It’s time for the first Steam Next Fest of 2023. This event on gaming’s biggest PC storefront brings independently made games to the forefront, giving players the opportunity to play hundreds of game demos to get an idea of what’s coming from outside the AAA space. The February 2023 edition of Steam Next Fest is happening right now and runs until 10 a.m. PT on February 13.
During that time, Steam users will be free to check out as many demos as they want. Still, the massive number of indie game demos available can be overwhelming and tough to sift through. Ahead of the start of this event, I had the opportunity to play through several Steam Next Fest demos early. During that time, the following seven demos stood out to me. From beautifully animated Metroidvanias to surprising genre mashups, these are Steam Next Fest demos you should check out.
Meet Your Maker from Dead by Daylight developer Behaviour Interactive is one of the biggest games that’s part of Steam Next Fest, but it’s also one of the most creative games. It’s entirely centered around player-generated content in the works. In it, players build their own post-apocalyptic fortress and explore ones constructed by others to collect material. It’s already pretty difficult with one-hit deaths, and you can encounter some truly nasty fortresses made by other players. That said, you can reverse that catharsis by building a formidable base of your own, only making it more difficult as you see where players succeed and fail while taking it on.
It’s hard to get too excited for an online-focused game like Meet Your Maker in the wake of so many game shutdowns last week, but this is still one of the most original multiplayer games launching this year. The game’s open beta is free and live throughout Steam Next Fest, so check it out ahead of Meet Your Maker’s launch for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on April 4.
Afterimage is a Metroidvania fantasy game here to scratch that Hollow Knight itch, as Silksong’s release date is still unknown. While it isn’t the most revolutionary Metroidvania, much like Ori and the Blind Forest, it stands out because of its beautiful visuals. This game features some of the slickest 2D animations I’ve seen from an indie game, as each attack and character movement is realized in intricate detail that feels like it belongs in an animated film.
The beautiful backgrounds I ventured through in the demo were pretty, too. If you prioritize the art styles of the games you play and enjoy a solid Metroidvania, give Afterimage a shot. The game will be released for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S on April 25.
Bleak Sword DX is the latest game to jump from Apple Arcade to new platforms, and players can go hands-on with this enhanced version of the game now ahead of its full release later this year. If you’re a fan of minimalist retro graphics and don’t mind a bit of a horror tinge, Bleak Sword DX’s aesthetic and easy-to-understand mechanics will quickly hook you as you balance your stamina and take down evil creatures in diorama-like levels.
This demo is short but immensely replayable as the game is easy to understand, even if some fights can get tough. And hey, if you want to play more, you can always download the Apple Arcade version of the game. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until Bleak Sword DX arrives with new levels and Randomizer and Boss Rush modes on PC and Nintendo Switch later this year.
Pixel Chest and Hooded Horse’s Sons of Valhalla mixes 2D action combat and base-building in one of the more novel genre fusions I encountered during Steam Next Fest. The game follows a Viking warrior resurrected by Odin after death, tasked with building villages and strongholds while attacking enemy outposts and tracking down the Jarl that kidnapped his wife. Base building is a nice change of pace between intense battles where the player’s health, stamina, and backup forces must always be accounted for.
Both the base building and combat are relatively simple, but that makes this demo easy to pick up. It can get challenging too, mainly because players must sacrifice a stat-buffing Rune to Odin every time they die. If your favorite film of 2022 was The Northman, and you enjoy clever genre mashups, then you’ll want to give Sons of Valhalla’s Steam Next Fest demo a shot. Sons of Valhalla is slated to launch for PC later this year.
The only sequel on this list, Teslagrad 2, is a follow-up to Rain Games’ fantastic 2013 electromagnetism-based puzzle game. This is an enjoyable puzzle platformer, but it’s spiced up by Lumina’s special abilities that allow her to dash through the year and magnetize herself two and away from walls and different energy sources.
As a fan of the original, Teslagrad 2‘s demo indicated that this would be a worthy follow-up with solid gameplay, beautiful art, and an intriguing plot. If you’re like me, I’d recommend checking this demo out during Steam Next Fest so you can see where this series is going. Telsagrad 2 will launch for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch this spring.
We’ve got a lot of side-scrolling roguelikes over the past several years. Still, Trinity Fusion stands out as its incredibly fluid, like Metroid Dread if it had procedurally generated levels and loot drops. Its sci-fi story about three parallel versions of the same person trying to stop the multiverse’s destruction is intriguing. At the same time, its procedural generation keeps things fresh, even in this pre-release slice of the game.
The Steam Next Fest demo for Trinity Fusion lets you get a taste of that across all three of the game’s playable characters. The game’s roguelike nature only increases this demo’s replay potential. On top of that, you’ll unlock a Boss Rush mode after beating the demo. It’s undoubtedly one of Steam Next Fest’s most captivating demos, so check it out before Trinity Fusion launches for PC later this year.
The first game from GitHub founder Chris Wanstrath’s new publisher Null Games, Excellent Rectangle’s Tape to Tape, is a roguelike hockey game. The game is structured like Slay the Spire, with players venturing along branching paths with various events. Instead of card-based battles, though, fights play out as hockey games. Although it’s not as deep as modern hockey simulation games, it still provides quite a bit of arcade-style sports fun that’s not really in AAA sports games these days.
2022 was an excellent year for weird sports games; if Tape to Tape is any indication, 2023 will be similar. If you’re tired of the more realistic simulation that EA’s NHL series delivers year-over-year, give Tape to Tape a shot during Steam NextFest. Tape to Tape will be released for PC later this year.