Can we play Skyrim on Steam Deck? If you’re considering buying a Steam Deck so you can enjoy mobile PC gaming, you might be wondering if one of the most popular RPGs of all time runs well on Valve’s new handheld device, especially more than it looks like you can run Skyrim on everything from PCs to consoles to the Nintendo Switch. I certainly was too.
Valve says it tests every game on Steam to see how it plays on the Steam Deck. Some games run very well, others are playable with some issues, and some games just don’t run very well on a Steam Deck and are not recommended.
As Valve tests games for the Steam Deck, it sorts them into three categories: Verified, Playable, and Unsupported. For games not yet tested, there is a fourth category: Unknown.
Surprisingly, the most popular version of Skyrim currently falls into the latter category.
Can we play Skyrim on Steam Deck?
There are several different versions of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim available on Steam, including Skyrim Legendary Edition (2011) and Skyrim Special Edition. There’s also the Skyrim Anniversary Edition, although that’s really just the special edition with a bunch of extra DLC and features, so we’re currently counting that as the same game as Skyrim SE. Finally, there’s Skyrim VR.
Since Skyrim Special Edition is the most played version by Steam users, we’ll start there.
Skyrim Special Edition Steam Deck Compatibility
Currently Skyrim SE falls into the Unknown Category. Skyrim Special Edition is not verified on SteamDeck. If you use Valve Steam Deck compatibility site, which shows you which games in your Steam library are verified, playable, and unsupported, Skyrim Special Edition does not appear there at all. This indicates that Skyrim Special Edition has not yet been tested by Valve, which is a bit odd considering that Skyrim has been in the top 100 most played games on Steam since its launch in 2011. And this is the version which most people play today.
That doesn’t mean it won’t work on Steam Deck though. ProtonDB gives Skyrim Special Edition a gold rating with over 600 reports from users who have played it using Proton, Steam Deck’s compatibility layer. It’s not a flawless experience, and some users are reporting audio bugs (in some cases NPC dialogue not playing at all), stutters, hangs, and other issues.
I emailed Bethesda to ask if they are working on ways to make Skyrim SE more compatible with Steam Deck, and will update when I have a response.
Our experience with Skyrim Special Edition on Steam Deck
Our hardware manager, Dave James, tried twice to run Skyrim Special Edition on his Steak Deck. The first time, a few weeks ago during his first Steam Deck tests, Dave said that Skyrim Special Edition was not performing well due to intermittent freezing. He described the experience as “essentially unplayable”.
However, restarting it this week, he found a much smoother experience. There were no freezes and Skyrim Special Edition ran at 60fps on Ultra settings on Steam Deck. He was able to load old saves and enter survival mode without any issues.
Skyrim Legendary Edition Steam Deck Compatibility
Here we are talking about the 2011 version of Skyrim, which is a separate game from the Special Edition (you can still buy it on Steam, although the game page is not listed in the Steam store). Skyrim Legendary Edition is rated playable on Steam Deckmeaning it has been tested by Valve and works on the Deck, but with some issues noted.
Here is what Valve says:
“Valve’s testing indicates this title is playable on Steam Deck. This game is functional on Steam Deck but may require additional effort to interact with or configure.”
🟡 This game’s launch/configuration tool may require the touchscreen or virtual keyboard, or have text that is difficult to read
🟡 Some features are not accessible when using the default controller configuration, requiring the use of the touchscreen or virtual keyboard, or a community configuration
🟡 Text input requires manually calling the on-screen keyboard
🟢 This game displays Steam Deck controller icons
🟢 In-game UI text is readable on Steam Deck
🟢 The default graphics configuration of this game works well on Steam Deck
It seems likely that having to show Steam’s on-screen keyboard, rather than having a usable gaming keyboard with the analog stick, is the reason Skyrim is “playable” and not “verified”.
Can you play Skyrim VR on Steam Deck?
Well no. It’s not surprising but it’s probably worth saying just in case: Steam Deck doesn’t support VR games. (Although it’s PC, you could probably find a way to do this if you really want to have a bad time).