The best PC games to play on the Steam Deck

With thousands of PC-only games coming to your couch, here's some of the best games to play on the Steam Deck.

steam deck best games
Image: Valve

Valve is jumping into the handheld pool with a big splash. Earlier this year, the PC gaming giant announced its Steam Deck handheld platform, a competitor to the Nintendo Switch designed for PC players to be able to play any Steam game on a handheld device.

The Steam Deck advertises the agility to play any game in a Steam user’s library, with a custom AMD-designed APU that should be able to “run the latest AAA games in a very efficient power envelope.” The battery life lasts anywhere from two to eight hours depending on the game you’re playing.

With the ability to play any Steam title, what qualifies as the best game to play on Steam Deck would depend on the player’s preference, right? But even the best PCs can struggle with heavier games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Also, multiplayer shooters like CS:GO or Rainbow Six Siege may be especially challenging when you’re struggling to handle weapon recoil with twin sticks.

So for this list, we’ve focused on games that are perfect for sitting back on a couch, in bed, or even on the toilet.

Ghostrunner

steam deck best games
Image: One More Level / Slipgate Ironworks / 3D Realms

Ghostrunner is all about two things: dodging enemy fire and making your way through a cyberpunk environment as fast as possible. You’ll slide, grapple, wall-run, dash and dodge your way through humanity’s last remaining shelter as you hunt for the secrets to your identity.

If you take a hit in Ghostrunner you die, so the aim of the game is all about dodging — or deflecting — enemy fire as much as possible. It’s a stylish adventure that moves at breakneck speed, although the spirit of the game is a lot like a parkour puzzler. You’ll enter an area with several enemies, and after a few retries, you’ll come across a suitable pathway taking them all out.

There’s no footage of Ghostrunner running on the Steam Deck yet, but it has been confirmed to run on the console: you can see the Ghostrunner icon alongside Hades in Valve’s official Steam Deck trailer.

Hades

Image: Supergiant Games

Hades, the Greek-themed roguelike, has one simple mission: escape the underworld.

The action alone is satisfying, but Supergiant’s combination of well-written Greek gods, the way the story is teased out over multiple runs, your relationships with different members of the Underworld and the staggering range of playstyles and modifiers available have made Hades a bonafide classic. It’s no surprise that Hades won Game of the Year at the 2021 DICE Awards, the BAFTA Best Game Award, and 9 seperate categories at the Global Industry Game Awards.

It’s not just critics, though. Supergiant’s roguelike is one of the highest-rated games on Steam: it’s sitting at a staggering 98 percent Overwhelmingly Positive rating from more than 150,000 user reviews. And given how well the game already runs on last-gen and handheld consoles — it even plays well when emulated on Apple’s M1 Macbooks — it’s no surprise that Hades runs at a buttery smooth 60 FPS on the Steam Deck.

Death Stranding

steam deck best games
Image: Kojima Productions

While there are countless post-apocalyptic games out there, Death Stranding stands out due to its detailed world and unorthodox gameplay. The game follows a porter called Sam as he traverses a ruined American landscape delivering cargo to various outposts and cities. Invisible beings called the beached things (BTs) complicate his task, and he must also watch out for enemy porters called MULE who are out to hijack his cargo.

The game received generally positive reviews when it launched in 2019. Some critics praised its unique gameplay style and stunning vistas. The PC version has since been hailed as the best edition of the game, at least until the release of Death Stranding: Director’s Cut in July 2021.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Image: CD Projekt Red

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is often regarded as one of the best games of all time, with some players spending literally thousands of hours exploring Geralt of Rivia’s magnum opus.

The story revolves around Geralt and his quest to find Ciri, who is being stalked by the demonic Wild Hunt for her ancient, Elven bloodline powers. The base game, along with its expansions Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine, have become some of the most acclaimed RPGs in video games, with over 50 million copies sold by April 2021.

The Witcher 3 also has form when it comes to handheld gameplay. Saber Interactive successfully ported CD Projekt Red’s fantasy epic onto the low-powered Switch back in 2019. The Steam Deck is vastly more powerful than Nintendo’s console, however, with the game running particularly smoothly on Valve’s handheld even in The Witcher‘s dense city environments.

Dyson Sphere Program

best steam deck games
Image: Youthcat Studio

While we already have portable consoles and solutions like cloud or mobile streaming, the Steam Deck’s true benefit is adding portability to a lot of mouse and keyboard-centric games that don’t run on consoles or the Switch.

One great example is Dyson Sphere Program, one of 2021’s breakout indie hits. The efficiency simulator has a 97 percent user rating from over 47,000 reviews this year alone, with players loving its take on intergalactic industrial empire building.

The aim of the game is to build megastructures called Dyson Spheres that orbit around planets. Each universe and environment is procedurally generated, with players figuring out the most efficient, automated pathway possible for galactic success.

And best of all: there’s no combat. Instead, the joy is building up to a stage where you have the resources and knowledge to completely automate the process, creating an industrial empire that effectively builds itself. The art of perfecting that loop is surprisingly cathartic, and a great fit for anyone looking to play something on the Steam Deck that isn’t available on other platforms.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

Image: EA / Bioware

The Mass Effect Legendary Edition is a must for franchise fans, including Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 and all the corresponding DLC. Each game in the series has been remastered in 4K, with improved lighting, effects, depth of field, higher resolution audio, improved models, shaders, while support for ultra-widescreen resolutions and higher frame rates has been added.

The Mass Effect series, which first released in 2007, follows the adventures of Commander Shepherd and his or her crew as they try to stop the Reapers from overrunning the galaxy. For third-person shooters, Mass Effect games have memorable characters with emotional depth, and it can be hard deciding who lives and who dies. Like the Witcher 3, players can choose between different dialogue options that influence the game’s outcome.

Street Fighter V

Image: CAPCOM

The Steam Deck might be an excellent platform for fighting games because many players prefer a D-Pad to analog controllers or a keyboard when playing. There’s no doubt that it will play Street Fighter V because Steam has already uploaded gameplay footage on Twitter to show how it runs. 

Street Fighter V is the latest installment of the popular 2D side-scrolling fighting game that’s been around since 1987. The game features a convoluted plot typical of the genre, but most players spend their time battling it out in the various arenas. The cast includes fan favorites like Ken and Dhalsim, and they’re joined by some newcomers like Rashid, F.A.N.G, and Necalli.

Crusader Kings III

Image: Paradox Interactive

Crusader Kings III allows players to live out their medieval, kingdom-building fantasies. They can choose between many major and minor historical characters from a map of Middle Ages Europe, charting the course of their countries. Players must decide whether to assassinate rivals, what vassals and lands to acquire, what royal bloodlines to marry into or destroy, while dealing with secret societies, conflict, diplomatic intrigue and a host of random interactions spanning from war to demonic possession.

The game has over 43,000 generally positive reviews at the time of writing for its depth, customization and endless replayability. There are countless storylines to explore, and it’s fascinating to see how scenarios play out and how the characters react to each other and the situation. 

Fall Guys

Image via Mediatonic

The colorful and chaotic party platformer Fall Guys seems tailor-made for a handheld console. That’s a big reason why the Nintendo Switch release was so anticipated, but the indefinite delay of the Switch port has given the Steam Deck a chance to capitalize on the potentially massive Fall Guys mobile market.

Given the duration of a Fall Guys match and how easy and quick it is to queue into another one, it’s perfect for the couch gamer that wants to spend 10 minutes or two to three hours on it. And since the Steam Deck is an actual PC with the option to install third-party software, players will ideally be able to play games like Fall Guys while connected to Discord through the Deck. (You could also just use Steam’s voice chat functionality, though.)

Among Us

Image via Innersloth

The wildly popular multiplayer game of teamwork and betrayal would be a great option for Steam Deck players. Players would get to use the controller control scheme that works really well with the game, and like with Fall Guys, could use the Deck’s on-board microphone and ability to install Discord to form a fun party of friends that will turn on each other within just a single round.

While Among Us isn’t as massively popular as it was earlier in the year, the small development team at Innersloth is dedicated to adding more and more content over-time, including maps, tasks, and cosmetics. Perhaps Among Us is due for yet another resurgence in December when the Steam Deck ships.


To be honest, there’s so much potential to the Switch Deck, that limiting the list this much seems wrong. Even some of the bigger games appear to run really well in the first sets of testing on developmental Decks. And with different storage sizes and the ability to add more storage via a microSD slot, perhaps the concerns about games that are too big or too taxing on the CPU won’t even surface.

Queues to reserve the Steam Deck for U.S., U.K., or other European customers are available through the Steam Deck landing page.

This story has been updated since its original publication.