Steam Next Fests are a tradition for me at this point. I tend to enjoy diving into the long list of demos and picking out around 50 or so demos to try and generally find at least a handful of stuff to add to the 450 or so games on my wishlist. No, neither of those numbers are exaggerations. It’s because of the colossal number of demos that finding the right games for you can be a serious challenge. That’s why I’m here to help. Here are some of the best demos of the Steam Next Fest for October 2023.
Considering my love for the previous installment, it’d be a crime for me to not put Ghostrunner 2 as the first game on this list. However, that isn’t just the love for the first game talking. This sequel surprised me in the first 15 minutes more than I was expecting, especially given the mere three years between entries. Combat felt far more fluid with new animations and less slowdown on sword strikes, while the new motorcycle sections are uniquely challenging compared to similar sections of other games. Needless to say, I’m excited to see how Ghostrunner 2 fully fares in just a few weeks.
This is one of two games from publisher Apogee Entertainment on this list, and that’s cause they knocked it out of the park this time around. Their first spot goes to Vexlands though, thanks to how much good it takes from other games like it while carving its own identity. It invokes heavy vibes of Forager, while having a more detailed art style reminiscent of games like Stardew Valley. It might seem very similar, but Vexlands has me hungering to see what the hexes of the full game could be hiding.
Since we’re in the spirit of flipping between chill and carnage, SENTRY felt like a fitting follow-up. While its appearance is rather simple, what’s under the hood offers plenty of complexity. In essence, you’re plopped into a space station with a few tools you select beforehand, then have to build up turrets and traps to fend off impending waves of hostile creatures from escaping into the rest of the station. While its core is that tower defense goodness, I was shocked to see just how good its FPS combat could be. Fluid animations and crunchy weapon sounds help prevent it from getting stale fast. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on SENTRY, more so than I expected when I first spotted it a while back.
For Apogee’s second placement on this list, we have their fantasy FPS Wizordum. This retro shooter feels very much like the 90s both in its level layout and combat design. Similar to most retro shooters these days, it’s elevated by more modern rendering techniques and gameplay. Even outside of gameplay, the vibes are utterly immaculate. From the lower audio quality in some of the sounds to the silly noises enemies make, it all sells that feel of the true classics. If you’re feeling a little nostalgic, or simply have been enjoying the boomer shooter renaissance, Wizordum is as whimsical as it is wonderful.
Turnip Boy Robs a Bank
…Wait, you didn’t read that title, download the demo, and immediately scroll to the next game on the list? Well for one, you’re a heathen, but two, Turnip Boy Robs a Bank is the long-awaited sequel to the legendary Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion. Both games are well worth it for the cute pixel art and humor alone, but also bring some fun to the table in gameplay. Strangely, both are completely different gameplay-wise, but come on now. Who doesn’t want to play as a turnip committing all sorts of crimes? Do yourself a favor and download Turnip Boy Robs a Bank’s demo now. You’ll thank me later.
KarmaZoo asks the question “Can 10 strangers work together to accomplish something?”. Despite what every other facet of society has led you to believe, the answer in KarmaZoo is yes. Another unique game from publisher Devolver Digital, KarmaZoo offers a ton of cute creatures to play as while you and nine other people traverse a level. What helps to reinforce that sense of teamwork is the rewards you gain for helping one another make it through, along with the bonus of being killed off if your character has been alone a little too long. KarmaZoo is as goofy as its premise sounds, and I’m excited to see what else this cosmic zoo has in store at full release.
Were you a fan of The Truman Show? Well if you wish it took a darker turn, American Arcadia should be exactly what you’re looking for. This combination of sidescrolling platformer and first-person puzzler sees a regular person find out they’re living in a reality show, and attempt an escape with the help of an employee whose thoughts on the company are less than ideal. I wasn’t super intrigued when I first saw its premise, but the demo has done more than enough to change that opinion. Check out American Arcadia if you have a few minutes to spare, it’ll surprise you.
Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor
Last but certainly not least on this list is a spinoff for your favorite game about bugs, minerals, and dwarves. Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor follows that reverse bullet hell trend Vampire Survivors kicked off, but adds a few twists that make it feel distinct. While the core gameplay of getting in there and avoiding enemies while your character shoots for you is there, what differentiates it is the whole idea of mining minerals. Seeing as the number of minerals affects what you can buy when traveling between zones, it creates a risk/reward system that actively challenges you in gameplay, even if it killed me more times than I’m willing to admit. Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor might not feel quite as satisfying as Vampire Survivors, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t have me intrigued regardless.
If you’re curious to see some of the previous demos (which have since become full games), check out our previous list of the best Steam Next Fest demos for June 2023.