Steam’s Next Fest is one of the most important annual events for PC gamers. It helps prospective indie developers platform their hard work, functioning as a big ol’ magnifying glass for some of the best upcoming games on the storefront. Next Fest has grown into a smashing success, with hundreds of devs releasing demos to showcase their games this year.
With that being said, it’s pretty easy to get lost in the reverie and miss out on some of the real gems on offer. Have no fear; I’ve played a dozen or so Next Fest demos, and I’m going to share 7 games any gamer worth their salt needs to keep an eye on! In no particular order, you need to watch out for…
Hot Guns: International Missions feels like the love child of Broforce and Contra. Pairing off action movie-level macho ridiculousness with pure absurdism, this demo let me run around as a pink ninja dual-wielding an assault rifle and a mortar launcher. There’s also a local co-op mode supporting up to four players, so you can rampage through this side scroller with your friends.
The game is also quite difficult, with each death sending you back to the start of the level. There are lots of devious explosives scattered all about the place, so it starts to feel like an experience in both memory and skill. Dying can begin to feel slightly discouraging, with the demo lacking any checkpoints, but the satisfaction of beating a level is absolutely unrivaled.
If you like side-scrolling shooters, this game might be right up your alley. You can download the demo here.
Full Void feels like the next step in our modern reimagining of retro horror. The games industry as a whole has been paying homage to the classics as of late, with releases like the Resident Evil 2 remake selling like hotcakes.
I have to laud Full Void for taking full advantage of its art style to deliver unique scares. The 2-dimensional gameplay feels claustrophobic, and you don’t feel like you have anywhere to run or hide. The way tension ratchets up as you move across the world reminds me of Walk from the Haunted PS1 Demo Disc collection.
If you’re a horror aficionado, or you really enjoy pixel graphics, I recommend you give the Full Void demo a go here.
Did you like Hardspace: Shipbreaker? Well then, Ship Graveyard Simulator 2 is the game for you!
Though the two games have very similar mechanical gameplay, breaking ships down into smaller bits and then scrapping ‘em for cash, Ship Graveyard Simulator features 100% more gravity. What’s this mean? It’s way easier for someone that wants to play a game like this to jump into Ship Graveyard Simulator because there’s little to no disorienting movement and positioning, and you can get started smacking away at steel girders right away.
Another thing that stood out to me about this particular demo is how “tactile” the game felt. After unfastening pieces of the ship from the body, you need to give them a smack with the hammer (the game tells you to “bonk!” them) to really knock them loose. This small detail is lots of fun, and it feels satisfying to knock these plates down before tearing them away from the ship.
There’s a decent amount to do here, and the game does a good enough job of differentiating itself from other similar simulations. If a relaxing simulator in a metal scrapyard sounds like a good time to you, the demo can be downloaded here.
Voidtrain’s demo does a great job of balancing core mechanics with action setpieces. Just when it seems the game is going to settle into a “collect and craft” formula, you get thrown an absolute sidewinder that makes you realize the final product will have a lot going on.
All I know is that Voidtrain will have floating space worms, derelict train stations with cool upgrades, a bunch of cool guns, enemy trains to battle with, and monstrous bosses to struggle against. And that’s all packaged up with a co-op mode, so you can take this wild world on with your friends.
An idea as unique as this one is enough to draw me in based on the premise alone, and some really ambitious features will be packed into the final product. If you want to get a taste of what Voidtrain has in store, you can download the demo here.
DE-EXIT – Eternal Matters is a platformer with a beautiful aesthetic.
Voxel-based projects are lovingly handcrafted pieces of art, and DE-EXIT is no different. You play as a little skeleton, thrown headfirst into an afterlife in disrepair. Natural beauty and opulent temples are being overrun by inky corruption, and it’s up to you to figure out what the hell is going on.
The accelerated decay of these man-made structures makes for a captivating journey, and the demo had me hooked on exploring every side route and reading every note I could find. It looks like there’s going to be an interesting story here, with different perspectives from different characters on the nature of the afterlife… but you could forego all that and just enjoy the vibes of this amazingly detailed world.
If you’re into platformers with heart, you can download DE-EXIT’s demo here.
I’ve seen some people call Operation: Harsh Doorstop a “low-budget Squad.” I think that’s entirely unfair to the developers putting their heart and soul into this project.
Is it the most polished first-person shooter I’ve ever played? No, not really. And the game does remind me of many other entries into this particular genre: the gameplay does emulate Squad and echoes the feel of Insurgency to a degree. The HUD is no doubt inspired by Hell Let Loose.
But I think Operation: Harsh Doorstop will succeed because of continuing, active support from the devs, as well as a loyal community. This is the kind of project where you can feel the passion and drive from everyone backing it, and with the low price tag of “free,” there’s no excuse for missing this game.
If you want to see what this game is all about, check it out right here. It’s launching on February 15th!
Meet Your Maker’s open beta was my favorite experience from this Next Fest. I’m fairly confident I’ve never played anything quite like it (although the core premise kind-of-sort-of weirdly mirrors that of The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot, may that game rest in peace).
Here, you play as a Custodian, a faceless figure with a simple-sounding assignment: collect a bunch of uncorrupted human genetic material (GenMat) from the wastelands of a dead Earth and bring them back to the shadowy Chimera… a fetus-like proto-human thing. The catch? The GenMat is locked away in fortresses created by other players, hidden by devious traps and dangerous guards that will kill you on sight.
Learning to navigate these player-made obstacle courses is insanely fun and addicting, and I constantly feel like I’m being rewarded for both my cunning approaches to a situation as well as my quick reaction time and mechanical skill. Everything you earn during a raid allows you to upgrade your arsenal for additional raids… or the fortification of your own death trap murder mansions to kill other players and reap their rewards!
The premise is simple, the gameplay loop is addicting, and I can see Meet Your Maker being a massive hit when it launches in April. Watch out for future beta testing opportunities here.