Steam Deck Review + 6 Games

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I am incredibly lucky that my husband got me a Steam Deck for my birthday. I had no idea it was coming. I used to be pretty hardcore into gaming complete with dedicated raid nights. But that seems like many moons ago — because it was. In recent years I haven’t spent more than a couple hours playing video games per week. Now though, I’d say I spend that much more or more any day that I’ve got the time.

A handheld system provides much more flexibility which for me is a huge plus. It earns a lot of its money’s worth for me by freeing me from a desk or a tv that’s fixed in place. It’s been a very long time since I’ve done any kind of handheld gaming. The last time was seriously probably Gameboy like 20 or more years ago, I’m too depressed to go find out how old the Gameboy system is. There’s just something super relaxing about playing a game while I’m in my bed propped up on pillows. It’s quite a luxury item. This also eats significantly less electricity than my desktop, but to keep things fair it will probably take about a year to balance out the cost of the Deck vs the electricity my PC sucks up while gaming, lol.

The Deck is a nice size, I didn’t feel it was cumbersome but I also felt like the screen was big enough to have a good gaming experience. It’s not going to give you the same immersion level as a large monitor would, especially for games where things like that matter — looking at you Skyrim/Elden Ring. However, the definition was great and the gameplay was smooth for even the most graphics-intensive games that I downloaded. You can also choose to cast this to a screen if you want that big-screen experience.

I tried to sample one game from each of the game styles I enjoy to see how well they worked in this handheld format. When you install your games on the Deck from your Steam library it’ll sort your games that are “great” on the Deck. This is obviously to help guide newbies to where the best experience can be had, working as a filter to see what you might want to try out first. I tried some games that were said to be great. I also tried some games that just said Verified, meaning it’s been tried out and it “works” but may not be ranked as “great”. I then also tried out some Unverified games, meaning no one has even looked to see if these games work well on the Deck or not.

To continue on and review the Deck as a device just a little while longer — the battery life is my biggest complaint. Depending on which game I’m playing I might get a couple hours, or I might get half an hour before a full battery entirely drains out. There are things that can help with that, like dimming the screen. If I go and dim the screen to like 60-75% I’ll extend my gameplay by about as much 25-40%. I usually have to shut off the lights to play comfortably at 50-60% dim screen but at night when I shut off the lights I can crank it down even lower and for bright games like Battleblock Theater I’m not bothered by it, and then I can get several hours. This is, I think, still in the preliminary stages and is subject to further development. The other thing about the battery life — it comes with a very powerful charger. It does not take long for it to charge up, so that’s really nice since it drains so quickly. Also, if you want to play a game indefinitely, just make sure you’ve got at least 50% battery, plug it in, and then you can just play and play and play while it’s plugged in since charges as fast as it drains so long as you start over 50% battery, or thereabouts.

Here are very brief reviews of my experiences through some of these games.

Civilization IV

For me, this game played just fine once I got used to it. It took about five to ten minutes of fiddling with the controls before I became accustomed to it, which isn’t all that long. The controls were more or less intuitive. Surprisingly to me, this was not something listed as great on the Deck. It was simply “Verified”. I personally think it translates just fine. This isn’t a fast-moving game where you need to do things quickly lest you die. The stakes are low and so it’s a chill game to learn on the deck. I did get a little irritated from time to time with getting my scouts to move around the globe towards the end as the map expands. It was a touch awkward and slow to move around to find my guys on the board sometimes. There may be a superior way to what I was doing, but it’s basically my only complaint about the game in its translation to the Deck. I have over 1,000 hours into this game pre-Deck so I wasn’t new to any of this, I wasn’t trying to learn how to play on the deck, just how it translated.

If you haven’t played the Civilizations games, the title is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a civilization builder game and it’s fairly intricate, but not a super intricate advanced-level civ builder. I would say if you’ve never tried a civ builder and you’re curious, this would be a great franchise to dip your toes in. There are a lot of these games out there but this is the one I’ve spent the most time playing. You can choose how big you want your map, which leader from which civilization (which all come with unique benefits and deficiencies), and there are different resources to mine/harvest/trade with other leaders. It’s a turn-based game that you can by yourself or with others. I feel most people probably know what this game is so I won’t go into more detail than that.

Rating on the Deck: 8/10

BioShock Remaster 2

Wow, I did not expect quality gameplay despite the clear label of, “great” on the Deck. With games like this that have a complicated menus system, fast-paced gameplay, and graphics-intensive I wasn’t sure I could transition over to a handheld, but I did! I found that most controls were intuitive, I didn’t have to do too much fiddling at the start, so I’d call the learning curve mild to moderate. There were a few things that I felt were clunky, but it went much smoother than I thought. This was also the first game where I started to trip out a bit about the graphics quality. Now, keep something in mind whenever I mention graphics in a review — I’m fairly easy to please. I am not a graphics snob that will notice and critique all the small finishing details or lack thereof. I just like things to look pretty and run smoothly and not superheat the Deck. I was impressed. I was bugging out watching what looked like a desktop screen in my fucking hands laying in bed at night. It’s just so wild to me that we are at this stage with video games. I still clearly remember playing Mario64 and my dad mentioning how great the graphics were. People who have been very into handheld consoles or are uber graphics nerds may not be as impressed as I am. This is another game that I had originally played on my desktop, not as many as 1,000 hours, but I was familiar enough with it that I wasn’t learning the game, I was just transitioning.

For those of you that haven’t played this game before it’s a first-person shooter, puzzle solving, slightly horror-based game? There’s a corrupted and twisted underwater city that’s been experimenting with various magic tonics that let people become super-powered, but it’s driven the citizens insane. The whole thing is super neat, my favorite of the Bioshock franchise is Bioshock infinite which is a next-level steampunk game all based in a floating city in the clouds. I am absolutely going to try that one out on the Deck.

Deck Rating: 8/10

BattleBlock Theater

I found this game because I asked the internet, “what games are like Banjo-Kazooie?” and I found an article that listed ten of them. Of that list of ten I downloaded the three with the highest ratings, which were this, Hollow Knight, and Death’s Door.

I had not played this before, it was a brand new game that I got just for the Deck. It was rated as Great and I was super excited. I start the game up and a narrator says, extremely sarcastically, “Settle down and shut your faces” lolol. I really loved the opening. It definitely lets you know what the tone is right from the very start, and it was the funniest fucking opening to a game I’ve seen in a while. It was like listening to a Drunk History narration of a storyline. The sarcastic and demeaning narrator follows you throughout the game and makes fun of you when you die — kind of like Portal. I loved this immediately.

So, style and humor aside, the gameplay is amazing. I just loved everything about it. It requires excessively quick thinking and controls towards the end of the game. I love a game that ramps up its difficulty slowly and by the end is just enragingly difficult. I rage quit this a few times but I keep going back because I want to beat it. It’s been a few weeks and I still haven’t made it past the last couple of levels, but this hasn’t been the sole game I’ve been playing, obviously.

This also has a bit of puzzle work in it, too, where you’ve got to figure out how you’re going to get from point A to point B. However, I’d say most of the challenges are timing things correctly, there are lots of different obstacles that have to be timed just so, down to the millisecond. It’s a ton of fun, and it is reminiscent of Mario where you collect things throughout levels. This is also just very accessible, there are endless lives available so when you die you just instantly respawn with no consequences. I almost wish they had a death meter, it must be hundreds of times that I’ve died and I’m sure whatever the number is, it’s a hilarious number of deaths. The humor is kept throughout the game — like when you find secret levels and the background music is just “secret level, secret level, biddidy bobbity, oh yeah secret level”. It just really tickled me pink. Highly recommended for any audience, maybe not kids, I can’t remember if there’s cursing or not. I don’t think so, though. There’s a decent amount of replay value depending on how much of a completionist you are. There are like….. hundreds of different characters you can unlock by going back and collecting more gems (which is the whole point to each level, collect the gems). If you’re not someone who wants to collect every last unlockable character this may or may not have a lot of replay value for you. It might just be a really fun first play through and that’s that. However, I think it’s priced appropriately for that, it’s not an expensive game.

Here’s a trailer for their gameplay/coop game. I also forgot to mention two people can play this at the same time.

Deck Rating: 9/10


I was really hoping this one would easily translate to this but it took me a long time to get used to it. This is not a new game to me, I walked down the aisle to the opening song of Portal, “this is Aperture Science”. The thing of it is, this was listed as “great” on the Deck, but for whatever reason, I had a long learning curve. It’s probably me, I can’t see why it would be listed that way if others struggle with it. Whatever the case may be, once I got the controls down and I got used to it I started flying through levels.

For those who haven’t played Portal before, it’s a sci-fi puzzle game with a very sarcastic, very funny AI. The game is intensely puzzle based and you get a portal gun that makes physics super entertaining. This game is full of hidden stuff and tons of humor. It’s got a lot of replay value just as fucking around, but not everyone is going to enjoy that as there aren’t things to unlock or collect, really. However, since it’s old it’s pretty cheap so I’d say it’s totally worth the money even if you aren’t going to be replaying it.

Deck Rating: 7.5/10

Plants Vs. Zombies

So I was looking for an easy-to-put-down game for when the toddler needs something from me, the dog needs something, the other dog needs something — basically, I’m interrupted a lot and so games that I can’t pause are a no-go. This translated terribly. The buttons, control pads, and thumbsticks don’t do shit, I couldn’t use them as controls for the game. You have to use the touchscreen to play. However, because of how large this thing is it really does not play well if you only use the touchscreen, it’s awkward to use it like that. Now, another very odd thing is this is the only game that made my Deck overheat. I’m not a tech person so I can’t make heads or tails of why that is, but my Deck overheats with this very simple, very old game and it doesn’t translate well. Overall I do not recommend it at all for the deck, lol.

Deck Rating: 1/10


Man is this fun, you get to play as a raven who harvests souls by going through various doors to various worlds. It’s super, super cool. Right away I liked how the gameplay worked. It has very intuitive controls which makes it fluid and fun. It almost felt like I had played it before, I didn’t have to look up how to do much of anything. It’s got a collector’s aspect that I always enjoy. Hiding things throughout the map forces the player to explore and interact with everything the programmers have done. I like to feel that games that utilize the map in this way gives the gamer a more satisfying experience and hold on to replay value. The progression and leveling up is a little slow, you’ve got to kind of build yourself up until you can take on some the second and third boss fights. The first boss was fairly easy and I beat that on the first try. For the second boss, I think I died a couple of times and still beat them without spending souls to level up. However, with the third boss I had to go level up and trade in my souls for power-ups a couple times before I was able to beat that one. Then each boss thereafter was a bigger pain in my ass. But because the bosses can be really difficult it makes it really satisfying when you finally do it. It’s just the perfect level of difficulty where I’m not bored, I’m mildly frustrated, but I’m not so enraged I want to set it down.

It’s a very chill game for how frustrating it can be. The overall atmosphere was very calming to me and the background music helped with that. Even when you’re being hounded by multiple enemies it’s still somehow relaxing. The world expands pretty broadly for what I paid for this, I’m definitely getting a lot of gameplay time for 20 dollars. I haven’t beaten the game yet, but I’d say this is probably my favorite along with BattleBlock that I’ve tried for the Deck.

Deck Rating: 9/10