Steam Next Fest, Valve’s semi-regular celebration of gaming things to come, is back for another week of developer chats, livestreams, and an intimidating stack of “hundreds” of demos likely to thwart even the most committed completionist.
Proceedings are now firmly underway, continuing until next Monday 26th June, and Valve has provided a full list of available demos and livestreams for those eager to dive right in. But should decision paralysis strike, you’ll find a few potentially promising places to start – based on some of the games Eurogamer has been harbouring mounting excitement for in recent times – below.
The list is far from exhaustive, of course, and all the games I’ve included are largely known quantities – it’ll take a lot more poking around Valve’s subterranean depths before Steam Next Fest’s latest batch of hidden gems reveals itself. But in the meantime, while the poking continues, perhaps the following will provide some initial inspiration – and if anything catches your eye as you do your own deeper delving, feel free to share in the comments.
This striking puzzle-adventure from Life is Strange studio Don’t Nod is all about finding a way up, taking players on a “mediative” climbing journey as they attempt to scale an immeasurably tall tower and unravel the mystery behind a long-lost civilisation. Christian has already played the demo and he loved it. [Demo link]
Balloon Studios’ Botany Manor (another one that caught Christian’s eye) is the very picture of tranquility , whisking players to the titular 19th century English homestead for some plant-based puzzling and flora preservation. By exploring the manor and its expansive grounds, they can unearth seeds, pot them, and find their ideal habitat – with letters, newspaper clippings, and other useful information providing clues on how to proceed. [Demo link
Viewfinder by Sad Owl Studios is another one those puzzlers built around a genuinely mind-bending premise: players can snap photos then overlay them on their surroundings – whereupon whatever’s in the image becomes a navigable, three-dimensional part of the world. We’ve been excited about this one for a while. [Demo link]
Venba, from Visai Games, is a cooking-based narrative adventure that follows an immigrant Indian mother in 1980s Canada as she reconnects with her heritage by creating South Indian dishes. It’s described as story of love and loss that plays out through cooking and branching conversations, and if that’s sounds appetising, Eurogamer contributor Emad Ahmed chatted to its developer in 2021 to learn a little more about Venba’s background. [Demo link]
Steam might not exactly be short of starship management sims, but Armello developer League of Geeks’ Jumplight Odyssey is an immediately eye-catching proposition for a big ‘ol genre fan like me, melding roguelite progression with an appealing art style inspired by 70s sci-fi anime. Oh, and, yes, you can pet the pig. [Demo link]
Goodbye Volcano High
Goodbye Volcano High is still a little way off following its recent delay, but those eager to sample developer KO_OP’s intriguing “hybrid cinematic narrative/rhythm game/coming of age/interactive movie experience” – which follows a group of teen dinosaurs as they learn to live and love in a world teetering on the bring of destruction – can do just that courtesy of a newly updated Steam Next Fest demo. [Demo link]
Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew
This pirate adventure from Mimimi Games looks an absolute treat, combining the core stealth-strategy action of the studio’s acclaimed Desperados 3 and Shadow Tactics: Blade of the Shogun with some fantastical swashbuckling as players explore the Caribbean in search of the legendary Captain Mordechai’s lost treasure. [Demo link]
Stray Gods: The Role Playing Musical
Stray Gods, from Dragon Age creator David Gaider’s Summerfall Studios, is “one part narrative-driven adventure and one part interactive musical”. It tells the story of Grace, a young woman whose life is upended after the Last Muse of ancient Greek mythology dies in her arms, and features a score by renowned composer Austin Wintory, bought to life by a star-studded cast including Felicia Day, Laura Bailey, Rahul Kohli, and Troy Baker. [Demo link]
Chucklefish’s Advance-Wars-inspired turn-based strategy game Wargroove is getting a sequel courtesy of Pathway developer Robotality. Its new (and pleasingly piratical) adventure spans three interwoven campaign arcs promising the likes of new unit types and new Commanders – at least some of which will presumably feature in its new Steam Next Fest demo. [Demo link]
Mediterranea Inferno is a stylish, uncompromising tale of “friendship, desire, and grief” from Lorenzo Redaelli, the creator of 2022’s powerful Milky Way Prince – The Vampire Star. Redaelli’s focus this time is on three 20-something male friends reuniting for a sensual summer in Southern Italy after the forced isolation of the 2020 pandemic – a tale gradually unspooling into one of fear, obsession, revenge, and retribution. [Demo link]
Over a decade after its original launch and subsequent removal from sale, Richard Hofmeier’s acclaimed slice-of-life retail sim, Cart Life, has been “lovingly restored” by Ad Hoc Studios for an impending re-release. This new version remains faithful to the original – players will still experience the lives of three different street vendors, each from very different backgrounds – but it promises the likes of new art, story content, mechanics, and updated controls. [Demo link]
My love for developer Rusty Lake’s surreal series of point-and-click-meets-room-escape-style adventures is no secret – and now the studio is preparing to return with Underground Blossom, another melancholy slice of strangeness that sees players puzzling their way through the life and memories of Laura Vanderboom, which gradually unfolds as they travel from station to station in the Rusty Lake underground system. [Demo link]