Valve announced its own handheld device just a few short days after Nintendo’s reveal of the Switch OLED. Called the Steam Deck, Valve’s contribution to handheld gaming is literally a small PC in the palm of your hands. If you have huge hands, this thing is not small. Shortly after this announcement, we shared which games you cannot play on the Deck at launch; though Valve is currently working on circumventing that restriction, we thought we should even things up slightly. So, here are the games I can’t wait to play and that you should check out when the Steam Deck arrives!
Baldur’s Gate 3
Despite still being in Early Access, therefore incredibly restricted in terms of content, I can’t stop rolling new characters and replaying what is available in Larian’s Baldur’s Gate 3 adventure. Since the fantasy journey launched in Early Access, the studio has made many changes to what players can expect. From new classes to more room to explore, each update brings this game ever closer to its full release. With a massive world to trudge through and tiny little caves that house untold dangers, taking this particular D&D saga on the go is more than a little perfect. Even more so with the campfire feature reminding me of another favorite RPG venture: Dragon Age Origins.
Go ahead, romance that hot vampire, you know you want to.
When I first tried Death Stranding out on PlayStation, it was a game I wanted to like very much. My first degree is actually in philosophy – you can hear responsible adults laughing at me in the background if you listen closely – so Kojima’s creative way of seeing the world has always appealed to my analytical mind. Because of that, this was a title I very much wanted to love and vested far more time into it than I’d like to admit. But I just couldn’t feel that connection, though I enjoyed the overarching experience. Then it came out on PC, and I decided to try again.
A little warmer, but no dice.
I think for a game like this, in terms of my own personal enjoyment, playing outside of the box may be that secret little puzzle piece that unlocks the bigger picture. Death Stranding will be something I plan on diving deeply into once more to give it one more shot! And if the Steam Deck’s freedom isn’t enough to make it to the final stretch? That’s OK too! I won’t like every game, just like you won’t, and that’s alright. Still, can you imagine playing this on the go? Exciting!
You can almost hear the image above, can’t you? Of the Fallout series, the third game is my favorite, depending on the time of day you ask me. Flipping between 3 and Obsidian’s New Vegas, this is another RPG experience I can’t wait to re-enjoy on the Steam Deck.
Since it’s an older title, especially on Bethesda’s engine, this game doesn’t have the best graphics to offer, which means the smaller screen won’t be detrimental to the Vault-Tec experience. And it gives you the excuse to flaunt those Black Widow skills once more for some sweet, sweet loving. Ooh, la la.
The Portal franchise is a gift wrapped up in perfection atop beauty. This physics-breaking adventure from Valve may not ever see the third game, but the first two were memorable gaming experiences that broke convention. Pairing witty humor, existential crisis, and a murderous AI robot that sometimes can become a potato, the Portal experience is one that never grows tired. Escape each level from your back porch, from your bed, or during a long road trip. Its mechanics will keep your mind engaged, and the story will keep you entertained in the best way possible.
Just don’t bring up lemons, please. We can’t hear Cave Johnson’s tangent again.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
A game that lets you bone a literal bag of bones, I mean come on? What more could you want?
All jokes aside, this is another Dungeons & Dragons treasure that you can easily tank hundreds and hundreds of hours into. In a similar style of Baldur’s Gate 3, this RPG adventure offers a tale centered around murder, mystery, and more romance. Do you see a pattern here? Sorry about that…
This game is also by the same team that made Baldur’s Gate 3, so if you liked that but can’t wait for the full version, then Original Sin 2 is a must-play. You can read our full review here if you need a little extra nudge.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
OK, yeah. I see it now—last game type like this, promise. Pinky swear! I say Dragon Age Inquisition because this seems to be a divisive entry out of the three games despite winning numerous awards. It’s the longest of the BioWare games, with a total completion sometimes clocking in at over 200 hours. Inquisition tied up loose ends of the first two games, including what happens after Anders’ rebellion, learning more about the name behind Varric’s crossbow, and seeing little Connor all grown-up once more after his harrowing experience in Redcliff. It also offers some of my personal favorite characters in gaming history, including the one and only Dorian Pavus.
There is a lot to love about Inquisition, but it definitely suffers from pacing issues. Many people, when they tell me they didn’t enjoy Inquisition, have mentioned that they never made it past the Hinterlands or never made it out of Haven and onto Skyhold. I believe that the game does not truly begin until Skyhold has been claimed and that the joy of this Thedasian adventure lies within exploring the limitless open world. If you played it once and didn’t enjoy it, I urge you to try so again, this time with the comfort of portability at your disposal.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
To me, what makes the Mass Effect trilogy story so special is the characters themselves. Throughout 30 years of gaming, I’ve become so attached to thousands of characters, all with something special to add to any gaming adventure. That being said, there is something about the progression of getting to know Mass Effect NPCs that feels organic, real, and not unlike how we build friendships and romantic relationships in real life. They are special in a way that, even as a writer, I’m not sure I could convey properly.
The dialogue feels natural and engaging. There are squabbles, there is the process of having to win someone over, and these characters go to hell and back with each other. That sort of shared experience creates bonds in any situation, and that connection is conveyed expertly with the narrative structure and the in-game mechanics. As someone who was on active duty, there were real-life situations I went through with people that couldn’t stand me and vice versa. Those situations we endured together, though? That forged a bond that transcended previous perceptions. That same transformative relationship building is very much evident in the Mass Effect trilogy and something that can be felt on a universal scale no matter each player’s IRL journies.
Through loyalty missions that dig deep into these characters’ pasts to dialogue options that shape how these characters see the player within this world, every action feels meaningful and impactful, which is a large part of why Mass Effect is so incredibly immersive. These characters matter. They matter to Shepard, and they matter to you.
Final Fantasy XV
Boy Band meets America’s Next Top Chef. This Final Fantasy adventure is massive and puts a more modernized spin on the Square Enix franchise, and 14 has a story that shouldn’t be missed. Drive around with your pals, flirt with cute mechanics, and eat some of the best dinings on this side of gaming.
While there are many light-hearted moments in this particular adventure, Final Fantasy XV houses a much darker tale, one that centers around the scorned Ardyn Lucis Caelum with Noctis and his friends charged with solving boundless mysteries. The world of XV is massive and offers unthinkable freedom for players, but it’s more than just its pretty scenery. Final Fantasy XV tells a meaningful tale of friendship, trust, and fighting for what you believe in. It’s about taking back your home, your power, and sharing in that with those closest to you. While there are some lulls, the ability to take it with you on the go with the Steam Deck is just the thing to mosey you on right past those.
Red Dead Redemption 2
I still remember the day that Red Dead Redemption 2 was announced. After years of begging for a continuation of the Western story, Rockstar Games finally delivered with a prequel rather than a sequel. And it was a smart move because fans of John Marston got to see a younger outlaw and were given a chance to fall in love with a new star found in Arthur Morgan. The second game in the Redemption series broke barriers with its stunning attention to detail with every blade of grass, every horse print in the snow. The legacy continues with Red Dead Online, which is now available as its own standalone experience, for a chance to be the badass cowboy you were always meant to be, but this time with your friends.
Still waiting on that Undead reveal, though…
The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is a fantasy adventure, yes, but I promise it’s not like Divinity Original Sin or Baldur’s Gate 3. It’s a little like Inquisition, but only because of the steamy romance, but it really is an incredible journey. Another game that is impossibly long, especially if you’re planning on running through the post-launch expansions, the most recent Witcher game is a ride no player can forget. With Netflix having its own live-action adaptation of the books that inspired the games, plus a spin-off show and an anime, now is the perfect time to get acquainted with what it means to be a witcher that is facing a world filled with monsters, prejudice, and temptation.
Force Roach, the trusty steed, up onto rooftops like old times, only this time? You too can play it atop of a roof. I don’t recommend it and legally I can’t tell you to do that, but if you so happened to find yourself on a roof playing this game? Well, I wouldn’t be mad at it. (Just be safe!!!)
And there you have it! Those are the games I can’t wait to play on the Steam Deck when it arrives late 2021, early 2022! And keep in mind, this is just 10 picks on what I would personally like to see you check out and what I’m looking forward to playing on the Deck. There are so many more options if these don’t suit your fancy! Go the DOOM route for some epic destruction, go Control for a mind-bending nightmare, or take it to the underworld with the incredible Hades title! Play what you want how you want, that’s what portable means.
If you missed out on the announcement and want to learn more about the specs, feel free to check out our previous coverage here!