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12 Steam Next Fest demos to try first this October

The final Next Fest for 2023 is back with hundreds of fresh demos to try, and we've rounded up some of our favourites so far

The Steam Next Fest logo for October 2023, in front of a black and red cube background.
Image credit: Valve

The latest Steam Next Fest is upon us, bringing with it a freshly packed week of new, free demos to try until Monday October 16th. There are literally hundreds you could try installing if you were that way inclined - you can view the full list right here if you'd rather browse through it at your own leisure - but we've been playing some of these demos in advance to help make wading through its torrent of shiny new games a little bit easier. Below, you'll find 12 of our favourites so far, ranging from snazzy-looking shooters and big RTS games to neat little autobattlers, indie immersive sims and retro puzzle platformers. If you're in need of some guidance this Steam Next Fest, read on.

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Truth be told, loads of games have already jumped the gun on this year's Next Fest, and have been putting their demos live over the course of the last week, such as shellfish Soulslike Another Crab's Treasure, first-person puzzler The Talos Principle 2, motorvania Laika: Aged Through Blood, and big stride-y FPS RoboCop: Rogue City. You can find them in the big Next Fest list as well, but what we've got here are 12 fresh demos we wanted to bring to your attention on top of all those. As with previous Next Fests, we had access to a pretty hefty wodge of this year's Next Fest demos - not all of them, alas, but certainly a lot - so think of this as an initial tasting suggestion, rather than a comprehensive list of everything that's worth playing. We'll be doing our best to unearth more hidden gems as the week goes on, but for now, here are our initial Next Fest highlights.

Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin

A close-up of a Stormcast Eternals bannerman in Warhammer Age Of Sigmar: Realms Of Ruin
Image credit: Frontier Developments

Katharine: I'm well and truly pumped for Frontier's Warhammer Age Of Sigmar RTS, and Realms Of Ruin's Next Fest demo gives you the first three missions of its single player campaign to tuck into ahead of its launch next month on November 17th. You'll be introduced to protagonists the Stormcast Eternals, and two of its trio of enemy factions, the Orruk Kruleboyz, and the spectral Nighthaunt. I've had a great time with these missions over the last couple of months at various preview events, and the Nighthaunt one in particular is brilliant fun - a classic 'hold the line' kind of deal where you're fending off big ghost lads from all angles as the camera shifts and turns the battlefield on its head at pivotal moments. You can read a bit more about it here, but honestly, I'd go in knowing as little as possible. It's better that way.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Buy Me Some Soup

A desktop screen showing various windows from Buy Me Some Soup
Image credit: weekend

Alice Bee: I find that I have a limited tolerance for games that get a bit meta, and who knows? Maybe in the full game Buy Me Some Soup will get on my last nerve. But the demo is the exact right balance of weird/funny/infuriating/delightful. It's a puzzle game where you have to buy your friend some soup on an old CRT computer. But then the soup online store is down. Then it's up again, but you need to reset your account password. Then you need to find your credit card info. Between each of these stages you click through the files on your computer, send a picture of big foot to a cryptid society, play an Obra Dinn homage, break it, fix it, follow adverts on a YouTubelike website until you find an instructional video on how to not eat soup where a soup-eater is sort of... menaced? Comforted? By masked figures... It's kind of a Daniel Mullins Game by way of weird flash escape room games and a hint of soup-based creepypasta. Great stuff!

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Snufkin: Melody Of Moominvalley

Snufkin looks down over Moominvalley in a Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley screenshot.
Image credit: Raw Fury

Alice0: How do you make a video game out of beloved childrens' stories about curiosity and wonder and joy and anger and care and melancholy? The first half of this demo was about what I expected: extremely mild puzzle-platforming as you wander through pretty countryside. Hop about, drop rocks in water to make stepping stones, find birds, tootle on your harmonica to delight wildlife, and enjoy the landscape and Sigur Rós warbling. Sure, that's pleasant enough. I did not expect Melody Of Moominvalley to become a stealth game as Snuffkin tries to restore nature by dodging cops in the service of the dastardly Park Keeper and destroying these rule-imposing parks. Snuffkin does not murder cops, does not creep up and jam his harmonica so far down their throats that they collapse with desperate wheezing honks, but he's not above making birds attack them. The stealth puzzling is fairly light so far but I'm curious to see how it might develop in the full game. I'm curious in general. Aren't you curious about a Moomins video game? Reason enough to download the demo and see for yourself.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor

A dwarf eviscerates enemies in a dark cave in Deep Rock Galactic Survivor
Image credit: Ghost Ship Publishing

James: Deep Rock Galactic: Survivor already had the bones of a quality Suvivorslike when I played an early build in June, and now you can try a version that’s begun grafting on the meat. There are more bugs to squish and more gadgets to help squish them with, though my personal favourite change is the unlock rebalancing. This Next Fest demo is far more forthcoming with damage boosts, producing more fun moments of bug slaughter and reducing the time you’ll feel like a small, weak man fighting a horde with water pistols. The core hook of DRG: Survivor remains compelling, in any case. As a pickaxe-wielding space miner, you can carve your own escape tunnels and chokepoints through rock walls, or stop to dink out some valuable minerals – a buttock-tightening prospect when a wave is bearing down. It all makes for an autoshooter that’s less about scooting across a flat 2D plane and more about reshaping the battlefield to your advantage.

Download the demo on Steam right here.


A young boy scales the side of a steep cliff in Jusant
Image credit: Dont Nod

Ollie: It's early stages, but so far meditative climbing game Jusant feels like something quite special. The striking visuals and lovely vistas roped me in and kept me there long enough for the intuitive climbing to start winning me over. If you've ever played The Climb in VR, it's very much like that. Left and right triggers on the controller handle your hand movements, and you have to actually place your hands in the correct positions with the left thumbstick, which turns the many sections of wall on the giant mountainous tower into miniature puzzles. It's a very tranquil game, but one that's also got frequent moments of excitement as you abseil off a gigantic drop or wait a moment, shaking off your hands one at a time, readying yourself for a big jump. And as you progress, you'll find areas of interest containing alternate routes, lore, and other little special discoveries.

Download the demo on Steam right here.


A screenshot of Sentry, showing some sort of spaceship core, and two players and turrets defending it against a wave of bipedal aliens of varying size.
Image credit: Fireblade Software

Edwin: My flat has a fruit fly infestation. This has caused a crisis of conscience, because on the one hand, I am vegan and wish only the best for our fluttering insect brethren, but on the other hand, get the hell away from me you obnoxious, hovering idiots or so help me, I’m going to craft a flamethrower out of detergent bottles. Wave-defence shooter Sentry is a good way of venting these non-plant-based sentiments. It casts you as a robot soldier aboard a spaceship, setting up defences to stop aliens making it to the humans slumbering in their cryopods across the map. Said defences include launch pads (very efficient when placed near deadfalls), traction pads to slow those varmints down and of course, the indispensable auto-turret. Matches are split between building and action phases, as in tower defence games. Aliens attack along different routes that ravel together a little, and it’s obviously wise to identify spots where your traps can catch several squads simultaneously. You can also take a hands-on approach using rifles and pistols, but you’ll soon run out of ammo. Think of a stripped-down Meet Your Maker with low-fi visuals and you’re halfway there.

Download the demo on Steam right here.


A vagrant sits by a wall in Peripeteia
Image credit: None

Katharine: I will hold my hands up and say that I haven't been able to play a huge amount of Peripeteia just yet, but after reading about it in Rick Lane's excellent feature about the imminent eruption of the indie immersive sim scene, I couldn't not give it a look. So far, I'm still working out exactly where I'm meant to be going in this grim, lo-fi concrete jungle - its first and third-person controls have an endearing amount of jank to them, but its uncompromising design doesn't half make it tricky to navigate most of the time. Still, I'm deeply enjoying its oppressively weird atmosphere, and if you gelled with It's Winter or Babbdi, then you'll probably get on quite well with this, too.

Download the demo on Steam right here.


A robot jumps away from a laser next to a rocketship in Bzzt
Image credit: Cinemax SRO

Alice Bee: I'm not really a nails platformer sort of gal, but I can be persuaded in the case of the protagonist being an extremely cute little cuboid robot that might as well be a footstool. In this universe, the robot is human-sized, and I know because of the scale provided by its progenitors. The levels you're platforming through are testing chambers to put the newly-minted AI through its paces (and I love the detail of seeing the scientists watching you in observation chambers in the background). The tests must have taken longer to devise than the robot, being a terrifying gauntlet of spikes, lasers, patrol bots, crushers, and so on and so forth. It's a case of insta-death and insta-reload, and I'm absolutely charmed by the extremely retro feel of the whole thing. Bzzzt could be ripped straight from the 90s. And my conscience is soothed by the fact that the robot looks happy to start every level, continual destruction be damned.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Solium Infernum

The seat of Pandemonium in Solium Infernum
Image credit: League Of Geeks

Katharine: Solium Infernum has a special place in the RPS history books, and after hearing so much about League Of Geeks' latest incarnation of this 'strategy game from hell' over the last year or so, I'm pleased to report it's shaping up very nicely indeed. As you vie to claim the vacant throne of Hell, plotting and scheming against your fellow coven of Archfiends, Solium Infernum is a strategy game a bit like a miniature Total War. There's territory to claim, seats of power to possess, diplomacy and tributes to demand, and there's also a full-on auction house of units, army leaders and ritual scrolls you can bid for behind the scenes. You only have two actions to use per turn, though, so you'll need to think several steps ahead and adjust your plan accordingly as everyone's moves resolve simultaneously. Happily, the Next Fest demo gives you its extensive (and very user-friendly) tutorial to get to grips with, as well as its singleplayer Skirmish mode so you can play some matches against the AI. Come for the demonic scheming, stay for the gorgeous artwork and wonderfully over the top fiend lords.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

The Last Flame

Fantastic units do battle on a hexagonal grid in The Last Flame
Image credit: Hotloop/Surefire.Games

Ollie: Straightforward it may be, but The Last Flame is doing a very good job of scratching that autobattler itch I've had ever since Dota Underlords first came out. If you've played any autobattler, you already know how to play The Last Flame. You assemble a team of heroes, equip them with stat-buffing items, and wage war upon enemies in battles where you can't directly control anything. Once you hit that "GO" button, you're just a spectator. So the strategy comes from gathering the right composition of heroes and items, as well as positioning your heroes correctly across the hex grid (which, by the way, allows you to put heroes in amongst the enemies from the very start, giving you a bit more control over which heroes target which enemies than Dota Underlords ever gave me). With each win you move up through a Slay The Spire-esque map of encounters and events, and with each hero death you lose some of your Flame. If all the Flame goes out, the run is over. It's all very easy to understand and dive into, which is a large part of the reason why I'd recommend The Last Flame to any autobattler enthusiast out there during this Next Fest.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

The Thaumaturge

A man and his pet demon fight three villagers in a forest in The Thaumaturge
Image credit: 11 bit Studios

Katharine: When I first saw The Thaumaturge back in March at GDC, I called it a detective RPG that's part Divinity: Original Sin, part evil Pokémon - and now you can see if that description holds up for yourself with its special prologue Next Fest demo. It covers the same bit of the game I saw in my preview earlier in the year, putting you in the shoes of its titular Thaumaturge Wiktor as he sets about restoring his lost connection to his demonic monster pal Upyr in a remote, Russian mountain village at the turn of the twentieth century. He'll be dealing with suspicious locals, a mysterious murder and a fair number of turn-based battles as he goes about his investigation, and it should give your tactical brain as much of a workout as your budding detective-ing. You'll play as both Wiktor and Upyr in these fights and they're all about manipulating the turn-order to your advantage - which is something I always love to see in a turn-based battle system. I love the setting too. While the meat of the game will take place in Warsaw, it will also have real-life figures such as the famous mystic Grigori Rasputin worked into its plot, and I'm very intrigued to see where it's going to go when it launches in December.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Songs Of Silence

Two armies line up for battle in Songs Of Silence
Image credit: Chimera Entertainment

Ollie: Songs Of Silence is probably the most gorgeous autobattler I've ever played. Except that's doing it a misservice, because it's a lot more than an autobattler. It's a curious mix of genres - part Battle For Wesnoth, part Songs Of Conquest, part Clash Of Clans. And all wrapped up with some wonderful presentation, music, and a minimalist but competently voice-acted story which swept me into its world almost immediately. Only the start of the campaign is available in the Next Fest demo, but that's more than enough to give you a sense of the game - you move armies across the overworld map each turn, playing world cards to take over and upgrade towns and villages, and recruit more units into your army. You can also enter into quick real-time battles with enemy armies, where you have no direct control over your armies except for determining their starting positions, and playing battle cards which do things like raining meteors down upon a particular point, or summoning powerful units into play at the right moments. Giving the player a limited amount of extra agency in what is otherwise an autobattler system may seem to defeat the objective of the automated battles in the first place, but I don't mind it at all. In fact... I think I prefer it.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

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