• Julie Cooper

8 demos to remember from Steam Next Fest 2022

The latest Steam Next Fest event has come and gone, bringing hundreds of new demos to players for hands-on experiences with games in development. It was a great time to check in on some of our most anticipated games — the ones we've been itching to get in our hands for months, weeks or years — to tide us over and get us excited for their full launch. But it was also a phenomenal way to discover new games... and say "How am I only just hearing about this?!"


The weeklong celebration of games also provided other behind-the-scenes looks on the Steam platform, including developer chats and livestreams.


While it's worth taking your time to explore these hundreds of demos that can range from a cool half-hour to a lengthy hours-long glimpse at a game's content, it's impossible to make it through them all in such a limited time, with Steam Next Fest running only from Oct. 3 - 10. To help highlight some of our favorite demos from the event, we've gathered up eight games worthy of a bigger spotlight!


Check out the list below, then be sure to give your favorites a try if they're still available! Some developers leave their demos up when the Steam Next Fest ends, but others will be locked back in the vault at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

A screenshot from the game Aka shows a cute red panda saying "Don't worry. From now on, you won't cut limbs anymore...only wood!" He stands near a shoreline with a small boat and in the background there are mountains, a cloudy sunset and a tattered red flag.

AKA

Aka is a cute and casual open-world game featuring beautifully handcrafted islands and, amidst its adorable style and plucky characters, explores a world with a deeply haunted past. The protagonist, a red panda named Aka, follows a friend to live a peaceful life on an island now that the war has ended — but the world and its people are still touched by its lingering impacts. Aka helps others across the island address their material and emotional needs while exploring different regions and freeing trapped animals and ghosts from the past. The gameplay includes quest-related and decorative crafting, farming sim elements inspired by permaculture, and relaxation activities that keep Aka feeling well and happy. It is expected to make a full release in Q4 2022, so keep your eyes peeled!


A screenshot from the game Diluvian Winds shows a walrus and a squirrel near some buildings and trees. On the left there is a portfolio showing the squirrel's stats, name, traits and requests. At the top are seven resource pools to show how much is in the village's inventory for food, wood and other supplies.

DILUVIAN WINDS

A resource management game set in a small hamlet at the foot of a lighthouse, Diluvian Winds requires a sharp eye and a cool-under-pressure attitude as you work each day with visiting travelers to keep the lighthouse fire stoked, the village fed and in good spirits, and the critical resource collection buildings reinforced against the many storms that come in to dampen your plans. It has a cute style and management gameplay somewhat reminiscent of Spiritfarer — although perhaps a bit more unforgiving, as if blended with a game like Frostpunk. Welcome anthropomorphic travelers and do your best to fulfill their requests, all while doing the critically important job of tending the fire to guide the travelers, rain or shine. The game's planned release date is still unannounced, but you can play the prologue now.


A screenshot from the game Once Again. Two comic book-like panels show a young boy and an older woman in a red room with developing film hanging on strings and other film developing equipment.

ONCE AGAIN

Once Again is an interactive story game that follows a boy from the age of ten, exploring the summers when he wandered between past and present, dream and reality, to form a bond with a mother he never met. The game includes subtle immersive gameplay as the story unfolds, including photography mechanics as the pair bond over a love of photography and capture memories together. If "wistful" was a game, this one is it. From the gorgeous illustrated art style to the soothing lo-fi soundtrack, it's simple and charming, like flipping through the pages of a story. While this game's demo became available on Oct. 3 for Steam Next Fest, the full game released the very same day, and you can play it in full now!


A screenshot from the game The Palace on the Hill shows a young boy talking to someone who is cooking in an outdoor kitchen near a small hillside, saying "How beautiful! Ravi has gifted me a saree." On the right of the screen there are various quests listed.

THE PALACE ON THE HILL

This slice-of-life, open world adventure game centers a teenage boy, Vir, and his adolescence in rural India in the 1990s. You'll explore across the hillside to visit ancient palace ruins, tend to a garden with bought and foraged seeds, take on projects to help your neighbors and earn money, all while learning about the community's history, Indian recipes, and the natural environment. With Vir being an artist, you'll use what you encounter to fill your journal with a puzzle-based sketching and painting mechanic. The game has a beautiful and warm handcrafted feel from its watercolor art style and cozy gameplay, coming across as a love letter to Indian art, history and stories.


A screenshot from the game Rosewater, depicting a classic tense scene in a western saloon. A handful of people stand in wait in an empty saloon while two men stand off. One man is calling out to a man on the second floor, saying: "Don't play the fool with me, Ackerman. You know damn well why I'm here."

ROSEWATER

You know we love us some point-and-click adventures, but you might not know we love westerns too. Mix the two of them together and you've got Rosewater. Set in an alternate-reality 19th century (the same as their last game, Lamplight City) where technological advancements have led the world into a steampunk-like renaissance, you control freelance journalist Harley Leger as she heads west to the town of Rosewater in hopes of finding a job — and a future — in the wild west. What ensues is a classic rollicking western adventure, complete with posse building, sneaky criminal action (Harley's a legendary lockpick artist), and some unique branching multi-solution point-and-click puzzlin'. Rosewater is set to release sometime in the next year, with no specific release date set.


A screenshot of the game Friends vs Friends showing the player's opening hand before a round begins. Cards read "FK-82, get the FK-82" "No Jump, they can't jump", and "Green Herb, Restores a bit of health". Ammo, health, and a timer countdown frame the scene.

FRIENDS VS FRIENDS

Friends vs Friends wastes no time pulling your attention with its charming animated intro whose catchy original song will no doubt be stuck in your head for ages. In this card-based 1v1 (or 2v2, though the demo only featured the former) first-person shooter, you flip through a deck of cards while dodging enemy fire, hoping to pull an extremely clutch card — one that'll give you a new weapon, stop your opponent from jumping, or even nuke the entire map to change the landscape drastically. It's chaotic, colorful, and a genuinely great blend of some of gaming's trendiest competitive gaming options. We can't wait to play this game with friends, where a BIG HEAD card could turn the tide in an instant. No release window has been set.


A screenshot of the game The Case of the Golden Idol depicts a man being pushed off a cliff against a stormy backdrop. Glowing icons float over objects in the scene, like a backpack, the man pushing, and the man falling. A giant bar on the bottom shows names and a flip switch that reads: Exploring and Thinking.

THE CASE OF THE GOLDEN IDOL

When you start playing The Case of the Golden Idol, you're presented with a scene like the one above: a captured moment in time depicting somebody's death. Your job is to take the scene apart, piece by piece until you know exactly who's involved and what's happened. Reminiscent of the death-investigation work of Return of the Obra Dinn, The Case of the Golden Idol has you using context clues and some genuine detective work to, in the end, fill out a form with the clues you've gathered that details exactly what happened just before you got there. Each scene seems to continue one giant interconnected story, one that brings to light just why all these folks are dying. It's incredibly unique, the grotesque pixel art is fantastic, and we can't wait to see what other mysteries await us when the game releases soon on Oct. 13!


A screenshot of the game Gunbrella depicts a man jumping over a gap with an umbrella, the game's gunbrella, out to help him glide across the scene. An enemy jumps after him in this junk-y sewer scene.

GUNBRELLA

Part gun, part umbrella, the eponymous Gunbrella takes center stage in this smooth side-scrolling Metroidvania. In Gunbrella, you inhabit a mysterious Mary Poppins-like stranger who is just as confused as you are about the rain-defending weapon he's inherited. This self-described "noir-punk" adventure has you wandering through towns with meticulous pixel art designs, finding pure enjoyment in air-dashing with the gunbrella and mowing down baddies in your way. This game just has that "je ne sais quoi" quality that you can't quite pin down but know means one thing: It's real good. When you realize these are the devs behind Gato Roboto, it all starts to make sense. Wield the Gunbrella for yourself when the game launches in 2023.


We hope your Steam wishlist has grown 8 games longer, because ours certainly has. Don't forget to check out all of these games and the developers if anything we've written here caught your eye.


Plus, take a look at a few games with Steam Next Fest demos that we featured in full earlier this week!

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