How to Optimize Your Steam Deck to Run Demanding Games

The Steam Deck is a brilliant and versatile piece of gaming tech—a portable console that offers owners an unbeatably vast library of games. Yet, with so many titles available to buy and download via Valve’s online store, not all games perform well on the Steam Deck itself.

If you own a Steam Deck and find that your console stutters, crashes, or suffers from other performance problems when trying to play games, it’s worth adjusting your settings. Here are five steps you can take to optimize your gaming experience for demanding games on the Steam Deck.


1. Enable the Steam Deck’s Performance Overlay to View Current Performance Stats

How to Enable Performance Overlay on the Steam Deck

The Steam Deck’s performance overlay is a feature that shows real-time performance information displayed over the game you’re currently playing. The performance overlay will show useful details including frame rate (FPS), CPU and GPU usage, as well as the temperature of the Steam Deck.

If you’re having Steam Deck performance issues when playing demanding games, then enabling the performance overlay can help you to identify which settings need optimizing.

Here’s how to access the performance overlay when in-game on the Steam Deck:

  1. Press the Quick Access Menu (QAM) button (located on the right-hand side of the Steam Deck, underneath the right touchpad).
  2. Scroll down to the battery icon and press A to open the Performance menu.
  3. Scroll to Performance Overlay Level and press A.
  4. Slide the toggle across the different options to choose the amount of information you want to be displayed (options between OFF and 4).

If you’re just interested in the frame rate, you can leave the Performance Overlay Level on 1. This will display the FPS in the top left corner of your screen and provides minimal to no distraction. If you’re after the full performance package, however, selecting 4 will display a comprehensive view of the GPU and CPU usage, temperature, VRAM usage, RAM usage, battery, FPS, latency, gan RPM, FSR, and Gamescope.

Depending on what aspect of performance your Steam Deck is struggling with, playing with the different performance overlay levels should be enough to help you identify which settings you need to optimize. If you need more advice, check out our guide on the Steam Deck’s performance overlay and what it shows for full support.

2. Enable Per-Game Profile to Customize Performance

Enable Use Per-Game Profile on the Steam Deck

As not all games are fully optimized for the Steam Deck (Valve’s “Deck Verified” status indicates which games should be reliable on the console), it’s worth customizing the settings for games that are struggling to perform well.

You can use the per-game profile tool to customize the performance settings for each game. You’ll find the option to enable per-game customization within the Quick Access settings.

Simply press the QAM button, and scroll to the battery icon to show the Performance settings (the same settings that display the Performance Overlay Level). From here, toggle on Use per-game profile. Now, any settings you change will save and be relevant to the current game you’re playing.

Customized per-game profiles are ideal for getting the best performance out of each game you own (or borrow!) on your Steam Deck.

3. Customize Performance Settings for Your Game

How to Customize Performance Settings on the Steam Deck

Once you’ve enabled per-game profiles, it’s time to customize the performance settings for individual games.

Returning to the Performance settings menu from the QAM button (see above), you can customize the following options for your game:

  • Framerate Limit. If the frame rate is inconsistent (stuttering or struggling to load in demanding in-game locations) it might be worth capping the maximum frame rate. Setting a lower limit may help extend the Steam Deck’s battery life and reduce fan noise too.
  • Refresh Rate. It’s worth setting your refresh rate according to your frame rate limit. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to have your refresh rate divisible by your frame rate limit as a whole number (e.g., 30 FPS and 60Hz, or 40 FPS and 40Hz).
  • Allow Tearing. This can be a personal preference, but in general, the benefits of enabling tearing (higher frame rate, smoother gameplay) aren’t enough to outweigh the negatives (frustrating visual inconsistencies which will impact your gameplay).
  • Half Rate Shading. Toggling this on can boost game performance to save the GPU from rendering every single pixel, but it can reduce image quality.
  • Thermal Power (TDP) Limit. A battery saver—enabling this can help prevent overheating and limit battery use. But be aware: it can reduce the performance of your game.
  • Manual GPU Clock Control. If the GPU is being under-utilized, safely overclocking your GPU can help you gain FPS. It can be useful when using emulators on the Steam Deck.
  • Scaling Filter. Use this toggle to choose the best settings for your graphics to fit your screen (this can take some experimentation).
  • Show Perf Overlay in Steam. Toggle on/off to constantly display FPS when using the Steam Deck.

The best thing to do with customizing performance settings is to try each option one at a time and see if it improves (or worsens) your Steam Deck gaming experience.

4. Modify the In-Game Settings to Improve Performance

Customize in-game Settings on the Steam Deck

If you want to further optimize games for your Steam Deck, it’s worth playing around with the in-game settings.

For most games on the Steam Deck, you should be able to customize a range of specific performance settings. This can range from basic (e.g. resolution, refresh rate, auto-detection for best rendering settings, and display quality settings) to more advanced settings (texture quality, depth of field, motion blur, shadow quality, and more).

These options may sound complicated if you don’t have much experience with customizing game performance settings, but most options are adjustable on a low-to-high toggle, so they are easy to play around with.

For quick performance fixes, try reducing the resolution, adjusting the graphics quality, and turning off features such as motion blur and other graphical options.

If you’ve tried all of the above, but your game performance is still below sub-par, you can try installing an optimization tool, such as CryoUtilities.

Created by DevOps Engineer, CryoByte33 (GitHub), CryoUtilities 2.0 is a plugin designed to increase the performance of and manage the storage on your Steam Deck. This essentially utilizes the portion of storage the Steam Deck preserves for when RAM is overloaded but isn’t often used by the console.

Rather than spending time trawling through each individual settings option in an attempt to improve your game performance, using a Steam Deck plug-in can give you a one-click recommended settings option.

To find out more about CryoUtilities, check out CryoByte’s YouTube explainer video.

Optimizing Your Steam Deck Settings Should Make Gameplay Smoother

If you’re struggling with stuttering gameplay or frustrating graphics quality, don’t give up on your Steam Deck just yet. Try adjusting the console and in-game settings by following the steps above.

Hopefully, these tips should be enough to improve your Steam Deck optimization. For all else, check out Steam’s refund policy for games that refuse to run on your handheld console.