There's no good way to play Game Pass games on the Steam Deck, for now

Will we ever see Game Pass on Steam?

The Steam Deck is versatile. Valve designed SteamOS to make it as easy as possible to play games from your Steam library, but thanks to the Linux desktop it's also easy to turn the Deck into an emulation device or even install games from the Epic Games Store. I wish its versatility also covered installing games from Game Pass, Microsoft's subscription service.

But right now, the Steam Deck and Game Pass really don't mix. 

You can play Game Pass on the Steam Deck by installing Windows, but it's currently too limited

Valve released Windows drivers for the Steam Deck on March 10, meaning you can now wipe away SteamOS and turn the Deck into a Windows machine if you so choose. But I don't recommend it, for quite a few reasons:  

  • No dual-boot support yet
  • The drivers aren't fully featured yet, so audio only works via USB-C and Bluetooth. No speakers or 3.5mm audio
  • Windows is far less convenient to navigate with the Deck's controller inputs than SteamOS

As Dave wrote here, "booting into Windows on the Deck feels nothing less than completely deflating, like you're utterly missing the point of the device in your hands… Windows is not made for small screen life, and nor is it designed for a dedicated gaming device, either."  Yes, there are some Steam games you can play through Windows that don't work via Steam Proton yet, but until dual booting is available you're giving up too many SteamOS benefits to get too little in return. 

There's no workaround to install Game Pass games via SteamOS

It would be great if we could install Game Pass games the same way we can install Epic games on the Steam Deck, by essentially running the client from inside Steam using its compatibility software. That works fine for the basic Epic launcher, but Game Pass's Xbox app ties more deeply into Windows (it's essentially a game-focused skin for the Microsoft Store). 

Maybe we'll see Game Pass available through Steam someday—Valve's Gabe Newell told us they're open to the idea. But for Microsoft, that would require a significant rebuild of how Game Pass functions. Until we can dual boot Windows on the Steam Deck, there's really only going to be one option for getting Game Pass games on the Deck: streaming them. And even that's not ready to go yet. 

Streaming via XCloud won't work until Chrome gets an update

Microsoft's Xbox Cloud service, which is part of a Game Pass Ultimate subscription, lets you stream games from remote Xbox Series X hardware in the cloud to a PC or mobile device. Xbox Cloud works in Chrome, but there's currently still an unresolved issue with Chrome on the Steam Deck preventing the browser from 'seeing' the Deck's controls.

Once that issue is fixed, you'll be able to stream loads of Game Pass games to the Steam Deck, but for now streaming on the Deck is not an easy process. There are workarounds if you really want to dig into Linux and get your hands dirty, but for now it's best to wait.

Someday we'll play our Game Pass games on the Steam Deck, but today it's not worth the effort.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).