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Video GamesJun 12, 2024 10:00 am CT

15 demos from Summer Game Fest and Steam NextFest worth checking out

Summer Game Fest was this past weekend and there were a lot of games that caught our interest. The savvier marketing departments for the publishing teams made sure to have demos available for their games, so a lot of players can spend some time while their interest is highest. Obviously some games aren’t coming for a year or two so it’s not surprising there’s no demo available, but there are plenty to choose from — especially from the smaller and independent developers.

A lot of companies weren’t able to participate in Summer Game Fest this year, but they had another avenue: Steam NextFest started this week too. For those unfamiliar, Steam NextFest is a thrice-yearly event where upcoming games can publicize demos on the Steam platform. The only restriction is that a game can only advertise during a NextFest once, so in many cases you’re seeing demos for games that’ll be out Soon™. So between the two events there are a ton of games and demos for players to explore to see what they’ll be playing later this year. Here’s 15 of them that we’re checking out!

Yars Rising

When we think of classic Atari 2600 games that had a ton of backstory worth exploring, Yar’s Revenge is nowhere near the list. Yet somehow it’s getting a tie-in called Yars Rising, a 2D action-adventure platformer that includes elements of stealth, combat, and puzzles — some of which are reminiscent of the Atari title it’s derived from. While the connection is tenuous the gameplay looks fun and its invocation of a classic game should bring in the nostalgia crowd.

First Dwarf

First Dwarf is about a dwarf, naturally, who uses a mech to explore and build a settlement in an immersive fantasy world. There’s a lot of gameplay involved, from open world RPG to survival (dwarves are great at crafting, of course) and base-building with tower defense. First Dwarf promises an extensive gaming experience, and having a bearded protagonist should make the adventure even more worthwhile.


The city of Ithaca needs rebuilding and Artemis is the right (exiled) goddess for the job! MythMatch is a community-building sim that relies on Artemis’ ability to create new objects by combining three items — including Cerberus from three dogs! — to help restore Ithaca. Along the way the city will grow and Artemis will start to challenge Olympus itself to provide a better life for the humans. There are a lot of building sims out there but the art style and story to MythMatch seem like a winning combination.

Nova Hearts

Nova Hearts is your typical dating sim/visual novel/… turn-based combat strategy game? Ok, that last aspect adds a lot of flavor to an otherwise standard genre entry. As a superhero you get the fight bad guys while trying to figure out why the heck this is all happening — and maybe even find love along the way.

Afterlove EP

I’m a huge fan of the Coffee Talk franchise and it was with great sadness to learn that its original creator Mohammad Fahmi died in 2022 (there’s a lovely tribute to him in Coffee Talk 2). Afterlove EP is the final project he worked on, a “slice of life” adventure combining narrative adventure with a dating sim and rhythm gameplay set in Fahmi’s native Jakarta. Dealing with themes of loss and mental health, Afterlove EP promises to be an emotional journey.

Cricket: Jae’s Really Peculiar Game

Cricket: Jae’s Really Peculiar Game is one of the longest titles you’ll see for a game this year, and this hand-drawn JRPG delivers on its name as it is really peculiar. Combat is about building up attacks in a meter and unleashing combat attacks with your companions. There’s no grinding but a choices matter vibe with social interactions and — if you’d rather fight — headbutting, and your reputation will change based on how you choose to approach others.

Immortal Hunters

If you’ve been thinking that you wanted to play a Diablo-style game in a sidescrolling environment well then I have the game for you: Immortal HuntersAn RPG with co-op playability, you get to slaughter demonic creatures while also overthrowing the oppressive society that has developed around fighting these enemies. This game looks like a lot of fun, and with four character choices each with their own set of abilities there should be some nice replayability as well.

Pinball Spire

One of the fun aspects of the indie gaming scene is the constant innovation of new gaming genres or melding ones you didn’t think would work together. Pinball Spire is one of the latter: it’s a pinball game that’s also a metroidvania game — pinballvania. You play as Pip, a pinball exploring a spire that mysteriously appeared with pinball physics as well as special abilities you develop over the course of the game. As a fan of both of those types of games I can’t wait to see how it plays.

Tiny Glade

Tiny Glade is a building sim with a twist — you can’t make mistakes. Just click and drag structures to your heart’s content and the game will help you build the castle or scenic ruins of your dreams. There’s no management, just doodling; I’m not sure a building sim can get cosier than that!

Tactical Breach Wizards

Ho hum, just your standard run-of-the-mill strategic military infiltration — but with wizards! Tactical Breach Wizards is exactly what the title says, a turn-based tactical game set in the modern era (with modern conveniences like Kevlar vests) but with some very magical twists. One of the neat features is limitless rewind, giving players the opportunity to try different tactics when their plans don’t pan out as they expect. The wizards on your team also learn unique abilities as they level, giving you further options and strategies to execute.

Urban Jungle

When you hear the term “urban jungle” in the media you probably think of gang warfare in the poor neighborhoods of a large metropolis. This is an Urban Jungle of a different flavor, however — a literal one. You live in a small apartment in the city but you want to grow as many plants as you can. You don’t even have to worry about watering the plants, the game wants you to relax and give yourself a cozy environment to decorate. And, of course, there’s a cat to pet.

Goblin Cleanup

Ever wonder what happens to dungeons in-between visits by adventuring parties? Goblin Cleanup has your answer! A first-person game where you wipe up blood, reset traps, and watch out for mimics while getting things sparkling clean for the next victors — or victims. There’s even a co-op mode so that your fellow goblins can join you in the fun.

Caravan Sandwitch

Caravan Sandwitch is an exploration and narrative adventure game where you don’t have to worry about combat or running out of time or even death. Explore the world, meet and help people, and look for your missing sister in a post-apocalyptic — yet hopeful — world. This game reminds me of Season: A Letter to the Future so I’m keen to try it out.

Lok Digital

Sometimes you want to play a relaxing game of puzzles, and Lok Digital might be the game for you. Spell words to create creatures and find a place for them on the puzzle surface; as you progress through more puzzles you’ll expand their world while also increasing the challenge to your brain. Also includes a soundtrack to help your mind meditate and concentrate on finding the solutions.


Deep down inside we all want a house of our own with chicken legs, and Reka is the game that’ll help us live that dream. This Baba Jaga “simulator” lets you channel your inner witch as you forage materials to cast spells, solve quests, and navigate the landscape via your own chicken-legged hut.

Phew, that’s a lot of demos to try out! Fortunately developers keep the demo available until the game releases — and sometimes beyond even then. Not all demos stay up past the end of NextFest, however, so make sure you try out the ones your most excited for now while you have the chance.

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