Is 'The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom' Playable on Steam Deck?

Anthony Jones - Author

May 10 2023, Published 1:46 p.m. ET

'Tears of the Kingdom' Link riding a bird-like vehicle through the sky.
Source: Nintendo

Refreshing Hyrule from top to bottom, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom follows the next chapter of Link and Zelda’s struggle to protect the ancient land.

Years have passed since its predecessor, Breath of the Wild, and Link will go on another adventure to conquer the odds against him and flex his newfound abilities.

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But will Tears of the Kingdom become playable on Steam Deck when it releases on May 12? Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know.

'Tears of the Kingdom' Link looking down at Hyrule atop a sky island.
Source: Nintendo
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Can you play ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ on Steam Deck?

Unfortunately, Tears of the Kingdom is an exclusive Nintendo Switch game, meaning there isn’t a legal way to play the game on the Steam Deck when it releases. However, that hasn’t stopped pirates who got their hands on the game before release from using Switch-focused emulators to enjoy it through Steam Deck.

According to a video by YouTuber Gardiner Bryant on May 5, a Reddit user who pirated Tears of the Kingdom showed an image of them emulating the game on Steam Deck. With Switch emulators on the handheld, they reportedly had a pre-release build of Tears of the Kingdom “running at 15-20 FPS” consistently.

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It’s surprising that Tears of the Kingdom is even remotely playable on the Steam Deck, especially over a week before its launch. Of course, it seems to be in a rough state as of this writing, but these emulators will likely catch up or even supersede the official Switch version in time.

'Tears of the Kingdom' Link examining his new arm with strange abilities.
Source: Nintendo
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Ultimately, Tears of the Kingdom is meant to run on the Nintendo Switch and nowhere else. Playing it on Steam Deck will not only be illegal, but you could miss vital patches after launch to either carve out performance issues or implement quality-of-life improvements.

Will ‘Tears of the Kingdom’ ever become available on Steam Deck?

Nintendo has a steely grip on its forerunning video games series. From The Legend of Zelda series to Pokémon, many of its flagship IPs launch only on Nintendo platforms. As such, Tears of the Kingdom may never become available on Steam Deck, even if people found better ways of emulating the title on the portable PC.

These games validate the Switch’s existence in a market dominated by the convenience of Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation’s blockbuster exclusives. This exclusive model for Nintendo’s most treasured games may never change, but anything is possible years later.

Tears of the Kingdom will release exclusively for the Switch on May 12.

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