The Best Steam Deck Games Of 2022 – Kotaku

Science & Technology

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 year one 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, become 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
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.
Dungeon Munchies
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 romp 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. Its 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!
2 / 11
When Elden Ring dropped, the Steam Deck was one of the best ways to play the latest Miyazaki jam, and it still is. In fact, the proximity of their release dates almost tosses Elden Ring into launch title status for the device. Valve went through extra effort to improve the game’s performance on their portable PC, even before FromSoftware was able to address a variety of issues that were souring the experience on a full-featured computer.
Whether you’re at home or on the go, Elden Ring works surprisingly well in portable format. It might be fair to criticize some HUD elements as being a touch too small, but the core experience is worth it. You’re bound to drop some frames here and there when the action gets a little too hot, but little is compromised on the smaller form factor.
Maybe playing outside in a park might give you the fresh air you need to take on the game’s harder bosses. You’ll miss out on the online features, of course, if you’re playing away from a router, but that’s an acceptable trade-off in my book as I’m not particularly a fan of the game’s multiplayer anyway.
3 / 11
This 2022 summer hit had everyone hot and bothered over, well, things that usually make you hot and bothered and it had a wonderful soundtrack. All of that, including its lightning-fast gameplay, translates exceedingly well to the Deck. It’s one of the best games on this list.
Neon White is a fantastic game in portable format as it relies on small, focused maps that you have to get through as quickly as you can. You could fill up a short bus or train ride with a couple of sprints through the heavenly setting of this shooter and you won’t ever worry about performance.
Sure, if you’re counting, I’ve no doubt you’ll catch a dropped frame or two, but you’d have to be counting and who has time for that when you’re tearing through maps, listening to awesome tunes, and shredding demons left and right? This is a perfect game to keep coming back to to try and up your scores, making it a wonderful “on-the-go” experience that feels right at home on the Steam Deck’s controls.
4 / 11
No Man’s Sky may have come out in 2016, but since it celebrated a pretty epic update this year, it’s getting included on this list. And, dare I say, the Steam Deck is one of the best ways to play this space-exploration sim. Sure, maybe the frame rate can be a bit wonky, but hear me out.
The smaller screen and lower resolution just make those voxels come together in a way I’m not used to seeing on a 4k screen. I even find myself leaving the scan lines feature turned on, something I’ve habitually shut off for as long as I can remember. On Deck, though, that visual effect is no longer an eyesore; it actually adds character and sort of smooths out the rougher edges of the presentation. I’d love the font to be a touch larger on the Deck, but the game makes up for it with its vibrant visuals and grand scope, which I find sit so well on the smaller screen that they convey a sense of scale that lost on larger resolutions.
You’ll hit some snags with dropped frames here and there, especially when entering a planet’s atmosphere or piloting in third person. In my experience, these were tolerable, especially when the sense of scale and the visual aesthetic, leave a dramatically more notable impression. On a big screen, everything kind of looks like a toy. But on the Deck, the expansiveness of the planets and solar systems has me very much believing this simulation.
5 / 11
I didn’t expect Teardown to play as well as it does on Steam Deck. Its voxels may deceive you into thinking it doesn’t require too much graphical horsepower, but Teardown’s premise as an absurdly addictive demolition simulator means it can throw enough particles on screen to tank the framerate and then some. But fortunately, the game runs really well on Deck. I’ve no doubt you could get yourself into some explosive scenarios that might give the Deck’s AMD-powered APU a bit of a scare. But honestly, you’d likely encounter that issue on a full-featured PC anyway since the game is kind of tempting stability often. One might even consider it part of its charm.
Teardown’s main appeal is the destruction of buildings—tearing them down, literally, block by block. But don’t dismiss this title as a one trick pony. Some of the thrills come just from destroying and blowing shit up. Okay, well, maybe most of the thrills. There’s a dash of platforming here and there on missions that ask you to complete objectives in a limited amount of time, and there are other scenarios that’ll test your reflexes pretty heavily.
And because Teardown’s performance on the Steam Deck is so great, you can really just get lost in the sandbox and have a great time messing around. Like No Man’s Sky, this one might have some hitches and stutters, but again, it’s not enough to impede the actual experience. Besides, when you do cause the frame rate to tank because you had to load up a building with explosive tanks nestled in a bunch of wooden boxes you set on fire, well, it sort of feels like you deserved it.
Teardown can be a pretty relaxing game, perhaps surprisingly so for a game with the option for spontaneous property destruction. As a result, it’s the first game of this list that I played on the Deck until the battery died.
6 / 11
Some may be divided over tweaks to the original story, but Final Fantasy VII Remake is a great, gorgeous action RPG experience that translates very well to the Steam Deck. You’re likely to encounter some dropped frames during more hectic battles, and in general the game has a “softness” to its visual quality from needing to ramp down the settings and stay within 800p, but the Steam Deck provides an excellent way to play this 2020 title that hit Steam for the first time just a short while ago.
Remake contains some of my favorite Final Fantasy combat, and slipping back into this game on Steam Deck was a great way to relive its unique blend of command-based and real-time combat. It strikes such a nice balance of agency and tactical planning, and it really sings on the Deck. When testing this out on the handheld platform, I forgot about what I was doing and just got pulled back into the absorbing gameplay loop.
That such a blockbuster, full-featured action RPG is available on the Deck and performs so well is really a testament to the variety of experiences you can have on the platform. Just, maybe wait for a sale since the game retails for $70 USD. Yikes.
Also, it’s nearly 100gb in size…so, downloading that on wifi will take a while.
7 / 11
Want a visual treat that comes with no performance hitches and is addictingly fun to play on Steam Deck? Tribute Games’ spirited beat ‘em up TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a perfect fit. Being a 2D title with retro style, it’s no surprise that it runs well, but the visuals have so much character, color, and life to them. It’s a treat to watch everything in action.
And the game plays really well! I’m usually the worst at remembering button combos, but here I was able to get a handle on everything fairly easily. Nothing felt like it was too hectic for the Steam Deck’s physical form factor. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is too much of an endearing franchise to not have a good time here. And the music rocks on a good set of headphones.
It was tricky pulling myself away from this game to consider the others on this list, and you’ll likely get sucked in too.
8 / 11
Vox Machinae has been hanging around in Early Access since 2018, but its full-featured release arrived this past May and it’s an excellent mech sim for the Steam Deck. To be fair, some animations are wonkier than I’d like them to be, but Vox Machinae strikes a nice balance between simulating the experience of driving a massive machine and making the process easy enough to catch on to that you don’t need a degree in rocket science to do the most basic of movement tasks.
The game has you reading out actual meters and features in a simulated cockpit rather than a HUD, and I think this aspect translates really well to the Deck. Having to look down at your throttle to check your speed, or call up an actual second screen to zoom in on targets, really sells the experience of being inside a mech and on the Deck, the use of the expanded controls makes you feel like you’re piloting a complex piece of machinery.
The left touchpad, for example, allows you to quickly boost with your jump jets and move in the direction your thumb is pointing. When you do, your avatar actually moves their hand to a different joystick to perform this operation, so there’s this really cool parity between what you’re doing on the physical controls of the Steam Deck and what your character is doing in game. It’s a perfect example of how the Steam Deck’s expanded control features can open up new and unique gaming possibilities.
9 / 11
If fast-paced, timing-critical games like Neon White or even Elden Ring show one side of the spectrum of experiences you can have on the Steam Deck, then Glitchhikers shows the other. This is a super chill game that’s perfect to kill some time with and maybe ponder the meaning of life a bit.
Glitchhikers can be a heady experience. You will spend most of your time driving or hanging out in random places, talking to strangers who are willing to open up about all sorts of things, from wide philosophical wonderings, to deeply personal experiences of loss and tragedy. The game includes controls to fine-tune the conversations if you’d like to steer away from the more intense topics.
It’s a perfect “chill out” game that looks and reads well on the Steam Deck, great for when you’re on the go or just hanging out at home. Headphones will really help you sink into the experience here.
10 / 11
I said this list had no particular order. But if it did, well, Praey for the Gods certainly would take a high spot and is, perhaps, my favorite on this list. Praey’s final version just makes this list as it saw its release in December of last year. Not everyone may be convinced that Shadow of the Colossus’ formula needed extra mechanics, but Praey is a fitting tribute to the PlayStation classic that’s willing to take some risks of its own—and the Steam Deck is one of the best places to experience it.
There’s an undeniable “PS2-ness” to Praey For The Gods, and it works really well on the Deck’s smaller resolution. It might not be best for an on-the-go experience given how long the boss fights can go on for, so it’s more suited for playing on the couch—and definitely wear headphones, this game has some great music and sound design.
If you’re like me and didn’t play the remake of Shadow Of The Colossus on PS4, jumping into this game feels like a nice remix of the 2005 original that’s trying to offer more features than the artsy, minimalist PS2 classic. It performs really well on Steam Deck and, similar to No Man’s Sky, there’s something about a smaller screen depicting large entities, be they planets or epic bosses, that, to me, sells the scope a bit more than a 4k screen would.
Even when including the honorable mentions on this list, picking the top 10 Steam Deck games of 2022 wasn’t easy. I’m sure there are others, even just within the Deck-Verified status on Steam, that deserve a shout-out. These titles, however, represent an exceedingly wide scope of games available on the platform, from quirky indie games to the most celebrated AAA blockbusters. Combine the range and diversity of the Steam Deck’s library with some really incredible control layouts and the options to adjust graphics settings like you would on a PC, and it’s not hard to see why so many are lining up to get one.
11 / 11