Valve’s Steam Deck has proven extremely popular among PC gamers eager to take their Steam libraries with them on the go. The promise of playing all those games in your backlog while you’re on the bus or waiting your turn at the DMV is enticing for anyone with a long list of Steam games they’re looking to tackle. If you’re a new Steam Deck owner looking for some games to put your Deck through its paces, you’ve come to the right place.
Today, we’re looking at the best games for Valve’s hybrid gaming system. If you’re one of the lucky few that managed to get your hands on a Deck already, these games will help you make the most of your stylish new system.
This list runs the gamut from fighting games to single-player RPG adventures and even a few hidden gems you might have not considered before. Let’s run through some of the best games you can play on Valve’s Steam Deck right now!
One of the Nintendo Switch’s best apps is Super Smash Bros, a massively popular crossover fighting game that features video game characters from all over the industry. Everyone from Cloud Strife to Solid Snake can join the fray in Smash Bros, making it a riotous multiplayer game for fans of any genre.
Notably, Smash Bros is a first-party Nintendo title, so it’ll never come to Steam. However, Warner Bros.’ take on the character-driven platform fighting genre, Multiversus, is on Steam. That means it’s playable on the Steam Deck, and it’s a blast.
The madcap action game is one of the most unhinged fighting titles you’ll ever play. Have you ever wanted to school your opponents as Bugs Bunny? Maybe you’re more into having Batman throw down with Stephen Universe? It’s all possible in Multiversus. It’s also free, so you can try it out on your Steam Deck today without spending a dime!
This entry is another answer to a Nintendo Switch staple. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is one of the best open-world action RPGs ever made, and it’s part of the reason the Switch has been so successful. Its placement as a launch title for the system sold the Switch as a full-blown home console that can also travel in your backpack. That’s what Elden Ring is for the Steam Deck.
Elden Ring is essentially Breath of the Wild by way of Dark Souls. It’s a huge, haunting game with an inscrutable backstory and white-knuckle gameplay. If you’re a fan of games with steep learning curves and gorgeous landscapes, you’ll love Elden Ring.
Taking your quest to become Elden Lord on the go with you is also mindblowing. Seeing the Steam Deck render massive, fantastical landscapes as you battle larger-than-life monsters is the cleanest visual depiction of why the hybrid system exists. It’s capable of graphical feats that just aren’t possible for the aging Nintendo Switch hardware.
Some games lend themselves to speed-running more easily than others. Neon White was literally built with speed-running in mind. It’s a stylish action that tests your reflexes around every corner. The player is tasked with defeating demons and clearing levels in record-breaking time. Each new challenge asks you to become a better player, and repeat playthroughs are encouraged by faster times and better in-game rewards.
The game features slick, bold graphics that take advantage of the Steam Deck’s impressive screen. The highly-stylized look is excellent for handheld gameplay, and even the fast-paced action stays easy to read on the smaller display.
The game also features some stellar music. Its short levels and punchy gameplay make it perfect for a handheld system, so it’s a great choice for the Steam Deck. You can easily jam a quick level or two between meetings at work or while you’re waiting for your order at a fast food restaurant!
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Sometimes you don’t want a small, quaint game on your handheld system. Sometimes you just want to play a massive, AAA game with incredible graphics and a great storyline. Thankfully, when you get the itch to play something huge on your Steam Deck, you can download Final Fantasy VII Remake and relive one of the best RPGs ever made.
Surprisingly enough, FFVIIR runs extremely well on the Steam Deck. It’s been optimized to run at a smooth framerate and with an impressive resolution, and the action doesn’t really slow to crawl during big fights the way you might expect.
Cloud’s adventure to defeat the Shinra Group and save his world from destruction might not scream “perfect handheld game,” but the fact that it runs on the Steam Deck at all is a minor miracle. If you want to wow your friends with how beefy the Steam Deck’s processor is, just break out some Final Fantasy.
Grand Theft Auto V
Grand Theft Auto V is just one of those games that sort of exists in the background and is always installed on a few of your devices. It’s kind of like Minecraft or Tetris in that regard, just appearing on every system known to humankind and soaking up hours of your free time without you noticing it.
And, yes, as you might expect, it’s a perfect fit on a handheld console. It’s easy to pick up GTA V for a few minutes to drive around Los Santos and get into some trouble. You don’t need a long play session to get some fun out of any GTA game, after all.
And, when you are in the mood for something a bit meatier, you can dig into one of the game’s numerous narrative missions and progress through the storyline. It’s easy to see why GTA V is one of the best-selling games of all time.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise is one of the best entries in the long-running series yet. It introduces a handful of new traversal mechanics that completely change the way you interact with the game world and the titular monsters that you hunt. The Wirebug allows you to grapple up to new heights, while the Palamute acts as a mount that you can ride atop to cover vast distances in a short amount of time.
That’s not to mention the new monsters. Rise introduces some of the most inventive and outlandish monsters in the series, including some that will challenge your expectations–and your hunting skills. If you’re not ready to duke it out with a winged dinosaur in a snow-covered mountain range, don’t pick up this game.
Rise is also a technical marvel. Since the game was also optimized for the Nintendo Switch, it runs like a dream on the Steam Deck. It’s one of the prettiest titles on the handheld system, and a great fit for any Steam Deck owners looking for a lengthy RPG to sink a few hundred hours into.
Speaking of spending hundreds of hours on a single game, let’s talk about Stardew Valley. This cute little farming simulator takes a lot of inspiration from the beloved Harvest Moon franchise, as well as a dash of Animal Crossing and Minecraft. While it was a modest hit on Steam when it was released in 2016, it reached new heights of popularity when it was released on the Nintendo Switch in October of 2017.
That’s because Stardew Valley is the perfect game for a handheld console. It sports adorable pixel-art graphics and addictive gameplay, not to mention it can be enjoyed in short bursts or long play sessions. If you’re a fan of meticulous planning and maximizing your resources, you’ll love this cute little game.
Notably, Stardew Valley is also a bit deeper than it looks on the surface. A robust social simulator hides just beneath the farming mechanics, and you can discover some interesting secrets about the farm you inherit at the beginning of the game.
If you read a lot of video game coverage, you’re probably familiar with Hades. This indie-released roguelike was one of the breakout games of 2020, and it features some of the most sumptuous illustrations we’ve ever seen in a video game. Jen Zee’s gorgeous art just drips with style–look no further than Dionysus’ overflowing wine goblet or the stars flowing from Nyx’s dress for example.
In Hades, players control a little-known mythological figure named Zagreus, the son of Hades and the prince of the underworld. He’s a bit of a rebel and wants to break out of his dad’s realm. Hades, who is a royal jerk, wants Zagreus to shut up and go to his room. Naturally, the moody teenager tells his dad to make him and storms the surface in the destructive way only a disgruntled teen can.
Since Zagreus is an immortal god, he can’t die. At least, not permanently. When you fall in battle, you resurface in the depths of the underworld, back in your home base: the House of Hades. This compelling gameplay loop gives some structure to the often-aimless nature of other roguelikes and makes Hades a compelling game for fans of action RPGs. If you’re a Steam Deck owner looking for a game to gobble up your free time, Hades is perfect for you.