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15 game demos to try before Steam Next Fest ends

Steam Next Fest runs from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13

A child and an adult sitting at a table drinking tea. Image: Meowza Games/Humble Games
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Over the course of seven days, Steam is running its Next Fest — “a celebration of upcoming games.” Hundreds of demos are available to download for free as part of the event. The entries span every genre: action, strategy, simulators, role-playing games, puzzles, VR, multiplayer games, and plenty more. There’s truly something for everyone as part of the Steam Next Fest.

But the sheer number of games — seriously, hundreds of them — makes choosing what to play a little overwhelming. Of course, there’s no limit to the amount of games you can install and play, but you’ve only got until Feb. 13 to do so. (You may be able to launch some games after that time period, but they most likely won’t be available to once the festival ends.)

Looking for recommendations? These are the 13 games we’ll be demoing during the Steam Next Fest.

Mineko’s Night Market

A child laying in a stream, wearing a daruma hat. Image: Meowza Games/Humble Games

Mineko’s Night Market has been on our radar for some time, originally slated for release in 2019. It’s a life simulator with a story about friendship and tradition, according to developer Meowza Games. Of course, it’s also got a ton of cats — it’s set on an island that worships the Sun Cat, Abe. Beyond the story, you’ll be able to do typical life sim stuff, completing daily activities, taking on jobs, and crafting items for the night market.

It’s listed on Steam as “coming soon,” with no release date announced just yet.

Mars First Logistics

a robot that looks like a crab on mars Image: Shape Shop/Outersloth

Mars First Logistics, from Australian developer Ian MacLarty and Shape Shop, is an open-world physics simulator set on Mars; you’ll build rovers to transport stuff across the planet. Doing this work means getting money to upgrade your builds and establish a space colony, developer Shape Shop said. It’s expected out in 2023.

Planet of Lana

art for Planet of Lana in a painterly style, with a child looking up at a sky with missiles Image: Wishfully/Thunderful Publishing

Swedish indie studio Wishfully announced Planet of Lana in 2021, and the game is expected to launch in 2023. The platformer follows the titular Lana and her creature companion on a mission to save Lana’s sister, after the planet they live on is sent into chaos from a seemingly extraterrestrial attack. Wishfully says the game isn’t about war, though — it’s about the “vibrant, beautiful planet and the journey to keep it that way.”

Shadows of Doubt

A vowel alleyway lit up by street lights Image: ColePowered Games/Fireshine Games

ColePowered Games’ Shadows of Doubt is a stealth detective game in a science fiction, noir city. Its neon-lit world is full of puzzles that’ll require you to take on the role of a private investigator — taking on jobs while solving a larger mystery involving a serial killer. The detailed voxel world looks vivid and extensive, with no shortage of places to explore.

Rusted Moss

a screenshot of a character firing in rusted moss Image: faxdoc, happysquared, sunnydaze/Playism

Rusted Moss is described by its developer as a “bullet-helly” Metroidvania, and traversal involves swinging around with a grappling hook that’s also your robotic companion. Like any good Metroidvania, exploration is a huge element of the game — and the travel mechanic looks intriguing, too.

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder

a character slashing their way through a level in gestalt: steam & cinder Image: Metamorphosis Games/Fireshine Games

Gestalt: Steam & Cinder’s gorgeous, pixelated world is unrivaled — the steampunk setting is stunningly detailed and full of life. The 2D platforming and combat will be just as important as the “twist-laden narrative” set in the Steam City of Canaan, a world filled with “dangerous truths.”

Dust & Neon

a green hued level in dust and neon, where a robot cowboy is hunting other robots Image: David Marquardt Studios/Rogue Games

Dust & Neon is the Wild West, but make it futuristic. Do you want a roguelite shooter where you play as a robot gunslinger fighting villainous robots? Try this one. It looks both stylish and chaotic, and definitely like a challenge.

Cook Serve Forever

A colorful taco in Cook, Serve, Delicious Image: Vertigo Gaming

From the makers of Cook, Serve, Delicious!, the new Cook Serve Forever is a cooking adventure game starring a home cook who’s starting a food truck in a vibrant, futuristic city. It’s management, rhythm, and a whole lot of delicious food, gorgeously rendered in a unique style.


A city rendered in pink and purple tones Image: Stage Games

Desynced’s survival strategy gameplay comes from Stage Games, bringing a hazy, muted world to life. It’s said to have all the classic survival strategy elements, from exploration and research to expansion and combat. It’s expected out in 2023.


A lo-fi screenshot from Outlanders, showing a town-building area Image: Pomelo Games

Like Desynced, Outlanders is a strategy game, but with a totally different vibe. From Pomelo Games, Outlanders is a town-builder with a positive spin: It’s just a bunch of folks who are hardworking and looking to collaborate and build together — not dominate and overrule the land they inhabit.


A dark world with things on fire Image: Gator Shins

Gator Shins’ Coven is a dark and creepy horror first-person shooter with lots of violence. Think something like Doom, but probably more intense. Gator Shins said the direct influences are classic FPS games like “Blood, Hexen, Unreal, and Timesplitters.” It definitely doesn’t appear to be for the faint of heart.

Arcade Party

four players engaged in a fishing minigame Image: Arcade Party

Arcade Party by developer Arcade Party is naturally a party game full of different arcade-inspired minigames. It’s got online and local play, and looks like a ton of chaotic fun. For fans of classic arcade games, you’ll certainly be able to pick out specific influences from its collection of more than 20 minigames. There’s even a fishing minigame!


An astronaut on a space station with a gun Image: Studio Surgical Scalpels/Skystone Games, Huya Games

Boundary by Studio Surgical Scalpels is a multiplayer, tactical space shooter that pits teams against each other in zero-gravity battlegrounds on floating space stations. Astronauts here are not just any astronauts — they’re kitted out to take on fierce battles against other similarly suited teams looking to control space.


Two explorers raft down a river in Highwater. Image: Demagog Studio/Rogue Games

From Golf Club: Wasteland developer Demagog, Highwater brings players into a bleak climate apocalypse. When the ultra-rich are leaving Earth and heading to Mars, the player — a normie — takes to the flooded world in an attempt to sneak on board the rocket.

Phantom Brigade

Four mechanical soldiers stand in a line holding large weapons. Image: Brace Yourself Games

Brace Yourself Games’ Phantom Brigade is a turn-based, real-time tactical role-playing game with a squad of sick mech pilots. The developer says its focus is on customization and player-driven stories, where the goal is to lead the outgunned squad in an attempt to reclaim their home. It’s high-level strategy that plays out in cinematic scenes, making it a totally unique spin on the genre.