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Jusant’s young hero, wearing climbing gloves and with sunblock-style face decorations, blows into a wind instrument, with a cute blob creature on their shoulder Image: Don’t Nod

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22 games we love on Steam Deck

Hundreds of games run on Steam Deck, but these picks make the most of the portable handheld PC

Since it launched in 2022, the Steam Deck has quickly amassed a reputation as one of the best, if not the best, handheld gaming platforms on the market today. And with the recent announcement of the OLED version, it just got better.

With a library of games spanning much of Steam’s vast storefront, a docking station to play games on TV and monitors, and an increasing number of titles being optimized and verified for the Deck every day, Valve’s proprietary handheld is a perfect example of the viability and promise of portable PC gaming. That’s why we’ve collected 22 titles that showcase what makes the Steam Deck so special.

To curate the list, we’ve pick games that benefit the most from the Steam Deck’s special features. You will find PC exclusives, Switch games that benefit here from faster load times, and games that break apart nicely into short sessions.

Don’t expect to see some presumed contenders on the list. Not every game is compatible with the Steam Deck, nor is every genre a perfect match — we’re looking at you, RTS games. And for now, this list also excludes emulation and cloud streaming.

We intentionally limit our lists to avoid overwhelming readers, so be sure to share your personal picks that didn’t make the cut in the comments.

Our latest update added Dave the Diver, Dredge, Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo, and Jusant.

Yakuza 0

Kiryu stands in a store full of TVs and ramen containers in Yakuza 0. Image: Sega via Polygon

The Yakuza series spans hundreds of hours across seven mainline entries, along with a handful of spinoffs. Which is to say, the portable Steam Deck provides the best chance at seeing the entirety of this Japanese gangster epic, especially in the form of short missions on lunch breaks. If you don’t have time for every game, or just need a place to start, we recommend Yakuza 0. A sort of prequel to the series, the adventure takes place in 1980s Japan and provides lots of colorful backstories. Don’t be fooled by all of the violent combat and seedy locales; this series (and especially this entry) has more heart and joy than 99% of games from big-budget publishers. Hero Kazuma Kiryu wants to make the world a better place, one city block at a time. —Chris Plante

Cult of the Lamb

The lamb preaches a sermon in Cult of the Lamb Image: Massive Monster/Devolver Digital via Polygon

Deep breath: Cult of the Lamb is Animal Crossing meets Hades meets the dark side of Catholic history meets Happy Tree Friends meets American cultism meets European occultism meets Dark Souls meets 1980s Satanic Panic meets Fractured Fairy Tales meets the waking dreams of Peter Molyneux.

Cult of the Lamb is like a stew. If you look closely, you can spot all of these delicious individual ingredients, but when slurped from a big spoon all you’ll taste is one distinct flavor. —CP

Dave the Diver

Dave the Diver underwater aiming his spearfishing harpoon at a tropical fish. Image: Mintrocket via Polygon

There are few mobile gaming experiences as serene and enthralling as Dave the Diver. Dave dives not just to collect fish and cooking materials for the sushi restaurant he staffs every night, but to uncover ancient secrets. Regardless of your objective, navigating the deep feels like a blend between Animal Crossing and a roguelike, where you’re amassing better tools to uncover what (and who) is lurking in the depths.

Dave the Diver is a family-friendly game (if you can look past small clouds of blood when you harpoon a fish) that is startlingly good at blending many game genres in one. You swim; manage a restaurant; farm fish, veggies and more; and are solely responsible for reversing a climate change-inducing threat under the sea. And on the Steam Deck, it’s so much easier to fit in just one more dive session. —Cameron Faulkner


A small fishing boat pulled up on an island in Dredge. Image: Black Salt Games/Team17

You might not expect Dredge to feel at home on the Steam Deck at first glance, but it totally does. This haunted seafaring adventure tests the protagonist’s psyche, and the gameplay loop is perfect for quick pick-up, put-down sessions. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun being set free to fish, solve mysteries, and complete objectives before the sun goes down. And if you dare, dredge the depths after dark for some spooky surprises. —CF


A spaceship attacks a pyramid in Ex-Zodiac Image: MNKY/PixelJam via Polygon

My love for the Star Fox series has evaporated with each new entry, to the point that I began to wonder if I ever really enjoyed those games or if I just liked chunky ’90s 3D graphics. Ex-Zodiac’s creators have done what Nintendo couldn’t for the past couple of decades: bottle the original magic of the space flight franchise and add just enough tweaks to make the adventure palatable for our collective evolved tastes. (Hey, video games have come a long way since the SNES!) Developer MNKY also created bonus levels inspired by other retro classics, like Space Harrier, emphasizing its knack for refueling once exciting genres that have spent way too long collecting dust in the garage. —CP


A cat walks the wet, neon-lit streets of a walled cybercity in Stray. Image: BlueTwelve Studio/Annapurna Interactive

Stray is a game about being a cat. You don’t talk like Garfield or wink at the camera like Bubsy. You stretch, scratch, and occasionally leap between ledges at perilous heights. Your cat participates in a harrowing adventure set in a dystopian, cyberpunk underworld in which robots echo the lives of their long-dead human counterparts. But most engagement happens on your behalf through an adorable, English-speaking, artificially intelligent drone named B-12. The game’s creators keep your cat’s direct involvement ambiguous. Is the cat the savior of a dying planet? Or is the cat just a cat who happens to be the incidental shepherd of historic change? Like I said, typical cat stuff. —CP


A tiny ship somehow fights a much, much, much larger spacecraft in Drainus. Image: Team Ladybug/WSS playground, PLAYISM via Polygon

I am proud of the work we do at Polygon, but every publication has its weaknesses. I’ve accepted that we’re not the go-to experts for old-school side-scrolling shooters and shmups. That honor goes to our pals at Eurogamer, specifically Martin Robinson, who I trust more with this genre than I do any pundit with American politics. When he proclaimed Drainus is “the most spectacular side-scrolling shooter since Gradius 5,” I had to give it a try. Is it the best? I said I’m not an expert. But I can say, with confidence, it’s been a blast on Steam Deck, a delicious digestif after hours in a modern open-world game, and an unusually accommodating entry point for a notoriously impenetrable genre. —CP

Final Fantasy 7 Remake Intergrade

Cloud, Tifa, and Barret stand together on a balcony, looking out at a sunset in Final Fantasy 7 Remake Image: Square Enix

One of the best games of all time received one of the best remakes of all time, and now you can play its most complete version whenever and wherever you want. I mean, I could write more reasons you should play this game, but let’s be real — either you have played a version of Final Fantasy 7 already or you’ve been told countless times to bump this one up your queue. Throw this recommendation on the pile. —CP

Elden Ring

A Tarnished fights Flying Dragon Agheel at Agheel Lake in Elden Ring Image: FromSoftware/Bandai Namco via Polygon

Meet the Steam Deck’s killer app. It’s not perfect — I play on low settings and occasionally experience frame rate dips — but Elden Ring works, and that’s all I need to farm souls (er, “runes”) in FromSoftware’s open-world expansion of its Dark Souls formula. This is the game that has kept me awake past midnight. I promise myself that I’ll stop once I see what’s at the end of a moss-lined cave or over a burning horizon, but then I see some new curiosity, and suddenly, I’m pummeling my way through another dungeon. The convenience of a portable device turns what I meant to be a 15-minute grind session into a two-hour journey through a labyrinthine dungeon. —CP

Vampire Survivors

Antonio slashes dozens of enemies in Vampire Survivors with a whip Image: poncle

So you’ve dropped half a grand on a portable video game machine capable of powering the most complex and expensive 3D video games on the planet. Now prepare to burn dozens of hours on a $2.99 2D dungeon crawler that nearly plays itself. Vampire Survivors is the unholy union of clickers, roguelikes, and Gauntlet. Runs take 10-30 minutes and pair well with an audiobook or podcast. The developers have discovered the formula for a perfect portable game, but for the time being, you can’t find this one on Switch or smartphones. —CP


A climbing character works their way across a sheer cliff bathed in sunlight, with handholds visible in the foreground and platform structures further away. in Jusant Image: Don’t Nod

Jusant has been my go-to chill-out game of choice this year, and I can’t imagine playing it on anything other than the Steam Deck. The post-apocalyptic fantasy climbing game from French developer Don’t Nod (Life Is Strange) has a lot going for it: a mysterious and compelling world with beautiful art design, a moving orchestral music score, and tight controls that are easy to learn and gratifying to master.

It’s that last point that makes the Steam Deck my preferred platform of choice to play Jusant. The satisfying sound and haptic feedback of the Deck’s left and right triggers makes the challenge of climbing the cliff faces of the game’s impossibly vast and looming tower as painless and pleasing as possible, and the visual and sound quality of the Deck is terrific at rendering the gorgeous vistas and ambient soundscapes of the world. If you’re looking for a relaxing yet exciting adventure game experience that plays great on the Steam Deck, this is the one to play. —Toussaint Egan

Dragon Quest 11

A player character mounted on a horse overlooking a cliffside vista in Dragon Quest 11. Image: Square Enix

The best place to play Dragon Quest 11 has changed over the years. The JRPG to end all JRPGs first launched in 2018 on Steam and PlayStation 4, only to be bested a year later by a Definitive Edition for Nintendo Switch, which included additional content and could be played on the go. The Definitive Edition then came to Steam in 2020, but, of course, it lacked the portability of the Switch version, forcing players to choose between visuals and convenience. With the Steam Deck, folks can now have it both ways. —CP

Nier: Automata

2B facing off against a squad of enemy machines in Nier: Automata Image: PlatinumGames/Square Enix

My blurb for Polygon’s best games of the 2010s applies to why Nier: Automata belongs on every Steam Deck:

Nier: Automata is the game I most often find myself wanting to play instead of the many fine-but-forgettable shooters and open-world distractions that land on my desk. I think about it every week partly because its soundtrack is my favorite writing music, partly because its toys litter my desk, and mostly because it’s just that good. Yes, you have to beat it five times, but in hindsight, I wish I had a reason to play it another five hundred. —CP

Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo

Several characters discuss a string of crimes in the street in Paranormasight: The Seven Mysteries of Honjo Image: Square Enix

While Paranormasight is available for Switch and iOS, it looks and plays best (and is often the most affordable) on Steam Deck, whether you’re using it in handheld mode or if it’s docked to your TV. This spooky, rather mature episodic visual novel is tough to put down, especially when you begin to uncover how it progresses.

You assume the role of multiple characters, who are all trying to survive a supernatural cataclysm that’s out for everyone’s soul. The story is told to make you care about each one of them, not knowing who’s about to bite the dust at the next turn of events. —CF

Red Faction: Guerrilla

Red Faction: Guerrilla Re-Mars-tered Edition - Alec Mason standing as vehicles explode behind him. Image: Volition, Kaiko/THQ Nordic

In 2009, Volition created an open-world terrorism simulator set on Mars. With a hammer and construction-grade explosives, a bald space bro destroys landmarks, government office complexes, and mining facilities piece by piece. Where its open-world peers focused on realism and narrative, Red Faction emphasized chaotic fun. Publisher THQ planned to convert Red Faction into a “transmedia” property, but little materialized beyond a mediocre sequel and a made-for-TV movie. The closest we’ve seen to a spiritual sequel is 2020’s Teardown, an indie heist game that invites players to bust through buildings made of chunky voxels. Speaking of, I should install Teardown on my Steam Deck. —CP

Zero Escape: The Nonary Games

Screenshot of a character conversation from Zero Escape: The Nonary Games. Image: Spike Chunsoft Co.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward were two of the most beloved visual novels on the Nintendo DS, 3DS, and PlayStation Vita. Unfortunately, Nintendo and Sony no longer support the DS and Vita online shops, and the 3DS online storefront will close in 2023. Meanwhile, The Nonary Games, which bundles the two titles, remains just as available today as it did when it launched on Steam in 2017, with no threat of disappearing anytime soon. —CP

Spelunky and Spelunky 2

In Spelunky 2 two players ride steeds across platforms above an area covered in spikes. Image: Mossmouth, Blitworks/Mossmouth

Spelunky HD kept my PlayStation Vita within arm’s reach long after Sony gave up on the cult handheld. Last year, developer Mossmouth ported Spelunky and its sequel to the Nintendo Switch — and I finally moved my Vita into its long-term home in my storage bin of gaming artifacts. I won’t say the Steam Deck is a better home for Spelunky than the Switch, just that it’s another portable home. And any portable that can play Spelunky should play Spelunky. —CP


A hunter lines up a shot in Wildermyth’s tactical combat Image: Worldwalker Games

Wildermyth made Polygon’s top 10 games of 2021 list by reimagining the D&D experience without the need for a part-time Dungeon Master. The combat is clever enough (your magic can convert any object into a deadly weapon), but I especially cherish its creator’s dedication to characters. Party members find lovers and nemeses, they acquire weapons and battle scars, they age and eventually die. Quests are broken into 10- to 15-minute episodes of story and combat, ideal for filling any gaps in your day. The controls on Steam Deck do take a little practice, but the game has benefited from an active community of modders and storytellers, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see improved user-made control settings soon. —CP

Half-Life 2

Gordon Freeman gets a warm welcome from friends in Half-Life 2 Image: Valve via Polygon

In 2004, Half-Life 2 helped launch Steam, attracting thousands of players to Valve’s then-unproven video game ecosystem. In return for joining Steam, players could download a first-person shooter that was far ahead of its time. Today, Half-Life 2 (and its pair of supplemental episodes) works as another example of Valve’s magic. I installed a PC game I bought nearly 20 years ago onto a portable computer, and it only took a few minutes to enter the streets of City 17. —CP

Death Stranding

Sam Porter Bridges, the protagonist of Death Stranding, played by Norman Reedus. Image: Kojima Productions/Sony Interactive Entertainment

What if Hideo Kojima made his magnum opus, but most people wrote it off as a tedious walking simulator? Reader, it happened! Death Stranding is my personal game of the decade, an astounding mishmash of everything to appear in a Kojima game: earnest critiques of capitalism and the pain points of democracy, eerie premonitions of global pandemics and a gig economy forced to carry society on its shoulders, and enough mommy issues to justify a lifetime of therapy. Plus, the game itself is fun. Like, very fun!

No, you don’t get to shoot much stuff, nor do you conquer the giant open-world map. But you do make the world a little more manageable for you and other players, slowly building bridges, roads, and ladders that will inevitably be destroyed by nature. Where other games ask you to become the ruler of their world, Death Stranding reminds you that we are all merely tourists awaiting our one-way flight off of this rock. Did I mention the poop grenades?

Plenty of folks didn’t give the game a shot on PlayStation 4 or PC. Maybe the Steam Deck will make the game convenient enough to win over a handful of curious people to take the plunge into Death Stranding’s sticky, inky depths. —CP