One of the very first things you'll want to do with a Steam Deck handheld gaming PC is figure out how to install non-Steam games on it. Sure, the Steam catalog has over 50,000 games, and hundreds are already verified as Steam Deck-friendly, but no one likes being locked into a single storefront. The Epic Games Store and Good Old Games (GOG) are two of the biggest competitors, along with stand-alone services like EA Play and Microsoft's PC Game Pass service.
The Epic platform is especially notable because it's the PC home of Fortnite... and because the Epic Games Store is known for offering a steady stream of free games that gamers can add to their libraries. For now, Fortnite isn't running on Steam Deck, but many of the other games on that service will run after a little back-end tinkering.
Figuring out how to run non-Steam games and apps on the Steam Deck has fallen to an army of dedicated Linux gamers, many of whom have already spent years working out how to run Windows games on Linux (which is what's under the hood of the Steam Deck's SteamOS). This community has not disappointed, offering hacks, tweaks and tutorials on Reddit, YouTube and dedicated websites.
I've already gotten some games from GOG.com running on the Steam Deck, but following this tutorial from Gaming On Linux (an excellent website and YouTube channel) got me playing games from my Epic Games Store library too. Our colleagues at GameSpot also have an excellent tutorial here.
If you have your Steam Deck in hand, here's how to get the Epic Games Store installed. This will be much easier if you have a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse connected.
Start by going to Steam > Settings > Power > Switch to Desktop. That will take you to the traditional-looking Linux desktop view. Firefox is already installed as a web browser, but you can add Chrome or other browsers as well.
Download the Epic Games Store app from this link, and save it to the system's downloads folder. The package you download will be called EpicInstaller-13.0.0.msi.
Here's the tricky part: Don't click on that installer. Don't try to run it as-is. It's counterintuitive, yes. Instead, launch the desktop version of Steam. There should be a shortcut on the desktop for that already; otherwise search for it.
Once you're in the Steam app, go to the top menu and follow this path: Games > Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library. In the resulting pop-up window, navigate to your Downloads folder and select that EpicInstaller-13.0.0.msi file.
But we're not done yet. I told you this was a little involved. Now that the Epic Installer is in your Steam games list, right-click it and go to Properties > Target. You'll have to find the correct location to link this shortcut. If you've left everything at the default settings, it should be here:
"/home/doorstop/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/compatdata/[numerical_identifier]/pfx/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Epic Games/Launcher/Portal/Binaries/Win32/EpicGamesLauncher.exe"
And under Properties > Start In, the link is similar (but not exactly the same):
"/home/doorstop/.local/share/Steam/steamapps/compatdata/[numerical_identifier]/pfx/drive_c/Program Files (x86)/Epic Games/Launcher/Portal/Binaries/Win32/"
The quotes are important, so leave those in.
You are now ready to launch the Epic Games Store from the Steam Deck. The shortcut is called EpicInstaller by default, but don't worry: It'll launch the actual Epic app. The first time may take a while, and you'll have to log in and probably input a two-factor authentication code sent to your email.
Once the app launches, you can try installing different games from your Epic library. Just like the Steam store, some games will work and others won't. And you'll need to make sure there's enough free storage space for the games you want to install.
I had great luck with both casual titles like Among Us and traditional full-featured games like The Outer Worlds.
Even though this was a complex process the first time, it'll be easier to get back to going forward, because now the Epic Games Store is accessible from the normal Steam Deck interface. Just reboot out of Desktop mode into the handheld SteamOS view and navigate to Steam > Library > Non-Steam, and the same EpicInstaller shortcut will be there. Launch it and you're right back in the Epic Games Store.
Is it the most attractive implementation? No. Does it work? Yes.
As I, this is a device for people who have a PC gamer's adventurous spirit and knack for experimentation and troubleshooting. It's certainly more trouble than downloading and running a game on a Nintendo Switch or PS5, but it's more flexible if you're willing to put in the effort.