Steam’s Dreamhack Beyond is upon us, and with it a wave of demos from upcoming games to try. There are quite a few to get through, so in perhaps the greatest act of selflessness this dying world has ever witnessed, I spent my Sunday playing a load of them. Just to tell you about which ones are worth your time. They might even be the kind of thing you’ll be able to play on your shiny new Steam Deck, and wouldn’t that be nice?
In no particular order, here are a few of our favourites.
I Am Fish
The ocean calls in this upcoming entry to I Am Bread team Bossa Studios unofficial ‘Fillet o Fish’ trilogy (The next game will be about tartare sauce). This one’s a slim sashimi slice, clocking in at about ten minutes, but predictably charming and goofy in all the right ways. I found myself shouting “No, Fishy!” when I died, and “Yes, Fishy!” in moments of victory. This, to me, is the sign of a masterpiece. Find it here.
Dumb as shit but frequently lol-some riff on the first two Metal Gear titles. Retro stealth-puzzle-action with a Lucasarts adventure game sense of humour, and clear love for Metal Gear, warts and all. The actual stealth doesn’t seem too bad either, and there’s some pretty involved, winding level design. Find it here.
I immediately got big Shadowrun, Syndicate, and Fallout 1 vibes from this, although it’s very much its own kettle of gunky cyber implants. Grungy, mud-flecked, but incredibly detailed art and combat somewhere between real-time and turn based. Enemies move when you do, on hexagonal grids, and you can get some free swings or shots in if you can predict where they’re going. Then you get a jeep, and things go from tense stealth and tactics to vehicular homicide power fantasy in an instant. Yes please. Find it here.
The Forest Quartet
This lovely 3D narrative puzzler puts you in control of a jazz singer’s ghost as you float around the woods solving tactile puzzles. It’s both cerebral and soothing, with a playful jazz inspired soundscape. Snatches of conversation between the singer’s old band that play when you solve puzzles gives the whole thing a very singular, secretive feel. Find it here.
I am still not sure I fully understand this thing, but I am very much on board with it. It’s a sort of tactical-roguelike-autobattler that sees you overseeing a band of quivering pink flesh puppets. You balance feeding, equipping, and levelling up your cadre of human cattle as they move from room to room, fighting zombies and robots. Reminds me a bit of Smash TV, in that “like a SNES game you’d hide from your parents” way. Find it here.
Probably one of the higher profile demos on the list, but worth mentioning all the same. Yaza Games’ Inkulinati is a medieval manuscript-style tactics game. Combat is vaguely similar to a tactical JRPG, but designed for people who think eating ground up badger testicles will immunise them from the black plague. It’s obviously very funny and well animated – that’s a given – but there’s also quite a tense, involved tactics game underneath it all. Find it here.
The Superhot of turn-based tactics? The Into the Breach of running out of games to compare this sort of thing to? The Dark Souls of please forgive these genre shorthands, it’s Monday morning and my brain is melting? Something like that. Evertried is neato. Gloomy-cute pixel art, telegraphed enemy attacks. Rhythmic, skill-based combat. Lovely stuff. Find it here.
Jupiter Moons Mecha
Combining all the stuff people like about Slay the Spire with most of the stuff people like about mech games, Jupiter Moons Mecha is a big metal bastard of great ideas. Between card battles, you build out your mech, placing things like weapons, armour, and heat sinks in different body parts. If those body parts get damaged during a fight, you lose access to whatever cards it was carrying. If your heat gets too high, you can’t act, and you’ll need to play heatsink cards. Very excited to see how this one evolves. Find it here.
Pixel art, isometric survival horror, but more Poe and W. Chambers than George Romero. Limited inventory? Check. Limited Saves? Check. Non-linear exploration? Check. Enemies you’re better off running from? Oh yeah. Seems like the perfect antidote for anyone who thought Resident Evil 8 was a frustrating misstep for the series. Just me? Fine.
Oh, turn the sound effects down though, the footsteps are way too high up in the mix. Find it here.
You suck at parking
Infuriatingly addictive arcade car-flinger. What The Golf? But for driving lessons. The goal is to park lots of tiny cars, and the trick is that you can’t reverse. Also, you often have to park at the end of complicated tracks with fire around the edges. It’s brilliant. I hate it. I never want to play it again. I’m off to play more right now. Find it here.
Extremely swish FPS with parkour and time dilation. You die quickly, but you’re also invincible as long as you’re doing something cool. File it under “games that remind you of John Wick but sort of miss the mark by taking themselves way more seriously than John Wick, but are still fun as heck.” This is a legitimate category now. Find it here.
Bonus Demo about Very Big Lads: Giants Uprising
I don’t think this is actually part of Dreamhack Beyond, but are you going to tell the giants that? Good luck with that, mate. They’re very big. In Giants Uprising, you play as a very small cockney man riding on the shoulders of a huge giant, and you smash things. Houses. Soldiers. Towers. Honestly, it sells itself. Could do with a bit longer in the oven, this one, but I can’t help but love the concept. Find it here.
So, that’s it for our favourites! Found any gems I forgot to mention? Let me know below!