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Our 12 favourite demos from February's Steam Next Fest

Make time for these ingenious indies

Just in case you needed more games to play this week on top of Elden Ring and everything else coming out, you'll be pleased to hear that Valve have just kicked off a brand-new edition of their indie demo extravaganza Steam Next Fest. Running from today until Monday February 28th, there are hundreds of new indie games for you try during this week-long festival, and to help you get started we've put together some personal highlights of the best demos we've played so far. Whether you're after small, relaxing puzzle games or a new RTS to sink your teeth into, we've got you covered.

As always, the 12 games we've listed below are but a teeny tiny slice of what's on offer this week, so if you spot any hidden gems you think are worth shouting about, tell us about them in the comments below. I should also point out there are demos for other 'previously on' RPS favourites such as the about-to-be-released FAR: Changing Tides, spooky underwater dive 'em up Silt, the co-operative TRPG-like Demeo and the Mad Libs-style mystery adventure Beacon Pines in there as well, which I'd definitely recommend checking out on top of what we've gathered here below if you can find time for them.

We'll also continue to highlight more games as the week goes on, but hopefully the demos here should give you a couple of good jumping in points while you digest the full extent of what's on offer. So, without further ado, here are our top picks from February's Steam Next Fest so far.


Jack Move

A young woman fights enemies in a green cyberspace environment in Jack Move

Katharine: You may have had your fill of pixelated cyberpunk adventures by now, but before you log off to visit a completely different genre, do make one last pit stop to visit Jack Move. This turn-based RPG puts you in the neon-coloured shoes of Noa, who (in this demo at least) is picking her way through the slums of Cash City to find the lab of a certain Dr Solares before evil corp fiends Monomind get there first.

However, as you manoeuvre her through the game's sumptuously detailed top-down environments, she'll occasionally come under attack from pesky hackers. When they strike, Noa's pulled into the green, Tron-esque fields of cyberspace, where battles are played out using her special cyber deck that's loaded up with different types of software attacks. You spend data to execute these attacks, and you can heal yourself through, you guessed it, the patch menu. Over time, you also build up energy to perform your titular Jack Move, a special attack that relies on timed inputs to really bump up those damage hit point numbers. It's a super compelling system, and it's all backed up by some great music, some good story hooks, and some very tasty pixel art. It's the best bits of your favourite JRPGs, without all the extraneous anime nonsense. A big cyber thumbs up.

Download the demo on Steam right here


The Fertile Crescent

An isometric, top-down view of an ancient civilization in The Fertile Crescent

Ed: Now, I’m not usually one for RTS games. I find them overwhelming and my brain short circuits as they build in complexity. But The Fertile Crescent is different... and not so different. It's a classic RTS inspired by those of yore and set in the Near East Bronze Age era. Your aim is to transform your little village into one capable of spitting out armies that’ll defend it from enemy AI or players. The game’s simplicity makes it a great entry point for someone like me, or just a burst of nostalgia for hardened RTS fans. Its thing is fertile land, as popping farms on decent soil is essential to a strong harvest. And as you garner resources and harbour a community, you can spend research points on improving these things, among many others. The visuals are also lovely, I should add.

Download the demo on Steam right here


Doors: Paradox

A doorway with a large blue crystal and dragon-like wings attached to it from Doors Paradox

Alice Bee: I'm a sucker for a diorama, me. The full release of Doors: Paradox will apparently have 58 little themed doors to play your way through, each a little 3D model of a piratey door, or a demonic door, or a possibly-slightly-bad-taste-to-be-honest Chernobyl-themed door. You won't be stumped by the little puzzles you have to do for long, but they're pleasingly logical and tactile. I can't imagine coming up with 58 different themed things, though. Surely you'd start repeating some?

Download the demo on Steam right here


Kick Bastards

An orange leg kicks out over a construction site scene in Kick Bastards

James: There’s a still chunk of my primate brain that sees “fluid wall-running” and thinks “best game ever made.” This Kick Bastards demo is not, on reflection, the best game ever made, but it is a kinetic, chaotic good time in the Ghostrunner or Titanfall vein. Besides all the sprintin’ and jumpin’, kicking itself is a means of traversal: booting a wall at the right angle will propel you upwards, and attacking an enemy sends you flying at them sole-first, keeping up momentum and opening different routes through each level. It also has what is perhaps the most hilariously exaggerated door-kicking animation I’ve ever seen, the unfortunate planks cartwheeling through the air until they find something to shatter on. It's all very promising, though the demo does leave a certain plot point unclear: are you a Kick Bastard yourself, or do you simply kick bastards?

Download the demo on Steam right here


Space Wreck

A trashed space station in a Space Wreck screenshot.

Alice0: I had a feeling I might like Space Wreck when a loading screen tip informed me that I could kick people into space. That's just one of several different approaches to your problems in Space Wreck, a sci-fi RPG which proudly declares its inspired by the original Fallout. There we are, the unpopular captain of a spaceship, sent on a quest to recover a new fuel (a wee Fallout nod there), ending up on a derelict space station.

Picking the character preset for online video celebrity Joan (you can make your own spaceman too), I initially bashed my head into the most obvious initial obstacle, a security bot which would kill me when I tried to pass. I lacked the tech expertise to shut down security systems and the brawn to smash it. Then I realised I was approaching it like a Fallout 3 player, assuming the obstacle immediately before me was what I should be doing, and that I should be able to do it right now. I went looking in other directions, zero-g jumping to distant areas, and soon was charming strangers, freely exploring, trying to cut through panels to reach lower floors, and generally having a grand old time exploring. I have no plan, but I trust the charms which got Joan 75,000 subscribers can also get her a fuel chip. Combat is fully optional, the devs say.

Download the demo on Steam right here


Writer’s Block

A soldier shaped like a pen faces off against three enemies with the word ROGUE between them in Writer's Block

Liam: Who doesn’t love a good word game? No one, I suppose, if the incredible success of Wordle is anything to go by. The five-letter-findathon is a triumph of accessible game design, but I must admit I frequently find myself craving something with a little more substance. Thankfully, there’s Writer’s Block, an upcoming roguelike where words are your weapons. It’s Boggle by way of Slay the Spire, basically. Uncover a word from the randomised jumble of letters in front of you and your delightful little fountain pen protagonist performs an attack, like punching a bee in its angry little head. The longer the word, the more damage you inflict.

It’s not that straight forward, of course. Enemies retaliate, but not directly. At the end of a turn your foes transform tiles on your Boggle board into different types of traps. Barbed wire tiles will hurt you if you use its associated letter, whereas red tiles will do the opposite, hurting you if you can’t think of a word that includes it. It’s a dastardly simple trick, forcing you to decide between shorter words that cause less damage or longer words that will also harm you. Violent Boggle. How have I not discovered this sooner?

Download the demo on Steam right here


Nine Noir Lives

A cat detective stands in front of a pink night club entrance way shaped like a cat's head in Nine Noir Lives

Rebecca: Back in January, I said that 2022 was shaping up to be a banner year for cat protagonists in adventure games, and I'm very happy to add this title to my list. Nine Noir Lives immediately gave me Emerald City Confidential vibes: a cartoony, self-aware modern point-and-click mystery that is much better than any post-millennial game in that genre has any right to be. The core mechanic of making your down-on-his-luck hardboiled cat detective lick everything in sight to investigate it is intensely cute, and the laugh-out-loud-funny writing is perfectly delivered by voice actors who lend their talents throughout. If you were around for the point-and-click golden age of the 1990s, it's extremely nostalgic for all the right reasons.

Download the demo on Steam right here


Toy Tanks

A group of toy-like tanks fire at each other in an arena from Toy Tanks

Hayden: When I saw Toy Tanks, I knew exactly what to expect. Instantly, I was transported back to playing Wii Play Tanks, the fun little minigame that captivated my brother and I as kids. Like Nintendo's effort, Toy Tanks offers cute little tanks barreling around an arena, firing a bunch of cannons at each other until either someone dies, or the screen is covered in moving bullets that you need to avoid. There are 27 levels available in the current demo, some of which feature startlingly difficult boss battles that had me desperate to win, and a few different tank variants that you can use.

The big difference that I appreciate with Toy Tanks is the speed. Wii Play Tanks was a bit slow, but Toy Tanks adds a little hop and a dash that you can use to quickly leap around the arena, bringing some physics fun and new tactics that got me hooked. On certain levels, I found myself desperately dodging at the right moment before firing cannons into pesky healer tanks that were keeping the boss alive. After knocking out the supports, I battled the big boss in a vicious duel to the death, blasting and ramming into my opponent while a joyful little jingle played in the background. Toy Tanks is such a delight, and if you liked Wii Play Tanks, you should definitely download this demo.

Download the demo on Steam right here


How To Say Goodbye

Two brothers navigate an airport baggage environment in How To Say Goodbye

Katharine: How To Say Goodbye is one of those games I've only ever seen as a series of eye-catching GIFs on Twitter, but this ingenious little emotional puzzler is just as delightful to play as it is to see in motion. You could almost describe it as a Sokoban-style tile game, as the aim of each stage is to manoeuvre the ghost of the recently-deceased Sendak through a series of doors as they wander the afterlife. You do this by shifting the floor beneath them, which snakes isometrically around its colourful environments. While it's not particularly challenging when you're just moving Sendak on their own, things get a lot more interesting when their (also dead) brother Tomi pitches up and you have to ferry them both across each stage, all the while collecting ever-shifting keys, switches and more to get to their destination. There's also just something intensely pleasing about the way your triangular cursor rotates and dances around onscreen, too. Truly lovely stuff.

Download the demo on Steam right here


Hero's Hour

A top down view of fields and mountain ranges from Hero's Hour

Ed: Graham wrote about strategy RPG Hero’s Hour last year and it piqued my interest. And now having played the demo of the upcoming Steam version, it has left a good impression. Yes, a strategy game that I, Edders, can get behind. This is because it’s part RPG, part auto-battler. You explore a procedurally generated overworld, conquer towns, and march onwards into the great beyond. Enter a fight and it’ll take place in real-time, but your units will take care of themselves. You can step in with spells or rearrange units if you’d like, or just let them crack on. Whatever takes your fancy. I like this leisurely approach.

Download the demo on Steam right here


A Little To The Left

A set of pencils, with one slightly askew, in A Little To The Left

Alice Bee: I saw A Little To The Left come up on a showcase last year and immediately smashed it onto the ol' wishlist. It's a sort of puzzle game, but sort of a tidying up game, and it looked completely lovely. Luckily the demo bears that out. I hesitate to use the word charming, but the demo for A Little To The Left really is charming. Levels are little tasks like take all the stickers off the fruit or line up the pencils in order of height. Sometimes a naughty cat's paw comes in to mess up your work. Sometimes your tidy-mind tasks are more complicated. One level in the demo in particular was a hint of possible things to come: tidy up that drawer. You know the one. The one with used candles, a cotton bud and a bunch of batteries that you're not sure are dead or not, plus the second best pair of scissors (because you keep the good scissors in the knife block). I hope there are more levels like that in the full game, because I was utterly absorbed.

Download the demo on Steam right here


Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between

Chatting with a bug in a Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between screenshot.

Alice0: The original Glitchhikers was one of many dreamy games I enjoyed in the summer of 2014, a time when I was drinking too much, sleeping too little, and very up for escaping into strange little dreamlands. Well, a sequel is coming eight years later and oh, how strange to be thrown back into that mindset. Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between is still a game about travelling through low-poly landscapes and gabbing with strange strangers about, like, life, dude, and journeys, y'know, and the nature of reality, man. This time, the journey is not limited to driving, also visiting a petrol station, a train, and other spaces between. It's quite quaint to return as someone else; I like it.

Download the demo on Steam right here

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About the Author

Katharine Castle avatar

Katharine Castle

Editor-in-chief

Katharine is RPS' editor-in-chief, which means she's now to blame for all this. After joining the team in 2017, she spent a lot of time in the RPS hardware mines, testing all the bits that go inside our PCs, but now she gets to write about all the lovely games we play on them, too. She'll play pretty much anything she can get her hands on, and is very partial to JRPGs and the fetching of quests.

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