Valve’s Steam Deck promises all the same handheld freedom as the Nintendo Switch, but with vastly more powerful tech under the hood, capable of running the most lavishly produced AAA games. A few months in, according to a blog post from Valve, it turns out everyone’s just using the thing to play a bunch of those “this is perfect on Switch” titles.
The Steam Deck, announced last summer and released this February, is Valve’s foray into handheld gaming. For a handheld, it’s pretty beefy, both in terms of its physicality and its technical guts, replete with a custom AMD chip that’s a twist on what’s included in next-gen consoles. (The Steam Deck can’t run games at 4K, though, displaying them instead at 1200px resolution.) It’s available in three models, with pricing mostly based on internal storage, ranging from a 64GB hard drive ($400) to a 512GB solid-state drive ($650).
Given its technical capabilities, you’d be right to expect Steam Deck users to spend time with blockbusters that simply aren’t playable on Switch, due to either legal or technical constraints. But for the most part, players have gravitated toward lower-fidelity indie hits. Here are the top ten most-played games of Steam Deck of May 2022, organized alphabetically:
- Aperture Desk Job
- The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth*
- Elden Ring
- No Man’s Sky
- Rogue Legacy 2
- Slay the Spire*
- Stardew Valley*
- Vampire Survivors
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt*
(An asterisk indicates a game that’s also available on Switch. No Man’s Sky is (somehow) incoming later this year. Rogue Legacy 2 exited Early Access in April; its predecessor is currently playable on Switch.)
Valve did not provide total hours for each game played, nor indicate which of these are played any more or less than the others. (Representatives for Valve did not respond to Kotaku’s request for comment. It is amusing to note, given this lack of hierarchy, they happened to put their own game top of the list.) The company did, however, note that all ten are deemed “Steam Deck Verified”—Valve’s in-house certification that a game runs as smoothly on Steam Deck as it does on other platforms. To date, 3,000 games are Verified, up from around 400 at the console’s launch.
It’s of course not a surprise to see the more technically demanding Elden Ring, the most popular game of the year by far, among the crop of most-played games. Same goes for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an open-world RPG with more staying power than that one person who won’t leave a house party even though you’ve changed into PJs and are very loudly putting away your dishes.
But the presence of mostly smaller games on here reaffirms a bones-deep lesson: Sometimes it’s nice to just curl up in bed for 30 minutes and run a few chambers of Hades or Slay the Spire. That’s not to knock such games as less-than, by the way. I don’t know about you, but for me, diving into a massive open-world RPG is a whole production. I typically don’t like to boot up something like Witcher 3 unless I know I can post up on the sofa for a few hours. Now, since I still don’t have a Deck, where’s word of that Vampire Survivors Switch port…