some old-school difficulty spikes.
Elden Ring is probably the best game on this list, but the reason it’s not at the top as this is a title that’s best played on a bigger screen. You also need to cap the frame rate at 30fps for the best experience, half the frame rate it usually runs at.
However, playing Elden Ring on the Steam Deck can be a great experience. Like God of War, it’s a thrill to have such a gorgeously designed game running on a handheld console, and it certainly puts most Nintendo Switch games to shame. Also, while you may not want to play the entire game on Steam Deck, we found it’s great to pick up and play when you want to farm runes (the in-game currency). If you’re like us and are currently addicted, having it on the Steam Deck lets you get your hit when you’re away from your PC. Thanks to Steam’s Cloud Saves, it means any progress you make on the Steam Deck will be reflected when you play it on your gaming PC as well.