Between you and me, I always wanted a Steam Controller. It might be the laziest part of my conscience talking, but the idea of playing  games without having to leave the couch sounds amazing. For some reason, though, I never really got around getting one.

The winter holidays finally offered a chance to add this gadget to my collection. A few layers of wrapping paper and an instruction manual later, I faced a rather unpleasant surprise. Of the many titles in my library, only a handful fully supported the new set-up. I was suddenly at a crossroad: play one of the AAA classics that worked with the Steam Controller or scour the internet for promising indie games.

For today’s article, I obviously went with the latter. My goal was to find hidden gems that almost nobody had downloaded yet. In no particular order, here is what I was able to come up with!

Number 5 – Marble Skies

Marble Skies steam controller feature

Developed and released by Birdwall Games, Marble Skies immediately caught my attention. The premise of this title is simple: roll the tiny ball from point A to point B without it tragically meeting an early demise. From its Steam page, colorful screenshots of intricate levels brought me back in time.

The more I played, the more the entire experience felt like an homage to Ballance and the Atari classic Marble Madness. Frequent changes of pace, power-ups, and a relaxing soundtrack accompanied me through most of the journey. Of the ones I tried, this is definitely a game I’d like to come back to in the future.

The Steam Controller also performed quite admirably. Against all expectations, I was able to use my Christmas gift without messing with the settings at all. I only later discovered how lucky I had been. Accessing the in-game options menu – even just by mistake – will disable all controller inputs. Keep that in mind if you’re using the Steam Link and your computer is in another room!

Number 4 – Gunlock

gunlock steam controller feature

History teaches us an invaluable lesson. For video-games, complexity doesn’t always translate into success. Throughout the years, extremely simple games often captivated the largest crowds. Especially now that gaming is more accessible, many just want to play a few matches between their chores.

Gunlock was specifically designed with those people in mind. A 2D platformer-shooter, this title only includes 5 levels but can still take hours of your time. There is no goal here besides surviving for as long as possible.  As you rise through the ranks, you’ll unlock new weapons and face several bosses.

Although entirely compatible with the Steam Controller, Gunlock isn’t immediately a breeze to play. For the first few runs, my right pad felt either too sensitive or outright laggy. Don’t panic just yet, though; the problem is easy to solve! Simply browse through the community’s configurations and pick the one that works best for you!

Number 3 – Scrap Galaxy

A few weeks ago, Tom Garavan tried a preview build of Nimbatus for us. “Cool”, I thought with the trailer in front of me, “but what if my ship could battle my friends’ ones”? Right around Christmas, Scrap Galaxy swept in to fill the gaps.

Primarily a local multiplayer experience, game number 3 can be broken down in two parts. At first, you’re given several cards with which to build your vessel. When the time is up, all contestants get to blow each other to pieces over an array of arenas. Ai-controlled opponents also join the fray, so that you won’t have to summon the whole crew whenever you want to play.

I found little problems playing Scrap Galaxy with the Steam Controller. If I were to nitpick, I was disappointed by the fact I couldn’t edit the default keybinding from inside the game. The ability to toggle between sticks and gyroscopes for steering would also have been nice. Still, the game costs less than a combo meal and more than proves its mettle!

Number 2 – Blazing Beaks

blazing beaks steam controller feature

Ever heard of those who didn’t like The Binding of Isaac?  It might come as a shocker to some, but I actually belong to that group. Even though I did everything in my power to enjoy the game, I could never really shake the feeling that RNG – not actual skills – played the largest role in determining whether I’d live through a stage.

Fortunately, Blazing Beaks finally saw the light of day. This extremely cute title follows the adventure of several unnamed birds as they blast through hordes of mutants. It is also great to play with the Steam Controller. Simply use the right stick to move and the left pad to aim. The different modes can entertain up to 4 players. Add an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack and it’s hard not to get invested!

As with other dungeon crawlers, you’ll be given nothing but a pea shooter and be expected to survive. The difference here is in how little your gear actually matters. While the game remains challenging, I never felt I needed a better weapon to succeed. Regular grunts go down easily, bosses are rewarding to kill, and random artifacts still add that bit of variety that we all love! If you want to take a look at it, you can find Blazing Beaks here.

Number 1 – Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China

flying tigers steam controller feature

The last game on our list sports little in the way of innovation. In fact, I remember titles built around a similar concept flooding the stores for most of the early 2000s. How did Flying Tigers: Shadows Over China make it past selection, then? Simple: it turned out to be extremely good at what it does!

A humble air combat simulator, Flying Tigers takes the player back to the second Sino-Japanese conflict. You’ll fight alongside members of the First American Volunteer Group under then Captain Claire Lee Chennault. Aircraft from all major belligerents are recreated in great detail, giving us a chance to see what cockpit felt like. Controls are tight and the planes all behave according to their historical role. In an industry where weapon standardization has become the norm, the latter is a welcome change of narrative.

For the mere 10 bucks it costs, this release is packed with flavor. The devs designed a single-player campaign, added several challenges, and even included a free-roaming mode. Multiplayer battles are also there, but lack of people unfortunately prevents them from taking place. If you like history and dogfights, consider giving the game a chance!

One Final Piece of Advice

You might have stumbled across this article while looking for suggestions. Should you get a Steam Controller for your gaming rig? The choice is ultimately up to you. I found mine to work flawlessly with some titles and being utterly incapable of handling others.

There’s no need to hide it: the peripheral has its limitations. Origin’s, GoG’s, and other non-Steam games, for instance, are not officially supported. Even among Steam games, only a few were designed while considering this device. Workarounds do exist, but your mileage will irremediably vary.

A few days after Christmas, I’m still sure I wouldn’t have bought it at full price. For me, the winter sale on the Steam Controller + Link bundle did the trick. For less than 40$, I obtained a promising gamepad and an in-house streaming solution that let me resurrect an old TV. Worst case scenario, you can always bolt it to the ceiling and use it to watch Netflix from the bathtub!