The first things to do with a new Steam Deck
2) Grab the controls
You’re probably thinking “Two sticks, face buttons and triggers, how hard can it be?” Well, Steam Deck is a bit more complicated than that. It has dual trackpads for mouse aiming, a touchscreen, built-in gyroscopes for motion controls, four Grip buttons on the back and a handful of dedicated navigation buttons too.
The best idea is to download the free Aperture Desk Job game. Acting as a Portal-themed tutorial for the Steam deck, it goes over how different control schemes work and lets you experiment before diving into something more hectic. It’s a relatively small download and doesn’t take long to get through, so that’s where any new Steam Deck owner should start.
When starting up another game, keep in mind that some titles will have default layouts that aren’t exactly user-friendly. Deck supports helpful setup for common controls, saving you the hassle of rebinding each button. Launch your game, press the Steam button and select the Controller Settings screen. From here, tap the icon labeled “controller settings”. You can activate the rear grip buttons, turn the gyro on and off, and flip the control sticks (if you’re weird like that). You can edit the layout manually, or highlight the current layout and press A to load a new one from a list of templates, provided by Valve and other Steam Deck users.
4) Get gameplay
It doesn’t matter if you’re new to PC gaming or have a bulging library of Steam games already – it can still be daunting to wonder where to start once you’ve got your hands on a Steam deck. That’s why we’ve picked out a bunch of must-play titles that work great on the deck so you can keep playing.
This gothic horror game will have you fighting continuous waves of monsters as a wannabe survivor of the coming attack. You want to shoot down the oncoming attack, level up and, well, try not to die. You’ll be playing the vamps for the most part, rather than facing them, but regardless, you’ll have your hands full with the other monsters on the hunt.
Buy Vampire Survivors on Steam
god of war
Have you ever wanted to teach your son how to fight Norse gods and monsters? Mythology dictates that you’re out of luck on that one, but God of War is the closest you’ll get. As an ex-assassin-father-son team, you’ll try to make your way across the world, while battling some big giants.
Buy God of War on Steam
Fantasy fans, rejoice! This action RPG written in part by George RR Martin is reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, Dungeons & Dragons and (of course) Game of Thrones. You will fight your way through an open world, fight the creatures you come across, cast spells and explore the land. Your end goal? To repair the Ring of Elden, broken by a former ruler.
Buy Elden Ring on Steam
While you (hopefully) won’t actually have to face death while playing Hades, you will come face to face with the God of the Underworld. Hack, slash and fight your way out of the fiery depths below on your quest to reach the mortal world. Luckily, you have other Olympians to help you along the way. What can go wrong?
Buy Hades on Steam
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Now, it’s pretty much legal for every system known to man to get a version of Skyrim, and the Steam Deck is no different. The best Elder Scrolls yet are still a joy to play, with a huge open world to explore, factions to side with and Draugr tombs to raid. And just remember: stealth archers are always the best character builds.
Buy The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on Steam
With all that fighting going on, something a little more relaxed might be in order. Enter Unpacking, a zen puzzle game with a simple premise – unpack boxes. It might sound pretty simple, but things get more complex as your character collects more items with each new move. As anyone who has ever moved can attest, it’s not always easy.
Buy Unpacking on Steam
This turn-based tactics game pits your six-man squadron against an occupying alien force, one battle at a time. You can either strategize through post-apocalyptic battlefields, or throw caution to the wind and hope for the best. Like a game of Risk played on Planet-P Venta Monis from Starship Troopers, XCOM 2 is an unforgiving yet addictive title that demands repeated play.
Buy XCOM 2 on Steam
Forza Horizon 5
Too often we navigate open video game worlds as Vikings, adventurers, or baseball bat-wielding zombies. Sometimes we want a simpler virtual existence, and that’s what we get in Forza Horizon 5. Spanning the sandy beaches and speedways of a fictional Mexico, this is a joyously fun racing game with only one rule – race to win.
Buy Forza Horizon 5 on Steam
The life of a cat is enviable. After all, who doesn’t want to spend their days sleeping and not paying rent? For now, the closest we can get to that dream is Stray, an adventure game that pits an unforgiving cyberpunk world against a playable cat that just wants to get home. Cute, funny and filled with intrigue, Stray is a worthy addition to your Steam library.
Buy Stray on Steam
4) Add some accessories
JSAUX screen protector£11 from Amazon
The last thing you want is a giant scratch distracting you every time you pick up your new handheld, so it makes sense to protect the screen. The high-end 512GB model has an anti-reflective etched glass coating, but carries quite a price premium. Save some money with a third-party screen protector, which can also help reduce light reflections.
Our pick is from JSAUX – a brand you’ll be hearing a lot about further down this list – as it includes two tempered glass panels and a guide frame to help you install them without annoying bubbles. The kit will set you back around £11 – but that’s a lot less than a replacement screen panel.
Samsung 256GB Pro Plus MicroSD Card£35 from Amazon
Whether you’ve got the top-tier 512GB Steam Deck, opted for the 256GB middle child or the more wallet-friendly 64GB model, you’ll want to add extra storage sooner or later. Fortunately, Valve has made it super easy, with a microSD card slot on the bottom edge of the device.
Transfer speeds are limited to 100MB/s, even if you have a card that can do it faster, so we recommend Samsung’s 120MB/s Pro Plus microSD card. They are sensibly priced and are more than fast enough to store even newer games on without draining load times or causing game stuttering. A 256GB card will set you back £35, or you can go up to 512GB for around double the price.
JSAUX docking station, £40 from Amazon
Steam Deck is a perfect handheld – but it can more than hold its own as a desktop machine too. The single USB-C port means you’ll need a dock or dongle to connect an external display, or connect accessories like controllers, keyboards or mice.
Valve has an official Dock, of course. It has three USB ports, HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4 video outputs, and Gigabit Ethernet. It also comes with its own dedicated power supply, so you can keep the one that came with your deck reserved for travel. However, you will have to pay £80 for one. We suggest the more affordable JSAUX docking station, which forgoes the DisplayPort 1.4 port and doesn’t include a power supply, but costs half the price.
Microsoft Bluetooth mouse (£15 from Amazon) and Logitech K380 keyboard (£26 from Amazon)
There’s nothing stopping you from using your PC’s keyboard and mouse with Valve’s handheld – but it’s much more convenient to have a separate set dedicated to the Deck. You don’t have to fish around the back of your computer to remove or replace cables every time, and if you use Bluetooth, you also don’t have to grab a USB dongle.
Instead of spending a fortune on a flashy gaming mouse, we think it makes more sense to grab the ultra-affordable Microsoft Wireless Mouse (£15 from Amazon). It’s battery powered, but should last almost a full year between AAs, and super small which is great for portability.
On the keyboard front, we suggest the Logitech K380 (£26 from Amazon) – it’s just as compact, also takes batteries (two AAAs this time) and will also last more than twelve months of regular typing. The circular keys may take some getting used to, but it’s much easier than tapping on the on-screen keyboard.
Anchor Power bank£80 from Amazon
If the Steam Deck has a major weakness, it has to be the battery life. Stick to basic 2D games and you can squeeze six or seven hours out of a full charge, but anything far more demanding can bring the number down to the wrong side of two hours. A portable battery pack lets you play longer when you can’t be tied to an outlet.
To match the output of the deck’s included power adapter, you’ll want a bank that can supply 45W USB-C power. The bigger the capacity, the better. Our pick is Anker’s 24000mAh, 65W Power Bank, which is almost big enough to top up the Steam Deck’s 5313mAh battery four times over.
JSAUX Carrying case£20 from Amazon
We know, we know – the Steam deck already comes in a case. But if you’ve picked up any of the other accessories mentioned here, you’ll want a place to store everything. The JSAUX has a hardshell case that keeps your deck safe on the go, plus space underneath for the power adapter, a portable power bank and a pair of earphones. There’s even a flip-out mesh pocket that can hold a handful of microSD cards, and doubles as a handy kickstand.
It’s not perfect for UK customers, as the official Valve power adapter won’t fit – but if you’ve got a third-party plug (perhaps the one that came with your smartphone) you’ll be fine. The hardshell design won’t get squashed in a bag, won’t let the screen on the tire get scratched, and should also survive small drops.