It's gift-giving season, and that means that some of you are about to land a Steam Deck. For a few of you, this may well be your entry (or long-awaited reentry) into the world of PC gaming. In that case: Welcome. Allow me to take ten minutes to show you around - for what good is fresh new hardware without the software to go along with it?
Needless to say, this is nowhere close to a comprehensive list - anything remotely complete would run to book length. This is just a sampling of what the platform has to offer, with a focus on games that aren't making every other list in existence. The only unifying factor is that they are all listed as either verified or playable with minimal issues.
Platformers have long been an essential genre, and they fit very well on portable systems. Here is just a small sampling of what you might find on Deck.
JoyMasher - 2019 - $16.99 - Verified
Contra-likes are a staple of Steam's indie scene, and Blazing Chrome is one of the better ones. Modeled on the less-remembered Genesis title Contra: Hard Corps, Blazing Chrome strikes a fine balance - easy enough for anyone to get into while still providing a challenge for experienced platformer fans.
Steel Mantis - 2019 - $24.99 - Verified
As the warrior-prince Therion, delve into the lost fortress Valfaris that is inexplicably transforming into a biomechanical horror show. Valfaris has been widely praised for its heavy metal-inspired visuals, but it backs that up with mixed ranged and melee combat that never quite lets up.
Pixadome - 2022 - $11.99 - Verified
Chenso Club puts the player in the role of one of five heroines, all tasked with fighting off an alien invasion while keeping their social media metrics high. The game featured a simple yet intuitive two-button system that allows for a lot of flexibility, while the procedural generation guarantees a lot of playtime.
Batterystaple Games - 2021 - $19.99 - Playable
The follow-up to 20XX offers more procedurally generated platforming, this time in a world far removed from its predecessor. This roguelike Mega Man X offers a solid challenge for long-time platformer fans and enough variety to fuel multiple playthroughs.
Guin Entertainment - 2020 - $14.99 - Verified
Magically cursed with the body of a balloon, pop-culture-obsessed fat kid balloon finds himself the unwitting hero in a global journey to rescue a group of kidnapped children. The protagonist's ability to inflate and deflate his body offers a set of novel challenges in a game that blends precision and puzzle platforming.
Crazy Viking Studios - 2013 - $9.99 - Playable
For retro enthusiasts in the mood for something with teeth, Volgarr the Viking offers a real challenge. The protagonist has a jump with a fixed trajectory, so avoiding enemies and obstacles requires in-the-moment planning as much as reflexes. Recommended for anyone who thinks the above platformers are too easy.
Capcom - 2015 - $14.99 - Verified
When retro-styled games aren't enough, why not go to the source? The first Mega Man Legacy Collection offers all six of the NES Mega Man games with added features and challenges. A worthwhile selection for any retro fan.
Portable consoles were a preserve for RPGs during the shooter-with-stats era, and they remain popular on such systems. Here is a selection of conventional, action, and tactical RPGs to try.
Shiro Games - 2019 - $19.99 - Verified
Combining two great games, Evoland Legendary is a must-have for anyone with an interest in video game history. Evoland 1 - a game jam favorite turned full-length title - is an affectionate parody of the Final Fantasy and Zelda series, while Evoland 2 takes on dozens of games and genres in an adventure that spans dimensions.
Dancing Dragon - 2022 - $19.99 - Verified
Journey into the Empire of Veridia, a country rocked by internal chaos and the threat of war. Symphony of War combines elements from Ogre Battle and Langrisser to create gameplay with unique tactical flair.
TRAGSoft - 2022 - $19.99 - Verified
The development of the "creature collector" subgenre has opened the market to new and interesting variations on Pokemon, of which Coromon is one of the more compelling. Enjoy a similar gameplay experience with expanded customization, an updated combat system, and an involved RPG narrative.
Andrew Willman - 2022 - $13.99 - Verified
Crystal Project takes the old-school JRPG concept and updates it with a fully explorable open world. Build a party with an FF5-esque class system, then head out in search of the titular crystals in the order of your choosing.
Square Enix - 2020 - $49.99 - Verified
If you've never experienced Seiken Densetsu 3 (a.k.a. Secret of Mana 2), then Square Enix's remake will give you a chance to make up for lost time. Choose a party from among six characters from disparate kingdoms and try to avert a looming war. With three separate story arcs and dozens of class upgrades, there's plenty of replay value.
Chara-ani Corporation - 2020 - $49.99 - Verified
And while we're on the subject of little-played games, we have the birth of the Langrisser TRPG series with remakes of Warsong and its Japan-only sequel Der Langrisser. Chart your own course through the series, allying yourself with various groups or going it alone on a quest to halt a looming evil.
Asymmetric - 2017 - $10.99 - Verified
A simple journey to the big city turns into a life-changing quest in this open-world Western-themed RPG. The game features a world with minimalist art and the pun-based humor associated with Asymmetric, with a banquet of quests can be solved in a variety of ways.
From arcade-style games to first-person shooters, there are a range of action titles that run well on Deck. Here are a few you might overlook.
FYQD-Studio - 2021 - $19.99 - Verified
The Lunar New Year has kicked off with a mysterious time-bending phenomenon in this FPS by one-man studio FYQD. Combat features a mix of conventional gunplay and melee combat, against enemies ranging from giants to animated lion statues. It is a short game, but extremely memorable.
Arkane Studios - 2017 - $29.99 - Verified
Fight for your life against a mysterious alien organism in this landmark release by Arkane. Build your character any way you want and explore the Talos I space station, looking for clues to the research station's fate. Prey takes the gameplay of the classic System Shock series and updates it for modern sensibilities.
Cyanide Studios - 2014 - $19.99 - Playable
Styx is a stealth-action game that puts the player in the role of a goblin on a quest to reach the roots of the fabled World-Tree. Explore the impossibly tall Tower of Akenash, developing new abilities to help forge new paths through open-ended, vertically-oriented levels.
Blue Manchu - 2019 - $29.99 - Playable
Guide the prison transport vessel Void Ark through the accursed Sargasso Nebula in this roguelike FPS. Void Bastards is not a twitchy shooter - reaching the other side means charting a careful path through derelict ships swarming with strange creatures, managing fuel and ammo, and making the best of your randomly generated crew.
Gone North Games - 2014 - $14.99 - Verified
First-person platforming is a rare beast, but A Story About My Uncle approaches the concept with a lot of skill and precision. Using a high-tech grappling hook and your natural athleticism, explore a series of strange worlds in search of your missing uncle.
FantaBlade Network - 2016 - $10.99 - Verified
In control of the titular cyborg, you'll fight your way through legions of robots in a dystopian city...but is that all that's going on? ICEY is a sidescrolling action game set in a world that blends cyberpunk and Lovecraft, all with a metanarrative that makes the narrator an enemy in his own right.
Andrew Morrish - 2013 - $6.99 - Verified
Shoot for the high score in this novel throwback title that combines platforming with arcade-style puzzlers. Taking the role of a tiny gun-toting hero, your task is to shoot and destroy like-colored blocks as they fall, all while avoiding hazards and keeping the field from overflowing.
OverPowered Team - 2021 - $14.99 - Verified
Hunt down the Heralds of a distant tyrannical past in this twin-stick boss rush. As Talaal, the Last Herald, you can gain special abilities to help contend with the bosses, but each one you add means less time to fight - and in Godstrike, time is your life. The game features a campaign as well as a randomized challenge mode for greater replay value.
Puzzle and adventure
Steam is home to a range of oddball titles for those who prefer to exercise their minds. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.
Draw Me a Pixel - 2020 - $12.99 - Verified
Born from a popular game jam title, Wrong Dimension sends the player on a surreal, fourth wall-shattering quest to find...the game. You'll contend with an obstructionist narrator as you hunt for the secret of the game across numerous worlds that parody a range of game genres both modern and classic.
Pixelatto - 2019 - $7.99 - Verified
What starts as a bog-standard quest to rescue a princess from an evil overlord quickly turns into a vast, strange adventure with over a hundred distinct endings. This comical platforming adventure tasks the player with exploring a throwback 2D world in order to find every way to complete, fail and evade the main quest.
Dim Bulb / Serenity Forge - 2018 - $19.99 - Playable
An unwise gamble with a mystical being leaves you with a curse that can only be broken through the power of storytelling. You'll hitchhike and freight-hop across an enchanted version of the United States circa the early 20th century, collecting stories that you must use to charm a group of mysterious wanderers and learn their secrets.
ToasterFuel - 2020 - $9.99 - Verified
Platformers are a dime a dozen, but how many of them don't have a jump button? Deleveled is a physics-based 2D puzzle platformer that puts the player in control of a paired set of pixels, with levels that require transferring momentum between the two to gain altitude. The mechanics are tricky but intuitive and you won't miss that jump button after a while.
A good game doesn't need to come at a AAA price point. The following games are all priced at $5 or less, even before taking sales into account.
Walter Machado - 2015 - $0.99 - Verified
If you haven't had the chance to play through Walter Machado's gripping twin-stick shooter series, now's as good time as any to get started. As the Blade Saint, you'll wield a bullet-deflecting sword as you try to stay alive for three minutes against waves of cyberpunk monstrosities.
Bizarre Creations - 2007 - $3.99 - Verified
The game that arguably started the modern obsession with indie games is back, and it runs great on Deck. Take control of a simple geometric ship and blast your way through a range of challenges in this beloved twin-stick shooter.
Zootfly - 2013 - $4.99 - Verified
If you don't remember Microsoft's 360-era attempt to create a Mesoamerican God of War, you can relive the experience now for a trivial price. Guide the titular hero on a quest to stop the birth of an evil deity using a shapeshifting melee weapon and a range of magical powers.
sparsevector - 2013 - $2.99 - Playable
It might feature an ox-drawn wagon, but this side-scrolling shooter is no Oregon Trail. Each game is built up from a series of random scenes and scenarios, many of which lead to hidden content if completed correctly. Super Amazing Wagon Adventure is a short game with lots of replay value well-suited for short gaming sessions.
Monstrum - 2008 - $4.99 - Playable
The second iteration of Monstrum's roguelike dungeon crawler is now available on Steam for a song. Assemble a party from seven classes and delve into a randomly-generated dungeon, gathering loot and always watching your back for the mysterious Fearsower demons.
Terry Cavanaugh - 2010 - $4.99 - Playable
If you're in the mood for a challenge, then Terry Cavanaugh's classic gravity-switching platformer might just be the thing for you. Explore your surroundings and rescue your ill-fated crew in this throwback PC title where the only thing that impedes your exploration is your own skill.
MiniBoss - 2016 - $0.99 - Verified
Stranded in deep space, your only hope for survival lies at the heart of a hostile planet in this puzzle platformer. Using a handheld teleporter and a series of energy beams with varying properties, the player must navigate a series of challenges that demand both tactics and timing. Out There Somewhere is short, but will prove a real challenge for most people.
Sinclair Strange - 2020 - $2.99 - Verified
Delve into the past in more ways than one in this Castlevania-esque throwback from prolific developer Sinclair Strange. Crypt Stalker features both an NES and Game Boy mode, each with entirely different levels that are designed to emulate the capabilities of their respective systems.
High replay value
These days, people really care about how much replay value they can squeeze out of their games. These games can provide potentially hundreds of hours of play for a small upfront price.
Tahoe Games - 2021 - $9.99 - Verified
Fight your way out of hell in this vertically-oriented rogue-lite action platformer. As Azov the sinner - or one of several other lost souls - you'll fight through a wide range of challenges, including the lairs of several legendary demons. If the campaign isn't hard enough for you, Rising Hell also features several challenge modes to mix up the gameplay.
Game in a Bottle - 2020 - $12.99 - Playable
The fifth iteration of the beloved tower defense game adds even more to the formula. Featuring 100 maps with a wide range of challenges, special Trial variants, and hundreds of achievements, Frostborn Wrath offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Bippinbits - 2022 - $17.99 - Verified
One of this year's breakout titles, Dome Keeper combines arcade-style endless defense with mining and resource management for something which stands apart. With plenty of future updates planned, Dome Keeper is sure to remain fresh for a good long while.
Four Quarters - 2021 - $14.99 - Playable
Plan your own quest as you seek to break the world out of a time loop in this deckbuilding management game. You're in charge of the world, and it's up to you to figure out a path that will make your hero stronger without killing him. If you missed out on last year's breakout indie RPG, now's the time to get caught up.
So there it is, the not-nearly-exhaustive list of some of the best gaming experiences available for Steam Deck. Consider it a starting point for getting your feet wet on your shiny new handheld, and good luck in your future explorations!
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