Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy (and other) games have been the most interesting PC games to follow when it comes to all things relating to the Steam Deck. You might immediately question who would want to play these games outside a keyboard and mouse environment, but I’ve been interested in, and have been playing Paradox Interactive games on consoles and more-recently Steam Deck for a few years now. Yes, the games might not be ideal on those devices compared to playing on your PC with a mouse and keyboard, but having options is always good, assuming the end result is fine. That’s what I aim to cover here as I’ve been playing multiple Paradox games on Steam Deck (both LCD and OLED) with different controller layouts and more.

I previously even bought Crusader Kings III on Xbox Series X day one and played Stellaris on Xbox One, but to understand what led to all of this happening, we need to go back to the Steam Controller hardware and Steam Input. In the Steam Controller hardware video from Valve, the team showed off the original Cities: Skylines being played with a Steam Controller thanks to its touchpad and custom controls in general. This controller that I borrowed from a friend to try a while ago, showed me what was possible with Steam Input then. Cities: Skylines eventually did come to consoles, and I played it on both Xbox and Switch. I thought the controls worked great on a traditional controller on the former, and have put in loads of time into the updated version for Xbox Series X as well. This led to me wanting to get Crusader Kings III on Xbox at launch, and I thought it was a great port as my first proper experience with the game. I eventually realized that the PC version was quite a bit ahead and got that towards the end of that year.

Since then, I’ve been focusing on getting Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy games (with DLC) on Steam, and learning to play them while trying out a few Steam Input community layouts that keep impressing me. This is the key because without those community contributions to controls, I don’t think I’d be playing these games on Steam Deck for remotely as long as I have so far.

You often see Paradox Interactive games in Valve’s most played games on Steam Deck charts the company puts out each month, so there clearly is a demand for these games on the system. I kept wondering how they actually felt, and seeing people ask about how specific games play on the handheld regularly. When I played Victoria 3 on Steam Deck, I saw what was possible from the awesome community early on, and that led me to playing and getting even the older titles and into this article covering the most popular grand strategy games from the publisher, less liked ones, older ones, and even a bonus test for games outside the genre that I was interested in trying out.

One thing to note is that Paradox doesn’t officially support the Steam Deck for many of the games here, and some are marked as straight up unsupported by Valve. I’ve indicated every single game’s Steam Deck Verification result here. If you regularly use your Steam Deck, you would have realized how the Verification program isn’t black and white with some “Unsupported” games running and looking better than Steam Deck Verified ones. Either way, I just wanted to put that disclaimer before getting into the individual games. I do hope that Paradox Interactive considers official support in the future.

For every game featured here, I will be mentioning what community controller layout I’ve used (if applicable), Proton version, Steam Deck Rating (if tested by Valve), and my basic experience with the game on Steam Deck (both LCD and OLED models).

Before getting into how individual games look and feel, there are a few common things to keep in mind. If you plan on playing without mods like I did for most of the time I put into the games, the text size might be too small for some folks. I’ve recently been trying out specific UI and text mods to make the games more playable on a smaller screen or with larger UI on my monitor, and mods like this are amazing.

While some of these games will work when using a traditional controller, you’re missing out on the most useful and best feature the Steam Deck offers with its trackpads. I realize that this article might be getting into the weeds for some folks, but I’ve tried to keep things simple enough for those who are absolutely new to these games as well. I do recommend watching this excellent video if you’re wondering which game to start with though.

How is Crusader Kings III on Steam Deck in 2024?

Crusader Kings III is a massive and complex grand strategy game about the middle ages starting in 867 or 1066 until 1453. This is probably the game I’ve been playing the most of the ones featured here. I put in quite a bit of time into the Xbox version before dropping it for the PC release on Steam Deck and macOS. Nearly four years after the grand strategy release debuted on PC, Crusader Kings III is in a much better place, though the most recent DLC, Legends of the Dead, was not worth grabbing. Crusader Kings III on PC does not have controller support like the console versions, so I’ve opted to play it using the trackpads and Steam Deck itself with a community layout titled “Gimler’s Crusader Kings III”. I initially was disappointed in the lack of controller support since the console versions include it, but having played the game with this community layout and with how snappy the interface is, I’ve begun preferring it by a large margin.

Crusader Kings III is marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve for text size, invoking the keyboard manually, the launcher, and the lack of full controller support. I addressed the controller bit already, but there are two specific mods I’ve used that dramatically improved my Crusader Kings III Steam Deck experience. Steam user Agami has a Better UI Scaling mod and a brighter text mod (linked on the same page) that lets you use the scaling options in-game that would otherwise cause the menus to overflow off the screen or overlap. This lets you scroll through them, and makes the text much more readable.

As for stability, In the 15 hours I’ve spent recently playing Crusader Kings III on Steam Deck (both my OLED and LCD models), I’ve had two crashes, but the autosave helped. I know Crusader Kings III has had stability issues in the past, but based on my experience now, I can safely recommend it on Steam Deck once you get used to the controls. If anything changes with newer DLC, I’ll cover any updates of note.

If you’re new to Crusader Kings III, I recommend using the free weekends to try it, but the Crusader Kings III Starter Edition is the way to go for the full game right now since Tours and Tournaments is an amazing expansion. I also recommend this DLC if you want more from the initial experience.

How is Hearts of Iron IV on Steam Deck in 2024?

Next up is what is likely one of Paradox Interactive’s most popular games ever inHearts of Iron IV, set during World War II and officially ending by 1949 for its main scripted content. Nearly eight years after it debuted on PC, Hearts of Iron IV still gets updated and has paid DLC releases. In fact, Hearts of Iron IV has so much DLC that there’s a subscription option available to get all of it together for a monthly price. One thing I didn’t touch on when covering Crusader Kings III above, is the music of Paradox Interactive games. Hearts of Iron IV has an amazing score and even includes Sabaton music DLC.

Hearts of Iron IV doesn’t have a console version so there’s no base controller support that I used when I started playing it. I opted for Gyrospec’s Hearts of Iron 4 V2 community layout on Steam Deck. This surprisingly has just about everything I needed in the time I put into the game including detailed map and army configurations. Hearts of Iron IV can get very demanding later on in saves when you use higher speeds, and this video on Reddit does a good job of showing what you should expect on that front.

Hearts of Iron IV is officially marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve for similar reasons. I’d say the UI of Hearts of Iron IV is more complex than Crusader Kings III and this is a game where you will need to get used to smaller text even more. I haven’t found a good mod for the UI in this one yet, so I’ve stuck to the default. One thing to keep in mind when playing on Deck is the resolution. The game doesn’t like it if you play docked at another resolution and then load the same save in handheld. It causes some pointer issues. I recommend sticking to handheld play at 800p for this one.

If you are new to Hearts of Iron IV, I recommend getting the base game only first and then opting for the subscription to see which DLC packs you like instead of buying the very expensive DLC out of the gate unless of course there’s a bundle deal available. It is worth noting that the current base game has three DLC packs available for free or rolled into it now with: Death or Dishonor, Together for Victory, and Waking the Tiger.

How is Victoria 3 on Steam Deck in 2024?

Victoria 3 is the reason I’m writing this article as I said above. This grand strategy game had a bit of a rough start, but has slowly been improving quite a bit. As Paradox’s newest release, this one doesn’t have too much DLC yet, with the first major expansion coming next month in Sphere of Influence. Victoria 3 has you starting off from 1836 and going all the way to 1936 in what I think is Paradox’s most gorgeous game yet across the menus and the gameplay.

Victoria 3 is officially marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve, and aside from the same issues as the games above, you need to tweak the graphics on this one for it to run well, though late game struggles quite a bit in some situations. Victoria 3 has no console port or controller support, and I opted for Gimler’s Vic3 Steam Controller 1.0 layout or DarkLord Waffles Victoria 3 Steam Controller 1.0 layout while playing on Steam Deck.

One thing to keep in mind with Victoria 3 specifically is the late game can get dire performance wise. Testing a save around the 1910s and setting things to the low preset and running at game speed two or less was the only way I could avoid crashes on my Steam Deck (LCD model). When I loaded the same save on my Steam Deck OLED, I forgot that I was using a combination of medium and other presets there. This ran the game at around 10fps so I definitely recommend playing at low if you want to go to the late game on Steam Deck.

I will be revisiting Victoria 3 through its DLC and updates soon in a separate article so stay tuned for that.

How is Europa Universalis IV on Steam Deck in 2024?

Europa Universalis IV is the biggest of Paradox Interactive’s titles to be marked as Steam Deck Unsupported by Valve. That has never stopped me in the past, and here we are. When I first discovered Europa Universalis IV, I was told it was like a more historic Civilization game (something I was familiar with), and that ended up being a good entry point for me.

Even the base game of Europa Universalis IV is an incredible grand strategy experience covering 1444 until 1821. The screenshots always looked overwhelming, and I won’t pretend the game isn’t complex even early on, but the tutorial and some learning by experience paid off quite a bit.

Europa Universalis IV, like Hearts of Iron IV, has a subscription available to access all paid DLC on a monthly basis if you don’t want to spend a ton to get it all. I’ve only played the base game here so I cannot comment on how any DLC is, but I will be grabbing some soon to try things out once I take a break from the other games.

Without changing any compatibility options, Europa Universalis IV boots up fine on Steam Deck. It doesn’t have controller support or a console version, so you’re going to need a community layout. I opted for Kladro’s Europa Perfected 2.0 layout. Not only does this have great radial menu support, but you can also hold X to swap between radial menus. It gives you a ton of control.

For performance, do not bother using maximum speed here and stick to the first or second option. Going for the maximum speed results in performance dropping to around 20fps even at the start of the game.
Europa Universalis IV is also another game where you will need to get used to a smaller font size. I haven’t found a good UI mod that addresses this yet. It isn’t a huge issue for me personally, but something to keep in mind. The screenshots I’ve added should help.

How is Stellaris on Steam Deck in 2024?

Before I got into Paradox games properly, the one that always looked the most appealing was Stellaris. This is because of the gorgeous visuals, the space setting, and the addition of 4X mechanics. I also heard a lot of the music before getting the game, and I finally first experienced it on console, and loved it. I’ve not been up to date with Stellaris’ DLC for over a year now, but what I did play, I loved, and moving to Steam Deck from console has been interesting.

Stellaris is also officially marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve for reasons relating to the launcher, keyboard and mouse icons, and manually invoking the keyboard. The usual by now. Despite having a console port, Stellaris does not have controller support on PC. For Stellaris on Steam Deck, after trying three of the most popular community layouts, I stuck to Gyrospeck’s Stellaris configuration that has full mouse support, touch menu support, zooming, and more. It works well.

It took me about an hour of playing around to get used to it, but the payoff was worth it. I almost regret the five season passes of DLC I bought on Xbox instead of Steam after how good this feels. Speaking of DLC, Stellaris also has tons of DLC, and there’s a subscription available to access it all. Given my own experience with the game, I definitely recommend just the base game for now if you’re new to it.

I still think Stellaris is a great entry point into Paradox’s games if you like the setting. I also recommend this specific video as a great primer that I actually watched to get back into the groove.

How is Imperator Rome on Steam Deck in 2024?

If you just look at how Imperator Rome is right now, you’d think it is right in its prime with Paradox set to bring years of DLC to it. That sadly isn’t the case as far as I’m aware. I don’t think Imperator Rome has any major updates or content planned for the future. It had a rough launch, but has recovered to the point where I’d recommend playing it right now based on what I’ve played. Imperator Rome feels like a combination of a greatest hits release and something that’s standing on its own right now among Paradox’s grand strategy releases.

On Steam Deck, Imperator Rome is marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve for the same reasons as other games in this article. I opted for using the community layout from BuffaloBruce that has zooming on the left trackpad and mouse for the right trackpad. It has a radial menu on the right trackpad you can activate by pressing L5 (the paddle) on the Steam Deck.

As for performance, Imperator Rome seems to run better than Victoria 3 by a large margin, but I think Victoria 3 might be the most demanding game of the lot so far. Imperator Rome starts out well on the OLED, but drops to the 30s even early on if you play at full speed on the default preset. Setting it to low will result in around 50-60fps on average early on, but it can go higher.

I set the game to 70% GUI scale, but even that’s too small to really play. I need to find a good mod for Imperator Rome’s UI and text on Steam Deck. I’ll be revisiting this in the future.

How is Millennia on Steam Deck?

I’m always up for new turn-based 4X games, and after a few hours with Millennia from C Prompt Games and Paradox, it has a lot of potential, but needs some work. Millennia isn’t currently designed to work with Steam Deck according to Paradox Interactive, and has some UI-related quirks right now. Unlike other games that let you scale the interface to help with text sizes and more, there is no such option in Millennia right now.

As a huge fan of the recent Civilization games and expansions, I was hoping Millennia would be different, and it is, but it feels lacking in its polish even as a PC release in general. Not only does it not have controller support, but since it is a new release, it also has just one proper community layout for controls. While other games in this article have some sort of UI scaling option, Millennia lacks it right now.

If you’ve played Paradox Interactive releases on Steam Deck before, you will not struggle here (and the touchscreen helps), but the UI and font sizes are too small right now with no way to increase them. In its current state, Millennia is very playable on Steam Deck with some caveats like the UI scaling and font size. I hope this can improve in patches.

How is Crusader Kings II on Steam Deck in 2024?

Crusader Kings II is a free to play (the base game) release now. Crusader Kings II lets you start from between 1066 to 1337 (or 867 if you have this DLC) and work towards 1453 where it ends. I imagine most people wanting to play it now would get the free license for Crusader Kings II itself, and subscribe to get all DLC at a low monthly subscription fee if needed. If you’re new to Paradox’s games, I feel like this being free and having so many years of updates and support makes it a good entry point if you’re willing to spend time with it and want the lowest barrier of entry. If you’re wondering whether it is worth playing Crusader Kings II over Crusader Kings III right now, I recommend watching this video.

It still feels weird writing about Crusader Kings II now because it felt like a meme for the longest time with how much DLC it used to get years ago as I kept seeing it pop up on Steam. Looking at other Paradox games, this isn’t too surprising anymore, but I always used to laugh at how much DLC Crusader Kings II had and kept getting back then. I slowly got all of it and now own the complete Crusader Kings II Imperial Collection, but only started properly focusing on it after trying Crusader Kings III.

Crusader Kings II is also marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve for the same reasons as games above, but this one runs a lot better given it is an older release. I initially used the Crusader Kings 2 community config from the user “error”, but recently got to the modified layout from user Luke. It plays very nicely with this and I got used to config in under an hour during a new game save.

As for performance, even early on running at full speed will result in drops well below 60fps when unpaused. I recommend turning down the speed here if you want the best experience. The font size wasn’t a problem for me here.

How is Age of Wonders 4 on Steam Deck in 2024?

Age of Wonders 4 released last year from Triumph Studios and Paradox bringing a blend of 4X strategy and turn-based tactics letting you experiment and create your own empire. Age of Wonders 4 actually shipped simultaneously on consoles as well, and it has controller support on PC making it play nicely out of the box on Steam Deck.

Valve has marked Age of Wonders 4 as Steam Deck Playable and not Verified because of small in-game text and the launcher (Have I told you how much I hate game launchers that just waste my time when I want to get into a game save as soon as possible?) requiring touchscreen or having small text. Age of Wonders 4 runs fine out of the box with no controller config needed. The default graphics can drop to the 30s often during combat or even below sometimes. I recommend using the in-game v-sync option to aim for 30fps if you want a consistent experience or leave it uncapped like I did on the 90hz display.

Having tried it around launch and a few months after, getting back to Age of Wonders 4 in 2024 has been interesting. I still think it is a fantastic game, but need to see how it feels with the DLC. I only own the base game on Steam. I did get the DLC on Xbox a little while ago, but hadn’t had the time to get back to it there.

Age of Wonders 4 isn’t a grand strategy game like most of the games in this article, but I still think it is worth playing if you’re a fan of the genre and enjoy fantasy settings. I really hope Paradox and Triumph support this for years to come.

How is Star Trek Infinite on Steam Deck in 2024?

Before getting into anything relating to how Star Trek Infinite is on Steam Deck, it is worth noting that the game will no longer be supported as revealed on the official forum. I’ve always wanted a good Star Trek game, and thought this one seemingly built on the base of Stellaris would be perfect. I am disappointed to see it officially confirmed to no longer get updates and support though. The more I played the game, the more I just wanted to go back to Stellaris. Star Trek Infinite doesn’t feel like a game that was ready for release, and to see it left behind like this is even more disappointing.

With that out of the way, Star Trek Infinite is officially marked as Steam Deck Playable by Valve. You know the drill by now. I wasn’t happy with any scaling option or how it looked on Steam Deck because the UI kept getting cut off or was outside the display with the scaling I chose. I found a great solution to this in the Steam forums from user Warnstaff that forced the game to run at a different resolution, then set a 1.1 scale for the UI, and it displayed everything correctly. The text size will be small even with this, but it isn’t missing UI elements at least.

There’s only one community controller layout for Star Trek Infinite right now from user Baraan, and it’s titled Simple Star Trek Infinity. I tried using that while playing after getting the UI sorted through the link above, and it is much better than the default. With all that done, it is very playable and it looks great, but it is still hard to recommend at full price given the state of things around the game.

Bonus:

After covering all of those Paradox games, why not also cover the Cities: Skylines series? The original game has been so important to me in showing the potential of Steam Input and Steam Controller, so here we are, but it is mostly bad news at least as of this writing.

How is Cities: Skylines II on Steam Deck in 2024?

Unlike Cities: Skylines, Cities: Skylines II actually has controller support which was a big surprise to me. That’s basically the only positive thing I can say about the game on Steam Deck sadly. I don’t have access to a high end gaming PC to check there, but everyone I know who plays this on their desktop PCs has told me how bad it runs consistently. Back to Steam Deck, Cities: Skylines II is officially marked as Steam Deck Unsupported and I can see why.

Cities: Skylines II even with everything set to the lowest possible settings doesn’t hit 30fps on Steam Deck. The screenshot I’ve included has the game looking horrible while still only hitting 23fps. I do not recommend even downloading Cities: Skylines II to Steam Deck if you already own the game on Steam. Stick to playing it on your main PC if it runs fine there. It will likely take a lot of work to get it running at an acceptable frame rate on Steam Deck.

How is Cities: Skylines on Steam Deck in 2024?

The original Cities: Skylines has worked one out of maybe five times for me on Steam Deck. The other times it reboots the system when I try to start a new game or load a save. This happened as recently as this morning on my Steam Deck OLED running the public build of SteamOS with no modification. Right now, it boots up but always crashes or reboots whenever I try to start a new game even using the base maps. I’ve been told the way to remedy this is by disabling a lot of DLC, but I didn’t buy all that DLC for Cities: Skylines to not have it when I play did I? I hope Valve can look into this because Valve has marked Cities: Skylines as Steam Deck Playable when it clearly isn’t.

If you already own any of the games here and have not tried them on Steam Deck yet, I urge you to give them a shot. The downloads are not as big as the usual AAA games these days, and you might be surprised at how much fun you have. If you are too used to playing with a mouse and keyboard, you can always hook those up as I’ve shown in the image above.

I’m going to continue playing these games on Steam Deck, and will likely be doing DLC reviews as well for the newly released and upcoming expansions if I can. If you made it this far and are wondering if this article just exists to promote Steam Input, well that is definitely one of the reasons the Steam Deck is as useful to me. I think Steam Input is one of the most important things Valve has done for games on PC.

If you’ve played Paradox Interactive games on Steam Deck, I’d love to know your experiences as well and whether you have specific mods you recommend using.

As usual, you can read all our past and future Steam Deck coverage here. If you have any feedback for this feature or what else you’d like to see us do around the Steam Deck, let us know in the comments below. I hope you all have a great day, and thanks for reading.



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