We played a bunch of indie game demos during the Steam Game Festival between June 16 – 22. Hopefully, you did too, but since there were just so many of them, you’re bound to miss out on a few gems.
So this is what our next list is about – the top 10 indie games we loved at the Steam Game Festival (in no particular order, as usual).
Ary and the Secret of Seasons
With colorful graphics and cinematic boss battles, Ary and the Secret of Seasons is an indie game to keep an eye on. This isn’t the first time I got to see of Ary. I’ve been closely following the game’s development for a long time, and even got to watch a preview demo of the game at Gamescom 2019. But actually playing the demo at the Steam Game Festival has got me even more excited.
In Ary and the Secret of Seasons, an evil mage curses the land to steal away the seasons. We play a young girl named Aryelle, or Ary, for short. Our brave heroine discovers she can alter the seasons around her, and so she steps up to stop the mage. Combine that with platforming, which works surprisingly smoothly, and combat that’s somewhere between The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Dark Souls, and you’re guaranteed a good time.
But the demo reveals that the game has a lot more to offer, such as very expressive animations and good humorous moments. The Steam Game Festival also taught us that the open-world game has a lot of side quests packed in, which will make it even more interesting to explore when the game comes out in September 2020 on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.
In Sound Mind
In Sound Mind is a psychological horror game in pretty much every sense. It cultivates a deep atmosphere of dread and deals with subjects like trauma, guilt, and our responsibility for one another. It does all of this with immaculate sound design and some genuinely terrifying visuals. The game isn’t even out yet, and it’s already one of the more promising horror games coming to this next generation.
In Sound Mind’s demo is a hefty one, and can take you more than an hour to play through. It puts us in the role of a therapist and sends us into the twisted mindscape of a former patient, where we help her come to terms with her past trauma. It seems that helping our patients will slowly unravel our own past.
I’m currently not sure how many patients and levels we’ll get to explore. Still, if they’re all as creative and memorable as a haunted supermarket filled with mirrors and mannequins – we’re in for a few sleepless nights when In Sound Mind comes out on PS5, Xbox Series X, and PC in 2021.
Ynglet is a trippy platformer with platforms. You jump from one floating bubble to the next like you’re some sort of space dolphin. I didn’t come up with that – that’s from the game’s actual description on Steam. So if you ever wanted to feel like a space dolphin, here’s your chance.
You’re a… some sort of majestic amoeba. You jump, dash, and bounce in a void full of soap bubbles, abstract shapes, and flashes of color. Basically, the levels look like phosphenes – the colors and shapes you see when you close your eyes. Accompanying this drug-induced hallucination of a game is a dynamic soundtrack that evolves depending on how you play.
The game’s demo only lets you try three levels, but they prove Ynglet’s weird concept works. It’s a challenging experience that you can conquer at your own pace while setting your individual difficulty level. Every bubble is a potential checkpoint. It’s up to you do decide how big of a safety net you want. Not only does it makes the game accessible, but it ensures everyone playing will always enjoy their time with Ynglet when it comes out on PC later this year.
D.E.E.P: Battle of Jove
There is always room for more space battles, even in a world with multi-million-budgeted space simulations like Star Citizen, competitive shooters like Star Wars: Squadrons and space RPGs like Everspace 2. D.E.E.P: Battle of Jove is over-the-top, with anime characters and transforming space ships, just the way I like it.
The Steam Game Festival demo allowed us to try different ships in varying scenarios. We got to experiment in navigating the vessel, battling other ships in dogfights, and taking down a large enemy cruiser.
One of the more exciting features in D.E.E.P: Battle of Jove is controlling a transforming ship. With a push of a button, your ship can switch from cruising mode to combat mode. In cruising mode, it constantly moves forward, and you can execute maneuvers like side rolls and u-turns. But in combat mode, your ship controls in a wholly different way. It can fly backward and strafe, while your new mobility lets you execute quick dodges to the sides. Mastering both styles is going to be very intriguing when D.E.E.P: Battle of Jove becomes available on Steam.
Roller Drama is a new game from the creators of Football Drama. As the name suggests, it focuses on a roller derby team. We play as their coach and have to carry our team of five girls through their careers. That’s not all, though, as Roller Drama also focuses on each of the girls’ mental state. Throughout the story, we will need to help them get over their inner fears and anxieties so they can be in top shape for the game.
Roller Drama also features short, semi-real-time, semi-turn-based roller derby games. Every few seconds, we can choose to initiate a maneuver with our blockers or our jammer. Our goal is to win these matches, and I expect they will become tougher as we progress through the story, with narrative consequences depending on our game results.
Beneath its bright yellows and purples, there’s a creepy aesthetic that wouldn’t put Tim Burton to shame. From mummified cats to talking heads, Roller Drama isn’t exactly realistic, and fans of grim and macabre visuals and humor are sure to enjoy this one when it hits Steam in 2021.
Gloomwood is, as its title suggests, very gloomy. It’s also a homage to the classic stealth games and immersive sims of yore. Think Thief: The Dark Project, and maybe the original Deus Ex.
In the short Steam demo, we got to play an unnamed assassin roaming the streets of a strange Victorian city. Or maybe you’re a thief? A particularly sneaky chimney sweeper? We don’t really know since the demo doesn’t provide any context or backstory. What we do know, however, is that Gloomwood is a stealthy playground, where you can backstab, steal, shoot, or hack at guards with your stylish cane sword.
The visuals and most of the mechanics also quite old-school, and there are tiny elements of horror thrown in there for good measure. If you’re a fan of the classics, you’ll definitely find a lot to like in Gloomwood when it comes out on PC “soon.” I know I did.
Anew: The Distant Light
Anew: The Distant Light might look like another Metroidvania set in space, but it’s much more than that. This ambitious game not only looks fantastic, but it also brings many interesting features to the genre. The coolest of which is the ability to drive a roster of space vehicles – a buggy, a hovercraft, and even a giant mech.
The steam demo only briefly mentions the story behind Anew: The Distant Light. We’re playing a scientist that lands on a strange planet to research it and find his missing co-pilot. While we can only explore a select few locations by teleporting between them, the final game will have a huge maze to traverse, as all Metroidvania games do.
But we did get to try a variety of fun weapons and gadgets that will appear in the full game when it releases on PC, whenever that may be.
The Inmost demo gives us a chance to play with each of the three playable characters in their own little segment. We play as a small girl exploring a creepy old house, as a man traveling a devastated world full of inky monsters, and as a knight on a quest to end the tyranny of the Light. We only get a glimpse of the game’s story, but it’s intriguing enough to make me want to see it all the way through, preferably as soon as possible.
But the stars of the demo are the amazing pixel art and the gameplay. They both work together to make every action you do feels purposeful and weighty. Inmost isn’t a lighthearted game, as you can guess, and everything about it reflects that notion, from the monochromatic visuals to how easily your character can die if you’re not careful (luckily the game is very forgiving with its checkpoint).
Unto the End
Unto the End is a 2D action platformer, but not like the ones you’re used to. This game isn’t a fast-paced, twitchy rollercoaster, but a slow, methodical, sometimes painful, journey. Your character isn’t an unstoppable hero, but a capable warrior that’s still very much human. And like any other human, he is still quite vulnerable to sharp objects being jammed through his chest.
Your character’s realistic movements and reactions to sword wounds make every combat encounter a nail-biting experience. It’s a slow dance of blocks, perries, and the occasional dodge. You can even fake an attack to trick your enemies into leaving themselves vulnerable. But make one (or several) wrong move, and you’re done for. Thankfully, the game isn’t very punishing, and if you die, you won’t lose a lot of progress.
The Steam demo gave us a small taste of Unto the End’s somber world, and combat, but also hinted at a deeper choice system when it had me contemplating whether to kill an injured enemy or offer it medicine and continue on my way. I’m looking forward to playing more of Unto the End when it becomes available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch later this year.
Hero.EXE might be any Mega Man Battle Network fan’s dream. The original CCG-based JRPG has left quite an impact on players and devs alike. Hero.EXE is not the first game to be inspired by the now-classic series – others include the already-released One Step From Eden and Endcycle VS. But this game takes a different direction and incorporates a branching narrative.
In case you’re less familiar with Mega Man Battle Network, that game combined card collecting with action combat. You would start each round by drawing new skill cards, selecting which ones to load, and then leap into the action using the skill cards. The action combat lets you move around in a 3X3 area, and every skill you activate would affect the opposing side, also a 3X3 area. Hero.EXE uses this exact combat system but adds a few twists.
We start the demo by selecting our AVA, the avatar character that we can control. Each of the AVAs in Hero.EXE will have a unique story and a different play style. The game won’t let you roam in an open world but choose where to go on a branching path full of events and battles. Also, unlike Mega Man Battle Network, during these encounters, you can build your connection with the AVA, which unlocks new skills and abilities. We’ll get to see more when the full game comes out, but you can play the alpha right now on Steam.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.