We've been joking that if the Steam Deck were a console, it'd have the best console launch lineup in history. Over two decades, Steam has grown from a Counter-Strike updater to PC gaming's Library of Alexandria: the largest single collection of major and minor PC games in one client. And all of those games will be available for purchase and download on Valve's handheld PC.
They won't necessarily all run on a Steam Deck out of the box, though. Valve's Proton compatibility software makes Windows games work on SteamOS (the Linux-based operating system Steam Decks ship with), but it isn't a universal solution. Unless something changes before Steam Decks start shipping in December, Destiny, Apex, PUBG, and Siege won't work on it. There's also processing power to consider. Based on what we know about the Steam Deck's specs, we think something like Cyberpunk 2077 could make it sweat, though Valve says that the little machine has handled everything it's thrown at it.
Still, there are obviously going to be games that work better on Steam Deck's AMD chip and 1280x800 screen than others. The controls and battery life are also considerations, as is the fact that lots of good handheld games are already on Switch. With that and more in mind, here are the games we'd put on a new Steam Deck right now.
Monster Train | 2020
Our favorite deckbuilder after Slay the Spire, and it's still not on Switch or mobile. Monster Train's strategy is in how you combine its demon factions (try pairing the magical attacks of the fragile Stygian Guard with tanky, sentient plant Awoken for a good time). It's easy to clear once but layers on so many modifiers and unlockables it's easy to go for another 50 runs.
Wildermyth | 2021
An RPG that actually manages to pull off procedural storytelling, both for your characters and the quests you embark upon. It does a miraculously good job of emulating the experience of playing a tabletop game with a human DM, and the turn-based battles and dialogue sequences are quick enough to work well in 30 minute chunks.
Opus Magnum | 2017
One of the finest puzzle games on PC, Opus Magnum is about building ornate alchemical machines. The joy is in designing them to be as efficient or intricate as you want with only a few restrictions. Build a monstrous machine or spend an evening on the couch stripping a design down to its pure essentials. We all deserve more gifs like this.
Death's Door | 2021
A tightly paced action game that feels like a compact modern-day Zelda. It isn't as grandiose and sprawling as Hollow Knight, but as we wrote in our review, Death's Door is a microscopic epic: a big adventure you'll feel satisfied to finish in 10 hours. And it's really funny, too.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection | 2019
It's five full Halo games, their multiplayer modes, and mod support all in one package. Halo was built for gamepad controls, so any game in the series should feel great on the Deck. Popping in for a run of The Silent Cartographer wherever you are sounds lovely. The whole package is massive, but handily you can choose to install individual games.
Stardew Valley | 2016
You can get through an in-game day in a brief sitting, so our favorite farm/life sim is structured well for spare moments, and the colorful, crisp 2D patterns will be attractive when shrunk. It's on Switch already, but it's too good of a Steam Deck game not to include, especially with great Stardew Valley mods on PC (like the essential Horse Boys).
American Truck Simulator | 2016
Take the roads on the road. While some Truck Sim players enjoy it for the realism, others just enjoy a nice drive through vast, empty expanses. Think of American Truck Simulator on the Deck as a scenic alternative to meditation apps. Imagine yourself as a mountain, on a mountain, while driving over a mountain. Everything else feels pretty small in comparison, eh?
Valheim | 2021
There are two parts to Valheim. The sprawling adventure and combat in the massive world, and the cozy relaxation of puttering around your Viking base. Delving into swamp crypts and taking on Yagluth is probably best on desktop, but taking care of your turnip crops, fiddling with your base, and watching the sunset from your front porch feels like a nice experience for the Deck.
Sekiro | 2019
Rather than pace your apartment between gos at Genichiro, imagine whipping out the Deck throughout a leisurely Saturday, spacing out attempts to stab the man with oat milk lattes and rose garden walks. A true warrior's way.
XCOM 2 | 2016
It's on Switch, but XCOM 2 will be better on Steam Deck because you can install Steam Workshop mods. It should also run better, and being turn-based makes it a natural fit for a handheld. Hopefully scrolling around the maps plays well with the Deck's touchscreen and trackpad.
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim | 2011
Skyrim has proven that it's playable on just about anything, and there's no reason the Steam Deck should be any different. It's not demanding by today's standards, and while a small screen would dilute some of the grandeur of the adventure, chilling on a couch while sucking down dragon souls feels like a good fit. Use it as an excuse to play Enderal if you haven't yet.