The Steam Deck’s best button is its software

The Steam Deck has a whole lot of buttons. There is a D-pad, all the regular face buttons, two control sticks that also reply to capacitive touch and can be pushed down like buttons, two trackpads with haptic comments that are also strain-delicate buttons, two shoulder bumpers, two analog shoulder triggers, and 4 buttons on the back again of the system behind the grips.

Somehow, they all come to feel like they are specifically in the suitable put although you’re keeping the unit, and in writing the hottest in our prolonged-working Button of the Month series, you may well imagine that I’d wax poetic about just a single of them. But for me, the legitimate magic of the Steam Deck is that any button can be the brilliant button, many thanks to the device’s great program.

The Steam Deck’s Steam button is your ticket to limitless manage customizability.
Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Choose my working experience with Cuphead’s new DLC, The Delectable Past Program, which is made up of a new gauntlet of brain-bogglingly difficult bosses. Like the base Cuphead game, Delicious Last Course requires speedy reflexes and fast button presses to stay alive, and the Steam Deck’s highly customizable controls assist the button pressing section of that equation.

For the duration of a fight, I generally preserve my correct thumb glued on the taking pictures button (on the Steam Deck, X) although employing another aspect of my thumb to press leap (A). But when every split second counts, I discovered I was hesitant to lift my thumb even a moment to push the sprint or special shot buttons. That infinitesimal split could necessarily mean the change among surviving a different barrage or dying and possessing to begin a combat all the way from the commencing. With just a few tweaks and 30 seconds in the Steam Deck’s menus, however, I transformed the controls so I could jump, dash, and hearth off specific photographs without having ever obtaining to carry my thumb.

I could have remapped the special attack just about any place on the Steam Deck, but I chose just one of the four uncommon buttons on the again of the console, which slide nearly just underneath my third and fourth fingers when I grip the system. As buttons, I basically really don’t imagine they are fun to use. They’re very shallow. But I also consider it is a superior point that the buttons require a deliberate press to click by means of. That can make them excellent for actions you really do not want to do on accident — like, say, Cuphead’s specific pictures, which can flip the tide of a battle but take some time to demand up to entire electrical power.

Two of the Steam Deck’s back buttons.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I also turned the R2 cause into a parry button and mapped the L2 bring about to the new dodge roll combo for Ms. Chalice, the new character released in the DLC. The roll typically necessitates pressing down and the Y button at the exact time, and I had a ton of difficulty nailing it in the course of the Delicious Past Course’s busy manager fights. Placing the combo on L2 made the roll a ton a lot easier to use.

Utilizing shoulder triggers for movement steps so that you can retain your thumbs on the handle sticks is a strategy I learned right after scouting better customized layouts for Returnal on PS5, and it built a major big difference in Cuphead, also. And I made the L4 back button into an instantaneous screenshot button so I could snap pictures of Delicious Past Course’s devious boss types. (Just one later boss is honestly nightmare gasoline.)

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Picture by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I haven’t just messed with buttons. In Vampire Survivors, I have the appropriate adhere mirror the still left so that I can swap amongst them. (I am building the sport believe that I have two remaining analog sticks.) The recreation generally involves you to consistently force the control adhere for upwards of 30 minutes to survive versus hordes of baddies, so staying capable to swap sticks can help my remaining hand from getting fatigued.

And you don’t have to arrive up with these tips oneself: if you want to appear by other peoples’ thoughts for command strategies, you can browse them proper from a game’s menu in SteamOS, indicating you really do not have to go digging by Reddit like I did for Returnal.

There is a wealth of solutions for just a single button.

The Steam Deck’s amazing customizability and uncomplicated accessibility to different controls opens up a additional philosophical dilemma: who should decide what a button does? In most video games, that is largely out of your arms (pun intended). But with the Steam Deck, you can do all types of wild points that drive how we may traditionally consider a specified button need to be utilized.

In 50 percent-Everyday living 2, for illustration, there’s a wild layout that allows you contact the top of the proper control adhere to transform on gyro aiming, tilting the technique to move your reticle with considerably far more precision than a joystick alone. That is one thing you can change on for any match with a number of taps on the Deck. You could even theoretically make minimal-lift multiplayer sofa online games perform on a single Deck by location 50 % the Deck to replicate a mouse and keyboard and the other 50 % to use gamepad controls.

It helps that it can take just a several button presses to get to the menu that lets you transform any button you want. You can use that menu to pick out what any button does for any game in your Steam library, and it’ll routinely try to remember what you set for each and every match. And given that each Steam Deck arrives with the same established of buttons, you won’t need to buy points like an supplemental controller or a independent accent to mess all-around with less popular input choices like again buttons. The Steam Deck truly allows you make your mind up how you want to participate in a recreation, and that overall flexibility is immediately building it one particular of my preferred gizmos at any time.

As much more persons get their hands on the Steam Deck, I simply cannot wait to see how other folks believe of new and creative methods to customize controls for my favored games. For now, I’ll continue to keep utilizing my individual controls for specials in Cuphead — and I’ll test to seize a screenshot soon after I at last defeat the dreadful dragon boss.