The Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition has kicked off and it's an explosion of playable demos, developer talks, and livestreams. The week-long digital event is taking place between June 16 and June 22, which gives you a week to download and play as many demos for upcoming games as you can.
It's pretty amazing how many demos there are, with the total reaching as high as 900 and growing. The Steam Game Festival page makes diving in more manageable, but honestly, it's quite overwhelming.
Although I haven't played all 900 demos—sleep being the main saboteur—I've picked out a bunch of demos that I think are worth spotlighting. Skateboarding birds, cosmic detective noirs, dungeon-crawlers set in dodgy tech startups, diesel-punk real-time strategy—there's a lot to cover.
Most of these demos will go away when the festival ends on June 22, so keep that in mind. If you've played a great demo that's not on this list feel free to leave a comment below.
In Nuts, you've been sent to the peaceful Melmoth Forest on a very important mission: to track and survey squirrel activity. Cameras, GPS, and surveying monitors in tow, you'll need to record the activity of these curious critters for research and report back to your boss Dr Nina Scholz. The demo takes you through the first handful of squirrel assignments letting you place cameras throughout the forest and review the footage you've captured. It's a perfect demo in that it shows you the main mechanics of the game, lays out the main storyline of the game, and has a cheeky little twist at the end.
Obsidian's 'Honey I Shrunk The Kids' survival game, Grounded has—quite frankly—a terrifying demo. You've been shrunk to the size of a thimble and have been put at the mercy of the backyard. The demo pits you against several giant bugs, including some very angry ants, and lays out how resource management, fighting, and crafting will work. Be careful though, scraping with all the bugs made Fraser confront his unquenchable thirst for blood.
Haven is a sci-fi romance adventure about a couple exploring an alien planet, hoping to escape a mysterious force that is chasing them. You play as both the main characters, Yu and Kay, simultaneously, battling corrupted creatures and trying to build a new life together. This demo takes you through the opening of the game, which includes a wonderfully animated intro. Controlling both characters simultaneously in battle takes some getting used to, but gliding smoothly through the planet's plains and getting to know Yu and Kai's relationship is great.
Congrats! You've secured an internship at a prestigious company, unfortunately, you're first job is to clean the basements from a rowdy goblin infestation. Going Under is a satirical dungeon crawler in which you clear out the dingy basements of failed tech-startups. The combat is fun and frantic, and finding different office supplies that work as the best weapons is great fun. A highlight of mine was when I picked up a heavy computer monitor and lobbed it across the room, completely wiping out a beefy goblin.
The Wild At Heart
The Wild At Heart is one of the best looking games I've found delving through the festival's demos, and its story and gameplay live up to its whimsical art style. You play as a young boy called Wake who finds himself lost in a forest and makes friends with the denizens of the woods. It plays out a little like Pikmin, as you start to collect little Spritelings that help you solve puzzles, clear paths, and battle other woodland critters giving you grief. It's a fun adventure filled with oddball characters but the demo hints at a more sinister underbelly to these woods.
Röki is an adventure interwoven with the dark fairytales and stories told in Scandanavian folklore. The demo takes you through a chapter that a little into the game, where a young girl called Tove is looking for her lost brother. Her search takes her into an icy wood, where she meets a handful of characters from Nordic tales. If you play the demo and love it, the good news is that you won't have to wait long to play the full game. Röki releases July 23.
Best Friend Forever
Ever wanted to raise a cute little pupper but your landlord won't allow it? Dog adoption dating sim Best Friend Forever can fill that aching hole in your heart. You get to care for your own cute puppy whilst chatting to the many different (human) cuties of Rainbow Bay. The demo takes you through the beginning of the game, adopting your furry companion and learning the ropes of dog care. Best Friend Forever puts a twist on the visual novel formula by having your new companion constantly in the corner of your screen, interacting with you as you read. It's adorable.
You'll likely be a fan of cosmic jazz when you're done playing the Genesis Noir demo. It's a slick and stylish detective game that takes place within the farthest reaches of space and time. Its demo takes you through a set of interconnected comic-book panels as your character, No Man, traverses the city trying to find the source of a mesmerising baseline. When you find the bassist, you whip out your saxophone and start playing together. The demo invites you to create short, improvisational musical musings. It's cool, stylish, and a little surreal—the perfect cocktail for a cosmic adventure.
Dieselpunk, steampunk, all-the-punks RTS game Iron Harvest is one of the most anticipated strategy games releasing this year. Set in an alternative 1920s, you must command a faction of giant diesel-based mechs against other armies in bombastic skirmishes. You might recognise Iron Harvest' striking worldbuilding and art style which can be attributed to the Polish artist Jakub Różalski as part of his alt-history world of 1920 which has been used for other projects such as the board game Scythe. After being kicked up by Deep Silver last year, Iron Harvest is set to release on September 1.
Spiritfarer takes the scary journey of going to the afterlife and transforms it into a peaceful, playful adventure with lots of hugging. Playing as a cheerful ferrymaster called Stella, you must befriend and care for spirits who wish to pass on into the afterlife, making their journey as smooth and enjoyable as possible. In the demo, you get to chat with the boat's spirit occupants, build and expand the houses on your vessel and help complete a friend's final requests before they pass on. It's a cozy demo that hints at a more hugging and heartache when it released sometime later this year.
Say No! More
Who knew that one small word could make you feel so powerful. In Say No! More, it's your first day of your new internship and some of the office employees have taken this as a sign to boss you about. After being pushed around and having your precious unicorn lunch box stolen, a cassette tape appears before you and teaches you how to say that magical word confidently and with style. You then get to run around unleashing your powerful NO!s throughout the office, destroying furniture and shattering office worker's facades as you go. Say No! More is a fun and frantic game that made me laugh out loud multiple times. Shouting 'No!' at your boss making him crash backwards through a glass window is immensely satisfying.
Liberated is a near-future cyberpunk noir set in a world where the government is using invasive technology to control its people. A group called the Liberated have risen up, frustrated by living within a surveillance state, and have started to fight back. Liberated has a striking comic book art style and the action moves from one panel to the next. The demo takes you through snippets from the first volume of the comic, and you play different characters who all have different views about the systems of the government they must abide by. It's a slick demo and worth checking out if you've ever wanted to know what a dynamic comic-book is like.
It's all in the title, in SkateBIRD you're a cute little bird who loves the thrill of skateboarding. Control a little bird as you skate around a cardboard park, kick-flipping and rail grinding as you go. It's a very forgivable skateboard sim, and every time you slip up you bird friend hops straight back onto the board. It's a chill demo that lets you play as a number of funky birds who know how to accessorize.
Graden Story is an adorable social sim where you play as an anthropomorphic grape on a quest to restore life to their home town. A mysterious rot has been plaguing the surrounding areas of Autumn Town and you'll need to venture out and stop it from spreading, reconnecting trade routes and helping out your town's citizens. Garden Story's demo is one you can happily breeze through, but taking the time to look around the town is a must to fully enjoy it.
Phogs is a co-op game where you play as a duo of limbless dogs whose bodies are joined together by a stretchy belly—it's a lot cuter than it sounds, I promise. It's a bizarre puzzle adventure where you have to bounce and bite your way through a variety of colourful obstacles whilst literally being joined at the hip. The demo can be played solo or co-op (I highly suggest co-op) and challenges you with a number of light puzzles and physical hurdles to overcome.
Pepetura reminds me of the small delicate worlds of Amanita Design. It's a curious pocket-sized demo where you play as a little paper being trapped inside a shell-like prison. Pointing and clicking around your cell, you need to figure a way out with the help of a few bug friends. I'm excited to see more of Pepetura's elegant environments, especially as the developer hand-made them all out of paper.
Bonus game: Ghostrunner
When I was writing this list up, the Ghostrunner demo wasn't downloading properly for me. But now it has, and it's awesome. Superhot meets Mirrors Edge in this super slick first-person action game that made even some like me, with the clunkiest controller inputs in the world, into a parkour master.