Top 10 Best (And Weirdest) Demos From The Steam Next Fest

The Steam Next Fest is here, which can only mean one thing: it is time to add two hundred video games to your already bloated wishlist. Nothing fills me with hope and excitement for the future quite like playing five incredibly promising projects in one night. In the past few years, I managed to find several eventual favorites while doing so. Perusing the vast, ever-growing library of Next Fest demos is always a treat, and as a lover of all things weird, I wanted to shout out a few of the most striking games I played this time around. Be sure to let us know about the other best and craziest demos you found during this or any previous Steam Next Fest!

 

10. Aloft

A person flying with a wingsuit around floating islands

Do not get fooled by the initial few minutes of Aloft. What begins as a standard survival game (resource gathering, crafting, the usual) quickly turns into a player-driven story about unconventional exploration of floating islands filled with all sorts of natural oddities, bringing a boatload of wonder with its presentation. Grab a friend and experience the many memorable surprises hidden in what is already one of the most promising titles I played this year.

9. Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo

A blue mouse hitting things by extending a yoyo that bounces off angled walls

Admittedly, this is the least weird item on this list, but in this house, we love a good implementation of a yo-yo weapon. Starting with an animation of the game’s cartridge sliding right into a totally-not-Gameboy Advance, Pippit of the Pipistrello family gets to swing his toy in a faithful, yet inspired recreation of the top-down adventure games found on the best-selling console of all time. Extend your yo-yo to perform sick tricks, beat up fools, and puzzle your way through this beautiful retro homage.

8. of the Devil

A stylish cross-examination

Unreasonably stylish, of the Devil should catch the eye of any mystery visual novel fan. Setting itself apart from most with the strong, dynamic directing during conversations, its style rivals that of the classics from Spike Chunsoft or, more recently, Too Kyo Games. The game also rewards reading comprehension and logical thinking by awarding the player with extra points for responding appropriately to newly obtained information, so you better be ready to read all that text you always skip! With a focused vision and strong, purposeful writing, this is not one you want to miss.

7. I Just Want to be Single!!

A girl in an apron aiming a knife at the player, two other girls scared of what's happening

From one visual novel to the next, this time a dating sim… not! In an all-girls school where everyone is vying for your romantic attention, can you find a way to make even a single friend without hurting them all in the process? Set inside a surreal world with superhuman athletes, robots, and killer plants, its comically overblown presentation helps sell the unconventional premise. Furthermore, the game has a very interesting risk vs reward system during conversations, where acting favorably or unfavorably towards others can open up completely different paths. With so many possibilities, everyone can experience the game completely differently!

6. Dungeon Clawler

A filled up claw machine with a blue bunny and some enemies at the bottom of the screen

Roguelites appear to inherently invite strange ideas. This year’s biggest roguelike is poker, but a weird roguelite, though not far behind it is russian roulette, but a weird roguelite. Here to represent the trend we have a crane game, but a weird roguelite. Though adding items with new abilities into your pool is standard, the way their sizes and shapes interact with the physics of the crane often leads to unexpected scenarios. Unlike the real thing, it never makes you feel cheated out (well, maybe a little), and coupled with the addicting floor-clearing combat formula, it might just be a hit on release.

5. Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure

A tiled world with bizarre enemies and the protagonist pushing it all around

I had to throw at least one puzzler on here, and my choice goes out to Arranger. Take sliding tiles, one of gaming’s most infamous puzzle types, and proceed to add new twists (teleporting to the other side of the map if you move through a border, introducing new obstacle types that interact with each other, etc.), integrate the protagonist’s ability to move the world around into the narrative, and you have an incredibly promising title that is likely to compete for the top spot with all the other incredible indies this year.

4. Yars Rising

A blue-haired girl sneaking behind a guard

Some of you might not know, but Atari has kind of been killing it lately. Partnering with several indie studios, they have managed to revamp their classics with all sorts of creative spins. In their most promising collaboration yet, WayForward (the studio behind the likes of the Shantae series and River City Girls) is tackling Yars’ Revenge with Yars Rising. This unique development approach, clever integration of the original game in the form of hacking sections, implementation of stealth, and a killer soundtrack make this a metroidvania to look out for.

3. The Alters

A man standing in front of a supercomputer

Though a high-profile selection, The Alters from 11 bit studios does not play it safe. This survival management sim retains the studio’s roots, but its 3D exploration bits and heavy dialogue focus present new challenges, which the game meets head-on. Having to create alternate reality clones of himself to survive a spaceship crash, Jan Dolski has to explore and excavate different parts of the planet, as well as balance the mental state of his newly spawned companions. Only the full release can prove whether the team successfully explored this concept, but as always, they certainly don’t lack ambition.

2. Elation for the Wonder Box 6000

A creature looking out of a hole in the wall. The dialogue box is above a computer keyboard with hands on it.

As crazy as video games can get. Open up a forum to search for the legendary game, receive physical threats, and boom: you’re banned. It is time to find some new way forward. Exploring the apartment feels like a complete insanity trip all on its own, and the writing style is equal parts funny and captivating. Visually reminiscent of the few low-res claymation games in the 90s, but with a tinge of modern, bizarre indie exploration. Its short introduction left me in a state that I do not think I will recover from any time soon. Fair warning: you might want to lower your volume for this one, but sudden noise scare aside, it truly is worth it.

1. 500 Caliber Contractz

A platformer character with spiky hair and a a gun stands in front of a fountain in a dark world

Finally, just an absolute sick game for all my insane platformer brethren. 500 Caliber Contracts inhales the Windows XP Movie Maker, edgy avatar-era internet visuals, and breathes out a 3D movement masterclass only for those willing to possibly irreversibly damage the nerves in their hands and their sense of time trying to perfect it. Spin a stick or shoot below you to gain height and obtain momentum by combining three moves in the span of a second. Gather secrets scattered around the level while being chased by a green demon (a shout-out to the Mario 64 challenge and/or hacking scene). Nail some fool in the skull. Simply put: get crazy with it. This is what this list is truly all about.

What games have you discovered during Steam Next Fest that you wish more people knew about? Drop a comment below!

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I hate Bethesda
I hate Bethesda
1 month ago

The Alters hits too close to home. I already argue with myself enough, don’t need a video game simulation of my day to day life.