Five Demos to Check Out From June’s Steam Next Fest

Games Lists Steam Next Fest
Five Demos to Check Out From June’s Steam Next Fest

The season of game announcements is upon us, and if you’re like me, all the sizzle reels and big promises have you eager to sample what’s on the horizon yourself. Luckily, the latest Steam Next Fest just kicked off, an event running from June 10th to June 17th where thousands of demos are up for grabs. But much like Steam in general, the sheer volume of what’s there is a little daunting, so we played through a bunch of it and came up with a list of what you need to check out. These games run a gamut, and whether it’s tactics titles, demonic high-score games, or claymation dark comedy, here are five demos from June’s Steam Next Fest you don’t want to miss.

Honorable Mentions: For this list, we wanted to focus on things we haven’t covered at Paste before, but this Steam Next Fest also has some demos we were previously impressed by. There’s Sorry We’re Closed, a neon survival horror throwback, Demonschool, an Argento-inspired tactics/horror game, Pipistrello and the Cursed Yoyo, a colorful isometric action game with brilliant movement, and Conscript, another survival horror game, but this one set in claustrophobic WW1 trenches.

Kill Knight

Release Date: 2024

Defined by its flop-sweat-inducing twin-stick shooting and techno hell aesthetic, Kill Knight is shaping up to be a scorcher of an arcade-style high-score game. Here, you play as a penitent knight who must battle demons with their blade, guns, and heavy ordinance. While DOOM is an obvious point of inspiration for its sci-fi meets fire and brimstone aesthetic, these comparisons run deeper because, much like that series’ excellent 2016 reboot, Kill Knight is based around setting up virtuous cycles of monster killing. For instance, slaying foes with melee attacks grants heavy ammo that gives access to a powerful boomstick, while killing them with a regular weapon drops crystals that can either be consumed directly to improve your speed and power or can be converted into purple crystals that charge up a laser cannon which forces slain hellspawn to drop health packs. At any given moment, you have to juggle all these resources, keep your combo going, and avoid being ripped in half by a legion of fiends. In practice, it results in hypnotic high-score chasing goodness that made me forget to blink as I ripped and tore until it was done. And for those who need a nudge beyond chasing new personal bests, completing objectives lets you unlock more weapons and levels, giving a nice sense of meta-progression. Thanks to its precise controls, gore-soaked crusader look, and ingenious gameplay loops, I’m looking forward to diving deeper into these circles of hell.

Elation for the Wonderbox 6000

Release Date: Q4 2024

Riding on the hyper-specific energy of toxic videogame forum threads, Elation for the Wonderbox 6000 is an idiosyncratic narrative adventure game with dialogue as delightfully odd as its unsettling claymation. We follow a terminally online poster living off their inheritance in a Cronenberg-nightmare world defined by gray smokestacks and misshapen citizens. Here, our protagonist really wants to find a mythical videogame from their childhood that no one else believes exists, and they head to the city to do just that. Although this demo is short (under ten minutes), the writing here is witty and bizarre enough that this one already has my attention, poking fun at the old “are games art?” discourse as it sprinkles in tons of weird details, like the guy who lives in your walls. From its gross text color, a queasy shade of green that blends in with the background, to its upsetting character designs, it has an off-putting vibe that reminds me a bit of Cruelty Squad’s retina-burning unpleasantness. Just like the protagonist of Elation for the Wonderbox 6000, I need to get my hands on this niche videogame as soon as possible.

Tactical Breach Wizards

Release Date: August 22, 2024

As a fan of Gunpoint, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Suspicious Developments’ next game, and what I’ve seen of Tactical Breach Wizards certainly didn’t disappoint. As its name implies, this is a tactics title starring wizards with a modern military aesthetic. While I’m sure it will draw plenty of XCOM comparisons at first blush, and there are some similarities found in its turn-based gameplay, these scuffles come across more like tailor-made puzzles than anything else. Each character has vastly different abilities, such as Zan the Time Wizard, who can see into the future and offer support to his allies, or Jen the Storm Witch, who can use lightning to knock foes out of windows. What really makes it feel like tinkering with a puzzle box is that you can freely rewind time within a turn and try out different approaches, letting you play with outcomes until you’ve finally arrived at a clever sequence that maximizes your team’s skills. And beyond its battles, perhaps the most welcome surprise here is how good the dialogue is, as between each skirmish, the cast takes part in genuinely funny exchanges as they try to figure out their personal lives and unravel a conspiracy. Although this type of seemingly jingoistic modern military setup normally would do very little for me, the lighthearted fantasy backdrop and sharp banter had me enjoying my time outside of firefights as much as when I was in the thick of it, an impressive feat given how nicely its tactics elements are coming together.

Keylocker | Turn Based Cyberpunk Action

Release Date: Summer 2024

In a gaming landscape where cyberpunk games are overly dedicated to mimicking the aesthetics of Blade Runner, Keylocker stands out because it taps into the spirit of creativity seen elsewhere in a web of ambitious sci-fi literature that predates and diverges from Ridley Scott’s film. Here, we follow B0B0, a singer who’s among the last few people capable of making music, a practice that’s been outlawed by Saturn’s government as a threat to the status quo. One of the things that makes this setting stand out is that this world feels fully transhumanist, a place so far-flung it may as well be held together with magic. The harsh greens and purples of the pixel art mesh perfectly with out-there designs as you battle a digital church full of foes with smiling pyramid heads. Similarly, its score and vocalized tracks are fittingly otherworldly, living up to the music-oriented setup. While I imagine the game’s look and soundtrack will turn many heads, its tough-as-nails turn-based gameplay that plays like a dramatically more unforgiving spin on the Mario RPGs will likely be a tad more divisive, at least at first. Whereas in those titles, timing your button presses to block incoming damage is mostly a suggestion, here, if you don’t, you’ll quickly die. Thankfully, if you miss a beat and bite it, you can restart from the beginning of a given scrap, and there are also difficulty settings that let you make things less hardcore. However, most pivotally, when I fully synced up with these brutal battles, I found its timing-based scraps engaging and largely fair. There may be too much cyberpunk these days, but Keylocker’s unique take on the space strikes a chord.


Release Date: July 18, 2024

Sometimes, a game simply fills you with delight, and SCHiM’s demo fits the bill thanks to its charming presentation and fun platforming. You play as a frog-like being who moves across the world by leaping between pools of darkness. The opening minutes follow this creature as they nestle up inside the shadow of a young human, and we follow the early days of this person’s life in a series of artful match cuts that nonverbally convey the passage of time and their melancholic journey into adulthood. It’s a striking opening that succinctly captures this one’s silent appeal. And while the gameplay here isn’t particularly complex, it nails the basics of movement as you fluidly jump between dark places to reach your destination. It very much gets the small details, such as how if you miss a shadow, you’re given wiggle room to perform a second jump, or the way when you land in darkness, it sends out splashes as if you landed in a puddle. Between its impressive monochromatic art style and thoughtful tone, I’m curious to see the rest of what SCHiM has in store.

Elijah Gonzalez is an assistant Games and TV Editor for Paste Magazine. In addition to playing and watching the latest on the small screen, he also loves film, creating large lists of media he’ll probably never actually get to, and dreaming of the day he finally gets through all the Like a Dragon games. You can follow him on Twitter @eli_gonzalez11.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin