Everyone is using their Steam Deck like a better Nintendo Switch

Valve Steam Deck in use while sat outdoors
(Image credit: Future)

Steam Deck users, despite owning a surprisingly powerful handheld PC, are primarily using it like an upgraded Nintendo Switch.

Valve released a list of the most played games (by hour count) on the handheld and it largely includes ones that are also available on Nintendo's console. Vampire Survivors, which doesn't currently have a Switch version, sits on top, but Cult of the Lamb, Stardew Valley, Hades, Skyrim, and Monster Hunter Rise are all games that work well on Nintendo's handheld. And I'm sure Switch owners wish they could have a version of Spider-Man and Elden Ring that didn't run like trash or via cloud streaming.

The Steam Deck is truly the answer for a Nintendo Switch form factor that can handle modern games. The only real caveat is that its beefier hardware impacts the battery life, so everyone combing through Elden Ring or other newer games have to keep it juiced up.

Unsurprisingly, none of the games in the list, except Skyrim, are first-person, and none of Steam's most popular competitive FPS games are on it either. Trying to do the finger gymnastics to compete in a CS:GO match against mouse and keyboard players seems futile. Non-FPS games make more sense: Multiverse has cross-play with consoles, so playing it on a Steam Deck isn't as punishing.

Games with anti-cheat software require a little extra work from the developers to add compatibility, so that's why Multiversus (Easy Anti-Cheat) has flourished, but Destiny 2 (BattlEye) hasn't—Bungie has no plans to add Steam Deck support and will punish you if you try to play it.

Not only is the Steam Deck a better Nintendo Switch, it can also literally be a Nintendo handheld too—via emulation. Earlier this week, Twitter user GameXData showed a 3DS game on the Steam Deck that also emulated its second screen. Nintendo's own console can't even do that.

Almost 10% of Steam's massive library of games are playable on the Steam Deck. This year's biggest games are not only playable, but being played, and if you combine that with its fantastic emulation capabilities, it really seems like the handheld to get.

Associate Editor

Tyler has covered games, games culture, and hardware for over a decade before joining PC Gamer as Associate Editor. He's done in-depth reporting on communities and games as well as criticism for sites like Polygon, Wired, and Waypoint. He's interested in the weird and the fascinating when it comes to games, spending time probing for stories and talking to the people involved. Tyler loves sinking into games like Final Fantasy 14, Overwatch, and Dark Souls to see what makes them tick and pluck out the parts worth talking about. His goal is to talk about games the way they are: broken, beautiful, and bizarre.