Finding the best games to play on Steam Deck is a challenge in itself as many titles have yet to be officially verified and those that have can still have some quirks.
Challenges range from having to remap controls to get them working properly on the Steam Deck controller to fiddling with a game’s graphics settings to get it running smoothly.
Thankfully, there are enough Steam Deck compatible games to jump in and see what Valve’s machine can do, so follow along as we highlight the best Steam Deck games of 2023.
For the purposes of this list, we’ll be focusing on games that play best with a controller and run well on low-spec PCs along with a few stress test game recommendations as well.
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Some may be surprised to learn that Elden Ring runs pretty well on the Steam Deck thanks to work on the developers’ part to improve frame rate issues by deploying a modified version of Proton.
The game also has the added benefit of being better suited for controllers seeing as mouse and keyboard support for the PC port is pretty abysmal.
The only downsides to playing Elden Ring on a Steam Deck are its 50GB storage requirement and the fact that some of the in-game text can be too small to read without the assistance of mods.
A roguelike deckbuilder seems like a natural fit for the Steam Deck considering you can take it on the go and play for as long or as little as you would like.
There are several options for this on the market, some of which are highlighted further in this list but for now, we’d like to shine a spotlight on the atmospheric and mysterious beast that is Inscryption.
In it, you take on the role of a prisoner forced to play a sadistic card game using animals as vessels for violence while also solving escape-room-style puzzles.
If you’re less interested in using your Steam Deck to play the most graphically stunning titles and want something better suited for handheld, then Vampire Survivors is a solid choice.
Billed as a 2D action roguelike survival game, it sees you moving around a small map trying to exterminate an increasingly massive horde of monsters while staying alive.
Each run brings with it new opportunities to unlock better characters and equipment that will up your chances of surviving this hellish ordeal.
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
The turn-based nature of many JRPGs make them great for the Steam Deck’s handheld design, so why not start with one of the best to come out in recent years?
Like A Dragon swaps out the beloved beat ‘em ups’ over-the-top combat in favor of more strategic battles without sacrificing any of the detail or humor the Yakuza series is known for.
It offers an engaging story that’s sure to tug on a few heartstrings as well as high-fidelity graphics that look fantastic on the Steam Deck’s screen.
Rogue Legacy 2
Seeing as the Steam Deck is currently the only handheld platform that can natively run Rogue Legacy 2, it’s as good a reason as any to give the roguelite Metroidvania a try.
Building off of the original, it has you traversing vibrant hand-drawn dungeons hoarding cash from slain enemies to spend on upgrades for your character.
Where the game sets itself apart is its genealogical progression system, which passes down character traits from one hero to the next.
The Legend of Zelda has always felt more at home on Nintendo portables so it only makes sense for a game inspired by it to feel just as cozy on a handheld like the Steam Deck.
In Tunic, you take on the role of a little sword-wielding fox on a big adventure in a mysterious world teeming with secrets and challenging encounters.
Some bosses can be particularly troublesome but thankfully, the game provides you with a few optional modifiers to swing the odds in your favor and get back to uncovering parts of Tunic’s map.
This next one is a pretty obvious recommendation as the Doom series has always been tied to PC gaming and people are constantly trying to get it to run on any hardware they can.
However, instead of trying to get the original Doom to run on a Steam Deck (which it can), why not try something a lot more graphics-intensive and load up Doom Eternal.
As already proven by the Switch port, Doom Eternal plays great as a handheld where you can rip and tear your way through hell-spawn from anywhere in the world.
Devil May Cry 5
Speaking of hell, Devil May Cry 5 is another fast-paced action game whose stylish visuals look just as amazing on a Steam Deck.
The game’s combo-centric gameplay makes it a natural choice for using a controller and seeing how well the Steam Deck holds up under the pressure of sweaty palms.
Lastly, the way DMC5 separates its levels into small-scale stages and boss battles mesh nicely with the Steam Deck’s handheld form factor.
God of War
God of War is another game that PC players may be surprised to discover runs rather well on the Steam Deck despite being originally designed for PS4.
While you’ll have to make a few adjustments in the graphics settings to achieve this, on the Steam Deck’s smaller screen the differences are barely noticeable.
And now that the God of War sequel has been confirmed for a November release, now is the best time to catch up on Kratos’ journey and see what this franchise has to offer.
Grand Theft Auto 5
Seeing as Rockstar has never managed to get a modern GTA title running on a handheld like the Nintendo Switch, trying out Grand Theft Auto 5 on a Steam Deck is a no-brainer.
Despite it being almost a decade old, players are still coming up with ways to squeeze out content from the crime-ridden streets of Los Santos and live their wildest fantasies.
The best part about playing GTA5 on Steam Deck is that you can easily push the graphics to the highest settings without missing a single step.
Another sandbox game that feels completely at home on the Steam Deck is Hitman 3, the final chapter in IO Interactive’s trilogy and one of the strongest entries in the bald-assassin-simulator series.
On Steam Deck, players are free to explore sprawling environments, don different disguises, and experiment to find creative new ways to kill off unsuspecting NPCs.
The game is a lot more fun if you own the two previous games in the rebooted trilogy as it allows you to bring every level, weapon, and disguise together in one unified hub.
Whether on a handheld or big monitor, Hades’ great game design cannot be understated or skipped past when deciding what to play on a Steam Deck.
Winner of several GOTY awards in 2020, it still holds up today for its engaging story, satisfying combat, and addictive one-more-run roguelike progression.
Even if you’ve already sunk countless hours into the Supermassive title, we implore you to give it another shot on the Steam Deck and see just how fresh it feels after all this time.
While we wait for Team Cherry to putting the finishing touches on Hollow Knight: Silksong, now is a good time to revisit the original using the Steam Deck.
As you would expect, the indie Metroidvania feels right at home on a handheld where its hand-drawn visuals and tight controls truly come to life.
Even if it’s still tough-as-nails, challenge has always been a large part of Hollow Knight’s appeal and there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of finally beating a tricky boss or section.
Resident Evil Village
Even though Resident Evil Village hasn’t been officially verified for Steam Deck, several players have already managed to get it running on the system smoothly.
This is great news for anyone who hasn’t played the latest entry in the survival horror action game or would like to tread familiar grounds as everyone’s favorite zombie dad, Ethan Winters.
If you’re looking for a new way to approach the game, we suggest checking out Mercenaries mode, which introduces an arcade-style rework of the main campaign.
Few titles are as cozy on the Steam Deck as Stardew Valley, the hit farming sim social game that welcomes players to take their time growing a beautiful farm over several in-game years.
Considering the game has been available on handheld and mobile platforms for quite some time now, it performs just as well on the Steam Deck while having the luxury of PC mods.
It’s also great for relaxing on the couch or playing at the park where you can fully immerse yourself in nature as your virtual crops grow.
Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition
Spiritfarer is another fantastic 2D title that’s received several accolades and shares some similarities with farming games like Stardew Valley.
Taking on the role of a ferryman guiding spirits to the afterlife, you’ll have the opportunity to care for unique and interesting characters while helping them resolve any unfinished business.
This results in a rather lengthy checklist of tasks that lend themselves to the Steam Deck’s casual pick-and-up play design.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
Next up, Disco Elysium is a critically-acclaimed RPG with full voice acting that casts you as an amnesic detective investigating a murder.
On Steam Deck, the game’s controller-friendly design and touch screen functionality can truly shine without any need for Proton.
The only con is the fact that the game can be text-heavy at times, which can sometimes be hard to read on the Steam Deck’s smaller screen.
If you’re in the market for more chill and relaxing games to play on your Steam Deck, Sable is a great recommendation that’s about as controller-friendly as they come.
The first thing you’ll notice about this open-world game is its striking cel-shaded art style and texture-less environments which demand very few resources from the Stem Deck’s hardware.
As a result, you’ll find you can run Sable for quite a while before your device needs to be charged, which is always a win-win.
Valheim is another game with a low-poly art style that can be less taxing on the Steam Deck compared to other open-world games.
Additionally, it plays well with a controller despite focusing on systems-heavy survival gameplay that relies on navigating a hotbar.
Some players will need to initiate Proton to get the game working properly and we also suggest making sure you have a stable internet connection if you plan on having friends join you.
Something for horror lovers, SOMA is a creepy narrative adventure game from Frictional Games—best known for the Amnesia series, that feels right at home on the Steam Deck.
The story is engaging and full of plenty of thought-provoking questions and themes that will have you contemplating life, death, and humanity.
We recommend playing this one in the dark with headphones and covers wrapped around you for full immersion that only a handheld like the Steam Deck can provide.
Firewatch is another story-driven title that’s less dark and spooky while still tackling some pretty heavy themes and subject matter throughout its plot.
Additionally, it’s mostly voice-acted with some menu text to navigate that’s not too hard on the eyes and features very non-demanding graphics.
The game is best enjoyed with a controller and will even recognize and display the correct Steam Deck button layout while playing on the device.
If you’re looking for a fun racing game that can run on the Steam Deck with no trouble, Circuit Superstars is worth looking into.
The game works right out of the box with no need for Proton and offers a superb top-down circuit racing experience that supports online multiplayer.
Controls display correctly in-game and you should have no problem getting the game to run on its highest settings using a Steam Deck.
Euro Truck Simulator 2
There’s a good chance you’ve already picked up Euro Truck Simulator 2 during a Steam sale, Humble Bundle, or similar deal since the game is frequently bundled with other titles.
Even if you haven’t, we suggest adding it to your Steam Deck library as it’s one of the best driving sims on the market and takes a fun and easy approach to managing your own trucking business.
On Steam Deck, the game supports gyro-steering and requires only 12 GB of storage, though installing mods will significantly raise this number.
Slay the Spire
Of course, if you want something a bit on the smaller size storage-wise, you can with a 2D game like Slay the Spire, which calls for only 1 GB on the Steam Deck.
The game has been widely celebrated for its character diversity, roguelike progression, and robust card battler mechanics that line up perfectly with a handheld format.
Like many titles on this list, Slay the Spire will run smoothly on the Steam Deck without needing to make any changes or launch Proton beforehand.
Into the Breach
A classic turn-based strategy game from FTL developer Subset Games, Into the Breach has always felt more at home on handhelds like the Steam Deck due to its minimal text and controller support.
Additionally, the fact the game features randomly generated challenges warrants multiple playthroughs that can be tackled in bite-sized chunks at your convenience.
Now is the best time to dive back into the breach as Subset has announced an Advanced Edition is due out this summer with new mechs, weapons, pilot abilities, and challenges on the horizon.
Control: Ultimate Edition
Despite being Steam Deck verified, Control can still pose a problem for the handheld without taking the time to adjust the graphics settings.
This is no surprise really, seeing as the sci-fi action game has given consoles and even powerful PC rigs a run for their money ever since its release.
Still, if you’re looking to stress test the Steam Deck and see what it can do while playing a fantastic shooter, Remedy Games’ Control is one of your best options.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky is another sci-fi game that can push the Steam Deck to its absolute limits, particularly when traveling across vast stretches of space.
However, it comes with the advantage of not needing Proton to run smoothly and officially supports the Steam Deck’s controller layout.
Last but not least, No Man’s Sky lets you use gyro-steering during space flight and is frequently updated to ensure you never run out of content.
Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters
What better a collection to play through on the Steam Deck than the Final Fantasy Pixel Remasters, which as of this writing have not been ported to any other console or handheld device.
The full collection includes FF1-6 but you are more than welcome to purchase each game separately if you have a favorite or want to skip past certain entries.
While the font for each game can be hard to make out on a small screen, this is easily fixed with mods that up the size as well as unlock a host of other cool new features.
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
If you’re in the mood for some side-scrolling beat ‘em up action, then TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a retro throwback that will have you and your buddies clamoring for more pizza-fueled adventures.
The game’s 2D pixel art visuals aren’t demanding at all for the Steam Deck and will only take up about 1 GB of storage on the device.
The best part is you can still access online multiplayer and invite up to five friends to help you shell smash your way through 16 radical levels.
Our final recommendation for games to play on a Steam Deck is the first-person action-platformer Neon White, in which you play as a hell-bound assassin competing for a shot at life in heaven.
Requiring only 6 GB of storage and offering native controller support, the game is perfect for on-the-go gaming when you have a couple of minutes to spare.
It’s also become quite prominent in the speedrunning scene, so if you’re looking for a convenient way to play and hone your skills, the Steam Deck version is a great place to start.