The greatest PC handheld, meet some of the best survival games.
The Steam Deck, developed by Valve, is a portable handheld gaming device that’s more mature than its competition. Its functionalities are similar to the Nintendo Switch, but the Steam Deck has less color or personality and more computing power. And though the Steam Deck was only released earlier this year, it already has an impressive list of titles it supports. Their library will only grow as more gamers discover the versatility, power, and speed of the Steam Deck.
Of course, we’re most interested in the survival and horror games it holds. And thankfully, Valve did not skip out on featuring horror or survival titles for us to sink our time into. So let’s look at the round-up of the 10 best survival games for the Steam Deck and see just how much survival you can get into while out and about.
1. Fallouts 1, 2, and 3
The Fallout series is long-running, full of vast knowledge, and now playable on a portable gaming device. At least the first three titles are. Fallout 1, 2, & 3 are available for the Steam Deck and play beautifully. Though many gamers will forego the halting and slow experience of the first entry in the Fallout franchise, they have more than a few hours of content to sit through with this trilogy. Mutants, radiated rats, and fascists await your slow-mo killing skills in these Mad Max-style games.
Fallout is set in a post-apocalyptic America. Characters play as vault-dwellers who foresaw the coming nuclear holocaust and lived for a while in underground vaults. The story of each Fallout is unique and full of top-notch story-telling. The universe of Fallout has consistently treated fans to award-winning experiences. In Fallout 1, players must find their elusive water chip to fix their vault’s water system. In Fallout 2, players fight off the Enclave—those jerks. And in Fallout 3, players chase their dad across the Wasteland only to fight off the Enclave again—those jerks.
Though the Fallout series enjoys current popularity, there’s a reason it got to be around this long. Steam Deck provides a wonderful opportunity in the early Fallout games for gamers wondering how the franchise got its start and enamored the minds of so many gamers worldwide.
2. Alien: Isolation
Alien: Isolation is a first-person survival horror shooter that preys on our primitive pathways of fear. It’s a game that successfully brought a new generation of fans into the Alien franchise. And for older fans of the franchise, they were brought back to an accurate portrayal of the haunting spaceship that started it all.
Alien: Isolation is a ride through space as we follow the daughter of our famed femme fatale, Ellen Ripley–Amanda–as she seeks answers to the questions she has. Like, why did all my friends get eaten? What is this alien’s goal? Where did it come from? How do I kill it? And why did that thing just burst out of their stomach?
What Isolation does well is make you feel, well, isolated. It also perfectly captures how much panic is felt the moment you see a xenomorph turn the corner and charge you. The xenomorph’s AI is highly advanced, allowing for unique adaptation to every gamer’s play style. If you hide too much, the alien will learn this and start looking for you in lockers. If you fight too much, the alien will look to flank you and engage you before you can fire your weapons.
Early in the story, Amanda is separated from her crew and forced to survive on a dark spaceship infested with hungry alien creatures. Isolation has gained a cult following and is heralded as one of the scariest first-person shooters around. Of course, it’s nowhere near as frightening as our next entry.
3. Dead Space 3
Speaking of surviving on dark spaceships infested with hungry alien creatures, Dead Space 3 is another title Steam Deck owners can enjoy on the go. While the 3rd Dead Space is by far the worst of the series, it’s nice to see Issac Clarke making an appearance on the handheld market.
You’ll still be stalked, hunted, and eaten by necromorphs throughout your journey, but Dead Space 3 has more action than horror. Still plenty of survival, though, as you’ll be scavenging for every scrap of ammo you can find. Unfortunately, many of the survival and horror elements are scaled back for a generic shooter experience. Thanks to the oh-so brilliant minds at Electronic Arts. This turns Dead Space 3 into the subdued, quieter sibling of Dead Space 1 and 2. The emphasis is more on being an action hero, taking down sci-fi horrors left and right, instead of mere human fighting off a galaxy-wide alien influence.
Still, if you’re ever camping alone in the wilderness and feel like making yourself even more paranoid, bust out Dead Space 3 and get to dismembering necromorphs.
4. Tomb Raider
The Steam Deck doesn’t just feature a single Tomb Raider title, it boasts six of them. There’s Rise of and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, plus classic Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: 4. That’s a lot of tombs to raid, a lot of nazi-adjacent groups to take down, and lots of lost artifacts to uncover.
Thanks to the Steam Deck’s excellent computing capabilities, gamers will enjoy all the spectacular views from each mountain Lara climbs. They’ll watch every near-death experience with crystal clear visuals. And they’ll wonder why oh why Lara never hooks up with Jonah.
Though each Tomb Raider experience is different, they are also extremely similar. Some mystery involving Lara’s dad comes up, usually something dealing with immortality or curses or ever-lasting prosperity. Then it turns out there’s a secret evil group trying to figure out the same mystery, and now it’s up to Lara to figure it all out first.
Also, there are tombs. Lots of tombs.
Valheim is a Viking enthusiast’s dream. Grab your axe, long boat, and carved All-Father idol to explore the harsh, untamed lands of Valheim. Considered a near-perfect survival sandbox experience, Valheim is a world in which you can easily exist for hours at a time. The enemy encounters are decisive, the settings are intricate, and your crafting skills are impressive. You’ll be crafting fur coats and shiny metal shields in no time.
Valheim is a classic survival title in that you start with little more than your trusty hatchet at the start of the journey. Where you end up is entirely in your hands, but you’ll gather resources and build your base along the way. Your base can be anything from a small shanty by the sea to a sprawling mead hall worthy of the gods. Fight off ancient thunderbirds, swamp lords, and anything else the wilds can throw at you.
And now Valheim can be enjoyed while you explore your own wilderness.
6. Dying Light
Dying Light plays like a typical zombie-themed survival horror video game. There’s an outbreak of something viral that causes an apocalypse, and you’re one of the few people left around to rebuild society, help others in your community, and kick serious zombie ass. And just like other typical zombie-themed games, as the story progresses, you find out that your character is linked to the initial outbreak somehow as you unravel the series of events that led to this miserable hole you find yourself in.
What makes Dying Light different is one thing and one thing only.
Dying Light is, at its core, are fairly unimpressive game with a fairly generic story to drive its gameplay. But when you add Dishonored/Assassin Creed mechanics to the mix–scaling buildings and somersaulting across rooftops—it gets pretty interesting.
Thanks to Valve’s dedication to gaming excellence, gamers can parkour all over zombies while parkouring themselves.
7. ARK: Survival Evolved
Ark is one of the most punishing survival games, mainly because on the island you find yourself stranded on, there are more than just bears and panthers roaming around. There are monsters, fantasy creatures, natural disasters, and–most deadly of all–other humans. But if you can move beyond the copious grinding, the brutal monsters, and the rudimentary mechanics, then Ark is a survival game you would more than enjoy.
Ark is your traditional survival title in that you start with little more than the clothes on your back and are tasked with survival. Not just with survival, but you’re expected to build a self-sustaining empire within whatever jungle you find yourself in.
What makes Ark different and gives it a twist is that a large part of survival isn’t just building and crafting. It’s raising and taming animals. Not just dinosaurs, though they are the obvious first choice, any kind of breedable animal. Once you have velociraptors, you can ride; there’s little you need to fear in the wilderness.
8. The Forest
The Forest is terrifying and awesome.
Probably the standout survival game of the decade, The Forest is a harrowing experience unlike any other game today. It’s a wild ride from start to finish. Whether you’re gathering resources and doing your best to survive or whether you’re fighting off mutated, multi-limbed horrors. Everything in The Forest–from the crafting to the combat to the story–is to be studied and emulated.
Eric Leblanc, the protagonist of The Forest, is searching for his son Timmy after a tragic plane crash. The game features an open environment that allows players to build, craft, explore, or fight as they see fit. They can focus on defense and build an impregnable castle. Or they can hone their hunting skills and fight back the never-ending waves of cannibalistic humanoids. The Forest was a title that brought AAA levels of shock and adrenaline with indie levels of unique gameplay. Be sure to check out The Forest Beginner’s Guide we’ve put together.
Take it from us, The Forest is best enjoyed while hiking in a forest.
Subnautica is a game that provides surprising amounts of story and immersion. Especially considering all you do the entire time is swim around the ocean and look at alien fish.
After you survive the attack and subsequent crash-landing of your spaceship, your only task is to survive on an alien planet. The gameplay of Subnautica will see players venturing away from the relative safety of their underwater enclosure to explore the deep, dark of an alien ocean. There are multiple modes of play, so gamers can either challenge themselves with extreme survivability or take it easy and leisurely plump the depths of the sea.
The story of Subnautica sees our protagonist fighting for rescue from his crash landing. While you’re not going to have the most dramatic sequences or intense moments of emotion, Subnautica delivered a storied experience we weren’t expecting to be so rich.
10. State of Decay
State of Decay is an ambitious survival horror zombie game that aims to explore the human side of the zombie apocalypse. So, it’s like Rust meets The Walking Dead. It’s a highly open world with large amounts of customization and crafting. But rather than push you into combat with an entire city’s population worth of zombies, State of Decay focuses on actually surviving a zombie apocalypse, which means interacting with the brain-eaters as little as possible. Instead, State of Decay would rather gamers focus on resource gathering, base fortifying, and ammo conserving activities.
State of Decay is a game with hundreds of hours of gameplay in it. It’s a title that can provide wide amounts of variability. Some gamers may grow tired of the gameplay loop: find a base, gather resources to fortify said base, then move on to the next base. But the game State of Decay provides enough content that gamers should find plenty to do.
What do you think of the best survival games for Steam Deck?
Valve’s Steam Deck is shaping up to be a fantastic contender in the portable gaming market. The highest-priced option for a Steam Deck is currently around $600. With digital versions of consoles sitting somewhere close by without the ability to take it on the go, Steam Deck may actually move ahead of other consoles in the gaming market. And while we all know mobile gaming is hard to beat, with over 60% of the gaming industry securely played on a phone, phones aren’t all that cheap anymore. If someone is looking for a portable gaming solution, they could do much worse than the Steam Deck.
The Steam Deck adds more games to its library every month, so this collection of survival titles may be much larger by the end of the year. Indeed, the vampire survival game V Rising, will be coming to the Steam Deck in a few short months. As more gamers pick up Valve’s foray into mobile, the Steam Deck will only grow more popular and reliable.