The Steam Deck, Valve’s mega-powerful mini-PC, only arrived this year, and while there are many reasons to check out one of the most exciting pieces of gaming hardware available today, the amount of great, hassle-free games available on the device is proof enough of its success.
But Steam is a big marketplace, and not every game works well on the Deck. While many hit games do run well on the device, some won’t launch, while others will have you chasing through various settings and scrolling forums and Reddit posts for solutions. Fun for the tech enthusiast, but not ideal when you just want a great gaming experience. Valve has made the process easier by labeling certain games “Verified” on the device, but sometimes that’s not always a guarantee that a game will run without issue.
But worry not, this list will guide you to the best experiences you can have in one year of the Steam Deck’s life. These games are all verified on the platform, so you don’t have to boot into desktop mode or fiddle with any settings to get something to work. Heck, I won’t even tell you to adjust the graphics settings with any of these. They work great on the first boot. (Though if you are feeling brave, adjusting a few settings here and there might make the experience even better for you. This is the magic of the Deck.)
As you may know, there are relatively simple ways to get non-Steam games running on the Deck, but those we’ll handle another time. This list is focused on great games you’re guaranteed to have access to right out of the box.
There is no particular order to these titles, but before we jump in, there are a few honorable mentions. Here they are, with a bit about why they didn’t make the cut should you choose to play them:
God of War
2018’s prestige PlayStation 4 exclusive arrived on PC in January of this year, and the experience has been pretty good on most PCs. It’s also verified on Steam Deck, so naturally I expected this to be a perfect fit for a Best Of.
Performance issues, however, completely stopped me from enjoying myself on the Deck. I won’t dismiss the possibility that some can overlook the skips, stutters, and complete freezes, but even on low graphical settings, I can’t fully recommend this one.
Definitely look elsewhere to experience this game, you’ll be far better off with a more powerful machine.
Outward is an epic fantasy game with some pretty gritty survival mechanics. You can’t really die, though—each “death” sends you down another branching story path, meaning failure isn’t just met with outright frustration. I really wanted Outward to make this list. Some may find the combat a little too rigid, but I think the scope the game delivers outpaces those criticisms for the most part. Sadly, Outward has a lot of text—a lot of important text and menu dives that, on the Steam Deck’s smaller screen, becomes something of a deal breaker.
Maybe your eyes are better than mine though. If so, this is a pretty epic game to play in such a small form factor. And the graphics seem at home on the Deck’s 800p display—just make sure you flip the resolution in game to match the Deck’s screen if you give this one a shot.
Strange Horticulture is a very cool puzzle game that combines the occult with, well, horticulture. You might have a great time with this on Deck, but I found the smaller text font to weigh too much against the game to include it in the main list.
There is a very helpful zoom function which you’ll use a lot while playing on Deck. Needing to jump in and out of zoom levels, however, makes for a different experience than what you’d get on a bigger screen with more resolution to play with.
It kind of breaks my heart that Dungeon Munchies only gets an honorable mention here. This side-scrolling action RPG is a really endearing, addictive, pixelated culinary break with a wonderful sense of humor. It was really close to making the cut, and perhaps spiritually, it does. Sadly, I think the font and character portraits could serve to fill up more of the Deck screen’s real estate. Also, I found the settings menu to be a touch too buggy.
If this were a list of the top 11 games, there’d be room for this one.
Stray was very close to making the list, and you should check it out. It’s relatively short runtime does make it work well in a portable format, and I find that the colors and visuals sit nicely on Valve’s mini PC. Unfortunately, frame stuttering in the game’s faster sections sours the experience a bit too much, too often, an issue which maybe could’ve been overlooked had the game been more substantial in size.
Okay, with those out of the way, let’s get into the best Steam Deck games of 2022!