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6 free indie game demos you should play during the Steam Next Fest

Key art for Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus.
Humble Games
Summer Gaming Marathon Feature Image
This story is part of our Summer Gaming Marathon series.

In the wake of several awesome video game showcases, the latest Steam Next Fest has arrived. Running from June 10 until June 17, this event on PC gaming storefront and launcher Steam gives indie developers and publishers a chance to share limited-time demos of their upcoming games so players can discover all the neat titles on the way in the indie space. It’s a reminder of the creativity of this industry in a year where companies are prioritizing profits over passion.

There are hundreds of demos in this year’s Steam Next Fest, so it can be a bit hard to sift through everything and discover the most entertaining titles. I had the opportunity to try many of them out ahead of Steam Next Fest over the past couple of weeks. From idle sandbox games to pretty Metroidvanias, these are the indie games from June 2024’s Steam Next Fest that stuck out to me the most and are worth trying for free sometime this week.

Claws & Chaos

Gameplay from Claws & Chaos.
Mad Mushroom

If you enjoy auto battlers, Claws & Chaos from Splodey’s Mad Mushroom and indie developer Parhelion Studio is a simple one starring cute animals. In it, players are building up a crew of animals fighting for a spot on what’s essentially Noah’s Ark, which is under the control of a ruthless king. Over a series of turns, players can purchase new units and buffs for them and then idly watch as they face off against an opposing team of critters.

Claws & Chaos’ 2D animation is crisp, and its small scale makes this an approachable auto battler compared to the likes of Teamfight Tactics. The campaign and Arena options available in its Steam Next Fest demo give it a lot of replayability as well, so this is definitely a good option if you’re looking for a time-killer indie to distract yourself with.

Claws & Chaos will be released for PC, iOS, and Android sometime later this year.

Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus

Bo runs past a build in Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus
Humble Games

The Metroidvania genre has been having a great year. Things kicked off strong with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown and that momentum has continued with titles like Ultros, Tales of Kenzera: Zau, The Devil Within Satgat, and Animal Well. Well, the positive streak looks like it will continue with : Path of the Teal Lotus from Squid Shock Studios and Humble Games. Combat and platforming felt slick in this Metroidvania demo, so I can’t wait to play more.

On top of that, it features a gorgeous hand-drawn 2D aesthetic inspired by Japanese folklore and art. Even when I was just walking from left to right on a screen, Bō: Path of the Teal Lotus looked beautiful. It’s definitely one of the best-looking games of this Steam Next Fest, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other beautiful vistas are in store in the full game.

Bo: Path of the Teal Lotus will launch for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch on July 17.

Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure

A puzzle in Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure.
Furniture & Mattress

Occasionally, an indie game comes along with such an ingenious mechanic that I’m surprised no one has made something quite like it before. Furniture & Mattress’ Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure is just that. It merges the gameplay of tile-sliding puzzle games like Threes with the more open-ended adventure design of a game like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Players move themselves and the objects and people around them on a tile-based grid, and all the game’s core mechanics stem from that.

Sometimes you have to move an object out of the way by moving it to the side before progression; other times, you have to manipulate a sword around a room so it makes contact with an enemy and kills them. Pepper in some gorgeous comic-book style art on top of that, and Arranger is a game I can’t wait to hop back into. I’m also curious to see where its full story goes, as this demo teases that there’s a deeper and more emotional narrative at play.

Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure launches on PC, PS5, Nintendo Switch, and iOS and Android via Netflix on July 17.

One BTN Bosses

A boss fight in One BTN Bosses.
Midnight Munchies

Everything you need to know about Midnight Munchies’ One BTN Bosses is right there in the name. This game presents a series of boss fights for players to overcome with a one-button control scheme. More specifically, players automatically shoot and move in one direction on a preset track; pressing a button will switch the direction players are going, and this is used to dodge enemy attack patterns that at times feel straight out of shoot ‘em ups like Ikaruga.

Much like Vampire Survivors, One BTN Bosses is a game that revels in its simplicity. It’s easy to pick up and play, but the intricacies needed to earn a good score or finish a boss fight without taking a lot of damage require a lot of skill. Although there isn’t a ton of content on offer in this demo, One BTN Bosses already feels like it has immense replay value. Add on its simple, yet colorful visuals and tongue-in-cheek startup company narrative framing, and you get an indie game that’s rocketed toward the top of my most anticipated games list.

One BTN Bosses is in development for PC.

Gourdlets

Gameplay from Gourdlets.
Future Friends Games

While I’m writing this entry about Aunty Games and Future Friends Games’ Gourdlets, I’m watching the game idly play out on the right side of my screen. It’s a very straightforward sandbox idle game where players customize an island home for the titular creatures, which are reminiscent of the original design for Pikmin. The look of the island’s terrain, as well as the placement of flora, buildings, and other items like lights, bonfires, fishing piers, and even the furniture in buildings, are all up to the player. There’s no currency or active forms of progression either.

The fun of Gourdlets comes from occasionally looking over and seeing what the creatures are interacting with. Right now, one is fishing at the pier while the others are sitting around a bonfire. If you enjoy the feeling of satisfaction that comes with sandbox city-builders, but don’t like juggling different kinds of currencies or worrying about failure conditions, then Gourdlets is a good game for you. Build the island you want and watch the gourdlets go about their day on it as you work (that’s what I’m doing).

Gourdlets will be released for PC sometime this summer.

Creatures of Ava

The player hugs a horse-like creature in Creatures of Ava.
11 bit Studios

Earlier this year, Palworld showed us that creature-collecting games didn’t have to be turn-based RPGs like Pokémon. Now, Creatures of Ava from Chibig, Inverge, and 11 bit Studios demonstrates they don’t have to be violent either. This sci-fi game is all about purifying a rot that has overtaken the planet of Ava and all of the creatures on it. Instead of hurting animals, players save them by purifying them with an artifact they find early on in this demo. Players can then take pictures of these purified creatures, Pokémon Snap style, and even get their help to solve environmental puzzles.

In both look and vibe, Creatures of Ava reminded me of the adventure platforming games of the mid-2000s, such as Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy. There’s also something inherently rewarding about discovering new creatures, purifying them, and then getting them to help you, all in a nonviolent manner. Although Creatures of Ava is closer to a AA game than an indie title, I still think it’s worth checking out during this Steam Next Fest.

Creatures of Ava will be released for PC and Xbox Series X/S later this year and will be a day-one addition to Xbox Game Pass.

Editors' Recommendations

Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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