October opened with a fall festival for fans of indie games as Steam’s Next Fest is currently running with scores of short game demos to play for free. Formerly known as the Steam Game Festival, this PC-friendly event boasts hundreds of titles, which is more than enough to keep you busy during the 7-day run, even bordering on overwhelming. But don’t worry about the cold reality of indecision; you can take comfort in our blanket of suggestions. While the Steam Next Fest only lasts until October 7, there are plenty of full indie game releases to look forward to in the first half of the month.
Jump On The Hayride; We’re Going To The Festival
Bountiful treats await gamers this week at Steam’s packed carnival. One of indie’s most anticipated titles, Tunic, has a demo for anyone that missed it in the summer. But newcomers to the scene are also in attendance and ready to give players a free taste of gameplay, like Lil Gator Game. New or old, familiar or little-known, here is a list of demos you shouldn’t miss.
The Zelda-like action-adventure game Tunic is offering a free hands-on experience on Steam this week for anyone interested in battling monsters and navigating dungeons as a plucky, sword-wielding fox. The team is calling it the “2023 demo,” so if you caught it during the Xbox Summer Game Fest or Indie Arena Online event, there won’t be any new content. In a game so packed with secrets to uncover, however, it’s possible this demo still holds a few surprises for anyone who previously played it and is a must-play for anyone that hasn’t tried it out yet.
Lil Gator Game
Revealed only two weeks ago, MegaWobble’s Lil Gator Game is on the top of our list of demos to try out. According to its creators, the game will let you “bop cardboard baddies, climb mountain peaks, glide, fling, and ragdoll around as you discover new ways to approach your environment. Collect arts and craft supplies to create all sorts of goodies and see the park flourish.” If a game that mixes elements of A Short Hike and Zelda sounds good to you, don’t miss out on the chance to check Lil Gator Game this week.
The Last Campfire
Though the Steam Next Fest tends to highlight games that have not yet released, it seems like the organizers made an exception for Hello Games’ The Last Campfire. The team behind No Man’s Sky launched this puzzle-focused title on consoles last year, with an update coming out only a few months ago. But on October 7, at the end of the demo-filled event, The Last Campfire will make its full debut on Steam. If you check out the demo, you’ll find yourself in an atmospheric world where you play as Ember, a small soul that is able to spark hope in those around it. You’ll travel from level to level, discovering those in need and aiding them by overcoming various puzzle-based challenges.
Aztech Forgotten Gods
While the Greek and Norse pantheons might be all the rage right now, Aztech Forgotten Gods is delving into equally cool but lesser-tread mythological material. The Mesoamerican-inspired story was first shown off in Nintendo’s April Indie World presentation, and this week is the first chance to get a feel for the action. Playing as Achtli, you explore a world that the developers describe as cyber-stone. That is where Aztec legacy meets futuristic technology. Her goal is to take on the gods, using her own divinely powerful artifacts.
According to developer Daniel Mullins Games, Inscryption combines these three elements: “deckbuilding roguelike, escape-room style puzzles, and psychological horror.” That description and the backing of well-known indie publisher Devolver Digital, known for its unusual titles, makes this demo worth a look. The free gameplay sample currently on Steam may help players wrap their heads around Inscryption’s moment-to-moment action, but be cautious. The road to discovery promises to be unsettling.
The Good Life
It’s only been a couple of weeks since White Owls Inc., headed by Deadly Premonition director Swery65, revealed this long-awaited indie’s release date. Now you can play the photography-centered, debt-repayment RPG’s demo at the Steam Next Fest before it launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One (via Game Pass), and PC on October 15. As deeply indebted reporter Naomi Hayward, you come to Rainy Woods hoping to rake in some cash and discover the town’s big secret. And that secret might just have something to do with everyone being able to transform into cats and dogs. Just a guess. Besides jumping into a cat’s body, the team says The Good Life will let players “cook, eat, sleep, shop, farm, and explore the town, taking on photography jobs and other more “unconventional” quests.”
Who would only play one fox-centered demo when you could play two? Endling has a brand-new sneak peek of its gameplay where you’ll take the role of a mother fox protecting her furry little vulpine offspring. Unfortunately, defending your cubs won’t come easy in this 3D side-scrolling world where dangers like humans and environmental devastation lurk around every corner. Because you and your family represent the last known foxes on Earth, failing in your task will have consequences that ripple far beyond personal tragedy.
Snuggle Up By The Fire With These Upcoming Releases
Take some time this beginning of October to catch up on all the fantastic indies before the spookier half of the month kicks off.
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Retro-inspired first-person shooter Exophobia gives off some early Doom vibes, so if that’s your jam, you might want to check out this early October gem. The game’s protagonist is having a bad day, having woken up in a hostile, maze-like spaceship stuffed with alien soldiers looking to kill any intruder. Luckily, you have shooting, dashing, and stunning skills of your own to escape annihilation. You’ll even be able to find a room in the mayhem where you can upgrade your weapon, so that’s convenient. Exophobia is set to release on October 5.
Art of Rally
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
PlayStation owners, start your engines because Art of Rally is coming to Sony’s platforms for the first time on October 6. After other console players have been behind its vintage-inspired wheels for months and PC fans for almost a year, the indie driving hit is finally coming to PlayStation. Art of Rally takes you through a wide array of countries in its 60 levels, all for the thrill of competition in its Career mode. You’ll also be able to capture the game’s exceptional art style and your greatest high-speed maneuvers with Photo and Replay mode.
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PC
Moonglow Bay tells the story of an angler on the Eastern Canadian coastline during the ’80s. While the game promises to be a “relaxing, slice-of-life fishing RPG,” its story may just wring a tear from your eye. Before your partner passed away, you promised to keep the business going, but, despite your best efforts, bankruptcy seems right around the corner. To stave off this fate and keep your word, you take to the seas to catch fish. Your aquatic trophies inspire sellable recipes which help you improve your shop and the tools of the trade. If you feel like you could use some help, the game offers local co-op, so you can have a friend join in once it hits on Xbox consoles via Game Pass and PC on October 7.
Book of Travels
After a delay in August, Book of Travels is ready to enter Steam Early Access on October 11. Jumping in during this early period gives you access to chapter zero, something developer Might and Delight describes as the ongoing game’s first season. This will run for the two years it will be in Early Access. If you have yet to see this unique “TMORPG” – the “T” stands for tiny – here’s the basic premise. You’re dropped into an online world with beautiful rural areas and animated towns where meeting others is rare. The game aims to provide a relaxed, player-driven experience.
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
We’ve had our eyes on this one since before it went into Early Access last summer, but now it’s time to see what the full game has to offer. The Pokémon-like Monster Crown is set to launch on October 12. Pokémon fans have a lot to look forward to this fall season, with Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl hitting in November. However, if you need to get your fill of battling, catching, and training adorable creatures before then, Monster Crown may be just the thing. You can check out the RPG’s Early Access trailer here to get a better idea of what to expect.
Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Stadia, PC
Disco Elysium earned more trophies than any other nominee, indie or AAA, at The Game Awards in 2019. It scored a 9 in our review. It’s featured in our list of best RPGs to play right now. Now, the game’s Final Cut is coming to Xbox consoles and Switch on October 12, giving everyone a chance to play. ZA/UM’s intricate, tabletop-inspired adventure tasks you with solving a murder. But, as you immediately discover, you might not be the best your agency has to offer. That discovery is aided by the game’s tremendous writing, which is fully voice-acted in The Final Cut.
Ori: The Collection
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC
What constitutes an indie is an ongoing discussion, and the Ori games fall in a grey area because its developer, Moon Studios, made both entries in the series with support from what’s now known as Xbox Game Studios. But it’s hard to cut this little furball spirit out of our indie lives, especially when Ori: The Collection is coming to Switch on October 12. This package includes both Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This beautiful franchise’s second entry earned a spot on our best current action games list, and soon you’ll be able to take it with you wherever you roam.
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Coming to Xbox Game Pass when it launches October 14, The Riftbreaker is an action RPG with elements of real-time-strategy base building, survival, and tower defense. On top of all the delightful, genre-blending action, you get to jump in the cockpit of a cool-looking mech suit as Captain Ashley Nowak. Ultimately, your quest is to live long enough in a hostile, alien environment by collecting resources, upgrading your defenses, and protecting your dwelling, so that you can learn how to build a transporter that will return you to Earth.
There are some big, little titles out in the second half of the month, and we are excited to cover them all in the next Fall For Indies. Looking forward to something? Shout it out in the comments! If you need more indies in your life, don’t forget to check out our round-up of games that hit right at the beginning of the fall season and click the goose below for more list content.