Steam Deck Worth it

1 year ago, Valve finally started shipping their long-awaited device that would bring PC gaming into the palms of people's hands. While mobile PCs have been made before, this was an affordable option made by the pioneers of PC gaming itself. Utilizing their own distribution of Arch Linux to allow a much more configurable experience, as well as the Proton compatibility layer, the Steam Deck wowed with what it was able to accomplish. I still feel star-struck when playing God of War, Uncharted 4, and Red Dead Redemption 2 on this small screen.

Not all games will be able to run on the Deck though, which we have started to see more of recently, but does that mean we should be worried about the future? Now that a year has passed, is the Steam Deck still a worthwhile investment? Well, it depends on what you are looking for exactly.

Worth It: Older Titles (Pre-2018)


If you have been gaming on PC for years, like I have, you may have a decent backlog of games that can date to the mid-2000's. A lot of these games are so old, you never thought about being able to play these on a handheld device, nor did you think it would be possible due to their age and improbability of ever being re-released. Luckily, with the Steam Deck, that isn't a worry!

The device can easily play most of these older titles with ease. I was shocked at how well the original Dishonored ran on the Deck at 60 FPS. It makes sense that it runs, its an older game running on newer hardware, but I was shocked because I never knew how much I wanted to play Dishonored like this! Tales of Symphonia, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Sleeping Dogs, Dark Souls, Dead Rising, Far Cry 3, Portal 1 and 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Dead Space 1-3 (originals), Dead Island, the list can go on and on, but all of these games play extremely well on the Steam Deck with minimal to no changes. If you will be playing a backlog of older titles, this is the perfect machine for you.

Worth It: Most Indie Games


The indie scene is the life-blood of the gaming industry, constantly pushing with new and unique ideas that make us think about games differently with heartwarming stories or exciting new ideas. If you are someone who loves playing these games, the Deck will be your best friend!

Games like Hollow Knight, Celeste, Noita, Rain World, Vampire Survivors, Hades, Binding of Isaac, Undertale, Baba is You, Rivals of Aether, and many more work extremely well on the Steam Deck. This also includes some of the newest titles too like Wandering Sword, Dust & Neon, Chained Echoes, Lunistice, and Cult of the Lamb to name a few.

I say most since there are some that have some small issues or just aren't optimized enough yet. Eldest Souls runs really well, but needs Proton GE or you will be missing videos showing how to perform moves or Gunfire Reborn that needs a launch option to run it. Some indie games are more intensive than others and will need optimization or adjustments to run well, like Kerbal Space Program 2 or Outer Wilds, but these games are far and few compared to the ones that do work. The Deck is an indie MACHINE.

Worth It: Emulation (Pre-PS2)


If you are someone who is looking for a device that can run the classic games from your youth that were released outside of PC, you are going to be amazed at what the Steam Deck can do. Using EmuDeck to install all the emulators and configure them for the Deck, you will be able to run some of your favorite games from the past with ease.

The moment it hit me was when I went out to get Sushi and I was playing Kirby Air Ride on my Deck, sitting at the table, and it was running flawlessly. I was absolutely baffled this was possible! If you are looking to emulate games from consoles before the PS2 era, including the PS2, this device will take you VERY far. Even Wii and Wii U emulation works really well here! PS3 can work too, but I haven't tested and results may vary depending on the game. You can even connect your Deck to a 2nd monitor and use the Wii U or 3DS dual screens separated on the monitors, it is awesome!


SteamDeckHQ does not promote piracy and will never discuss how to get games for these emulators, but emulating itself is completely legal and are happy to discuss the emulators themselves.

Maybe Worth It: AAA Games


Recently, we have seen a slew of newer AAA games that have pushed themselves to get that Verified checkmark to show they are compatible with the Steam Deck. This has been seen with Octopath Traveler 2, Like a Dragon: Ishin!, and Dead Space remake specifically that have gone out of their way to get the Verified rating, but it isn't that simple.

While some games AAA games run extremely well on the Deck, like Octopath Traveler 2, some really require some configuring to run well...and some compromises will need to be made. Take Uncharted 4 for instance. The game has a Verified label so it runs well on Deck when you boot it up right? Well...not exactly. To really make the most of it, you will need to make sure FSR 2 is on, TDP limit is at 8 (or the game will drain more than it needs to). Preset for the graphics can be set to high, but framerate needs to be at 30 FPS. Utilizing that will get the most out of the game without breaking your Deck's battery or making temps too hot.

Some games need even more configuring, like Horizon Zero Dawn or Dying Light 2, but they can be played. And then some AAA games just can't be fixed no matter what in its current state, like Wild Hearts, or plagued with stutters that make it much harder to play, like Hogwarts Legacy or Returnal. While most AAA games that have come out work fine, we have been seeing a tougher trend for some newer ones to perform well.

Maybe Worth It: Accessibility


One of the awesome things about the Steam Deck is the ability to switch between game mode and a more traditional desktop mode. In this desktop mode, the device can be used like a normal computer to browse the internet, watch movies, download programs, whatever you want to use it for! It is an awesome feature and one I am glad Valve included, but it can be a slog to fully utilize easily.

Since this is a desktop interface, it's much easier to use with a mouse and keyboard. For this, you will either need a bluetooth mouse and keyboard or a dock you can plug the Deck into that has USB slots. This might be worthwhile at home since it can be set out when you want to be sitting down, but if you are on the move, this will mean investing in a bag or backpack to carry all of this. On top of that, if you forget your Dock, which I have done, it can make the keyboard and mouse useless (if using a wired or USB dongle to connect them).

I personally don't mind bringing everything with me when I am out and about as I am used to traveling with multiple devices, but I know it can be a deal-breaker for others who may use the Deck as a productivity machine too. Now it is better than carrying around a giant laptop, but a laptop is in one piece while the Deck will need multiple. Overall, I don't see it as a crutch, but it's still worth noting.

Not Worth It: Gaming Without Compromise

The Steam Deck is a portable device that has a limited amount of power packed into its portable form factor. Is it impressive what it can do? Absolutely. Does it need compromises to run games well? No doubt! These compromises depend on the game, but they are definitely necessary.

This could be ranging from lowering resolution and using FSR to upscale (which can result in a slightly sharp picture), lowering framerate to make sure battery doesn't drain in an hour and the game is stable, or lowering graphics settings. You will not be able to play every game at 60 FPS, there are some that may not be able to run at 30, but if you're not willing to make compromises to play these games, you shouldn't get a Steam Deck.

One of the biggest compromises is battery life. Depending on the game and how you're playing it, battery life can feel incredibly short. Most bigger games, with optimizations, can have a battery life between 2.5 - 3 hours. While this is short, it is also good to remember that these AAA games weren't designed to be played on a device like this. Yes I can only play Like a Dragon: Ishin! for 3 hours on my Deck, but it also isn't being released on portable devices at all. I would consider this a BIG victory overall.

If you can stomach it, you will be opening yourself to a world of playing games on a portable device that you never thought possible, but for some, being able to game comfortably with the highest graphical quality or at 60 FPS isn't negotiable. This is totally fine of course, the beauty of gaming is being able to pick and choose, but the Deck just isn't capable of that kind of performance.

Not Worth It: The Newest AAA Games

While there have been some incredible strides with optimization and upscaling technology, we have been seeing some new releases fall short of being able to run well on the Steam Deck. I mentioned them before, but Wild Hearts and Returnal are two good examples of this. People were hoping these would run on the Deck and give us the opportunity to play portable, but even with the optimization and upscaling they have, the games just could not run.

This doesn't apply to all new AAA titles of course. Some that come out aren't intensive and run well like Octopath Traveler 2, while some are just optimized very well and can be playable on the Steam Deck (Like a Dragon: Ishin! is an example of that). Some games also take a couple days for patches or the shared shader cache to release and performance could improve, but I think expecting the newest AAA games to run on the Steam Deck will lead to disappointment.

The Steam Deck is an awesome device, but it won't be something for every gamer. But, as a PC gamer, or if you are willing to compromise for portability, this will be your favorite gaming device. It has easily eclipsed regular PC or console gaming for me and became my favorite device. If it were up to me, I would recommend this device entirely! What about you guys? Let us know what you think!

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out the rest of the content on SteamDeckHQ! We have a wide variety game reviews and news that are sure to help your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for newstips and tutorialsgame settings and reviews, or just want to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, we've got your back

Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
Steam Profile