Steam Next Fest has once again returned with another weeklong celebration of video games and hundreds of demos to try out. From major upcoming releases like Homeworld 3 to unique and interesting debuts from indie developers, there’s tons to play and all too little time to try everything out.
Don’t sweat it — we’ve got you covered. We’ve pored over the mountain of new demos released in the lead-up to this year’s Next Fest and settled on our list of the seven must-play demos to try before Next Fest wraps up. From breakout hits like Children of the Sun and Mullet Mad Jack to more time-sensitive demos like the Metroidvania action-adventure Tales of Kenzera: Zau, these are the best demos of exciting upcoming games you should make the time to try out before Steam Next Fest wraps up on Monday, Feb. 12.
Developer: René Rother
Release date: TBA
You remember 2008’s Wanted? Y’know, that one movie where James McAvoy played the son of an assassin who had the ability to “curve” the trajectory of bullets in midair? Well, this tactical puzzle shooter is kinda like that, only set in a hallucinatory world that resembles something straight out of a Suda51 game.
Players assume the role of a troubled young girl with telekinetic psychic abilities who embarks on a one-woman campaign of revenge as she works her way up to killing the leader of a cult. You only have one bullet to spare, but don’t worry: You have the ability to slow down time after every kill in order to ricochet your bullet to kill any remaining targets. The result is an experience that marries the patient precision of games like Sniper Elite and Hitman: Sniper Assassin with the grungy aesthetic chaos of Hotline Miami.
Developer: Headware Games
Release date: 2024
Hollowbody has been on our radar for a while now, with a release date expected sometime in 2024. Players assume the role of Mica, an unlicensed black market courier who crash-lands in a walled-off neighborhood on the outskirts of London on a mission to find her missing partner.
The demo takes roughly half an hour to complete and plays like a contemporary take on classic Silent Hill by way of Blade Runner, with players using a variety of scavenged tools and an augmented reality heads-up display to navigate the dilapidated area in order to advance. It’s a strong first impression of Hollowbody’s eerie mood and throwback mechanics, one that that makes us even more excited for the game’s final release.
Release date: TBA
Fans of old-school cyberpunk anime ought to check out the demo for Mullet Mad Jack, a fast-paced roguelike FPS that combines a throwback vaporwave aesthetic with a core gameplay mechanic that pokes fun at the attention economy. Players assume the role of Mullet Madjack, a “moderator” bounty hunter who specializes in killing nefarious “Robillionaires” while livestreaming their executions to his adoring fans.
You’re on a mission to rescue the planet’s most famous influencer from her robot captors, clearing through swaths of enemies across randomly generated levels to get to your target. There’s a catch, though: You’re living life 10 seconds at a time (literally), and the only way to replenish your rapidly depleting health is to blast away bad guys. If you enjoy stylish, satricical, and violent games like Neon White, Ultrakill, and Hotline Miami, you should definitely check this one out.
Developer: Ironwood Studios
Release date: Feb. 22
Pacific Drive, the upcoming “STALKER with a car” immersive sim from Ironwood Studios, is set to be released later this month. If you, like me, are itching to venture out into a supernaturally transformed version of the Pacific Northwest, or are just curious to see how the game actually feels to play, there’s a new demo available to try out ahead of the game’s release.
Players assume the role of a nameless character who, having been mysteriously transported inside a massive walled-off territory known as the Olympic Exclusion Zone, must search for a means of escape while traversing the world in their dilapidated station wagon. Scavenge for materials, salvage parts, and upgrade your vehicle to overcome the slew of environmental hazards this anomalous region has to throw at you.
Developer: Monster and Monster
Release date: 2024
If you enjoy the tranquil, engaging gameplay of American Truck Simulator or the working class sci-fi storytelling of games like Hardspace: Shipbreaker or anime like Cowboy Bebop, you should definitely check out the demo for Star Trucker, an automotive space sim where you traverse the winding highways of the galaxy transporting cargo and take in all the dazzling cosmic vistas the universe has to offer.
From the cockpit of your rocket-powered big rig you’ll haul across the stars, salvage wares to trade and sell, talk with your fellow truckers on the radio, and even hop into a spacesuit to repair damages to your truck or just float around for a bit. The demo takes around 20 minutes to complete and is overall a relaxing and unique spin on the automotive sim genre.
Release Date: Mar. 8
Summerhouse, which we previously mentioned on our list of indie games to look forward to in 2024, is a tiny building game from solo developer Friedemann. It’s essentially a sandbox city builder where players can create tiny, picturesque homes in equally picturesque environment that you can customize. There are no rules or restrictions, just cute NPCs and good vibes. If that sounds like your jam, you can try out the demo for the game in the lead-up to the full release of Summerhouse on Mar. 8.
Developer: Surgent Studios
Release date: Apr. 23
Fans of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown ought to keep their eyes on Tales of Kenzera: Zau, the upcoming debut title from Surgent Games run by Abubakar Salim (Assassin’s Creed Origins). The game made a big splash when it was announced during last year’s Game Awards, and the Steam Next Fest demo certainly builds on that momentum. Players assume the role of a young shaman who, grieving the loss of his father, embarks on a journey on behalf of the god of death in exchange for his father’s soul. You’ll traverse beautiful levels, solve puzzles, and battle enemies by wielding two different sets of powers.