Steam's search function just got a whole lot better

(Image credit: Valve)

With so many games on Steam, and no system of quality control in place to filter out the garbage, finding new things to play can be challenging. To help smooth those rough seas, Valve has developed a number of tools, like the Interactive Recommender and Play Next, through "experiments" in its new-ish Steam Labs program. One of those experiments, from September 2019, sought to expand Steam's basic search functionality with more filters and features.

That experiment is now fully live, which means that the Steam search function now enables users to filter their results by price and/or special offers, include and exclude tags (so you can specify survival games, but no zombies, for instance), and exclude games that you already own or have wishlisted or ignored. If you're searching in a non-English language, a language filter control will appear near the top of the search page, and if you're tired of seeing VR-exclusive results when you don't have a VR headset, you can now opt to exclude VR-only games. 

Search results will also be displayed with infinite scroll now, meaning that as long as you keep scrolling, results will keep loading automatically—but if you hate infinite scroll (as I do), you can switch back to the old "click to load more" system in your store preferences.

The ability to nail down exactly what you're looking for in a videogame certainly isn't a bad thing: If you want a free, singleplayer indie adventure with Steam achievements and cloud saves, in French, for instance, you can now pull one out of the pack with very little time or effort. But I wonder if the real problem here isn't the search functionality, but the overwhelming volume of games to search through—or, more to the point, if this would all be necessary if I didn't have to wade through crap like Hentai Nazi Hitler is Back while I'm browsing for something new to play.

Valve said that the rollout of the new enhancements "isn't the end of our Search improvements," and invited feedback from users on all its ongoing experiments through the Steam Labs page.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.