Valve’s Steam is a handy portal for buying video games, but it’s far from the only digital storefront from which you can buy. One useful aspect of Steam, though, is that it provides a place where all your games are organized and easy to find and launch.
Even if you don’t buy all your PC games through Steam, there are ways to add games to the portal to make playing them more convenient — both by getting games from outside retailers that are compatible with Steam, and by adding your games from other services to the client. Here’s everything you need to know to add external games to your Steam library.
Add games with a code
When you buy games from third-party stores and services, such as Amazon, those games are often actually Steam games, and can be redeemed through Steam using a code provided by the seller. Codes are 12 characters long, and they’re pretty easy to use.
Fire up Steam and find the option to redeem a code
Once you’re in Steam, head to the top of the client and look for the “Games” menu at the top. Pick the option to “Activate a Product on Steam.” That’ll open up a new window; click “Next,” then agree to the Steam subscriber agreement. After that, you’ll finally come to the window where you can input your Steam key. Hit “Next” again to confirm it.
The next window will let you install the game on your computer immediately. You can also cancel at this step, which will add the game to your account, but not immediately install it.
Add games from Humble Bundle
For years now, Humble Bundle has offered players a chance to get whole batches of games at once at some pretty low prices. In many cases, games bought from Humble Bundle or from the Humble store can be downloaded directly, but the service also usually offers Steam versions of the games it sells. That gives you two ways to get those games on your Steam accounts: Steam codes, or linking your account. If you ever need to find codes at a later point, login on the Humble website and click “Library” to see all the games you’ve purchased and their Steam codes.
Linking your Steam account sends games automatically from Humble to Steam when you purchase them, allowing you to skip the step of entering codes.
Link your Steam account to Humble
To link your Steam account, you’ll need to create or log into an account on the Humble service. That’s doable at humblebundle.com. Once you’ve got your account setup and logged in, you’ll see your login email address in the top-right corner of the Humble website. Click it and go to “Settings” on the drop-down menu.
Log in to Steam
On the “Settings” page on Humble, scroll to the bottom and look for a meu option that says “Steam Link.” Click the spot words beside it marked “click here” and Humble will take you to a Steam login page. Enter your credentials and your Steam account will automatically be associated with your Humble account, allowing you to automatically send the games you purchase on Humble straight to Steam.
Add non-Steam games from other services (such as GOG.com)
When you buy a game on another service other than Steam, such as GOG.com, Electronic Arts’ Origin platform, or the Windows store, you’re getting it from a different location other than Steam. That means you don’t get things like the Steam overlay added to the game, or the ability to click that game and see what other products, like downloadable content, are available for it in Steam.
There is a workaround, however, that lets you get your non-Steam games into the Steam ecosystem, at least in a surface way. Steam allows you to add games purchased from elsewhere into your Steam library, allowing you to use Steam to launch those games, and giving you access to things like your Steam friends list when playing them. You still don’t get Steam features for the game, but it can make finding and playing games more convenient.
Here’s how to add a non-Steam game to Steam:
First, find the game on your computer
Before you start the process, you’ll save yourself time by figuring out where the game you’re looking to add has been installed on your computer. You’ll need the file pathway so you can direct Steam to find the game’s files.
Launch Steam and find the “Games” menu
At the top of the Steam interface, you’ll find a number of pull-down menus with a variety of options. You’re looking for the “Games” menu. Click it, then look for the bottom menu option, labeled “Add a Non-Steam Game to My Library.”
That’ll pull up a separate window that will allow you to find the program you’re looking to add.
Select the program, or go hunt it down
Steam does a pretty good job of detecting installed programs on your system, so if you’ve installed the game already, there’s a strong chance it’ll be listed in the separate window. If it’s there, just click the box next to the game you want to add, then push the “Add Selected Programs” button.
If the game isn’t listed, you’ll need the file path to the game, which you should have already if you tracked it down earlier. Hit the “Browse” button at the bottom of the window and navigate to the game’s location on your computer. Find the executable and select it, then it the “Open” button. That should add the game to the original window, and you can now hit the “Add Selected Programs” button on your Steam window. That should add the game to your program list on Steam, allowing you to launch the game from within the Steam interface.
Add a ROM
Digital Trends does not promote piracy, but that doesn’t stop many players out there on the Internet from using software emulators and ROMs to play old games — and there’s a legal argument to be made for creating ROM copies of your own games, or downloading ROM copies of games you’ve legally purchased that you don’t distribute to others. In any case, whether it’s legal or not, people play ROMs, and sometimes they want to add them to their Steam libraries.
There are actually quite a few ways to do that, and even some tools to make the process easier. It’s tougher to add ROMs to Steam because, in addition to creating a shortcut to the ROM itself like you would with any other game, you also need to tell Steam to access the emulator necessary for playing it. You can speed up the process with tools such as Ice or Steam ROM Manager to add your ROMs to Steam.
You can also create your own shortcuts in Steam that will work with your ROMs, much in the same way you add non-Steam games to your Steam library.
Create a shortcut to any .exe file
First, use the same steps above that you would to add a game to Steam, but choose any executable .exe program file. All you’re doing here is making a shortcut you’ll edit later, so it doesn’t matter what program you use — you’ll be changing it.
Find the folder where your emulator and ROMs are installed
Just as above, take a second and find the file path to the emulator and ROMs you’re looking to use. You’ll need them in a moment, and writing down or copying the file path ahead of time will save you a little time later.
Edit the shortcut
In Steam, find the program you just added from your Games Library screen. Select or right-click the game and use the menu that pops up to navigate down to “Properties.” That’ll pull open a screen that lets you edit the shortcut you created, including changing the name and icon that goes with it, and altering the file path for the shortcut. Here, you’ll just plug in the information for your emulator and ROM to add it to Steam.
Change the name of the shortcut to whatever the title of your ROM is, then highlight the text in the “Target” field. Replace it with the file path to the emulator, making sure to keep quotation marks around it. Put a space after the end of the file path to the emulator, and then add the file path to the ROM you want to use — again putting quotation marks around it.
Your finished “Target” field should look something like this: “C:\YourEmulator\Emulator Folder\emulator.exe” “C:\YourEmulator\Emulator Folder\Your ROM game.n64”
You’ll either want to delete the text in the “Start In” field, or put the file path to your emulator folder in that field. In most cases, that should do it. The shortcut will now search for the emulator and run it, and then the ROM and run that as well.
Add command line arguments
For some emulators, you’ll need additional commands in your “Target” field to tell the emulator what to do. There are a host of potential commands and they’re different for different emulators. You can find a big, useful list of command arguments at LaunchBox.com, and Steam user cunningmunki created a handy tutorial for adding ROMs to Steam that also lists a few of the most common emulators and their command arguments.
When you know what command arguments you need, you’ll generally add them to the “Target” field after the file paths for your emulator, but before the file path for your ROM.