Touchscreen Gaming on Surface (or other Windows tablets)

I just got a Surface Pro 7, mainly for productivity but of course it’s not like I’m NOT going to throw some games on there too. Just about anything works with the keyboard and a gamepad, but I wanted to try and figure out what is actually enjoyable with the touchscreen only. I also stuck to 2D games on the theory that anything demanding is going to be more trouble than it’s worth given integrated graphics, limited storage space, etc.

Here’s my testing results so far.

Green (works perfectly in tablet mode using finger)
Slay the Spire
Into the Breach
Banner Saga

Yellow (Playable with touch, but needs pen due to small buttons or tooltips)
Opus Magnum
Lords of Xulima
Order of Battle
Invisible Inc.

Red (Unplayable with touch)
Kentucky Route Zero
Vambrace: Cold Soul
Curious Expedition

Hopefully this is helpful for anyone else who has or is considering a Windows tablet. Please post here if you find anything else that works well on touch.

And in particular, if any of these recent forum darlings happen to work well, that would bump them right to the top of my wishlist: Urtuk: The Desolation, Trials of Fire, Wildermyth, Deity Empires, Disco Elysium, Sunless Skies, Iratus: Lord of the Dead.

I believe all the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Editions have been optimized for tablets. I’ve not tried them though.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown has a very nifty touch mode. Not sure about the sequel?

Civilization VI is great on touch screens.

This is a great idea for a thread, even if I don’t really use my SP5 for gaming.

One title I did try on it was Cultist Simulator- not good, had to use the pen, which got annoying fast.Touch controls like on Android would be great.

Unity of Command was one I played extensively in touch mode.

You might want to try games by Tomorrow Corporation? World of Goo, Little Inferno, Human Resource Machine, 7 Billion Humans

Thanks for mentioning this. I had a hard time getting it to work, and would have given up if I hadn’t known that you were able to. I was having problems where once in a scenario, there was no UI visible, and I couldn’t move the view around. It turned out to be nothing to do with the touchscreen per se, but an issue with high-DPI screens in general. The Surface came out of the box with scaling set to 200%, which had worked fine in most things, but apparently has some compatibility issues. When I turned it off and went to 100%, the controls worked right, but everything was tiny and unreadable. But leaving it at 100% and dropping the desktop resolution down to half native made it work perfectly. That’s helped some other games run better as well, and I’ll keep it in mind to try if I am seeing compatibility issues.

It’s a bit disappointing that treatment of touch events in mouse-driven games is so inconsistent between games. A single tap is sometimes treated as a hover and other times as a left-click. Long press is sometimes treated as right-click, but sometimes ignored. Some games require double-tapping to register a single click. Some games just stubbornly ignore all touch events. And there seems to be no rhyme or reason to which games do which behavior. Several of the games I’ve tested are 100% mouse-driven and would be perfectly playable if I could just copy the same touchscreen-to-mouse translation layer from how Windows already treats some other games, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be configurable.

Oh well, here are a few more test results:


  • Darkside Detective
  • Eliza
  • 2064: Read-Only Memories
  • Panzer Corps
  • Oxenfree


  • Battle Brothers


  • One-Finger Death Punch 2 (shame, as the menus work great, and you can punch left by tapping anywhere on the screen. If they could just make a tap on the right side punch right, it would be a perfect fit).
  • This War of Mine

Ok, discovering things about gaming on the SP5. The normal resolution is 2736x1824 which is 3:2 aspect ratio. None of the other resolutions on the list are 3:2 aspect ratio. Oy. Why did I start looking into this? Scythe: Digital Edition (conversion of the boardgame) is on sale over on Steam, for 50% off ($15 including the expansion or $10 without), and a boardgaming buddy wants to play. I like Scythe, but I’ve only played a few times, and it seems like a great way to try. Booting it up at full-res and graphics set to ‘Fantastic’, the game chugs something fierce. So I drop the res down to 1920x1080 and ‘good’, and that runs super smooth (I have no idea what the difference between Fantastic/Good is, I certainly can’t see it), but there’s maybe black bars on top and bottom? And touch selecting seems… off.

So I go looking into resolutions. Long story short, it turns out you can download the Intel Graphics Controller (or something like that) from the MS Store, and use that to add custom resolutions to the list. I added 1920x1280 for the proper ratio (and left it at 59htz refresh and 0% overscan), and viola, it is a selectable option for Scythe. No black bars. Touch points seem accurate.

So, how does it play on a tablet now that I’ve already told you veteran PC gamers a bunch of crap you already knew? Excellently!

Touch gaming works great. Tooltips work. Selecting things works. Two-finger panning, tilting and rotating the map works (like in Google Maps on my phone)- maybe not perfectly, as it’s a little too fast sometimes, but it works. It’s just like playing one of my other boardgames on my Android tablet or phone. So hey, check it out.

Goddammit. I’ve become one of you (again). This is why I left PC gaming behind and play on console now- it always devolves to talk about drivers and resolutions and specs and hardware and arrrrgh. Ah well, at least I worked it out quickly.


Yeah I absolutely love the 3:2 aspect ratio of surface devices for general usage but it does prove to be problematic for games.

Yeah, it’s nice. I don’t play games on it much, but it’s way better than 16:9 for reading pdfs of tabletop RPGs or comics or whatever. Not as good as the aspect on an ipad or android tablet, but those aren’t as good at watching movies. I think 3:2 is a nice happy medium for a lot of things. I’m glad I found this ‘hack’ in case I do play more games on it.

I find it interesting that anyone would view the pen as a negative. I love the pen and would much rather use it instead of my finger.

Pathfinder Kingmaker works really well except that there is no way to easily press TAB so you have to do a little pixel hunting to make sure you have found all the intractable things. I’ll report back on Wildermyth and Disco Elysium later. They both work well on a SP3 but currently I’m using my Surface more or less docked so I haven’t tried them with the mouse.

I like pen for writing! And drawing! And using Photoshop and InDesign! But for games, not so much- touch is usually so much better, unless the UI is tiny.

Steamworld Heist works perfectly. Like it was made for it. Baldur’s Gate on the other hand does not work well since one can’t play the tablet optimized Android version/any tablet optimized version. It’s just your regular Windows Baldur’s Gate meant to be played with mouse and keyboard.

There is a Steam curator page called Touch-Friendly-Games. Might be worth a look.

Odd that Planescape Torment has an option for tablet mode, but BG doesn’t. Actually, it’s a Beamdog game, so not so odd.

Maybe I should check again. Last time (around 2017, Surface 4) I gave it try I was really disappointed by its interface and I somehow remember that there were different versions.

Wildermyth works well. I only played for 15 minutes but didn’t see any issues.

BG2 works fine for me but I use the pen so I have no issue with small UI. It’s been a number of years since I played it on the Surface but I probably had to fiddle around with resolution settings. Really old but ToEE also worked just fine.

Thank you for reminding me about this! Technically I was already following it, but never noticed any activity and forgot about it. I don’t have a pen, though. Is that going to be an issue?

My experience is that the pen is such a strange beast for most applications/games it’s either touch friendly or mouse. The pen doesn’t matter.

Interesting. My experience has been the reverse. For every game I tried that worked perfectly with just a finger, there were two that only became playable when using the pen, either because there were tiny buttons that were hard to press accurately with a finger, or because it enables mouseover/hover controls. Quite a few tactical games that are otherwise perfect for the platform make extensive use of mouseover to show expected combat results before committing to a particular action.

I should add that I’m not that up to date. It’s been three years that I really used the Surface for gaming. Now my wife’s using it.

Yep, here the pen comes in handy. I was thinking more of native support. I remember the pen was just the finger… but its other functions were rarely supported when I hoped for it. It’s good to hear of more positive experiences.