Gaming

Ditching your Switch for a Steam Deck? Here are 7 alternatives to Nintendo games


The new Steam Deck could replace your Nintendo Switch — as long as you’re willing to part ways with some iconic games, that is. Although clearly more powerful than Nintendo’s handheld, Steam just doesn’t have the same kind of first-party Nintendo exclusives that make the Switch such a popular system.

Luckily there are some fitting alternatives available on Steam. Plenty of games on the platform draw inspiration from Nintendo’s greatest hits and improve on them in some cases. If you want to ditch your Nintendo Switch for the Steam Deck, we have seven PC games that can replace some of the largest Nintendo Switch exclusives.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons — Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley running on a Mac.

If you’re all about tending to your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, we have good news. One of the best farming simulators is available on Steam. Although Stardew Valley takes more inspiration from the bygone Harvest Moon series, there are a lot of overlaps with Animal Crossing: New Horizons. 

You arrive on your grandfather’s old farmland with nothing more than a few rusty tools to your name. From there, you are tasked with journeying into town to pick up supplies, talking with the locals to uncover new opportunities, and of course, tending to your crops.

Stardew Valley isn’t exactly Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but it can certainly scratch the itch. And just like Nintendo’s first-party title, you can easily sink hundreds of hours into the experience.

Paper Mario: The Origami King– Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling

Character in battle in Bug Fables.

Paper Mario: The Origami King had some issues, not the least of which were a tedious battle system and little RPG progression. The Paper Mario franchise may be a shell of what it used to be, but others are carrying the torch forward. Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is not only an alternative to Paper Mario on Steam, it’s actually a better game in a number of ways.

Just like Paper Mario, you control a party of three characters through a simplified turn-based RPG. Battles are kept interesting with button prompts corresponding to attacks, and you can swap the position of your party members to attack from different angles. Critically, Bug Fables maintains the charm of the Paper Mario series and the systems that made the first few releases so special.

Admittedly, you’re generally giving up some quality with the games on this list, but that’s not the case with Bug Fables. It’s an homage and continuation of the Paper Mario series, which Nintendo has seemingly abandoned.

Super Mario Maker 2 — Levelhead

A custom level in Levelhead.

A lot of the joy in Super Mario Maker 2 is designing your own levels with Nintendo’s iconic environments and character models. If you’re more interested in the building aspect, though, Levelhead makes a great substitute. It’s a game where you can build your own 2D platforming levels and play an endless stream of them from others.

Instead of Mario, you play as an employee at the Bureau of Shipping, the galaxy’s go-to package delivery service. Your job is to train your own GR-18 delivery robot by putting them through a string of LEVELS (Limited Exercises for eValutating employEe Limitations) that you design.

Although it lacks the Mario polish, Levelhead is still a great platformer-builder. The game even includes cross-save, so you can easily carry your design from your Steam Deck to a full gaming PC.

Pokémon Sword and Shield — Nexomon: Extinction

A town in Nexomon: Extinction.

Nexomon: Extinction is like an alternate reality where Nintendo continued to develop 2D, sprite-based Pokémon games. The game adds a modern finish and a whole lot of color to the Pokémon formula, tasking you with journeying across a varied landscape in search of every Nexomon available.

Lapsed Pokémon fans will appreciate the old-school approach, but also the various difficulty and gameplay adjustments. Catching a Nexomon, for example, involves a timed series of button inputs, not just a random number generator. Similarly, wild Nexomon scale with your level, so every battle feels like a real challenge.

With 381 Nexomon to catch and several unique quests to uncover, Extinction plays the role of a Pokémon game well.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — Immortals Fenyx Rising

Fenyx drawing a bow in Immortals Fenyx Rising.

There are a lot of games like Breath of the Wildand many of them are available on PC. The closest is undoubtedly Ubisoft’s Immortals Fenyx Rising. Although the game isn’t available on Steam, it should still work on the Steam Deck thanks to Valve’s Proton compatibility layer.

Immortals Fenyx Rising borrows the art style and some of the mechanics from Breath of the Wild. You traverse a vast open world where you can climb to overcome obstacles, shoot down fruit to heal yourself, and dive into dungeons to unlock and upgrade your abilities. It borrows a lot from Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise, too, including a fluid combat system and stealth mechanics.

Short of emulation, it’s impossible to play a game as revolutionary as Breath of the Wild on your Steam Deck. Immortals Fenyx Rising gets close, though.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate — Brawlhalla

Characters battling in Brawlhalla.

Brawlhalla is an arena fighter for up to eight players, and it’s available on Steam. Like Super Mario Maker 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate relies on its roster of iconic characters to sell the experience. If you’re looking to beat up some buddies through a wide variety of arenas, however, Brawlhalla does the trick.

Unlike Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Brawlhalla is a free-to-play fighter with an evolving roster of characters. Free players have access to the Legend Rotation, which cycles nine characters from the roster into the free-to-play mode every week. Playing online, you can earn gold to unlock the other characters or purchase them all for $20.

Although Brawlhalla doesn’t feature Nintendo characters, it brings in notable fighters from other franchises from time to time. Right now, for example, the game features the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as playable characters.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses — Wargroove/Persona 4 Golden

Characters laying in a circle from Persona 4 Golden.

You can’t find a Fire Emblem: Three Houses alternative on Steam in a single game, but you can in two games. Wargroove gets at the heart of the turn-based, tactical combat that makes the Fire Emblem franchise so exciting, and Persona 4 Golden offers all of the life-sim mechanics you could never need.

If you just want a single replacement, Wargroove is your best bet. It’s a top-down tactics game in the style of the Advance Wars series, where you control a small list of units on a grid-based battlefield. It doesn’t feature permadeath or the weapon triangle, which are both tentpoles of the Fire Emblem series. However, it’s still an excellent strategy game that can fill a Three Houses-sized hole.

Persona 4 Golden is actually better than Three Houses, at least when it comes to the life-sim mechanics. As long as you’re willing to trade turn-based tactics for a turn-based RPG, Persona 4 Golden provides a dense, enriching experience where the bonds you create with other characters go beyond the buffs they give you in battle.

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