The Steam Deck is finally here. You can get the power of high-end PC gaming right in the palms of your hands…if you manage to snag one amidst supply constraints, that is.
But whenever your $500 handheld gaming powerhouse shows up, whether it’s right at launch or years down the road, you’ll need to know which games work well. Steam Deck is a unique piece of hardware that, because of its Linux-based operating system (as opposed to Windows), can’t accommodate every single game in the massive Steam marketplace. Whether it’s because a game doesn’t have robust controller support or some other backend work is needed to make it Deck-worthy, expect to find some games that just plain don’t work on Steam Deck.
Some will get patched in time. Others, like virtual reality titles, simply aren’t made for Steam Deck. Thankfully, there’s an easy way to tell if a game will work on that beefy handheld PC. Let’s go over it together.
Time to learn some icons
Valve has a quick and handy video explaining how all of this works, but the most important bit is this set of four icons you’ll see attached to games on Steam from now on.
There are four official designations for how games work on Steam Deck:
Verified: Tested by Valve and found to run well and without extra work on Steam Deck
Playable: Will work, but may require some additional effort by the player
Unsupported: Straight up won’t work, so don’t bother
Unknown: Not tested by Valve yet
For the most part, these are pretty self-explanatory. If you see the “Unsupported” icon, don’t bother trying to play it on Steam Deck. “Verified” means you’re good to go; the game has been tested, it fully works, and it’s likely optimized for speedy load times and higher end graphics support. “Unknown” is more of a mixed bag, covering games that haven’t been tested. Many will still work, but you’ll often run into longer load times or uneven performance along the way.
“Playable” also requires a bit of explanation. As the name suggests, you will be able to play those games on Steam Deck, confirmed. But not without minor headaches. For instance, you might have to use a virtual keyboard at points where the game expects you to use a real one on a desktop PC, often just to get through account sign-ins for services like Xbox Live. But that virtual keyboard is easy to access, thanks to a shortcut that lets you summon it whenever you press the Steam button together with the X button
It’s worth pointing out that these ratings are subject to change over time, too. Developers of games that are “Unsupported” right now could go in and make necessary changes to fix that. Titles that use anti-cheat features, for example, are mostly not working on Steam Deck right now. But Valve is working to fix that.
Got all of that memorized? Good. Now it’s time to put that knowledge into practice.
Where can I find these icons?
The answer to that question depends on where you’re shopping for games. Luckily, it’s not difficult to find regardless.
On a Steam Deck
Credit: Screenshot by Adam Rosenberg
It doesn’t get much simpler than this. Load up the Steam store on a Steam Deck and there will be a tab on the top row that says “Great on Deck.” It’s actually the default destination when you visit the store on a Steam Deck. Games in that category are all Verified should work very well on a Steam Deck. Perfect.
However, you can also find this information in the wider Steam Store. While Steam Verified status is highlighted on individual product pages, you can also see which of the four compatibility status icons apply to any particular game right inside a search result or discovery page. The compatibility icons appear as you highlight each individual game’s tile, allowing you to easily check on what is and isn’t supported without clicking through.
Going to the product page is useful in its own way, though. You can find specific info about how a game works on Steam Deck using the “Learn More” button next to the compatibility icon. Here’s Valve’s example using Team Fortress 2:
On a computer
If you open the product page for any game on the Steam website or in the desktop app, it’ll look largely the same as it always has. You’ll see trailers, screenshots, genre info, a release date, and everything else that isn’t one of these icons. But fret not, dear reader; the compatibility check blends in and is easy to miss. Also, it’s sometimes just not there.
The compatibility info will generally show up on the right side of the product page in its own module, mixed in with an assortment of info-filled boxes that share information about the game’s supported languages, category/genre tags, and vital stats like devleoper and publisher. If there’s a Steam Deck compatibility note, that’s where you’ll find it.
Using the store page for Elden Ring as an example, scroll midway down the page. You should find a Steam Deck compatibility badge nestled between language info and the game’s content rating. (Elden Ring is fully good to go on Steam Deck, by the way. It’s sick and you should play it.)
Not every product page includes compatibility information (yet). Valve may be prioritizing updates to product pages for those games that have been tested; Destiny 2, for example, which isn’t supported on Steam Deck due to its anti-cheat features, has no compatibility badge. So it’s a good rule of thumb if you’re looking for compatibility info in the store to expect that badge-free games are at the very least untested, if not wholly unsupported.
Updates having been coming to Steam Deck and the Steam Store at a regular pace since the hardware landed in reviewers’ hands at the start of February. The “Great on Deck” tab in the handheld’s store has a counterpart both on the web and in the Steam desktop app. It’s really just a subsection of the store that lists all Verified titles; you can find it under the “Special Sections” area of Steam’s categories menu.
It’s not ‘Portal 3’ but Valve has a new, free Steam Deck game that ties to ‘Portal’
One last thing to note is that you can immediately check which games in your personal Steam library are Deck-ready by going to a special page on the Steam website and signing in. This way, you can find out if your favorite games will work before even unboxing the Steam Deck.
Hopefully by now you feel prepared to dive into your Steam Deck and play any games that earn Valve’s seal of technical approval. If that one game you’ve played for 800 hours isn’t ready for Steam Deck just yet, maybe the developers will address that soon. If not, seriously, just check out Elden Ring. It’s dope.
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