What Gaming Demo Do You Remember The Most?

I was telling someone the other day about the time my Dad brought home the family's first CD-ROM — complete with a gaming magazine and demo disc.

My brother and I made monthly trips to the local newsagent to procure new magazines. They were mostly for the demo CDs, of course, since it was cheaper to drop the sub-$20 every month to get a taste of 10 or 12 games rather than actually just buying one game (which only one of us would end up being able to play).

Some demos were outstanding, games that would immediately become birthday or Christmas presents. StarCraft, Virtua Pool, Heroes of Might and Magic, even games like Tennis Elbow quickly became beloved. (Although the latter wasn't actually sold in Australia at any point, at least not until digital distribution became a thing.)

I've been meaning to stream and playthrough a bunch of demo discs recently, because it's a wonderful snapshot of gaming history. Last year I went through one of the discs I found, and it played reasonably well through DOSBox.

As for some of the standout demos:

  • Jedi Knight: Dark Forces — the early demo level was a great size for people to become accustomed to the game's mechanics.
  • Quake — September 1996 was a great month.
  • Diablo — Just enough dungeon crawling to whet the appetite.
  • Magic: The Gathering — The demo of MicroProse's game, which featured just some battles vs. AI without any of the Shandalar content, was how I first discovered the CCG. Played it to death with a friend, who ended getting a lot more into the game than I did.
  • Grand Theft Auto — The original demo was a quick timed experience, which turned the whole thing into an awesome arcade-esque experience where my brother and I would just try and rack up the fastest possible score. Amazing demo.

All platforms had great demos, though. But what demos do you remember the most, the ones that you replayed over and over?


    Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. It was a PSX magazine demo of some sort but I remember I played the heck out of it until I purchased the game.

    Demo disc that came with the PS1, Abe's Odyssey scared the shit out of me.

      One of my all time favourite games. The remaster on PS4 is glorious FWIW.

    Oh yeah. Demo discs! I remember always keeping the latest because it would have patches and drivers on it.

    Good times!~

    Still have most (all?) my PC Powerplay demo discs from back in the day. Sitting in a pile gathering dust, just there for no good reason really, but I cant bring myself to toss em.

    Couldn't really say there was one demo that stood out for me, but I did look forward to that 2nd (or is it 3rd?) Wednesday of the month when the mag hit the shelves.

      Whats weird is PCPP still does Demo discs to this day :) doesnt seem to be with every issue but i saw one a few months ago.

        A while back they started doing 2 versions - one with, and one without. Wasn't long after that I stopped buying them. Didn't mind them, they had a few key apps and drivers that were handy to have on disc for fresh installs, and generally came with a free game or two, which is the main reason why I've kept them.

        But mostly they were bought as something to read on the commute, which I no longer have. But yeah, the benefits of demo discs is certainly far less than they used to be.

    Do the first episodes of shareware games count as demos? If so, probably Doom or Heretic, maybe Commander Keen.

    If not, it's probably the demos for Pathways into Darkness and Marathon. PiD had two different demos that were quite different (different enemies, pickups and stuff - I assume they took different levels). Marathon's demo was excellent too, multiple levels so you got a really good feel for the game.

      I used to get a ton of demos on CDs from magazines in the 90s too. Pretty sure I still have the PC Gamer disc that had the stupid quake level they made with the Coconut Monkey (which in retrospect was probably super racist...)

      Yeah, they were marketed as demos.

      Doom was the most memorable, cause they were all platformers back theb and it was Doom that gave usa totally different experience.

    Surprised no one has mentioned Simpsons Hit and Run :D I played the crap out of that demo. Was on a Demo disc that came with my PS2 I think, had some fun demos on it....oh the memories :')

    Toca Racing and Destruction Derby from a PlayStation Magazine. The Settlers from a PC mag.

    I still have stacks of Hyper magazine demo discs.
    The one that stands out the most though is Might and Magic VIII: Day of the Destroyer, for a demo that thing took aaages to complete.

    Not a demo disc per se, but I played the heck out the Unreal Tournament 2004 demo on PC. Onslaught mode on Torlan!!

      That was a game ahead of its time.

      Favorite tactic was to get a nuke, shuffle back to hide somewhere safe, then fly the nuke high above the enemy base. When we held the points to attack their base, would nuke it to do 20% damage straight off. And usually frag a half dozen enemys at the same time.

      Good times.

    There was a PC Powerplay demo disc that had like 100 of the best game demos ever on it. Was a golden limited edition disc or something. But man... It had SOOO many games on it. And ignoring that, pretty sure some of them were actual legit version of the game. Was a very confusing package.

    Umm good demos I remember.

    Most early shareware games. Like Doom/Commander Keen/Wolf 3D etc where you'd get part 1 free. As far as young poor me was concerned, this was as good as the full game.

    It's fairly new, but Res Evil 7 is a golden example of a demo done right.

      Those Doom and Wolf 3D demos did so much good for the industry as a whole. One or the other would have to be the most beneficial demo ever. It was amazing how long the Doom demo still got played over the years.

    Not counting shareware the Dark Forces demo was perhaps the one I played the most. The graphics and sound were so great on my 486.

    The Warcraft 2 demo was really good, My friends and all owned Command and Conquer (or had enough disks between us so we could all play it, as you could play multiplayer with either the NOD or GDI disks), but with the Warhammer 2 demo you could save multiplayer matches in progress, allowing you to both just turtle, build massive bases and harvest all the resources on the map.

    Metal Gear Solid comes to mind. I think I played that thing then times in a row and then went out and bought it the next day.

    Also NBA Full Court Press. It was an isometric basketball game on the PC. My mate and I played it for hours even though you could only choose between two teams and play short games.

    Valhalla from one of the Amiga Power or Amiga Format magazines.

    mostly only the comment from the protagonist "it's a skull"

    My cousins and I became amazingly good at the first 12 minutes of Resident Evil 2 on PSX, trying to explore as much as was on offer in its timed demo. I played an absolute ton of Hogs of War on another PSX demo disc.

    I also played the GTA 2 timed demo on PC a heck of a lot, because it was quickly discovered that if you paused the game over the period of time when the timer ran out, the game would let you keep playing indefinitely. That meant you had access to the full first map (I don't think you had access to all missions, though).

    Supreme Snowboarding and Tony Hawks pro skater. Played them over and over again.

    I had a ton of fun with a demo of a DOS game called Threat. It was a top down shooter you could play with 3 players co-op on 1 keyboard.

    Bungie's Marathon 1 demo. damn that was awesome, 3 big levels and then i found out that if you used the level select cheat you could play the Multiplayer level in singleplayer as well. Many many many many days and night were played on Mars Needs Women even more so using the all the different editors to increase the spawn rate of the all the Pfhor that were in the demo files and then using different physics plugins

    Up next was the Command and Conquer Demo on PC and the Warcraft 2 demo. There is no greater way to get pumped up than hearing the start of Act on Instinct and in my ind i always the salvo of rockets being fired at the turret from the frigate atthe start of the first mission

    Last edited 25/07/18 1:09 pm

    I used to play the Warcraft demo on PC, it was so good. You could enter a cheat on the demo that allowed you to play the entire game too!

    The main two for me would be;

    ISS Pro 98 (as it was called then); just couldn’t stop playing it - think you only got to play one half of a game but I was completely addicted.

    Dynasty Warriors 2; the start of one of my favourite/most disturbing guilty gaming pleasures.

    Honourable mention should go to Crackdown I guess too - it wasn’t actually the demo of course but felt more like that when I bought it, until I collected that first green orb of course...

    Armoured Core on the PS1 was an amazing game. shame they dont make any close to it these days.

    Had the same experience with the GTA too. Mates and I would see how much we could score in the time limit, or if we could get to the tank quick enough

    Halo 2 demo and then the outrage when that mini level barely existed in the release version.

    I never owned a copy of Unreal Tournament 2004 but i played hours of the demo.

    I also had a PSX demo disc that had a weird tech demo with a Manta Ray and a block puzzle game that was too complicated for my young mind.

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