Finding the best games for the Steam Deck (opens in new tab) is going to be important if you want to make the most of your Linux-based, handheld Gaming PC. The list of Steam Deck verified games is growing by the day, and with 3,000 games now listed as at least ‘playable’ (opens in new tab) it can be a slog deciding which ones are the best games on Steam Deck for you. Admit it, you’ve been searching for games with Steam Deck compatibility in anticipation of that fateful day, when that box arrives on your doorstep—hopefully, not having been pilfered by some Fedex chump (opens in new tab). That’s some great forward thinking on your part, but remember: just because a game is verified doesn’t mean it’s great to play on the Steam Deck.
Of course you want games that run smoothly, but while plenty of renowned triple-A games do so on Deck, the games that offer the highest frame rates are going to be the less graphically intensive ones. And even though the Deck can handle graphics heavy games, that doesn’t mean those games lend themselves to the Steam Deck‘s gamepad controls (opens in new tab). While you could always connect up some peripherals with the Steam Deck Dock (opens in new tab) when it comes out, we’re going to assume you don’t want to compromise on the point of the Deck itself: extreme portability.
In the same vein, we assume you’ll want to get some Gaming done without plugging into a monitor or TV. So you’ll need games that don’t feel restricted on the Deck’s 7-inch screen, either. And considering the install sizes (opens in new tab) of today’s games, you’ll want a wealth of games that’ll all fit onto a device with minimal storage capacity. Unless you opted for the 512GB model, your Gaming loadout is going to be somewhat limited. Even then, you might want to think about getting an SD card—especially if you’re as indecisive as I am.
The main takeaway is this: there’s much more to handheld Gaming than performance. The best games on Steam Deck need to be legible at 800p, work with a gamepad or touch screen—the less control mapping the better, frankly— and save some of that tight storage space for other games. And yes, the best games for the Steam Deck should run smoothly, even if that means using Valve’s proprietary Proton compatibility software. Here are the games that we think fit into those categories and why. They’ve been sorted by genre, or tag for convenience, and personally tested on the Steam Deck by yours truly.
Role Playing games
Release date: 2019 | Developer: ZA/UM
Almost entirely voice-acted, this game requires you only to read your responses and some menu stuff, though the text may be a little small for some. Still, the game runs perfectly well without Proton’s intervention, and works great with a controller. In fact there’s an excuse to play around with the touch screen here as well if you fancy. It’s not the smallest game, but it’s so broad its definitely worth a look.
Release date: 2021 | Developer: Shedworks
A super controller-friendly game that runs smoothly on the Steam Deck owing to its simple, cell shaded graphics. Not only will a long session not eat too much into your battery, it’ll also leave a heck of a lot of space for other games, with how small the files are. Not like there are many textures here to eat into your storage space.
Release date: 2022 | Developer: FromSoftware Inc.
We spent a good while testing whether Elden ring works on the Steam Deck, and can confirm that devs have deployed a version of Proton that cuts out most of the frame drop issues players were experiencing in the beginning. This is also one game many prefer playing with a controller thanks to its half-assed mouse and keyboard controls. It’s a little larger than we’d recommend for the Deck but if it’s the only game you’re going to be playing for a while that’s not so much of an issue. The text can be a little small, and if you want to scale it up you’ll have to get a mod and play in offline mode.
Release date: 2018 | Developer: Level-5
It’s not the smallest game, considering the scope of the world and wealth of minigames. You may need to use a community controller layout, but otherwise no tweaks are necessary. It’s also super controller-friendly, and even shows the correct buttons.
Release date: 2011 | Developer: Bethesda
Skyrim’s always been great with a controller, unlike its predecessor Oblivion, and since it’s getting on in years it’s not the most graphically intensive game in the world. Unless you’re continually spouting dual spells, you probably won’t need to play around with the graphics settings. It’s also tiny for an open world game by today’s standards.
Maybe it’s time to revisit Ralof of Riverwood and round up the rebellion.
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Larian Studios
It’s a little larger than some of the games on this list, but Divinity: Original Sin 2 is fully verified for the Deck. The system requirements are minimal, so it runs pretty smoothly, though since it’s a turn based game it’s probably worth switching the frame cap down to 30fps to save on battery. Still, I got a good few hours out of it with everything on default settings. It’s great with a controller and fully voice-acted so you only really have to read tooltips and your own responses. There is a way to scale the UI, but finding it in the Linux OS is a bit of a pain.
Release date: 2016 | Developer: Hello Games
Say what you will about this game, the fact it runs without Proton and has an official controller layout that works just fine gives it a great advantage. Switching down the settings might be necessary when you start flinging particle effects everywhere but otherwise it runs really well. It also gives you an excuse to use the gyro for space flight, too.
Release date: 2021 | Developer: Iron Gate AB
Not only is this a tiny game, considering it’s open world, it’s also pretty great with a controller, particularly as there are so many options for assigning your hotbar items. I did need to activate Proton to get it to work properly, but once that’s done it runs just fine. We suggest following these steps to make Valheim look spectacular (opens in new tab), though. As long as you’re somewhere with a stable internet connection, I wholly recommend joining your friends for some Viking shenanigans.
Release date: 2013 | Developer: 505 Games
Brothers is perfect for cuddling up on the sofa with someone for a cooperative Gaming session. Using one hand each, this game requires some intense coordination, but as long as you both hold the controller similarly, unlike my friend and I, that shouldn’t be an issue. If they’re a pain in the butt, you can always play it alone and work both sides of your brain. Brothers isn’t too graphically intensive either, and runs just fine without the need for Proton. Oh, and it won’t take up a bunch of space on your Steam Deck‘s storage.
Release date: 2015 | Developer: Psyonix
Why this game’s file size is so large, I don’t know. What I do know is that as long as you have a stable network connection it runs just fine on the Steam Deck. Even the masses of particle effects don’t tend to cause stuttering. It’s also not a hugely menu heavy game; what menus there are don’t contain reams of text either, so no worries about font sizes.
Release date: 2020 | Developer: Coatsink
Another controller sharing game that works great on the Steam Deck, here. No settings needed changing for a super smooth experience, and with a distinct lack of menus there’s no issue with reading on a small screen. It’s not exactly the biggest game ever, but considering it’s basically just cell shaded noodle bois, I can’t figure out what uses up 6GB. Phogs is definitely worth it if this is your kind of game, though.
Release date: 2014 | Developer: Jackbox Games
The extreme portability of the Steam Deck makes it a fantastic party game device. Just like you’d pack up your Nintendo Switch and take it to your friends’ for a few rounds of Smash Bros, there are plenty of couch co-op games that work great with the Deck. Even without the dock, you can play Jackbox because you use your phone to interact, as opposed to a controller. Just remember to set it to not sleep after a while of inactivity, because that caught us out mid-Fibbage sesh. The file sizes for these are miniscule too, so that’s always good.
Heave Ho – 1GB
Release date: 2019 | Developer: Le Cartel Studio
Perfect with a controller, this is a great one for the Deck. It works straight off the bat with no settings or control tweaks, though it’s worth turning down the frame cap just to save battery—30fps should do just fine. The text (what little there is) is good and large too, so no need to put on your reading glasses. If you want to connect other controllers so your friends can join in, you’ll want to get a dock, or wait for the official Steam Deck dock (opens in new tab) to finally release. Though any should do.
Platformers and puzzle games
Release date: 2011 | Developer: Valve
It goes without saying that games made by Valve should run well on a Gaming handheld by the same company. Being fully voice-acted and with no inventory to manage, is a perfect game for the Deck. Both work great with a controller, and are relatively slow paced so you’ll feel comfortable pausing it whenever, rather than making the doctor wait while you finish this level. You may need to tweak the controls or use a community layout but otherwise it runs smooth as anything.
Release date: 2019 | Developer: William Chyr Studio
With no intense graphics and a tiny game size, this peaceful puzzle platformer is great on the Deck. It worked without Proton, and the controls lend themselves really well to the gamepad. There’s also no menu system to worry about, same as many puzzle platformers, so no issues with reading small text. Just pure Euclidian bliss.
Release date: 2021 | Developer: Toukana Interactive
This is a super minimal game that requires little to no reading, so there’s no issue with screen size. It also runs super smooth on the Steam Deck as it’s not graphically intensive. There are only a couple of controls to assign, but keep in mind you might want to change the sensitivity curve on the thumbstick you use as a mouse. And the fact the Deck is handheld means you can go find a nice quiet spot to chill out and build some peaceful, hex-based landscapes.
Release date: 2012 | Developer: Phil Fish
I’ve always felt like Fez would be better on handheld, and I was right. A tiny game like this really doesn’t warrant turning on a full Gaming rig with an RTX 3080 Ti (opens in new tab) inside, there’s just no point. And yet it’s rich and engaging enough to want to play everywhere you go while also being relatively slow paced, so you can put it down at any moment and pick it back up when you get time.
Release date: 2019 | Developer: William Chyr Studio
Cuphead may be a little intense to play in public, but there’s no reason not to have this one downloaded considering how small the file size is. It works great with a controller, more so than with a keyboard, in fact, and it’s not graphically intensive enough to need any tweaks. Just make sure you don’t give it to someone with a tendency to throw controllers in frustration.
Life, colony and management sims
Release date: 2022| Developer: Soda Den
Slow paced and perfect with a controller, farming sims are some of the best games for the Steam Deck. This I’ve picked over Stardew because it’s everything I wanted and more (opens in new tab)—please don’t hate me—but Stardew works just as well. Games like this take up very little space, won’t drain your battery, and are great for short, casual drop in Gaming sessions.
Release date: 2018 | Developer: 11 Bit Studios
This is one of the games I really didn’t expect to be great on the Steam Deck. It’s a little awkward using a controller, but once you’ve assigned everything and adjusted the sensitivity curve on the thumbstick, it really isn’t too bad. It doesn’t need graphical tweaks to run well, and it’s not a humongous game, either.
Release date: 2013| Developer: Ludeon Studios
Keep in mind the size above doesn’t account for your 3 million mods. Without those though, this is an appropriately small game for the Deck. It’s a little awkward getting your controls in order, but there are some good controller layouts and plenty of buttons to get you started. It might be worth finding a mod that lets you scale the UI, as it doesn’t actually allow you to in the standard game, in my experience. Still, if you don’t mind the small text, the game runs perfectly well.
Release date: 2014 | Developer: Maxis
Yes, the Steam Deck does play The Sims, and actually the controls aren’t too bad once you’ve got them to your liking. There are enough buttons and triggers to assign to all the useful shortcuts like page up/down and home/end. You could even create action sets for Build and Buy mode versus live mode if you wanted to. The fact that you can get your masses of mods working on the Steam Deck too makes it all the more tempting to get into a Simming sesh. Oh, and being able to scale the UI is a big plus. Just maybe keep an eye on the size of your mods folder because I know the temptation to fill it up.
Release date: 2018 | Developer: Two Point Studios
This is one I really didn’t expect to be any good, but once you get the controls right it’s pretty great. I recommend making sure you have play/pause mapped to something accessible and changing whichever stick you use for the mouse to a more relaxed sensitivity curve. Other than the minor controller faff, the menus for Two Point Hospital can be a little small but the file size makes it a great one to have, and not mega graphically intensive.
Walking sims and interactive movies
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Giant Sparrow
This is one of the first games I downloaded for the Steam Deck; since walking sims are quite slow paced, you can jump in and out as you like and they often don’t take up heaps of space. I didn’t have to mess around with the controls for this one and didn’t need to turn on Proton.
Release date: 2016| Developer: Campo Santo
Another one that lends itself really well to use with a controller, and even shows up the right buttons for the Steam Deck (X,Y,A,B). The menu text is a good size and the graphics aren’t hugely intensive either. Not to mention its minimal file size.
Release date: 2013 | Developer: Telltale Games
Being fully voice-acted and not menu heavy at all, this is one of the very best options for the Deck. It’s a tiny game, but it’s super engaging and the quick time events (for me at least) are much easier with a controller. Wolf Among Us doesn’t need Proton, either. You might want to use a headset with it if you’re playing in public though, as it’s a bit risqué in places.
Release date: 2021 | Developer: Sports Interactive
Not my kind of game personally, but my boss says it works great on the Deck with no controller or other compatibility issues. It’s not a super graphically intensive game, and it fits into the ‘not ridiculous’ category as far as the file size goes. Why not give it a shot (pun intended)?
Release date: 2012 | Developer: SCS Software
Messing around with the Steam Deck‘s gyro in Euro Truck Sim is one day I’ll never forget. Finally I felt like the truck driver I’d always dreamed of becoming. Jokes aside, it runs really well on Deck and doesn’t need any special treatment graphics-wise. It’s also not a huge game, provided you don’t overload your haul with DLCs.
Release date: 2021 | Developer: Original Fire Games
Small, not graphically intensive, and great with a controller, Circuit Superstars is a superb match for the Deck. You get all the fun of a circuit racing game without pushing your Steam Deck to its limits and needing to switch down the settings. There’s no need to use Proton here, and it even shows up the correct controls.
Deckbuilders and strategy games
Release date: 2017 | Developer: Mega Crit Games
Deck builders are right at home on the Deck, which happens to be a fortuitous coincidence, name-wise. The game works straight off the bat, no changes or Proton needed, and the game’s super small. It’s just something cute and casual to play in between some of the larger games on the list.
Release date: 2022 | Developer: Sokpop Collective
This is one game that’ll give you an excuse to play around with the touch screen, and that aspect works without a hitch unlike some of the games I’ve tested. It may be a little intense on a small screen, particularly once your spread expands into the whole play area, but it’s a great little game to take around with you to pass some time. It also doesn’t take up any space at all.
Release date: 2018 | Developer: Subset Games
This one’s very controller friendly, especially as the cursor snaps to the centre of each square it lands on. What little text there is can be read on a small screen, and there was no need for any special tweaking or Proton for it to work. It’s also another tiny yet engaging game to keep you amused in between all the larger games you’ve installed.