16 demos from Steam Next Fest that you need to play right now

Main character Grace using her newly-awakened Muse powers.
(Image credit: Summerfall Studios)

The summer showcase season may be over, but I hope you've still got some room left in your brain to saturate with a metric ton of cool-ass games. The latest Steam Next Fest has landed, bringing hundreds of demos, gameplay livestreams and developer chats until June 26.

It's a great time to dive in and discover something new, or maybe check something out that caught your eye during showcases like Wholesome Games, Day of the Devs or our own PC Gaming Show. With hundreds of demos all vying for your attention, it can be tough to know which games to give your attention and hard drive space to. Thankfully, the team at PC Gamer have delved into a whole bunch of 'em, and here are 16 of our favourites that we think you should check out. 

Laysara: Summit Kingdom

(Image credit: Quite OK Games)

Developer: Quite OK Games | Release date: 2023 | Steam page

Mollie Taylor: Not enough city builders play around with verticality, but Laysara: Summit Kingdom has you creating entire settlements up various mountain landscapes. I've had my eye on this since we showed it off at our PC Gaming Show last year, and the demo doesn't disappoint. There's a lot to keep tabs on, but even from the demo's tutorial, I had a ton of fun strategising to ensure all my workers had plenty of food, activities and spiritual endeavours to keep them happy. Just watch out for the avalanches that threaten to descend on your meticulously built towns. 

Sticky Business

(Image credit: Spellgarden Games)

Developer: Spellgarden Games | Release date: 2023| Steam page

Mollie Taylor: I'm all too guilty of spending hours browsing through Etsy, wishing I was artsy enough to rock an awesome small business. Sticky Business finally lets me realise those dreams in all its cosy pixelated pastel glory. Frankenstein different shapes, images and text together to create stickers, do your best to shove as many as possible on a single sheet to maximise profit and then lovingly package each order with different paper and filling types. It's a low-pressure management sim bursting with creativity, the perfect game to unwind with after a long day. 

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

(Image credit: Summerfall Studios)

Developer: Summerfall Studios | Release date: August 3, 2023| Steam page

Mollie Taylor: What if Telltale games were musicals? Stray Gods is a narrative adventure where everyone sings their feelings, and you can change the course of the songs and story by choosing how the main character Grace croons her thoughts. Considering it's inspired by an episode of one of my favourite TV shows, it's no surprise I was already engrossed in its half-hour demo. With a gorgeous modern comic book style and a star-studded cast behind it, Stray Gods is hitting all the right notes.

Astrea: Six-Sided Oracles

(Image credit: Little Leo Games)

Developer: Little Leo Games | Release date: 2023 | Steam page

Robin Valentine: Astrea very much walks in the footsteps of Slay the Spire, but instead of gaining cards and building a deck, you're creating your own pool of dice. You collect and apply faces to make each dice your own, and then roll them in battle and use your results as your attacks. We've been keeping an eye on it since last year, and it's a really fascinating take on the genre, layering all sorts of interesting strategic decisions over its six-sided cubes. If you like the concept, check out the demo for Tamarak Trail too, which plays with the same idea with some interesting twists of its own. 


(Image credit: Sad Owl Studios)

Developer: Sad Owl Studios | Release date: July 18, 2023 | Steam page

Robin Valentine: This mind-bending puzzle game really has to be seen to be believed. Even if you're not normally a fan of brain-teasers, the Viewfinder demo is a must-play just to see its space-warping magic tricks in action. Armed with a magic camera, you're able to take photos, and then place those photos in the world to change the space around you. It's difficult to convey in words, so check out my extended look at the game, with plenty of gifs and screenshots, if you need convincing. 

SteamWorld Build

(Image credit: Thunderful Development)

Developer: Thunderful Development| Release date: Coming soon | Steam page

Robin Valentine: SteamWorld Build is a wonderfully layered experience—above ground, it's a city builder, but your mines take you down into a Dungeon Keeper-like experience below, and keep adding more and more depth as you burrow down through further levels. Managing it all simultaneously gives the game a great pace, avoiding the sluggishness that city builders can fall into. The demo gives you a good taste, but just know that even when you're done you've only scratched the surface—in my recent hands-on, I couldn't believe how much I uncovered.  


(Image credit: Covenant.dev)

Developer: Covenant.dev | Release date: August 8, 2023 | Steam page

Robin Valentine: You know those bleak, grubby little towns you visit in the Witcher games? The ones that are perpetually under siege by horrible monsters? Gord is basically a city builder about running one of those towns. My extended hands-on left me a little worried about both its micro-management and dodgy voice-acting, but it's got a lot of really interesting ideas and wonderfully grim visuals, and it's hard not to be intrigued by a game that asks you to make a child sacrifice to a monstrous swamp god before you're even out of the tutorial. 

Little Kitty, Big City

(Image credit: Double Dagger Studio)

Developer: Double Dagger Studio | Release date: 2024 | Steam page

Lauren Aitken: Cat games are superior to every animal-based game in every way and I will die on that hill. In Little Kitty, Big City, you can get the zoomies, knock people over to steal their sandwiches and yell at them as you look to gather items for your fellow anthropomorphised pals. You can find little hats to put on the titular kitty and perform 2023's best in-game emotes like Big Stretch and Lie Down. I liked the froggy hat in particular, which is giving big pandemic Animal Crossing amphibian vibes. 

Philippa Warr, who you might remember used to work for PC Gamer, has worked on Little Kitty, Big City, but I like it because I am a cat enthusiast.

Hammerwatch 2

(Image credit: Crackshell)

Developer: Crackshell | Release date: August 15, 2023| Steam page

Lauren Morton: I was jazzed when I heard Hammerwatch 2 was happening. Even more so when I realized it was going to be much bigger than the past two hack-and-slash dungeon crawlers, this time with an open world, quests, and extensive itemization. It's truly a full action RPG now. You get a taste for that in the demo, which dumps you onto an island beset by pirates holed up in a cave. Hammerwatch 2 isn't shy about chucking quests at you right off the bat, most for diving down into the first pirate hideout dungeon. I'm already enjoying the interplay of skills on my rogue (love a good grenade skill) and those awful beetles of the other Hammerwatch games are back to ruin my day. 

Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew

(Image credit: Mimimi Games)

Developer: Mimimi Games | Release date: August 17, 2023| Steam page

Lauren Morton: I honestly cannot say enough good things about Mimimi's stealth tactics games. They just get it. Fraser's played their latest real-time stealth pirate romp and in his Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew preview he had a grand time playing the first act. As with Shadow Tactics and Desperados 3, Shadow Gambit's levels are a giant knot of overlapping view cones, restricted areas, and accidents waiting to happen for you to unpick with your crew and their individual murder talents. 

Moonstone Island

(Image credit: Studio Supersoft)

Developer: Studio Supersoft | Release date: Q3 2023 | Steam page

Lauren Morton: It's true that when it comes to farm and life sims I am partial to pixel art, and I think Moonstone Island is the demo to try among the several farmlifers I played this Next Fest. This is part Pokemon—collect spirits who you'll use to do turn-based deck battles with—part Minecraft with its crafting and procedurally generated world of islands, and part Stardew with its town of villagers to befriend and date. Moonstone's demo has a very smooth introduction to all of its systems and a really cute, cohesive visual style. I'm also just super weak to the invitation to explore for the perfect island to settle down on.

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood

(Image credit: Deconstructeam)

Developer: Deconstructeam | Release date: 2023 | Steam page

Harvey Randall: While I'm sure seeing into the future would make me much better at video games, The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood's demo is giving me second thoughts. I didn't know what to expect from Deconstructeam's newest narrative experience, but it's thoughtful, gorgeous, and fascinating. This game sees you—a banished witch—form a pact with a behemoth demon to forge a new tarot deck. You can customise your own bespoke cards, then use them to read the fortunes of your friends. The catch? You cannot reload a previous save, all choices are final. "After all," warns the game's save creation screen, "this is a game about fate." If you're into narrative games that are prepared to break your heart, this one's worth a try. 

Battle Shapers

(Image credit: Metric Empire)

Developer: Metric Empire | Release date: Q3 2023 | Steam page

Morgan Park: Well would you look at that, an indie FPS with a legitimately unique hook. Battle Shapers is like playing Doomfist with a machinegun: your loadout revolves around the mechanical fist on your left arm, which lets you punch, dash, and ground pound across arenas while also laying waste with the guns in your right hand. The basic punch works like a Doom 2016 glory kill to finish off enemies and regain armor. Busting through robos with a single swing feels great, and the guns are no slouch either. Weapons and fist attacks change throughout a run by finding perks, guns, new abilities, and stage modifiers. That all sounds great for keeping things fresh my 12th time through a stage, but it's Battle Shapers' strong FPS fundamentals that'll get me in the door when it releases in early access later this year. 

Lies of P

(Image credit: NEOWIZ)

Developer: NEOWIZ | Release date: September 19, 2023 | Steam page

Harvey Randall: As an out-and-proud soulslike enjoyer, my expectations were tepid heading into Lies of P's demo. I wasn't expecting it to be bad, don't get me wrong, but there's a wide gulf between bad and good: A whole band of mediocrity that becomes especially concerning when a game borrows as heavily as Lies of P does. I was delighted to find out that Round8 Studio hadn't been telling fibs. Lies of P plays less like a discount Bloodborne and more like a slower-paced Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, with an emphasis on perfect guards and stance-breaking over dodge rolls. It borrows a swiss army knife of gadgets from From Software's catalogue, and even has a few surprises of its own. It's fast becoming an unexpected darling for 2023, which should keep us from going hollow during the eternal wait for a Bloodborne port. 

Home Safety Hotline

(Image credit: Nicholas Lives)

Developer: Nicholas Lives | Release date: TBA | Steam page

 Joshua Wolens: What if you were a witcher, but instead of actually schlepping out to people's homes to battle monsters you just gave them advice about what to do over the phone and hoped for the best? Also, what if it was the 90s and you had to work using a garish CRT monitor attached to a charming but inefficient dial-up connection? These are the questions Home Safety Hotline dares to ask. This is a short demo—only about 20 minutes all told—but the vibes are impeccable. 

You sit at your desk and help callers navigate home-based problems like black mold and mice, eventually graduating to help them deal with lamp sprites, desk secretions, and stair slugs. And if someone asks for help with a problem you don't have on your list? Just tell them how to deal with moles and cross your fingers. Probably don't answer the phone if they ring back again, though.


(Image credit: GrizzlyGames)

Developer: GrizzlyGames | Release date: Q3 2023 | Steam page

Sean Martin: I was really surprised by this smart little tower defense, which seems to take influence from two of my favourites: Kingdom Two Crowns and Bad North. But where Kingdom can often feel a bit bloated, as you ride across your realm tackling the titanic task of its maintenance, Thronefall benefits from a simpler gameplay loop. During the day, you spend your trickle of coins to build houses, recruit soldiers, and expand your homely little realm. At night, enemy armies attack, and you have to defend what you built. Where Thronefall distinguishes itself is in allowing you to ride out with your troops, command them, and even fight or bait enemies. When morning rolls around, buildings are repaired and soldiers replenished, so you can set about using that tithe of coins to expand your fledgling realm rather than simply rebuild what was lost. Since you control when the night begins, too, there's less time pressure around deciding how to spend your coin, which is a welcome feature in an often stressful genre. 

Mollie Taylor
Features Producer

Mollie spent her early childhood deeply invested in games like Killer Instinct, Toontown and Audition Online, which continue to form the pillars of her personality today. She joined PC Gamer in 2020 as a news writer and now lends her expertise to write a wealth of features, guides and reviews with a dash of chaos. She can often be found causing mischief in Final Fantasy 14, using those experiences to write neat things about her favourite MMO. When she's not staring at her bunny girl she can be found sweating out rhythm games, pretending to be good at fighting games or spending far too much money at her local arcade.  

With contributions from