Finding Steam Deck Gaming Bliss: The 5 Must-Play Games of November 2022

Hey friend! Have you recently picked up a Steam Deck and wondered what games you should dive into first? With thousands of titles available, it can seen downright overwhelming to know where to start with Valve‘s powerful new handheld gaming PC.

Well, I‘ve tested and research dozens of hit games on the Steam Deck, and want to share the cream of the crop to get your library started off right. These 5 must-play Steam Deck games will show off just what your cool new portable powerhouse can do across different genres.

From the sprawling open fantasy world of Elden Ring to post-apocalyptic robot dinosaur hunting in Horizon Zero Dawn, these graphically stunning epics feel tailor-made for kicking back on the couch or gaming on the go with the Steam Deck. And with hundreds of hours of potential gameplay, they should keep you immersed in their virtual worlds for months to come!

But before getting to the main event, let‘s recap what makes the Steam Deck itself so special for gaming, and what to keep in mind when selecting the best titles to play.

An Introduction to Steam Deck Gaming

As a quick refresher, the Steam Deck is built to provide desktop-tier gaming in a compact handheld form factor. The custom AMD chipset allows it to power the latest graphically demanding games that would normally require a high-end PC or new console.

It achieves this through components like Zen 2 CPU processing cores and RDNA 2 graphics based on the chips powering the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. While resolution and graphical settings need to be turned down compared to a cutting-edge gaming PC, the Steam Deck still provides smooth framerates and visuals, especially on its 7-inch 1280×800 touchscreen.

The built-in control scheme also feels fantastic, with full-sized analog sticks, pressure sensitive triggers, responsive face buttons and a highly customizable back paddle interface. After tinkering the with controller layout in the settings, the Steam Deck truly feels like the perfect portable vessel for immersive AAA gaming.

Of course, the Steam Deck experience is only as good as the games. Thankfully Valve has optimized hundreds of popular Steam games to run smoothly on the hardware through their Verification program, guaranteeing a flawless out-of-box experience. Verified titles have consistent performance tuned to the Steam Deck‘s hardware capabilities.

For unverified games, a Playable rating still indicates good compatibility after some manual graphics adjustments. And my own testing shows that even unsupported games often run impressively well on the Deck. The benefits of the Deck‘s PC architecture is that nearly any game can be tweaked to play smoothly on the hardware if you don‘t mind getting technical.

Now that you‘ve got a sense of what makes for an ideal Steam Deck game, let‘s jump into the main event…

1. Elden Ring

Jaw-dropping open world with meticulously crafted lands between
Strategic real-time combat against towering imaginatively designed bosses
*Over 100 hours of content to utterly lose yourself in

I have to start this list with the magnum opus of dark fantasy gaming excellence that is Elden Ring. Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team at FromSoftware have crafted their most ambitious game yet, throwing players into the vast realm of the Lands Between to face off against massive beasts and finely tuned humanoid bosses.

As a fan of Demon‘s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne, I couldn‘t wait to experience Elden Ring‘s gruelling yet rewarding trek across the realm. And let me tell you, seeing this incredibly artistic world rendered on the Steam Deck‘s vibrant display was an absolute feast for the eyes.

While graphical settings need to be turned down from max PC levels and 30fps is targeted, Elden Ring still looks and runs fantastically on the Steam Deck. This allowed me to truly take in and appreciate every detail of the landscapes, architecture, and creature designs that clearly had painstaking effort poured into them.

And being able hold this dark fantasy epic in my hands while lounging on couch, train, or plane seat took the immersive experience to another level. I loved settling into environments like the divine Erdtree Sanctuary or haunting Caria Manor and soaking up their foreboding ambience.

As far as gameplay goes, Elden Ring finds immense depth in seemingly straightforward combat and exploration. Sidestepping past a mounted knight‘s spear thrust to punish an overextended swing simply feels incredible with the Deck‘s responsive controls. And peering across sweeping vistas or into murky dungeon depths looking for hidden secrets put my adventuring instincts into overdrive.

Here‘s a cool performance detail too – Elden Ring hovers around 45fps on the Steam Deck, giving it much smoother visual feedback during tense real-time battles compared to the 30fps on PlayStation and Xbox. Between the silky framerates and ergonomic controllers, this is absolutely my preferred way to play Elden Ring.

So if you love losing yourself in artistically crafted fantasy realms and overcoming deadly challenges through patience and skill, Elden Ring is an easy recommendation. It‘s the kind of game I‘ll still be booting up for return journeys years down the line.

2. No Man‘s Sky

Spacefaring adventure across universe of procedural generated worlds
Soothing gameplay loop of exploration, base building, and freighter command
*Free major updates continually expanding universe over 6 years

For anyone looking a more bright-eyed and optimistic brand of sci-fi, No Man‘s Sky offers a vibrant interstellar reprieve from dark fantasy. This procedurally generated space exploration game lets you traversing quintillions of unique planets across a tiny fraction of its nigh-infinite in-game universe.

I often describe No Man‘s Sky as a mix of chilled out year-in-the-life sim meets slowly unraveling an intergalactic mystery thriller. As you planet hop collecting resources, cataloging new species, and surveying environments, intriguing secrets of reality-breaking technologies and cross-dimensional beings are slowly teased out to discover.

After huge updates like Companions, Expeditions, Sentinel Drones, and Leviathan Expedition over the years, No Man‘s Sky has evolved from janky tech demo to deepest and most comforting gaming escape I know. There are so many gameplay paths now like base building, freighter management, alien language learning, creature raising, archaeology, guild missions and much more than I can possibly list here.

On a technical level, No Man‘s Sky also runs wonderfully on the Steam Deck. While visual settings need to be turned down from max, frame rate remain highly smooth as you transition seamlessly from your freighter to hurtling down to planetary surfaces without loading. Controlling my starship with the joystick and punching pulse drive with the triggers captures the tangible sensation of starship command I‘ve always wanted playing this game.

And being able explore this endless relaxing galaxy while kicked back on sofa or even outside on the porch took me back to carelessly summer nights as a kid. No Man‘s Sky mixes that childlike woolgathering sense of possability with hi-tech interstellar toys realized through the Steam Deck. I really can‘t overstate what comfort food this game has become amidst stressful pandemic times.

So if want to lose yourself across the galaxies and find gaming joy in smaller discoveries, rather than heroic deeds, No Man‘s Sky is the ultimate cozy place to digitally wander infinitely.

3. Horizon Zero Dawn

Vastly imaginative open world where cybernetic creatures rule a post-post-apocalyptic Earth
Strategic close-quarters battles with diverse menagerie of strikingly designed robotic beasts
*Recently Steam Deck Verified for flawless optimized performance

Horizon Zero Dawn enraptured a generation of PlayStation gamers with its ingeniously realized vision of the post-post-apocalypse. On a far future Earth, the hubris of mankind has long vanished after devastating themselves with rogue AI. In their place, cybernetically enhanced animalistic machines rule the planet.

Playing as the tenacious hunter Aloy, you must uncover the secrets of the old ones‘ technology while battling their biomechanical swarm. Each machine beast has intricately designed frame housing glowing cores and intricate moving parts. Every detail imaginatively concretizes how synthetic organs and limbs might replace vulnerable flesh.

And getting to see these creative technological wonders come to life on PC and now the Steam Deck has been an absolute treat. After a recent comprehensive patch, Horizon Zero Dawn was officially Steam Deck Verified for flawless optimized performance as a handheld experience.

Framerates stick to a flawless 30fps regardless of on-screen robot dinosaur chaos, while visual fidelity has been tuned for the Deck‘s 1280×800 display. Image quality is sacrificed compared to top-end PCs, but shadows, lighting, and detail preservation capture enough of land‘s natural beauty and mechanical beasts to leave me gobsmacked.

Wandering across sweeping iconic Western vistas like Bryce Canyon while scanning to discover hidden ancient secrets taps all my tactile explorer instincts. Let me tell you, strategically timing dodges to activate bullet-time concentration aim against a charging Thunderjaw is an unmatched combat thrill with the Steam Deck‘s controls.

If haven‘t played Horizon Zero Dawn yet, I can‘t overstate what an imaginative visual feast it is. And getting to experience Aloy‘s journey on the Steam Deck has been the definitive way for me to play this masterpiece comfortably on the go.

4. Hades

Roguelite dungeon crawler set in dazzling mythical Greek underworld
Compulsive hack-and-slash runs with infinitely varied God-gifted boon abilities
*A perfect synergy of pick-up-and-play design with unexpected depth

As someone who grew up enamored with Greek mythology, Hades brings vivid life to those larger-than-life figures of my childhood bedtime stories. From imperious Zeus to irritable boatman Charon, Supergiant Games‘ signature voice acting and expressive character animation leap directly off the page.

But Hades transcends the trappings of myth and rises to the Olympian heights of gaming greatness thanks to its masterfully balanced roguelite structure. Each consecutive attempt to fight your way out of hell pits you against infinitely varied room layouts filled with diabolic monstrosities.

A key part of strategizing your escape is choosing a balanced set of godly boons to enhance your abilities each run. Zeus can turn your strikes into chain lighting. Dionysis can inflict poison hangovers. And that‘s just the tip of the Olympus-sized iceberg of dynamic builds to mix, match and master.

Just like in Spelunky or Dead Cells, the compulsion to try "just one more run" quickly becomes an addictive mantra as you painstakingly strengthen Zagreus for an eventual successful ascent. Part of what makes Hades so replayable is it never feels unfair when you meet another red-tinged demise. There‘s always a stronger build and bolder strategy waiting to be discovered just a run away.

From a technical angle, Hades vibrant cell-shaded visuals pop beautifully on the Steam Deck‘s screen while maintaining smooth 60fps gameplay. The controls are perfectly tuned for twin-stick combat too – dashing and dodging around chambers with the left stick while slashing away at skeletal warriors always feels incredibly responsive.

Honestly, no game I‘ve played delivers so flawlessly on that elusive "easy to play, almost impossible to master" sweet spot like Hades. Its heavenly harmony of compelling characters, infinitely varied progression, and silky smooth gameplay chemistry with the Steam Deck makes for a divine escape.

5. Death Stranding

Breathtakingly atmospheric treks delivering vital supplies across post-apocalyptic America
Forging connections online creates a sense hopeful solidarity amidst despair
*Technical showpiece pushing the Steam Deck‘s performance to its limits

Death Stranding stands completely alone as big budget video game weirdo auteur Hideo Kojima‘s unrestrained passion project freed from traditional genre convention. Rather than slaying enemies or conquering quests, your goal is simply guide carrier Sam Porter Bridges as he reconnects survivors in isolation by delivering supplies on foot across the ravaged countryside.

Why take such a mundane real-world occupation and turn into high-budget console experience? In my mind, it comes down to admirable ethos behind Death Stranding. As players build infrastructure like bridges, generators, and roads together, they create mutual acts of service without reward benefiting strangers asynchronously online.

These small deeds pupils hope that in the face adversity – be it game world terrorists or real world pandemics – basic human decency can triumph to build a strand that tethers together. And providing that lifeline to NPCs and fellow gamers has given me a greater sense of purpose than any epic gaming quest for glory or vengeance.

On a graphical level, Hideo Kojima spares no expense realizing a gleefully weird post-apocalyptic earth saturated with rust, fungus growths, and occult rain accelerating time itself. Having recently optimized PC performance specifically for the Steam Deck‘s custom AMD hardware, Death Stranding also shows off just how graphically stunning an Unreal engine showcase can look on the go.

Make no mistake though, the Steam Deck is being pushed to its limits trying to hit 60fps at native resolution while rendering huge draw distances and physically based materials. Framerates more realistically can hover around 30-45fps, but adaptive quality settings help stabilize fluidity. If you want show off the bleeding graphical potential, Death Stranding is truly an unparalleled crazy spectacle.

Between the melancholy atmosphere sustained by Low Roar‘s haunted album accompaniment, trachea jarringbacker combat, and emotionally cathartic delivery gameplay loop, Death Stranding gets its hooks in deep through sheer audaciousness.

Strap on your Porter boots and take the first steps toward forging bonds between life and death. Just beware the rain…and the tar…and the terrorists. Ok maybe strap on body armor too actually!

More Steam Deck Gaming Greats Await!

I hope these overviews give a taste of what makes each of these 5 games uniquely compelling Steam Deck experiences. Truly they only scratch the surface of the platform‘s full potential.

Part of the fun is tailoring the system to your personal tastes – do you enjoy immersive stories or competitive multiplayer? Outsmarting AI enemies or cooperating with friends? The Steam Deck gives you the versatility to play thousands of games from your Steam library portably.

Here are some tips on finding more perfect portable games for you:

  • Browse Steam Collections like Local Multiplayer or Action RPG for new ideas
  • Search tags like "Female Protagonist", "Stylized Art‘ or "VR Supported"
  • Check out your existing Wishlist and library for Deck compatibility

The Steam Deck empowers you to play your PC games literally anywhere now. So whether your next adventure is deciding the fate of mythical realms or delivering packages across a post-apocalypse, enjoy it knowing you‘ve got the best seat in the house!

Let me know in the comments what discoveries you make across the vast frontiers of Steam Deck gaming! I‘m always hungry to hear fellow gamers‘ experiences.

Happy gaming, friend!

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