Steam Next Fest is here! It’s that wonderful time of year when Valve and a bunch of video game developers get together to flood Steam with hundreds of free demos of upcoming video games. But could it be that there are…too many demos? Let us help you out with some recommendations!
A quick heads up: Some of these demos are time-limited and will vanish once Next Fest is over. Also, there are so many amazing demos out there right now that there is no way we can possibly mention every last good one here. So if you play anything cool during Next Fest that we haven’t mentioned here, please feel free to share your discoveries in the comments below. Now, let’s begin!
Dust & Neon
A top-down twin-stick roguelite robot-cowboy shooter
Robots are dangerous…and also your friends. Yeah, things are complicated in this wild top-down shooter that features some fantastic music and great gunplay. Like many other twin-stick shooters, you move with the left stick and aim with the right. But Dust & Neon isn’t all about running around wildly. Instead, you’ll need to use cover and strategically dodge when enemies are reloading to survive. Chests containing random loot drops and new guns will help you make it through the challenging combat.
One more thing! I love the way every time you reload, you manually load each individual bullet or shell. Any game that makes reloading interesting is cool in my book. And you don’t have to wait long to play the full game, as Dust & Neon is out on February 16.
Mars First Logistics
Colorful and wacky space-robot puzzlin’
Welcome to Mars. You are a lone robot stuck there and forced to help humans fix the place up. It’s a tough job, but at least you get to have fun with it. In Mars First Logistics you have to build and rebuild different robots to complete delivery tasks. For example, you might need to pick up a box of oranges and then carry a large steel beam. While one robot design might work perfectly for one task, that same design might be awful for the other. So rebuilding, tinkering, and testing is a large part of the game.
Really, the best way to describe Mars First Logistics is that it’s Death Stranding crossed with Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Slap on a slick-looking art style and some banging tunes and you’ve got one of the coolest demos currently available on Steam.
Brutal FPS action across a never-ending convoy
One of my favorite video game levels is in Uncharted 2, when you have to fight your way through a moving convoy. The way you have to plan ahead and then change those plans as trucks move or explode is exciting as heck. Now, what if you took that level, sprinkled on Mad Max aesthetics, Doom-like combat, and truck-hopping action from Clustertruck? Well, you’d get Meat Grinder, baby. And that’s a good thing!
Meat Grinder might be one of the most intense and non-stop wild shooters I’ve played in some time, and that’s by design. The game is built around moving forward, getting new guns, killing tons of baddies, and doing all of this as fast as possible to keep your in-game heart rate up. The higher, the better as you heal faster. If it drops too low, you die. To avoid that you’ll need to kick, shoot, grapple, and dash. And it all feels good. Really good.
Chill world builder, very similar to that other hex-based world creator…
Yes, let’s get this out of the way right now: This game looks and plays a lot like the wonderful Dorfromantik, a game that many here at Kotaku adore, myself included. But while Pan’orama is clearly inspired by that other chill world builder, it isn’t just a thoughtless clone. Instead, Pan’orama builds upon the basic challenge and quests in Dorfromantik, adding bigger objectives to create and letting you have more control over the layout of each world.
I also enjoyed the way Pan’orama lets you plan out a bit more and work toward bigger goals while you make sure to keep growing each colorful world, which lets you keep playing. I think Dorfromantik is the more polished of the two, but Pan’orama is worth checking out, especially if you loved Dorf and want something similar but new to play.
Laid back and oddly fast sloth longboarding action
Remember that wonderful TikTok of the dude longboarding and listening to Fleetwood Mac? What if someone took the vibes of that video, built a game around it, and then replaced the human with a cool sloth? Well, that’s basically Driftwood, a longboarding game that looks very chill, but actually hides an intense experience under the surface.
If you want, you can go slowly and just cruise down the roads and hills of Driftwood, maybe listening to Fleetwood Mac. But if you push forward on the left stick more and take advantage of the in-game scoring system, which rewards you for taking risks and drifting, you’ll quickly discover this sloth and his longboard can go very, very fast. Thankfully, the game plays great at any speed thanks to tight, responsive controls. Don’t wait to try this out, either, as the demo goes away on February 13.
Super Adventure Hand
A colorful and weird 3D platformer starring a creepy hand
Glover without the glove. That’s it. That’s Super Adventure Hand. Okay…well…not really. That’s not actually true. But it’s not completely wrong, either. Super Adventure Hand is a level-based 3D platformer with light puzzle elements that stars a severed human hand that appears to also be sentient. While it has creepily long fingers and a thumb that bends in ways I can’t stand, it is really good at climbing, letting you hang onto nearly every surface in the game. So action is more about finding a path or unlocking an exit, not super precise platforming.
I was having a good time with the demo, even with some generic music and boring menus. But then I encountered the first in-game enemies you have to avoid: Human feet with human eyeballs. I have so many questions, but I’ll likely have to wait for the full release to get my answers.
A charming and cute card-based city builder
Cardboard Town takes the basic city-builder concept of creating a large, efficient, and diverse city and shakes it up with random cards. These cards can be good or bad and can completely change your plans. Perhaps you want to build a nice shopping district? Well if you get a bunch of factory and road cards you’ll likely have to change your plans or risk failing by running out of resources.
Visually, Cardboard Town is a treat, with every building, bush, and other in-game object designed to look like it was hand-crafted out of paper and cardboard. Sadly, it does feel like the game needs more music and sound effects, but what’s here is solid and worth playing. Just a heads up that the demo for this cute little town builder with cards goes away on February 28.
Any other Steam Next Fest demos catching your attention? Let us know!