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14 Steam Next Fest demos you should absolutely check out this June

Some curated demo highlights to kick off this latest Steam Next Fest

The header for Steam Next Fest June 2023
Image credit: Valve

Just in case your Steam wishlists weren't already stocked up from this year's Summer Geoff Fest bonanza, here we are with another edition of Valve's Steam Next Fest, which has unleashed hundreds, if not thousands of free game demos on us, starting from today, June 19th, until Monday June 26th. You can view the entire June Next Fest line-up right here if you'd rather browse at your leisure, but we've also been playing some of the demos in advance to bring you some curated highlights of what we've enjoyed so far. We haven't have access to every demo in this year's Next Fest, I should note, but think of these more as some initial tasting suggestions to get you started, rather than a complete overview of what's worth playing.

Looking for even more stuff to add to your Steam wishlist? Here are some more indie games we're looking forward to playing this year, too.Watch on YouTube

June's Next Fest has positively oodles of excellent games to try this week, and some of them we've written about already, such as Spirit Swap: Lofi Beats to Match-3 To, murder mystery Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, surreal first-person adventure Sludge Life 2, excellent puzzler Viewfinder, brilliant citybuilder SteamWorld Build, motor roguelike Pacific Drive and loads more. Honestly, I could keep chucking game names at you all day, so I'll pause there and let the fine words of the RPS Treehouse take over instead. You know, to throw more games at you. Catch!

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

A sniper prepares to shoot a guard on top of a tower in Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Mimimi Games

Katharine: The latest stealth strategy extravaganza from Desperados 3 and Shadow Tactics devs Mimimi Games, Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew has quickly shot (cannonballed?) up to the top of my most anticipated games list ever since it was first announced earlier this year. I've already played a chunk of this year's Steam Next Fest demo for it, too, so you can check out exactly what I thought of it here, if you want more details.

But in brief, you'll be sneaking around gorgeous islands in this magical Lost Caribbean, avoiding enemy sight cones and making use of your undead crew's supernatural powers to take down guards, slip through their ranks and generally do a lot of cool, fun murderin' as you take down the evil Inquisition. I'm so glad Mimimi are carrying on this tradition of Commandos-style stealthing, and Shadow Gambit looks to be their finest game yet. Get it played, folks. This one's properly special.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

En Garde!

A swordswoman fights a warrior in a watery ruin in En Garde!
Image credit: Fireplace Games

Alice0: Here's the pitch: the colour-coded dodge/counter combat of Batman Arkham meets the trap-filled levels and mighty kicks of Dark Messiah Of Might & Magic for a 17th century swashbuckling adventure. A typical battle in En Garde! might see you quickly poke down one weak foe, take guy number two temporarily out the fight by tossing a bucket onto his head, then defeat three and four in a duel of dodges, parries, and counter-attacks, and just as the bucketman gets it off his head, you kick him off a ledge. Then as reinforcements arrive, slide coolly across the table and kick over a stack of barrels that send the new group tumbling down the stairs like meat skittles.

En Garde! is charming, a colourful cartoon world of escapades and japes. It is a game where you flow between fencing moves and environmental attacks because it's great fun as much as because it's practical. It is a game where you enter a room (likely in a cool way, like swinging in from a flagpole), quickly note the hazards you could use to your advantage and form a rough plan, then spot a lute sitting on a table and immediately abandon all caution because you cannot resist the urge to lob that lute at some guy's face. You just know it will make a cool twonging noise. And it does. Joy.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Station To Station

A picturesque voxel landscape of a village and railway line in Station To Station
Image credit: Prismatika

Alice Bee: Trains are one of those things that make even the most besuited and booted of grown adults go "Choo choo! A-chugga-chugga-chugga-chugga!" with delight because they're good and fun. The little voxel steam trains in Station To Station are extra cute, and they're most useful engines, pottering around connecting all the buildings so that wheat gets to the windmill and flour gets to the bread and bread gets to the city. As you successfully connect networks, buildings send out a little glowing circle of productivity that causes the grass to burst into bright green colour, tress to pop up, flowers to grow, and all the little buildings to spring into greater life. It makes your brain do this face: :]

But although this is a very pretty game - a relaxing one, for fans of Dorfromantik - like that lovely tile-basher, there are hidden depths. You get extra money for finishing a rail network in a way that suddenly connects multiple supply chains at once, and there are random card draws to boost that money, or make a track cheaper. But also, ah, :]

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Word Factori

Several letter factories in Word Factori
Image credit: Star Garden Games

Ollie: Anyone who knows me knows that I adore factory games, and I'll try any of them once. Word Factori, I'll definitely be trying more than once. What an ingenious idea. Instead of constructing circuit boards and pipes and solar panels, you're churning out letters and words. It's a word game. A factory word game. Goddamn.

In a move of beautiful simplicity, there's only one production building in the game, and it only creates one thing: the letter "I". From this humble character, you can create the entire alphabet. Run an "I" through a curving machine and it will bend it into the letter "C". Create two "C"s and rotate one of them 180 degrees, then combine them to create the letter "O". With such intuitive multi-step processes, you can create all 26 letters of the alphabet and then combine them to create the words that you need to complete each level. It's one of the cleverest ideas I've seen in the genre, and if you're interested at all in factory games or word games (or both), then give Word Factori a quick go and see what you think.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Underground Blossom

An old woman sticks her hand through a ticket grate in Underground Blossom
Image credit: Rusty Lake

Rebecca: There is no such thing as too much Rusty Lake, and I'm so pleased that the next game is set to come out hot on the heels of last year's The Past Within. While these games are well-designed to be playable in any order, Underground Blossom feels like a particular treat for long-time fans, but also an accessible starting point for newcomers. It envisions the life of Laura Vanderboom — whose surreal and gruesome murder is a central event in the Rusty Lake mythos — as a tube train ride through a succession of "stations" representing key moments in her life. Laura hasn't received much focus in a while, so a whole game dedicated to piecing together her story has the potential to open up a lot of interesting new avenues for the series.

This 15-minute demo whisks you through the game's first two chapters, charting Laura's infancy and childhood with her enigmatic mother Rose. While what we've seen so far is light on revelations, it's satisfyingly full of all the slightly twisted logic puzzles we've come to know and love from the series. Expect the full two-hour game to unveil new hints to the overarching Rusty Lake mystery when it launches later this year.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Lies Of P

Pinocchio turns towards violence in a Lies of P screenshot.
Image credit: Neowiz

Ed: Lies Of P is a dark, brooding Soulslike based on The Adventures Of Pinocchio. Does the most unlikely of alliances work, based off the demo? Ehhh, I'd encourage you lovely Soulslikers to see for yourselves. As for me, I think it's an incredibly pretty effort which ticks the boxes you'd expect from a game clearly designed to mimic Bloodborne as closely as it possibly can. If you're happy to settle for lots of doors "that can't be opened from this side", difficult mechanical bosses, and cryptic item descriptions, I think you'll like it.

For me, though, Lies Of P requires settling. So far, I think it strays so close to Bloodborne it turns into a constant reminder that it isn't, in fact, Bloodborne. But hey, Bloodborne still isn't on PC, so maybe this is the next best thing.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes: Definitive Edition

A board of warriors facing off against each other in Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes: Definitive Edition
Image credit: Dotemu / Gamera Games

Katharine: Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes was always one of those Nintendo DS games I meant to play back in the early 2010s, but never quite got round to. I also missed its original 2011 PC release at the time (shame on me), but thankfully the remaster wizards at Dotemu have brought back Capybara Games' excellent puzzle RPG for the modern era with this shiny new Definitive Edition. It's actually out in full next month, but this brief demo of its first three-odd levels has certainly whet my appetite for it.

Part match-three, part strategic fantasy chess, duels are won by manoeuvring your troops around your half of the battle board to create trios of similarly coloured warriors - pop 'em all in a same column, for example, and they'll be able to launch an attack on your opponent's half, hopefully bypassing their own troops to go straight for their HP base line at the rear. However, sticking them in a row will morph them into a defensive wall that can soak up enemy hits and protect your own HP bar in the process. It's clever stuff, and this early taste has me itching for more complex encounters already. Do give it a try if you also missed this the first time round.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Ebenezer And The Invisible World

Ebenezer Scrooge dodges out of the way of a large goon as a crowd of protesting workers look on in Ebenezer And The Invisible World
Image credit: Play On Worlds

James: This was revealed during the PC Gaming Show 2023, presumably accompanied by the thuds of a thousand eyebrows hitting the nearest ceiling. Having played Ebenezer and the Invisible World’s demo, however, I’m starting to think it deserves a little more respect. Yes, the very notion of a side-scrolling Metroidvania where you play as Scrooge is inherently odd, but in practice, the old coot’s unlikely adventure is more charming than befuddling.

Set after Ebe was redeemed in A Christmas Carol, we now find him making a load of ghost mates, his prior haunting leaving him as the only Londoner able to see and speak to them. Completing quests for certain spectres earns their special abilities – perfect for kicking down ‘vania-appropriate ability gates. The demo only offers a small handful of these spooky powers, but deploying them for platforming or combat is satisfying enough to forget that they’re being wielded by a man who is probably too old to climb stairs. It helps, too, that the hand-drawn art – especially the snowdusted London backdrop – is really rather beautiful.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Jumplight Odyssey

A cross-section of several different rooms inside a space ship in Jumplight Odyssey

Katharine: This is another Next Fest demo I've already played in advance this year, and yep, Jumplight Odyssey has certainly sunk its teeth into me. You can find out exactly why League Of Geek's roguelike colony sim is just the right balance of spaceship pressure cooker over here, if you wish, but in short, this is a great mix of spaceship management and roguelike planet hopping that combines the best bits of FTL, Rimworld and Theme Hospital in a single, space-themed soup. Hence the pressure cooker.

As well as managing the health and happiness of your crew, you'll be fixing up your ship as you work to escape from the evil Zutopans - upgrading modules to get you further on your path toward the Forever Star, and clearing up the damage they caused in the aftermath of your initial escape. They're hot on your trail throughout a run of Jumplight Odyssey, too, so you'll need to think fast and plan ahead to keep one step ahead of them. The Steam Next Fest demo limits you to just three of these jumps, but with procedurally generated universes to explore, you could feasibly play it again and again and get a different experience every time.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Inescapable: No Rules, No Rescue

The cast of Inescapable look at their phones in horror
Image credit: Aksys Games

Rebecca: Inescapable leans heavily into Danganronpa as its main inspiration and boasts music from the composer who scored the Zero Escape games, so there should be very little ambiguity about what you're getting here: a closed-circle murder mystery visual novel with a huge (but rapidly diminishing) cast of eccentric characters. While the games that inspired it are distinctively Japanese, Inescapable is a Finnish production featuring a largely European cast, which makes for an interesting mix of influences. Protagonist Harrison gives off vibes of a former kid detective à la a modernised Famous Five, and — like so many of his fellow Brits around this time of year — is hoping to reconnect with the gang on holiday in Spain when he finds himself instead sidetracked into an all-inclusive killing game.

Given the familiar set-up, the demo is mainly focused on providing an intro to the characters and scenario specific to Inescapable. Nevertheless, the references to influential predecessors range from blink-and-you'll-miss-them to borderline out-of-context spoilers, and this preview even opens with a Team Rocket quote to demonstrate just how well the devs know the specific type of weirdo they hope to lure into playing the full game. (It's me, I'm the weirdo.)

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Lil' Guardsman

A small girl with big red hair stalks to a buff warrior in Lil Guardsman
Image credit: Versus Evil

Katharine: In this fantasy Papers, Please-like, you play as 12-year-old Lil who's subbing in for her dad on guard duty while he's down the pub and may or may not be doing a spot of Goblinball gambling. Not exactly the best example of 'good parenting', perhaps, but Lil is a surprisingly capable young lass whose sass and witty disposition makes her a good guard shed hang. It also helps that Lil's home, The Sprawl, is considerably less bleak than Papers, Please's Arstotzka, with the developers seemingly more concerned about making fun jokes than grim social commentary.

But the rhythms of this short demo will feel instantly familiar to Lucas Pope's masterpiece. You have three actions you can take for each citizen that rocks up at the guard shed, including asking them a question, phoning a member of the council to ask for more information, or using an item in your special locked cupboard of tricks. The daily royal writ may also include certain objectives for you to take note of as well - such as phoning councilwoman Ashe if a speaker for the guild shows up, or watching out for old grandparents who might just be smuggling drugs into the kingdom under the pretences of food for their loved ones. Then it's a case of letting them in, or denying them entry. You know the drill. It's good, puzzle-y fun, and at the end of each shift you get a strange little story scene that moves the plot forward. The demo includes a surreal quiz show dream sequence about Lil deciding who to send off to rescue The Sprawl's lost princess, for example, which is both endearing and horrifying in equal measure. A very strong opening.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Wood & Weather

A toy town full of playpeople in Wood & Weather's announcement trailer.
Image credit: Paper House

Rachel: Playing Wood and Weather’s demo was an absolute delight, and now I can’t stop thinking about how easy my life would be if I were a little wooden person living in a clunky toy town. It’s a sandbox god game where you play as a disembodied hand who is helping the residents of this little paradise with their problems. Is someone having trouble moving their car? Just pick it up and move it back onto the road. Does someone want a pineapple? Scour the toy town and bring them one!

It's a lot of fun interacting with the world, and you can be as helpful - or as mischievous - as you like. Everything is physics-based so you can politely help out, or feel more chaotic and fling objects around like a toddler having a toybox tantrum. You can also change the weather with a giant weather machine, and the wooden folks will react to their newly changed surroundings - it’s adorable. I can't wait to poke and prod my giant blue finger around Wood & Weather when it eventually releases (hopefully soon).

Download the demo on Steam right here.

New Cycle

An overhead view of a city with a bridge across a river in New Cycle
Image credit: Daedalic Entertainment

Ollie: New Cycle is giving me some serious Banished vibes. It's a pretty, laid back post-apocalyptic citybuilder that steadily ramps up the complexity and challenge over time, forcing you to make some tricky Frostpunk-esque decisions for the overall betterment of your people. Certain things are a bit rough around the edges in the demo, but all the information is very nicely presented across the main UI and various info panels, so I never really felt lost. I also dig that you can toggle at any time between snapping new buildings to a grid or placing them in a completely freeform manner.

On release, the game will have a campaign and other modes set across multiple biomes and map types. In the demo, you can only choose to play the sandbox mode on the same pregenerated Meadows map, but it still gave me a strong taste of the engaging, competent settlement simulator that New Cycle may become.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

Let's! Revolution!

A warrior punches adjoining tile cards in a desert scene in Let's! Revolution!
Image credit: Buck / Hawthorn Games

Katharine: I missed the Future Of Play stream where Let's! Revolution! debuted, but hot damn, this is the fantasy Minesweeper roguelike I never knew I needed. Big thanks to Citizen Sleeper developer Jump Over The Age for tweeting about this last week and putting it on my radar - now I can pay that forward by telling you lot about it as well.

As you can see from the screenshot above, Let's! Revolution! not only looks gorgeous, but it's also got a very cool puzzle-y heart at the centre of it. As you hunt down the wonderfully smug King of Beebom in pursuit of your titular revolution, you'll need to root out his location by flipping over tiles in each level and taking out his guards. The catch is that you don't know where these punks are, and bumping into them on road tiles will drain you of a precious heart. Non-road tiles are safe, though, and each one has a number telling you how many road tiles surround it. That's where the Minesweeper element comes in, and you'll need to make strategic use of your abilities (which all have their own cooldowns) and replenishing your energy (by turning over new tiles) to win the day. It's very, very good, and the demo lets you experience a whole run of 10 or so levels too.

Download the demo on Steam right here.

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