Steam Next Fest is back for another round, and that means the popular storefront is currently hosting hundreds of demos for players to try out. It’s the closest we can get to something like an E3 showfloor, and honestly, without the long queues for games and longer queues for lunch, it’s really not so bad.
While we can’t claim to have played all 500+ indie game demos taking part in the digital festival, we did play dozens of them and settled on spotlighting eight that we came away excited about.
The Big Con
Players of a particular age will appreciate The Big Con for its decisively 90s aesthetic. Ugly carpets, video rental stores, and a vanishing middle class give way to the game’s protagonist, Ali, needing to pickpocket her way to clearing her mother’s debts.
This adventure game is visually striking and both funny and sad at different intervals, like looking through a 1995 yearbook.
If politics and games are your thing, maybe a world that mirrors our own in some uncomfortable ways could be fascinating. If so, the many-branched narrative tree of Road 96 should capture you.
In it, players take on the role of a teen fleeing for the border to escape what seems to be an oncoming storm of trouble from the next possible governing body. Commenting on our world through one not the same, but not unlike ours either, makes for a compelling setting.
Strategy is a big umbrella, so it’s hard to say fans of the genre, in general, will enjoy Terra Nil, but it’s worth a shot because it’s unlike any other “city-builder” I know. That’s because you are actually tasked with building the world back up from ruin, returning nature to the hills, rivers, and valleys of a once lush land.
The visual effects of replacing the world’s beauty have a strangely Tetris-like satisfaction, like getting everything just right can feel so good.
My Time At Sandrock
Farm sims are extremely in right now, and the team at Pathea is back with its bigger and prettier follow-up to My Time At Portia. If you liked it before, My Time At Sandrock feels like it returns a lot of what you loved the first time only with more townsfolk, a bigger starting area, and a whole new desert-like region to discover.
They Are Here
I’ve long lamented the lack of any proper alien abduction horror, so They Are Here was actually the first demo I tried during Steam Next Fest. While the 10-minute sample is a bit on rails, it gets the atmosphere and innate terror of an alien lifeform so very right.
This is a genre that games have weirdly failed to do much with, so I hope the full game is just as creepy as the demo.
It’s a surprise this colorful indie isn’t from Cartoon Network. The blend of 2D and 3D art is immediately captivating, and the story seems to set up a similar tone to Adventure Time, where things are just a bit subversive but still friendly enough for all ages.
It also seems to have a fun exploratory nature to it, where the titular hero travels the world by squishy steamboat.
Fans of retro horror simply must download this one. Using a PS1 visual style but presented in first-person, Chasing Static is an interesting mix of old- and new-school horror design principles.
Music is reminiscent of Silent Hill and it even begins in a diner, much like the classic from Konami. It’s effectively scary too, and I genuinely say that about few games anymore.
John Wick already got a game, but this is a much closer John Wick simulator than that strategy title. In first-person, players can wallrun, slide, dive through glass, and shoot in slow motion taking out waves of enemies while dripping with style like Jeff Goldblum circa Jurassic Park.
While you’re here, don’t forget we also dove deep into LudoNarraCon earlier this year too, where we already fell in love with demo-ready games like Lake and Unpacking, both of which have demos during Steam Next Fest as well.
Those are the handful of indie games we loved that have demos available now during Steam Next Fest. Have we missed your favorite? Let us know, and we’ll give it a try!