Balatro's creator nearly didn't bother optimizing the roguelike for Steam Deck - but it's now one of the handheld's most-played games alongside Elden Ring and Stardew Valley

(Image credit: Playstack)

Balatro is dangerously perfect for the Steam Deck (and the Nintendo Switch, speaking of handhelds). Many a lunch break and sleepless night has been spent staring into its card decks, chasing its big numbers, and deceptively whispering "just one more game" half a dozen times, but it almost wasn't optimized for the platform.

Don't just take my word for it. Valve's Steam Deck Top Played official charts place the poker-themed roguelike as the platform's third most-played game this past week, behind only perennial favorites Elden Ring and Stardew Valley - the former getting a boost thanks to its Shadow of the Erdtree expansion, and the latter just, you know, also being painfully perfect for on-the-go play. That means Balatro is more popular on the handheld than some absolute juggernauts like last year's best RPG Baldur's Gate 3, GTA 5, Fallout 4, and the recently ported Kingdom Hearts collection. 

Balatro's creator LocalThunk celebrated the news with a quick social media post. "6 months before Balatro went public I barely convinced myself to spend the money and buy a Steam Deck to better develop the game for the platform," LocalThunk tweets. "Turns out that was a pretty good investment, unreal to be so high on this list."

Balatro might have already caused irreparable damage to global productivity - having sold over one million copies so far when its creator expected to sell "maybe 10 copies" before going back to their IT job - but its rampage is far from over since the roguelike is also coming to mobile. Soon, we can all play "just one more game" whenever we like... a scary future indeed.

In case you haven't dived in yet, Balatro is currently 10% off thanks to Steam Summer Sale, the digital discount fest boasting massive sales for Baldur's Gate 3, the all-timer RPG trilogies, and the true GOAT: American Truck Simulator.

For more, check out the other best roguelike games.

Freelance contributor

Kaan freelances for various websites including Rock Paper Shotgun, Eurogamer, and this one, Gamesradar. He particularly enjoys writing about spooky indies, throwback RPGs, and anything that's vaguely silly. Also has an English Literature and Film Studies degree that he'll soon forget.