Released earlier this year, Steam Deck is a wonderful thing. A powerful yet affordable PC gaming system in a relatively compact handheld form factor, with access to the same Steam library that’s been growing daily since 2005. Initially only available to a limited number of Steam users on a first come, first served basis, it’s gradually becoming easier to get hold of, with Valve recently announcing that production has sped up enough to bring all pre-orders forward by a quarter.
So now is a great time to get a Steam Deck, and if you already have a Steam library, you’ll have instant access to a number of your own games right away. Chances are, you’ll want to buy a few more for your new toy though, and with that in mind, we thought it would be good to guide Time Extension readers through some of the greatest classic games you can play on Steam Deck today.
To keep things simple we’ve only included games that are “Verified” for Steam Deck. That way you can buy with complete confidence that all of these will play perfectly without issue. Plenty more Steam games are labelled by Valve as “Playable”, of course. You’ll generally be fine with these, but they may, in Valve’s words, “require extra effort” to run. You may even be able to get some “Unsupported” games to work with a bit of jiggery-pokery, but you’re on your own with those!
One other rule we’ve imposed on ourselves is to only select games that aren’t already available on Nintendo Switch; that way you can be assured that the only way to play the following 20 games on a handheld is with a Steam Deck.
So, here we go. There are over 50,000 games on Steam and, at the time of writing, 4,000 of these are officially supported on Steam Deck, with more added every day. But here are twenty hand-picked classics spanning several different genres from over 30 years of gaming history. There’s actually a surprising amount of variety here, too. From traditional PC gaming experiences to early indie hits and top conversions of Japanese console games, you’ll definitely find something you already love, or will love soon…
Age Of Empires II: HD Edition (Steam)
Ensemble Studios’ classic RTS is considered one of the greatest PC games of the Nineties, so if you’ve bought a Steam Deck to brush up on the best of non-console gaming, then this should be top of your wishlist. Be aware, though, there are actually two versions of Age Of Empires II on Steam, with the 2019 “Definitive Edition” currently Unsupported. Thankfully, this 2013 edition has overwhelmingly positive user reviews, retains all that was great about the original while also adding HD visuals, new features, online multiplayer and Steam Workshop support for mods. There’s hundreds of hours of entertainment in this choice alone.
Breath Of Death VII And Cthulhu Saves The World (Steam)
Originally released on Microsoft’s long-defunct Xbox Live Indie Games program, Breath Of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World first attracted attention as parodies of classic JRPGs. Yet those who played them found that these mini adventures were great games in their own right and filled with great little touches of originality. In the decade since, Zeboyd Games has grown into a renowned creator of small but distinctive indie RPGs, most recently with the sci-fi-themed Cosmic Star Heroine. Both Breath Of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves The World present a great opportunity to see how the developer made its name, and you can pick up both in a double pack for a crazy £1.99.
Broken Sword: The Shadow Of The Templars - Director's Cut (Steam)
As a handheld PC with a touch screen and trackpads, Steam Deck seems ideal for point & click adventures. Sadly, very few of them are actually verified to work with the Deck, though the first two Monkey Islands are at least “Playable.” Though, let’s face it, if you’re a fan of the genre, you’ve played those games before. Why not check out the fully-verified Broken Sword instead? Arguably the greatest adventure game to be made in Britain, Broken Sword boasts an intriguing story, smart puzzles and a picture postcard art style that feels a little like being on a relaxing holiday. (If you don’t count the murders.) Like a good novel, it’s the perfect game to play curled up on the sofa, and let yourself become absorbed in the story.
Crazy Taxi (Steam)
The craziest thing about Crazy Taxi is that it’s not on Nintendo Switch yet. Wouldn’t that be a perfect match? One of the most fun and thrilling arcade driving games, with an addictive one-more-go, score-attack factor, in the palm of your hands where you can play over and over again. That sounds like heaven, and on Steam Deck it almost is. Crazy Taxi plays great on the Deck but there’s one snag… The brilliant and iconic original soundtrack of The Offspring and Bad Religion songs is replaced by generic, anonymous-sounding rock. Brilliantly though, there’s a mod to add the correct songs back in, and it’s a doddle to implement on Steam Deck too. Hey, hey, hey!
Dead Rising (Steam)
When Capcom’s other zombie franchise made its debut on Xbox 360 in 2006, it offered an entirely different kind of resident evil. Instead of a mansion, Dead Rising saw photojournalist Frank “I’ve covered wars, you know” West explore a huge shopping mall in true Dawn Of The Dead-style. The new hardware of the era allowed for tons of zombies on screen at once, it was loads of fun to whack the zombies with goods found around the mall or just take photos of them, and the gameplay had an innovative Roguelike structure, years before most of us had even heard the term!
Fable Anniversary (Steam)
While promoting the original Fable, zealous creator/hype man Peter Molyneux is said to have suggested that players would be able to carve their initials into a tree and find those same initials still in the bark ten years later. That particular feature never came to be, but Fable itself still turned out to be a deep RPG with a compelling world that responded to your behaviour. Remade after ten years, and still available to play on modern hardware eight years later still, Fable turned out to have a lasting power even greater than those tree-carved initials would have done. Not even Molyneux could have envisioned that!
Final Fantasy IV: Pixel Remaster (Steam)
Square Enix’s “Pixel Remaster” series brought the first six Final Fantasy titles into the modern age with high-resolution graphics, rearranged music and new gameplay features, all while staying true to the spirit of the originals. Yet, for reasons that remain unclear, none have yet made it to console. Of those six games, the first four are all Steam Deck Verified, and of those, Final Fantasy IV should be the pick of the bunch. The SNES classic practically defined the formula that Final Fantasy and scores of other JRPGs have followed since, and it’s still a joy to play today.
Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved (Steam)
Geometry Wars is just about old enough now that there’s an entire generation of adults who may not know how influential it was. The flagship game of Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade program, it helped usher in an experimental era of digital distribution that’s now the norm, while also looking back to the past and reviving the forgotten trend of twin-stick arcade shooters. A wave of imitators followed, many of them worthy, but none managed to top the beauty and playability of Geometry Wars. Except perhaps the sequel, but that’s not on Steam.
Half Life 2 (Steam)
You might think Valve would have made all their biggest games fully verified on their own hardware. In fact, the original Half Life is merely “Playable” on Steam Deck, but its incredible sequel runs perfectly. If you’ve never had the pleasure of playing Half Life 2, then you really should consider this essential. The epic narrative-driven FPS is a classic for a reason, with exemplary gunplay, a fantastic world to explore, and tons of memorable set pieces. It puts many shooters half its age to shame. If you still want more once you’re done, don’t forget there are two superb DLC sequel chapters, both of which are playable on Deck.
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream (Steam)
I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream is the perfect example of why Steam Deck can be a godsend for retro gamers. This 1995 adventure game is one of the most critically acclaimed of the era. Featuring a script and design by Harlan Ellison, the author of the original story on which the game is based, it’s one of the best-written games of any genre and deals with multiple adult subjects you don’t typically find in videogames. Despite its critical acclaim, the game sold poorly on release, disappeared from shelves, and was never ported to a single console. But it remains preserved and playable on Steam today, just screaming to be played!
Originally released by Capcom on GameCube and PS2 back in 2005, Killer7 didn’t appear elsewhere until it unexpectedly released on Steam (and no other platform) in 2018. So if you want to play this bizarre Suda51 adventure that paved the way for the likes of No More Heroes, Lollipop Chainsaw and Shadows Of The Damned, then Steam Deck is a pretty convenient way to go. If you’ve never played Killer7 then you’re in for a treat… Suda51’s unique storytelling style will keep you gripped for hours, while the lightgun-style shooting sections, designed under the guidance of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, are a blast.
Metal Wolf Chaos XD (Steam)
Long before FromSoftware was known for its double-hard RPGs, like Elden Ring and Dark Souls, the veteran Japanese developer created games in a wide range of genres, though many of them starred mechs. Most, like the Armored Core series, took themselves very seriously… And then there’s Metal Wolf Chaos, a deliberately OTT action game with big guns and an even bigger sense of humour. This isn’t just any giant robot, it’s a giant robot piloted by the President of the USA! The original Metal Wolf Chaos was a curious release; a Japan-only Xbox-exclusive, but this 2019 remake not only spruced things up but was also officially released in the west too. What a treat!
Rez Infinite (Steam)
One of the all time greats, the original Rez is like Panzer Dragoon in a nightclub, fusing top-notch on-rails shooting to the beat of catchy electronica to form a transcendental experience. This modern remake adds an extra free-roaming stage that feels like the climax the game should have always had, and is enhanced in glorious HD too. Of course, Rez Infinite also has a stunning VR mode, though that’s not supported by Steam Deck. At least not yet. In their developer FAQ, Valve says, “Technically it's possible. We've seen people jury rig it, but we didn't design and optimize Steam Deck for VR.” Maybe someday!
Sonic Generations (Steam)
Made to commemorate Sonic’s 20th anniversary in 2011, Sonic Generations remains a unique celebration of gaming over a decade later. Alternating play between the modern incarnation of Sonic and his chubbier 90s design, it features remade versions of several classic stages in both 3D and 2D. The clever twist being that this gives an opportunity to see well-known stages from a completely new perspective. Modern Sonic games tend to be a mixed bag, but thanks to its mix of perspectives and its reverence for the past, Sonic Generations is one of the best Sega has made in recent years. If we’re still allowed to call 2011 recent…
Tales Of Symphonia (Steam)
One of the most popular entries in Namco’s long-running RPG series, Tales Of Symphonia debuted on GameCube in 2003 and was showered with praise for its zippy real-time combat system and sumptuous visuals. It may be a cliché to praise a game for looking like an anime come to life, but this was a true novelty in 2003 and made Symphonia a firm favourite with Tales fans. This particular version is adapted from the 2013 PS3 remake and therefore also includes all of the content from the sequel, Tales Of Symphonia: Dawn Of The New World too. A bargain!
The Disney Afternoon Collection (Steam)
It’s surprising that this collection of six classic NES games was never made available on Switch, so if you want to play them on a handheld, then Steam Deck is the only way to go. These games were all developed by Capcom between 1989 and 1994, and are among some of the best licensed games of the era. If you owned an NES back in the day then you probably know that both DuckTales and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers are really fun, playful platformers, but you might be less familiar with their sequels or the lesser-known Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin. Together they make an excellent package of nostalgic hits and hidden gems.
The King Of Fighters '98 Ultimate Match Final Edition (Steam)
Debate rages on about which of the fifteen main King Of Fighters games is the best. Maybe there will be a Time Extension list some day to settle the score, but until then KOF ’98 is a strong contender for fan favourite. Made at the height of the series’ popularity, it’s packed full of SNK characters and boasts some of the greatest Neo Geo sprites ever committed to a cartridge the size of your head. This particular version is an update of the 10th anniversary release, which featured new characters, backgrounds and gameplay improvements, and includes online play with rollback netcode. When SNK says this version is both ultimate AND final, you better believe it!
The Legend Of Heroes: Trails In The Sky The 3rd (PC)
Nihon Falcom’s Trails In the Sky trilogy is one of the most adored entries in its mammoth, interconnected series of RPGs, known for their involving battle systems, sensational soundtracks and epic stories. This third chapter, which serves as a standalone epilogue, is the only one to be Steam Deck verified. In fact, it’s criminally one of only three verified Falcom games at all. The first two chapters are labelled as “Unsupported”, but fans have reported that they’ve been able to get them to run, albeit with a few crashes. Is it fine to skip straight to part three? Die-hard fans will tell you never to do that but even if some of the story is lost on you, you’ll find a great old-school RPG here.
If you’re a Nintendo Switch owner then you’ve probably played a fair few of PlatinumGames’ superbly slick action games. But if you want to play one of their greatest on a handheld then there’s only one way to do it. Thankfully, the Steam version of Vanquish is a thing of beauty, offering the ability to blast robots while sliding around on your knees like a rockstar in 4K resolution and with an unlocked framerate. Of course, you won’t quite get that level of performance on Steam Deck, but on the system’s 800p screen the action looks stunning and runs up to 60 frames per second. Glorious.
Yakuza 3 Remastered (Steam)
Another great Japanese action game from the PlayStation 3 era, Yakuza 3 offered an absorbing cinematic crime story, a rich world to explore with so much to do and, most importantly, a scrappy fighting system that captured the true spirit of a street fight. There’s really nothing quite like picking up an entire bicycle and using it to batter a felon on the streets of Kamurocho. Want to know what happened to Kazuma Kiryu before Yakuza 3? You’ll be pleased to know the “Kiwami” remakes of the first two games are also Verified on Steam Deck.
Ashley Day is a mostly ex-games journalist who edited the Retro section of gamesTM magazine from 2006 to 2012. These days he works in the games industry and occasionally writes about the old games he’s been playing on his personal blog, Games From The Black Hole.
@Damo Slight typo, you put Final Fantasy IV instead of VI switching the two so you have 4 listed but pictures of 6.
Great list when I finally get a Steam Deck these will be games I will be looking into.
The framerate in Sonic Generations is very bad on the Steam Deck. It goes down with the least bit of action. Sadly, the Steam version is not very optimized.
Some great items here. Couple of suggestions:
Pixeljunk Shooter Ultimate
Titanfall 2 (too soon?)
@Jimgamer8 Good call on Shadow Complex, Binary Domain and Titanfall 2 (the latter two should be extra awesome with gyro aim)!
I’d buy one of these expensive machines and end up running Dark Forces and Jedi Knight on it. 😅
@Jimgamer8 Some great suggestions there! A couple aren’t Verified, so wouldn’t qualify for this list but if we’re also including Playable games I’d add in Jet Set Radio!.
I might have to buy Binary Domain. I never finished it but thought it was pretty neat.
@BulkSlash yeah the gyro is cool - touch sensitive sticks to toggle it is neat.
Nothing wrong with the old stuff. Amazing how quickly you accumulate stuff from Steam sales.
That's a very random list of games.
Does the greatest PC game ever made, Brigand: Oaxaca, work on it?
Glad to see Killer7 on the list. A classic and one of my all time top ten.
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