Sun. Dec 10th, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Use Steam Remote Play to stream games from your gaming PC to your Steam Deck locally. Just make sure Steam is running on your PC and select the option to stream the game from your PC on your Deck.
  • Steam Remote Play may have performance issues and compatibility problems with certain games or mods. You can switch to Desktop Mode to improve performance, but it may still not be as good as NVIDIA GameStream tech.
  • For the best local streaming experience on your Steam Deck, use Moonlight and NVIDIA GameStream if you have an NVIDIA graphics card. If you have an AMD or Intel GPU, you can use Sunshine as an alternative solution.

If you own a Steam Deck and a gaming PC, you can use the latter to stream games locally to the former. You can also use cloud game streaming services on your Deck. Here’s how.

Option 1: Stream Locally With Steam Remote Play

Steam Remote Play is the most straightforward way to stream video games to your Steam Deck locally. You don’t need any additional software, only your Deck and PC connected to the same network and the game you plan to stream to your Deck installed on your PC.

For starters, make sure Steam is running on your PC, and then locate the game in your Steam Deck library. You should see a small button with an arrow shown next to the larger “Play/Install” button.

First of all, select the small arow button next to the install/play button and press it with the A button

Navigate to the said button, press it with the A button, and then select the option to stream it from your PC. It will be labeled differently depending on your device, but it’s the one that doesn’t read “This Steam Deck.”

Out of the two options, select the one that doesn't read This Steam Deck

Once you select the desktop option, the large Install/Play button will switch to a button reading “Stream.” Press the “Stream” button, and the game will launch on your PC and stream to your Steam Deck.

Now you should have the main button change from Install or Play to stream, press it to stream the game from your PC via Steam Remote Play

While pretty simple to use, streaming games locally with Steam Remote Play does come with a few massive caveats. For starters, the performance in Game Mode is less than ideal, far from it. There’s constant micro stuttering with occasional massive lag spikes, and you can do nothing about it. You can switch to Desktop Mode and eliminate the stuttering, but the overall performance lags behind the NVIDIA GameStream tech.

Additionally, any game that features splash screens during launch or uses a second launcher along with Steam might not work correctly when streamed via Steam Remote Play. For example, if you add PC Game Pass games to Steam and try streaming them via Remote Play, the only thing you’ll see on your Steam Deck is a static black screen with a small blue loading circle on the lower right side of the screen because the splash screen that shows when you launch every PC Game Pass game breaks the stream.

Blue loading screen that shows when Steam Remote Play stream doesn't work as supposed

Also, from our experience, using certain mods can break the Steam Deck Remote Play experience as well. For example, I have GTA IV installed on my main PC, and when I try to stream it to my Steam Deck, the stream gets stuck at the starting splash screen because I’m using a mod that skips the intro screens and takes me directly to the game menu.

Option 2: Stream Locally With Moonlight and NVIDIA GameStream

At the end of the day, you can use Steam Remote Play to stream games you own on Steam in Desktop mode, and the experience will be serviceable. However, if you want the best local streaming experience on your Steam Deck and happen to own an NVIDIA graphics card, use Moonlight coupled with NVIDIA GameStream.

For this method, you need to have GeForce Experience installed on your gaming PC you plan on streaming the games from. If you don’t have GeForce Experience, go to the app’s download page and download and install the app.

Once you install GeForce Experience, open it and hit the “Settings” button.

Once you open GeForce Experience hit the gear icon located on the upper right side of the app window

Next, click the “Shield” tab, and once there, make sure the “GameStream” toggle is turned on.

Once you're inside the GeForce experience options menu, go to the Shield tab and then make sure that the GameStream toggle is turned on. If it's green, it's on

Now, take your Deck and switch to Desktop mode. Next, open the Discover store, type “Moonlight,” and install the Moonlight streaming client on your Steam Deck.

While you're in Desktop Mode on your Steam Deck, search the store for Moonlight, Then hit the Install button next to the first result

Next, locate and open Moonlight.

Moonlight should be located on your Desktop. If it isn't open the Application launcher, and go to the Games tab. Scroll down untill you see the Moonlight app icon

If your Steam Deck and gaming PC are on the same local network, you should see a locked computer icon representing your PC.

Once you open Moonlight you should see a PC icon with a lock over it

Make sure that GeForce Experience is running on your gaming PC, and then click the locked icon in Moonlight.

Moonlight should now share a four-digit password you need to type inside a GeForce Experience dialog box.

After you click the locked PC icon in Moonlight, the app should serve you with a four-digit PIN

At the same time, the GeForce Experience dialog box should appear on your desktop PC, reading “Shield is requesting to connect.” Type the four-digit password inside this dialog box and click the “Connect” button to unlock your PC.

After Moonlight shares the four-digit PIN GeForce Experience will open a small dialog box on your PC's desktop. Enter the PIN in the box and hit the Connect button

Now click the PC icon, which is now unlocked.

After you pair Moonlight and GeForce experience your PC icon in Moonlight should no longer include a lock icon over your PC. Click the desktop icon

The following menu should contain a Steam icon.

Once you click your PC icon in Moonlight and enter the next menu, you should see a Steam icon. Click it

Press the Steam icon, and the streaming window will launch. By default, launching Steam from Moonlight launches the app in Big Picture Mode.

Note that sometimes you need to launch Steam multiple times via Moonlight since the stream often breaks as soon as it starts during the first try.

Now, all you have to do is launch any game via Steam and play it on your Deck. You can also navigate the Steam Big Picture menu and minimize Steam to access your gaming PC’s desktop: press the B button when in Steam Big Picture Mode, access the “Power” menu, and press the “Minimize Steam” option. This way, you can launch and stream PC Game Pass titles as well as any other non-Steam game you have installed on your PC or use your PC remotely on your Steam Deck.

Below, you can see Moonlight’s settings menu. There, you can tweak streaming quality and other options. We recommend setting streaming resolution to 1080p because streaming in 800p looks rough, and because Steam has issues with adjusting the stream to 16:10 aspect ratio when streaming games locally via Moonlight and GeForce Experience. You’ll have thin borders on top and bottom, but at least the image won’t be stretched.

A screenshot showing Moonlight Streaming settings. We recommend streaming games in 1080p resolution or higher

Regarding bitrate, you can crank it to the max in slower-paced games, but you might experience slowdowns and stutters. We recommend dropping the bitrate to 100Mbps and then going down from there if you notice slowdowns or stuttery gameplay.

Finally, don’t forget to map one of the trackpads as a mouse and map left and right click to two bottom paddles to easily navigate your Windows desktop when streaming. To end streaming and return to Moonlight’s home screen, exit the game you’re playing, pull up Steam in case you haven’t played a Steam game, and exit Big Picture Mode: B button > Power Menu > Exit Big Picture Mode. This is easier than pressing the default four-button combo to end the stream.

Technically, you can add any game to the GeForce Experience streaming list and then launch it directly from Moonlight. However, we recommend using Steam instead because Steam automatically adjust resolution and aspect ratio to the values set in Moonlight. Adding games to GeForce Experience and then launching them via Moonlight doesn’t automatically adjust for different aspect ratios and resolutions. If you own an ultrawide monitor as we do, the image on your Deck will be stretched, and while there are fixes for this issue, they can negatively affect latency and overall performance. On top of that, by launching Steam and then minimizing it, you can play any game you have on your PC, use emulators, and use your PC in a full remote desktop way, without any limitation.

Regarding performance, it’s pretty solid but not flawless. Even if your PC can run the game in question in silky smooth 60fps, there are some dropped frames manifesting as micro stuttering, with an occasional longer stutter as well as periods when the performance may feel slightly choppy, but that’s mostly on Steam Deck and its subpar Wi-Fi chip. From our experience, the overall stability is much higher and almost 100% stutter-free when streaming games locally to our ASUS ROG Ally via Moonlight because of the much better Wi-Fi 6E chip found in the ROG Ally.

Add Moonlight to Steam to Use it in Game Mode

Before we move on, we want to explain how to add Moonlight to Steam, so you can use the app in Game mode.

Firstly, open Steam on your Steam Deck while in Desktop mode. Click the “Games” tab and then click the “Add a non-Steam Game to My Library.”

To add Moonlight to Game Mode you first need to open Steam while in Desktop mode, click on the Games tab and then click the Add a non-Steam Game to my Library button

Moonlight should be listed on the app list that opens next. Locate it, select it, and click the “Add Selected Programs” button.

Once you open the window that includes non-Steam apps and games locate Moonlight, click the box next to it to select it, and once you've selected it hit the add selected programs button

Unfortunately, if you own an AMD or Intel graphics card, you cannot use GeForce Experience as a host app for local game streaming. Luckily, there’s an open-source streaming app called Sunshine that you can use instead. It works with Moonlight, and below you can learn how to install and set it up on your gaming PC.

Option 3: Stream Locally With Moonlight and Sunshine

NVIDIA GameStream, combined with Moonlight, is a great local streaming platform if you own an NVIDIA graphics card. On the other hand, AMD and Intel GPU owners have to look for an alternative solution, and that solution is called Sunshine. NVIDIA GPU owners might, too, need a local streaming alternative in the future, considering NVIDIA officially ended GameStream support for its SHIELD devices in February 2023. The company might remove the GameStream feature from GeForce Experience, too, sooner or later.

Unlike NVIDIA GameStream, Sunshine is an open-source local streaming host service that works on NVIDIA, AMD, and Intel graphics cards. Sunshine doesn’t achieve the same level of performance you get with GameStream, but it’s pretty close and presents a worthy alternative.

In order to stream your games locally to your Steam Deck with Sunshine, you need to download and install the Sunshine installer. Go to the Sunshine GitHub page and download the latest Windows version, as shown below.

After you land on the Sunshine GitHub downloads page, look for the sunshine-windows-installer.exe file and download it to your PC

Next, install the app and check whether you want to let the Sunshine service launch on startup. Don’t touch other installation options.

During the Sunshine installation procedure you can decide whether to let Sunshine to launch on startup or not

Once you’ve done that, go to the Sunshine documentation web page and access the Usage tab. There, you can find the address of the Sunshine web UI. Go to the address shown there and create a username and password.

Make sure to save the username and password to be able to access Sunshine web UI later.

If your browser of choice decides to warn you about trying to access an insecure website, ignore the warning. These warnings usually have a button called “Advanced” that expands the warning and offers a new option clicking which takes you to the website in question.

Once you open Sunshine web UI, go to the “Configuration” tab and enter the name you want to use for your Sunshine host process. This is the name you’ll see after you open Moonlight. Rename Sunshine to something familiar, and then open Moonlight on your Steam Deck.

After you access Sunshine UI, go to the Configuration tab, find the Sunshine Name option and pick a name for the Sunshine process that will show in Moonlight

Once you save the new Sunshine name, open Moonlight on your Steam Deck —if you need a tutorial on how to install Moonlight, check it out in the previous section. You should now see a locked PC icon that bears the name you gave to the Sunshine host process. Click the icon, and you should see a dialog that includes the PIN you need to enter in Sunshine web UI.

Go to the Sunshine web UI configuration page, click the “PIN” tab, enter the provided PIN, and hit the “Send” button. Now, you should be able to use Sunshine with Moonlight and locally stream your games to your Steam Deck, even if you own a GPU from AMD or Intel.

After you acquire the four-digit PIN from Moonlight, open Sunshine web UI, go to the PIN tab, enter the PIN in the apropriate dialog box and then click the send button

Sunshine has a ton of different stuff you can tweak, so we recommend visiting the Sunshine tutorials YouTube playlist that includes a couple of in-depth tutorials on how to install and configure Sunshine.

Can I Use Cloud Streaming Services Like GeForce Now and XCloud on Steam Deck?

The answer is yes, you can use both GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming. All you need to do is download Chrome or Microsoft Edge to your Deck and then type some commands —or copy them from our guide— to optimize the two browsers for game streaming.

The first order of business is to download and install Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. Use Chrome for GeForce Now and Edge for Xbox Cloud Gaming. Note that you can use GeForce now with a free subscription option, but you need a Game Pass Ultimate subscription to use Xbox Cloud Gaming. We strongly recommend using a mouse and a keyboard for this procedure since there’s a lot of typing and navigating around Desktop mode.

You can download the two browsers from the Discover Store; just open the Store, type Chrome or Edge in the search field, and install the browser you need. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to open Konsole.

To install Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge open the Discover store, type Chrome or Edge in the search field and then hit the install button located on the right side of search results

Konsole is a Command Prompt-like interface that only accepts typed commands. You can find it in Application Launcher > System.

After the browser of your choice has finished installing, open Application launcher, click the System tab, and then locate and click the Konsole icon

Once your browser of choice finishes installing, open Konsole and type or copy and paste (recommended) one of the following two commands, depending on which of the two browsers you installed:

flatpak --user override --filesystem=/run/udev:ro --user override --filesystem=/run/udev:ro

The command listed above gives Google Chrome/Microsoft Edge access to your Deck’s controller inputs when used in Game Mode. Just type or paste the appropriate command, hit enter or press the A button, and exit Konsole.

Image showing typing of a command in Konsole

Now, add the browser to Steam —open Steam > Games > Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library > locate Chrome or Edge, select it, and click the “Add Selected Programs” button.

To add Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge to Game mode open Steam, click the Games tab, hit the Add a non-Steam game to my library button, locate Chrome or Edge in the following window, click the box next to their name to select the browser, and then click the add selected programs button

Next, locate Chrome or Edge in your Steam library and click it, then click the “Gear” icon and then “Properties.” You should now see the “Launch Options” field in the “Properties” tab. Type or copy and paste one of the two commands listed below, depending on which browser you’re using:

Google Chrome and GeForce Now:

--window-size=1024,640 --force-device-scale-factor=1.25 --device-scale-factor=1.25 --kiosk

or Microsoft Edge and Xbox Cloud Gaming:

--window-size=1024,640 --force-device-scale-factor=1.25 --device-scale-factor=1.25 --kiosk

To enter launch commands that optimize Chrome and Edge when used in Game mode locate Chrome or Edge in your Steam library and click on their icon, then click the gear icon in the following window, and then click the proterties button. Next, find the Launch Options box and paste or type the commands we shared next to the default launch options. Again, do not delete the default launch options; paste or type the new launch commands next to the default ones and make sure to have a single space betwe

Do not delete commands found in the “Launch Options” field by default. Instead, go to the end of the string and then add the commands listed above. Make sure there’s a single space between the end of the default command string and the one you’re adding.

Note that you don’t have to enter the kiosk command. Typing the said command limits the two browsers to just one website when used in Game Mode, automatically opening GeForce Now/Xbox Cloud Gaming websites, which is much easier than having to type the actual addresses each time you open Chrome/Edge in Game mode.

We also recommend renaming the two browser shortcuts in Steam and applying custom artwork. You can find more on how to do this in our guide on adding non-Steam games to your Steam library.

Once you have done all that, you need to apply a controller template so you can play the games when in the browser in Game mode. Firstly, go to Chrome or Edge in your Steam library, and this time, click the controller icon.

to apply a new controlle template to Chrome/Edge locate the browser you have installed in your Steam library, click its icon and then click the controller icon located on the right side of the window. The controller icon is right next to the gear and star (favorite) icons.

Once there, click the “Web Browser” button under the “Current Layout” label.

Once you open the controller layout menu, click on the large Web Browser button located at the top of the controller layour menu

Next, find the “Gamepad with Mouse Trackpad” layout and click it.

once you open controller templates menu look for the Gamepad with mouse trackpad template and click it

Once the visual map of the layout opens, go to the “Right Trackpad” option and click it or open it with the A button if you’re not using a mouse.

After you select the gamepad with mouse trackpad controller template a visual map of the layour will show. Locate the Right Trackpad box and click it

Now, we want to change the trackpad click behavior from “Right Stick Click” to a mouse left click. So, click the “R Click” button.

In the following menu, click the Right Stick Click button

In the following menu, select the “Mouse” tab, and once there, click the “Left Mouse Click” button.

Once the next menu opens, go to the Mouse Tab and click the Left Mouse Click button

Next, return to the previous menu showing the template layout and click the “Apply Layout” button or press the X button if you aren’t using a mouse.

After you click the Left Mouse Click button the visual map of the current controller template should appear. Make sure that the right trackpad click is mapped to the left mouse click and then press the X button to apply the layout or click the apply layout button with your mouse

Now you’re able to use the right trackpad as the left mouse button, handy for closing the annoying warnings in Chrome notifying you that Chrome cannot be updated every single time you launch the browser in Game mode, as well as for navigating around the GeForce Now and Xbox websites.

We also recommend mapping the left trackpad press to the “Mouse 5 Click” command, also found in the “Mouse” tab, so you can use the left trackpad as the back button in Chrome and Edge. Very handy since the GeForce Now website, for example, has a lot of menus you can enter. The only way of going back to the main page when inside a menu is by using the back/“Mouse 5 Click” command because the address bar, containing forward and back buttons, isn’t visible in Kiosk mode. Alternatively, you can map the “Mouse 5 Click” and “Mouse 4 Click,” corresponding to back and forward buttons in web browsers, to two bottom paddles.

Once you perform all the steps listed above, go to Game mode, open the browser, log in to GeForce Now or Xbox Cloud Gaming with your credentials, and stream those games! And when Chrome hits you with the warning that it cannot update, just close the window by pressing the “X” symbol in the upper right corner with the right trackpad click that now plays the role of the left mouse click.

You can tweak GeForce Now streaming settings by opening the hamburger menu on the upper left side of the main page and then clicking the “settings” button.

Quality-wise, the two services work mostly fine if your internet bandwidth is up to snuff. You’ll most likely experience occasional slowdowns or drops in image quality, but that’s normal. Also, since these two are internet game streaming services, a certain amount of control latency is also something you cannot avoid.

Can I Stream Games Locally From My PS5 or Xbox to My Steam Deck?

If you own an Xbox, no dice. The only way of playing Xbox games on your Steam Deck is by streaming them via Xbox Cloud Gaming.

If you own a PS5, on the other hand, you can locally stream games from your PS5 to your Steam Deck with an app called Chiaki. You can find the app on the Discover store or download it from its Sourcehut repo. The setup process is a bit convoluted since you need your PSN Account ID to get the setup working. We recommend watching the How to Setup [sic] Playstation Remote Play on Steam Deck guide, courtesy of the Jason Witmer YouTube channel.

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By John P.

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