Despite being a massive user of Steam for years now, ironically I’m not quite as excited about sales anymore. I have most games I’d want excluding an endless wishlist, but instead, I’m a bigger fan of the Steam Next Fest events. There’s nothing like some demos to show how a game plays much better than a trailer and images ever could. With so many demos to sift through, it can be hard to find the best stuff. Here are the 10 best Steam Next Fest demos for February 2024’s edition of the festival.
Did you love those iconic Cartoon Network shows back in the day? Do you like dungeon crawlers? Well, #BLUD combines both of those into one to create a game that’s fun to play in its genre, while sporting some cartoon graphics that could be easily mistaken for those classics, albeit with much more blood this time around. It even includes some decent boss fights that reward those who make the best use of your kit. #BLUD is gearing up for release sometime later this year.
Mullet Mad Jack
If you saw Mullet Mad Jack and were immediately turned off by the overabundance of neon colors and immense visual noise, you’d be forgiven for skipping over it and moving on. I almost did myself, but jumping in and giving it a chance proved a shockingly great choice. While there’s no denying that clarity isn’t its strong suit, the game thrives off its passive buffs after each stage proving to be more useful than you’d expect. It’s also just fun barrelling down a hallway like a one-man murder machine. Mullet Mad Jack doesn’t currently have a release date, but the demo is available whenever you’d like.
Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior
Lysfanga: The Time Shift Warrior could’ve gone one of two ways. It could’ve either been an excellent use of a unique mechanic, or an ambitious yet underutilized take on top-down combat. So far, I’d argue Lysfanga leans much more into the former. This hack-and-slash title sees you use not just your skills, but the skills of your past selves to clear rooms full of hostiles that require new techniques constantly to overcome challenges. Lysfanga will thrive off how it has you work in tandem with your doubles, which I’m excited to see explored when it releases next week.
Children of the Sun
Devolver Digital’s published games always have a unique mechanic that sets them apart from one another, and Children of the Sun is no different. This one-bullet FPS sees you find clever ways to jump that single bullet from enemy to the enemy to clear out waves and score revenge on a cult for tearing apart your life. The biggest surprise for me by far was how the game used environmental aspects to not only gain new angles for your bullet but also complete the level more efficiently. I hope the full version takes this aspect to the next level with even crazier environmental tools. Children of the Sun has no release date at the time of writing.
While this is the one game from this list you’re most likely to have heard of before, that doesn’t stop Pacific Drive from being a stellar highlight from this Next Fest. This survival game sees you contend with a mobile base as you explore a supernatural exclusion zone, using the tools you find around the place to build a way back out to the real-world. All this, while contending with just how chaotic and ever-changing the zone can be. I could see this one heavily talked about if its full release nails down the style just as well as the demo does. You won’t have to wait long, as Pacific Drive heads into full release on February 22.
Have you ever seen or played the original Half-Life and said “I wish this was more of a survival game than a pure FPS”? Chances are you haven’t thought that, but I guarantee you’ll wish you had once you play it. This title thrives heavily on how it uses its environment to create challenges in combat, alongside the witty dialogue of grumpy scientists being trapped in an alien-infested secret research facility. This is one I expect to be a survival gem in a sea of already massive survival gems so far in 2024. Abiotic Factor drops in early May, and you can bet I’ll be keeping a close eye on it.
Speaking of survival games that are likely to surprise this year, Lightyear Frontier was a major highlight among the pile of demos I played. This co-op survival game sees you crash on an unfamiliar land, looking to create new life through the power of your mech. While I was constantly saying “Prepare for Titanfall” in the back of my mind purely as a joke, the fluidity and animations of the mech were surprisingly in-depth, as were the stunning visuals. With the right amount of depth hidden under the surface, this could be something truly special. I’ll be jumping in on day one with a few friends, when Lightyear Frontier releases on March 19. It’ll also be on Game Pass on day one if you’re already subscribed.
Children of the Sun isn’t the only game from Devolver to make this list. Pepper Grinder was also a big surprise, especially since I had concerns about how well a game like it could control. This game sees you steal endless riches and get back at hostile creatures who’ve taken your loot. This precision platformer seems like it has a fair bit of challenge, but also seems addicting in how simple its gameplay loop is to understand. I’m excited to see what sort of environmental hazards are thrown into later levels to make you think differently about traversal. Pepper Grinder is set to debut later this year, and you know I’ll be on top of it.
Duck Detective: The Secret Salami
…You’re still reading this section and haven’t started downloading it? How dare you! If you need convincing, this short detective game sees you, Eugene McQuacklin, solve mysteries using your excellent detective skills. Whether it be who stole items at an office, or why the hell there’s tons of bread in your apartment after a night of drinking. This duck detective game had me hooked almost immediately, and I’m super excited to see how it develops in the full release. Duck Detective: The Secret Salami drops later this year.
Last but certainly not least is a game that sounds very different depending on whether you notice the letter L in its name. This game sees your small yet cute character ride their bird across the lands, documenting various creatures and identifying them based on their movements, shapes, colors, and behaviors. This sort of thing isn’t typically my cup of tea, but something about the hidden beauty behind Flock’s world along with the speed of your bird combine for something that could be special. Flock has no release date yet, but I recommend keeping a close eye.
While these titles didn’t quite make the cut, I thought I’d mention them in case you have time to play more demos.
- Gatekeeper, a top-down shooter that starts slow but picks up later in its roguelike runs.
- Stormgate, a free-to-play RTS that could easily be described as Starcraft 2 wearing a new set of clothes.
- Antipaint, a simple roguelike shooter about painting your environment and surviving hordes of hostile paint drops.
- Crypt Custodian, a Metroidvania about a cat who got the short end of the stick in the afterlife.
- Flaw, an FPS that makes a strong impression, even if I’m worried it may be overly ambitious.
Are there any titles you were a huge fan of that didn’t make the cut? Let us know! Also, check out our list of the best Steam Next Fest demos for October 2023’s edition.