Take a deep breath. You smell that? That, my friend, is the smell of fresh-baked indie games. While I may have originally joined Steam all those years ago to play Team Fortress 2, it’s the constant stream of fascinating new indie-developed games that’s kept me around. Of course, if all you did was check the new releases bar every day, you wouldn’t be able to wade through the sheer bulk of shovelware to find the good stuff, which is why Steam periodically hosts the Steam Next Fest. The Next Fest is a week-long showcase of up and comers in the indie development scene, games you may otherwise miss out on if you’re not in the know.
It’s not just a list and some livestreams, though; every game featured in the Steam Next Fest also comes with a playable demo that you can try for free, either during the event’s duration or whenever you please. It’s a great event, not just for the indie games, but for keeping the practice of offering demos alive, which a lot of big-name games don’t bother with anymore. If you’re in a hurry, though, then here are some of the best Steam Next Fest demos for you to dip your feet into.
The best Steam Next Fest demos
- Fallen Aces
- Young Souls
- MythBusters: The Game – Crazy Experiments Simulator
- Ultra Age
- Justice Sucks: Recharged
- Robin Hood – Sherwood Builders
If there’s two things I love, it’s retro FPSes and noir detective stories. Tell me you don’t love the idea of a hard-boiled private eye solving crimes in the dead of night, introducing mooks to the business end of his favorite knuckles. In Fallen Aces, you’ll take on those dark nighttime alleyways, dismantling criminal empires one knuckle sandwich at a time. While the game looks simple on the surface, it’s got an impressively nonlinear design; you can run right into the fray and start clobbering guys with your bare hands, you can pick up anything that isn’t nailed down to use as an improvised weapon, or you can stick to the shadows and avoid the hassle altogether.
If you’ve ever played Daniel Mullins’ Pony Island, you’ll know that he has a penchant for twisty, metatextual narratives that take full advantage of gaming as a storytelling medium. He’s set to do it again in Inscryption, and this time, it’s gonna be even more twisted. Through the medium of a streamer uncovering a derelict game on a floppy disk, enter a woodland cabin where you’re a prisoner of a mad game master. Assemble a deck of woodland creatures to take on the master’s complex roguelike maze, then stand up from your seat to unlock the mysteries of the cabin, escape room-style.
When the world’s left you behind and your foster father’s been kidnapped by extradimensional goblins, it’s nice to have a sibling you can rely on with you. Young Souls is a hybrid action RPG and sidescrolling beat ‘em up where twins Jenn and Tristan discover a portal to another world in their basement. Armed only with swords and sneakers, they must delve into the dungeons and wipe up all the beasties within. Tackle dungeons alone or with a friend in couch co-op, and when you’re done dungeon-crawling, return to town to sell off your treasure, buy new gear, and upgrade your stats.
While there’s no shortage of cyberpunk games out there, I bet you’ve never played one quite as grimy as Mechajammer. Traverse the rusty, crusty world and assemble a ragtag team of bandits, mercenaries, and general crooks as you attempt to escape from the primeval jungle colony you’ve found yourself in. Command your squad in turn-based, strategic encounters, both violent and nonviolent, as you make use of every unit’s individual skills and perks. Hope you’ve had your tetanus shots.
MythBusters: The Game – Crazy Experiments Simulator
The one thing they always tell you prior to an episode of MythBusters is to never try what you see on the show at home. Obviously, nobody’s going to listen to that, though, so if you absolutely have to try it at home, at least do it in a game. MythBusters: The Game allows you to take command of the MythBusters workshop, futzing with explosives, chemicals, and other dangerous doodads as you work to solve the myth of the day. Set up elaborate experiments, and film your own episodes as you subject them to the scientific method. Remember to wear your safety goggles!
When creating a character-action game, Devil May Cry understood it best: all you need is one cool dude with a big honkin’ sword. Ultra Age is an in-your-face sci-fi action epic where you’ll take on massive monsters with a shape-changing sword. Swap your sword’s blade on the fly to change its properties and moves, allowing for a massive shifting list of potential combos, and decimate your foes in high-speed combat.
Justice Sucks: Recharged
I’ve always felt a certain affinity with my robotic vacuum cleaner. He gets me, you know? If Justice Sucks: Recharged is any indication, he’d also apparently kill my enemies for me! How nice. In Justice Sucks, take on the role of a little robot vacuum that’s been knocked into a television world. Hide under furniture to get the drop on your enemies, then use your powers of sucking to turn their environment into your own deadly weapon. Suck up their remains and gain incredible super powers as you make your way home to save your family.
Robin Hood – Sherwood Builders
Robin Hood was primarily known for the whole “stealing from the rich and giving to the poor” thing, but helping the downtrodden takes a bit more effort than just leaving a bag of gold on their doorstep. In Robin Hood – Sherwood Builders, take control of the classic highwayman as he robs wealthy caravans in an open-world sandbox adventure similar to Assassin’s Creed. With your ill-gotten gains, return to Sherwood and help it develop into a thriving underground community that can rival the Crown itself.