Steam Next Fest recently returned to grace our screens and, if you’re anything like me, you spent the whole time binging indie demos like it’s going out of style. If you missed it due to having prior engagements, or simply having a healthier relationship with games than I do, then congratulations! We’re here to talk about the best Steam Next Fest games that should be on your radar.
Secondly, don’t worry about having missed out, because here is a short list of the best demos right here. From going out to Eldritch-infested seas, to multimedia experiences all about recording and preserving memory, to killing demons with bows and magic spells. There is definitely a bit of everything.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but everything here will be well worth your time. So, hopefully you can find something that tickles your fancy in our list of the best Steam Next Fest games.
The Pale Beyond
Part narrative adventure, part management sim, The Pale Beyond takes as much from Frostpunk as it does from The Banner Saga. Two months into a perilous expedition to the arctic, your ship becomes wedged in the ice and your alcoholic captain legs it overnight, leaving you in charge of fending for the remaining crew until help arrives.
Naturally, this involves lots of resource management, scavenging, and handling the in-fighting and political squabbles of the crew. A rather understandable reaction to being stuck in the ice a hundred miles from home. The Pale Beyond has a lively, hand-drawn art style that is full of life and charm, and its characters are memorable and well-written. From grumpy accordion players to reticent dog trainers, there’s never been a better bunch of misfits to freeze to death with.
The Pale Beyond is developed by Bellular Studios.
Now here was a surprise. A fully functioning ARPG that I think has the makings of a top-line competitor to Diablo and Path of Exile. The potential here is in how Undecember slots in between these two genre titans, offering a welcome compromise between the accessibility of Diablo, and the mind-boggling complexity of Path of Exile.
Undecember uses a slightly streamlined version of PoE’s rune skills, allowing for great build diversity, but unlike PoE you don’t need an economics degree to get your foot in the door. Throw in a fetching dark-fantasy art style and tight, snappy combat, and the RPG from Needs Games is shaping up to be a real competitor in the ARPG space.
Undecember is developed by Needs Games.
Don’t let the pretty colours fool you. Eldritch horrors lurk below these cool blue seas. Dredge feels at least partly inspired by Sunless Seas, but rather than play its hand from the jump, Dredge hides its cosmic horror under a veneer of sunshine and small-town living. By day, Dredge falls into a hypnotic loop of scooping up fish to sell to the nearby village–maybe exploring an island or two along the way. But linger after the sun has set and things start bumping in the night. The demo doesn’t allow you to venture too far out, but its peculiar characters and arresting visuals have me pining for more already.
Dredge is developed by Black Salt Games.
Season was announced back in 2020, when dinosaurs still roamed the land, so it’s nice to finally see it on its way to release. And what shape it’s in. As the trailers promised, Season is a sumptuous, princely blend of colour and space, all pastel-coloured hamlets cast in shadow by the evening sun. But, most important of all, it isn’t just a pretty face.
Your duty in Season is to record and preserve these precious spaces, taking snapshots of austere monuments and street art, pulling a microphone out to seize the ambience of a place, to be kept forever in your pocket. It’s a multimedia attempt at cultural preservation aimed at the ever-forgetful future, pocketing fading cultures before they disappear entirely. Season is just plain gorgeous.
Season is developed by Scavengers Studio.
Sentient slime creatures have invaded a flying mechanical whale and it’s down to you, Ernest Hemingwhale, to save the day. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, listen up, because Whalien rules. This is a glossy puzzle platformer clearly intended for the younger generation, but mentally, I am the younger generation, by at least ten years, and I maintain an unhealthy obsession with whales (I have Moby Dick tattooed on my arm), so I consider myself the target demographic, frankly.
There isn’t a whole lot of depth to Whalien, but it is fun, silly, gaudily coloured, and playful. Most importantly, it plays well, feeling snappy and responsive, and while its puzzles won’t exactly stop you in your tracks—again, younger generation—the whale spouting funny gibberish in your ear will, at least from laughing so hard. It’s just good, honest fun. I believe in Whalien. Check it out.
Whalien is developed by Forbidden Folds.
Hope you can find something to play as well, in this list of very promising best Steam Next Fest games. If you still aren’t satisfied, do check out our best Pax East indie games and we are sure you’ll find something to play.