So the Steam Machine is officially the Steam Deck, and it’s not a completely closed ecosystem either. While it’ll ship with SteamOS to start with, there’s nothing stopping people from installing Windows and trying a whole range of games on the handheld system. But what would you try first?
Final Fantasy 14
I know you can play Final Fantasy 14 on consoles, and it runs pretty well on the PS5 (although maybe not as well as many would like). But I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of an MMO experience in a handheld form. There’s also something especially nice about the idea of knocking off daily quests just before bed. Probably not great for your sleep, but it certainly makes MMOs more approachable, which is probably what’s stopped me from playing more of them.
Total Warhammer / Total War: Three Kingdoms
A lot of good PC-style-PC games have made their way over to consoles — Civilization‘s a good example — but there are some absolute bangers you still can’t get. One of those is the superb Total War / Warhammer series, and I can understand why. They’re CPU heavy games, something consoles traditionally struggle with, and Three Kingdoms/Warhammer 3 can be especially brutal on PCs even today.
The Steam Deck makes that more possible. Both Three Kingdoms and the Warhammer series are native to SteamOS and Linux, too, so you don’t even have to roll the dice with the traditional Windows overhead. There’s no experience on consoles today that’s quite like what you can get in Total Warhammer or Three Kingdoms — maybe Stellaris is sort of close, but that’s a completely different experience and certainly not with the same vivid settings.
Crusader Kings 3
The Steam Deck has basically brought the Crusader Kings series to a handheld console. And you know the best part? You probably don’t even have to pay full price — because the Steam Deck will let you install Windows, which means you can access Crusader Kings 3 through Game Pass for PC. Brilliant stuff.
Another banger that’s well suited to a more casual handheld environment, but one you can’t get on consoles? BattleTech. Both Luke and I loved its blend of tactical experience and mech management. It’s honestly one of the best X-COM-esque games out there, and it handles a lot of the worst parts of those games astonishingly well.
Plus, the game still looks damn fine.
If I can install Windows — and the whole thing is running Linux — then the Steam Deck doesn’t just open the floor for everything on Steam that’s not Linux native. It opens the floor for the Steam Deck to become a cracking portable retro device, which makes a ton of sense when you consider the possibilities.
Not everything would be super playable without having access to a mouse and keyboard, but there are some games that work out of the box pretty well even for their age. Cricket 97 is an absolute classic that honestly still plays well today. Even the polygonal characters running up and down the pitch don’t look too bad. Richie Benaud’s FMV is a total miss, but hey, you can’t have everything.
Alternatively, it’d be good to get Shane Warne Cricket 99 going — that’s undoubtedly a better, more comprehensive game. You could also just straight out play Cricket 19, but that’s less exciting since it’s on the Switch and all consoles anyway.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
How well can Flight Simulator run on a handheld? The game isn’t available for streaming just yet, but the Steam Deck will run the game through Steam or Game Pass once you’ve replaced the preinstalled Linux/SteamOS with a Windows install.
Having 16GB RAM in the Steam Deck should definitely help. I imagine you’ll have to turn down a lot of the graphics settings, but that’s also kind of what’s cool about the Steam Deck to begin with: you’re playing PC games. If something doesn’t run that well, nuke the settings into the core of the earth! Games let you do that.
PULSAR: Lost Colony
There’s a lot of cool games on Steam that haven’t made the jump to consoles, but they still support Linux and SteamOS natively. And a ton of them offer a range of really cool, fun experiences that you think would do well. Pulsar: Lost Colony is one of those. You play as part of a five-person team on a spaceship, picking a role to survive the various perils that await you in outer space.
There’s a lot of similarities with Barotrauma, another great game that you’ll read more about very soon. But it’s a great experience that would work super well in a relaxed handheld environment. You’re not super worried about graphics or performance — the game just needs to run well enough to be playable, and you can connect with mates over Discord (or through the Steam Deck’s voice chat.
Breath of the Wild
If people are going to go through the trouble of getting CEMU to run Breath of the Wild on PC. you can bet someone will go through the trouble of making it run on the Steam Deck. I wouldn’t want to go down the piracy route, but I’d sure as hell be fascinated to see just how far you could push the game on the Steam Deck’s hardware (and how that compares to the Switch).
What games would you give a whirl first on the Steam Deck?