August’s most played Steam Deck games make the difference clear. Despite owning a surprisingly powerful handheld PC, Steam Deck users primarily use it like an upgraded Nintendo Switch.
Valve has released a list of the most played games on the handheld (by hours), and it mostly includes games that are also available on Nintendo’s consoles. Leading the way is Vampire Survivors, which currently doesn’t have a Switch version, but Cult of the Lamb, Stardew Valley, Hades, Skyrim, and Monster Hunter Rise are all games that work well on Nintendo’s handheld. And I’m sure Switch owners wish they could get a version of Spider-Man and the Elden Ring that doesn’t run as garbage or via cloud streaming.
Steam Deck is truly the answer to a Nintendo Switch format that can handle modern games. The only real con is that the more powerful hardware affects battery life, so anyone pushing Elden Ring or other newer games will need to keep it charged up.
Unsurprisingly, except for Skyrim, none of the games on the list is first-person, and none of Steam’s most popular competitive FPS games are featured. Trying to do finger gymnastics in a CS:GO match seems out of whack against mouse and keyboard players. Non-FPS games make more sense: Multiverse cross-plays with consoles, so playing on Steam isn’t as punishing.
Games with anti-cheat software require a little extra work from developers to add compatibility, which is why Multiversus (Easy Anti-Cheat) thrived, but Destiny (BattlEye) didn’t – Bungie doesn’t plan to support Steam Deck. It will punish you if you try playing with it.
Steam Deck isn’t just a better Nintendo Switch; it can literally be a Nintendo handheld – via emulation. Earlier this week, Twitter user GameXData showed off a 3DS game on Steam Deck that also emulated the second screen. Nintendo’s own console can’t even do that.
Almost 10% of Steam’s huge game library is playable on Steam Deck. This year’s biggest games are not only playable but also enjoyable, and when you combine that with the fantastic emulation capabilities, it looks like the handheld to get.