The Most Interesting Demos From Steam’s Summer Festival

Strobophagia | Rave Horror

After a week-long delay, Steam’s Summer Festival is finally here. For regular folk, it turns Steam into a giant stream of cool demos that you can check out right now. There’s a ton of cool games you can trial right now, including the neat looking Final Fantasy Tactics-esque Fae Tactics, a trippy mind-bending puzzler, a game about building the perfect ski resort, spellcasting action-RPGs, and Obsidian’s open-world adventure.

Note that most of these demos will be available only for the duration of the Steam Summer Festival, which ends on June 23 Australian time.


grounded steam summer festival demos

Obsidian’s next title is a far departure from The Outer Worlds and isometric-esque adventures. Revealed last year, Grounded is a four-player survival game featuring children shrunk down to the size of small insects.

Now, however, you can give Grounded a whirl for yourself. The tutorial takes you through the basics, like picking and eating mushrooms (don’t worry, you can’t die) and looking around. There’s a “Mysterious Machine” to investigate and a ton of leaves, grass and scrap to pick up. The demo is timed, but you should have enough of a taste of the inventory, crafting and exploration before it ends.

Stronghold: Warlords

stronghold warlords demo

If you’ve been hankering for more modern RTS experiences after Command & Conquer: Remastered Collection, there’s Stronghold: Warlords. The game isn’t out until September 30, but you can get a good taste of the Shogun-esque experience now. There’s some straightforward mechanics from other RTS franchises: you need wood camps to collect wood, farms for food, and you can recruit other warlords to your cause by raising diplomacy points.



Pigeons on skateboards. Please feel free to phone a friend if you require an explanation of why this might be fun. Game’s not fully out until next year, but you can knock around with the demo here.

Fae Tactics

fae tactics

Follow the journey of Peony as you relive all those nights spent smashing through Final Fantasy Tactics under the covers. (Or the original PlayStation version, if you grabbed that.)


Superliminal appeared last year during one of Sony’s State of Play showings. It’s a physics and perspective-based puzzler that looks like it’s going to give me Antichamber-level headaches. If you’ve forgotten how cool this looks, however, here’s the trailer to remind you what you’re in for. Demo’s here too.

Snowtopia: Ski Resort Tycoon

I love little simulators like these. Snowtopiais all about building your perfect ski resort, which means tons of looking at lovely tree-covered landscapes like this. How well the actual management elements hold up is another matter. I’ve found the fun is always in just reworking the terrain to your favour, like in the MMO tycoon or golfing sims that were released recently.


A cool looking action-RPG featuring the Reaper’s cousin, or someone from a similar demonic lineage. You customise your hero by implanting organs into your body.

Very cool. There’s a giant open world, NPCs you can chat with, trading and NPC recruitment, and a sci-fi element where changes you make in one environment and timeline will impact all other timelines. Really digging the style on this one.

Windjammers 2

You can play a version of Windjammers 2 right now. It’s 103mb. Need I say more?

Soldat 2

Soldat 2 is also playable right now, and it’s excellent for quick, short blasts in your break. The original is as well, and that’s free to play now if you missed it.

Best Friend Forever

Dating with dogs. We’ve featured this Kiwi-made indie recently, and it’s looking good. The game was supposed to be out next month, although that’s been pushed out “due to circumstances outside our control”. But to make up for that, there’s a playable demo now, which is neat.

A Space for the Unbound

An adventure game set in rural Indonesia in the late ’90s. Indonesia isn’t a place that gets a lot of attention in video games, although the country’s dev community is really starting to break out. Coffee Talk was a solid hit earlier this year, and A Space for the Unbound is made by Mojiken Studio, the same team behind the beautiful A Raven Monologue. 


A narrative detective story featuring a raccoon for a private eye and a pixelated world that’s a bit reminiscent of A Red Strings Club. The prologue for Backbone has near universal approval on Steam, so if you like what you see from the demo, give the first act a go.

Cris Tales

JRPGs like you’ve never seen them before. Cris Tales is all about manipulating time, looking back in time and manipulating the present and future in the same instant. And even if you don’t like RPGs, it’s hard not to want to give something a go that looks this stunning.

Secret Government

A grand strategy game where you control a secret society trying to influence the entire globe. It’s due out through early access later this year.

Midnight Protocol

A modern Uplink, basically, but less about the command line hacking. This is pitched as a tactical narrative RPG rather than a puzzler-style game, with branching storylines and character development affecting the end outcome. You do still have to input the occasional text command, mind you.

Cartel Tycoon

Run your own drug cartel in the ’80s. Cartel Tycoon is set in a fictionalised version of Latin America, although you’ll still have to fight off procedurally generated hits from the CIA and DEA, rival cartels and, occasionally, the actual cops.


A tactics RPG from the makers of 80 DaysPendragon is a narrative game with a dynamic story set in the time of King Arthur. Every battle you fight has a permanent effect on the game’s narrative, and whatever character you choose to lead will shape the outcome as well: Sir Gawaine, Lancelot, or Guinevere. Will you make it to King Arthur?

Iron Harvest

Scythe meets Company of Heroes. I can’t pitch it any more simply than that. It’s a very straightforward, down the barrel, oldschool style of RTS game. Although with RTS having a bit of a spotlight thanks to C&C Remastered Collection, that’s not a bad thing. Go check out the demo here.

Strobophagia | Rave Horror

A horror game set amidst a forest, where you’re taking part in an occult rave. That sentence alone will let you know whether this is extremely your shit, or extremely not. Game’s due out sometime this spring.


A single-player and couch co-op game, GORSD gives you a single bullet. You fire the bullet, but you’re also responsible for catching the bullet too. So levels become this trick of navigating your position, as well as your bullet’s path. The goal of each level is to cover the map in your colour, which is a bit easier to understand when you watch the trailer below.

It’s a game made from Singapore, another country whose indie scene we rarely hear from. There’s a 7-hour long solo campaign too, although this would obviously be a blast with friends.

There’s a ton more demos from the Steam Summer Festival, ranging from cool cyberpunk adventures to Mars sandbox sims and hand-drawn Metroidvanias. What do you see that takes your fancy? Let us know in the comments!


  • Backbone is one that I saw early art for, then mistook for Blacksad, which is ALSO a furry/anthro hard-boiled noir detective adventure… I think I prefer Backbone. 😛 Amusingly, the first thing I saw when I hopped into the demo festival was Nine Noir Lives, which is… the same description I just mentioned again.

    There’s just so much good shit in these demos. I want to buy them all. This is a seriously damaging way for devs to raid my wallet! I wish the thing lasted longer, I’m going to uninstall some very large games and install all of these instead.

    Like seriously… Learning Factory looks like Factorio with a nicer UI. Hopefully the intermediate/end-game flow is better.

    Disjunction looks like a slick, fluid, pixelart love-child of Hotline Miami and Metal Gear in a Cyberpunk world, so… sign me the fuck up.

    I’m getting major Florence vibes from When the Past Was Around.

    Lofi/low-poly terrifying run-from-and-gun-backwards Golden Light looks like literally nothing I have ever seen or played and more like a bad acid trip.

    Ostranauts is super-intriguing take on what F.T.L. could be if it were a sim instead of a roguelike. (Or to put it another way, a grimy version of Space Rangers 2, except nobody played that.) Loving the tie in to Neo Scavenger which was underrated for its time.

    Earth From Another Sun billed itself as Mount and Blade meets Borderlands, FPS, strategy, and roguelike? Wha? The screenshots mean I ‘literally cannot even’ (I believe that’s how the kids say it), so I’m going to try that out.

    The Rat Project is showing me Darkest Dungeon-style art used to show off a side-scrolling adventure with comic book cutscenes and card-battler mechanics in a puzzle RPG, so… INSTALL DEMO.

    Chicory has had a demo up before, and it was fucking adorable then, and remains worthy of a preorder. (It’s like… I dunno, Zelda-style world navigation and puzzle solving, only colouring things in instead of combat.)

    Just so interested in Rustler (GTA: Medieval), Arietta of Spirits (the combat and talky parts only of Stardew), Pendragon (if Banner Saga started taking its depression meds and seeing a therapist), Gloria Victis: Siege (This War of Mine but as civilians in a medieval castle siege), For The People (if you combined a visual novel and the society-management aspects of Frostpunk), Book of Demons: Hellcard (next installment in the Book of Demons franchise, but a deck-builder instead of ARPG), The Survivalists (if The Escapists had a bastard child with Crashlands), Shores Unknown (if Mordheim had a story, less impressive graphics and more impressive literally everything else), Sons of Ra (because I’m a sucker for Tower Defense), Solace State (dystopian kpop oil-painted 3D-puzzle/visual novel that reminds me of Disco Elysium lite), Moncage (a lighter perspective puzzler in case Superliminal hurts your brain too much), Partisans (a modern spiritual successor to Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines featuring guerilla resistance fighters), Starmancer (seems like a better SpaceBase DF-9 and hopefully won’t be abandoned like it), The Dungeon of Naheulbeuk (a French DnD/XCOM RPG), Fights in Tight Spaces (SuperHot meets Hitman Go), Rift Breaker (base-building TD/RTS with ARPG components)…


    • Kotaku AU goes to Indonesia! WORKING HOLIDAY WOOO.
      Their Steam bundle looks super interesting, too. They seem like a thoughtful mob.

  • I’ve been diving into a few of the old school RPG’s on offer and there are some good demos to try out.

    8-Bit Adventures 2
    I tried the original demo for the game a few years ago and the game has come a long way since then. The new demo is split into 3 parts which shows off some of the different gameplay elements nicely and it is all looking super polished. I would recommend checking it out.

    Monster Crown
    Who doesn’t like Pokemon style games? I was shown this one by a friend and tried the demo out and it’s a really fun take on a classic.

  • My partner and I had some hilariously fun rounds of the Boomerang Fu demo. Great local multiplayer battle game.

  • I’ve just played through Touch Typing Tales a few dozen times. Man, that’s a solid game under there. It’s like an ordinary point-capture/send-waves type strategy game, but all your actions around capturing points, collecting resources, and generating troops require typing. If you enjoy typing games, this one’s a solid pick!

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