Magic Bullets, Wild West Tactics, and Creepy Theme Parks Shine In Steam Next Fest
Six games you need to have on your radar.
If you’re still searching for which PC games are going to occupy your time for the rest of 2024 and beyond, you’re in luck. Now through February 12, the Steam Next Fest is on, playing host to countless demos for upcoming releases. The downside of this fire hose of free gaming is that it can be hard to pick out which games are worth adding to your wishlist with so many options. While there are more good choices than we can possibly list here, we’ve picked out a few of the very best to get you started.
Children of the Sun
You may have seen the incredibly stylish trailer for Children of the Sun making the rounds on social media last week. The first look at the game from developer René Rother is as gorgeous as it is disturbing, featuring a masked sniper hunting their prey in a world of neon pink and yellow.
But Children of the Sun is far from your average shooter. It’s actually a puzzle game, challenging you to take out an entire level worth of targets with a single bullet that changes trajectory each time it finds its mark. You start each level by casing the scene, marking each target as you find them. Once you fire the fateful bullet, you aim it again each time it lands, ending each stage in a gloriously gruesome slow-motion trip from target to target.
Even if you’re tired of deckbuilding card games — there seem to be a dozen new ones every week, after all — Breachway is worth a look. While it starts with card-based space combat, it’s got layer after layer of strategy beyond that. Playing as the captain of a small crew of scavengers, you equip your ship that parts that all add new cards to your hand in combat, from shields to laser blasts. In an FTL: Faster Than Light-inspired twist, you can even directly target enemy ship components to disable the cards tied to them.
And once combat ends, you’re not just kicked back into battle. You’ll need to hire a crew and kit out your ship to explore a huge galaxy map, navigating the relationships between multiple spacefaring factions along the way. Breachway is an extremely impressive blend of card combat and strategy, and the full game launches on March 22.
The Crow Country demo is so good, the full release will likely be the first horror game I play since Signalis. Like that 2022 sci-fi horror gem, Crow Country wears its PS1 inspirations on its sleeve, with chunky character models, grainy environments, and Resident Evil-inspired puzzles. Crow Country takes place in an abandoned amusement park overrun with monsters, where it seems every door is sealed with a key hidden in a pond or a complicated pass code.
While Crow Country is effective survival horror, it’s approachable even for the horror-averse. The writing in the demo is as funny as it is spooky, and there’s even the option to turn off combat if you want to explore the creepy park without the threat of a monster attack.
Reliving your most turbulent high school emotions might not sound like a great time, but Until Then’s demo proves it’s a great basis for a game. This narrative-driven adventure follows protagonist Mark Borja through his final year of high school in a fictional version of the Philippines. It’s part mundane life sim in the vein of Shenmue and part detective story, as you work to unravel a series of mysterious disappearances.
Until Then manages to make Mark’s day-to-day life just as engaging as the mystery as the story’s center. Small details like his piano practice turning into a rhythm game make everyday occurrences fun to play and excellent writing keeps the game’s teenage cast feeling remarkably realistic.
This edition of Next Fest is full of tactics games, and Arco is one of the best of the lot. Arco’s battles blend turn-based decision making with real-time action. Each turn in Arco, you can see what your enemies are about to do and make your next move accordingly, with your turn and the enemies’ playing out at once, a few seconds at a time. The result is speedy strategy that forces players to think quickly and plan several turns ahead.
On top of its gorgeous pixel art and engrossing tactics, Arco’s narrative can change based on players’ decisions. Put all that together and Arco already feels like a game worth returning to again and again.
Customizing your house is one of the best parts of games like The Sims and Animal Crossing, but making your dream home is tough when you’re worrying about paying off your loan to Tom Nook or managing your avatar’s stats. Summerhouse makes an entire game out of crafting your home, without any of the stress of hitting goals or scoring points.
Like in the chill city builder Townscaper, your only objective in Summerhouse is creativity. Using a simple set of tools, Summerhouse lets you construct a single building or an entire neighborhood in exactly the way you want. It scratches the same itch as playing with Legos or doodling for fun, letting your imagination run free without the stress of failure hanging over your head.
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