Steam Next Fext 2024’s most popular demos include goblin maid sims, horror shooters and a Chinese game about an unmarried no-lifer


Steam Next Fest 2024 has formally ended, we’ve spent a couple of weeks gorging upon demos of all stripes, from oil spill clean-up to dancefloor kendo, and now comes the all-important process of deciding which of those demos Won. Valve have helpfully shared a list of the most played Steam demos during this latest, gravest round of next festivity, and it covers a reasonable range. I mean, I wasn’t that surprised to see an open world survival shooter with monsters at the top of the ladder – why else would we dedicate a bunch of Best Of features to such things? – but I am surprised that number three is a leering parody of neglect. Also, there’s a game about mopping dungeons that appeals strongly to my Dungeon Meshi-watching sensibilities.


The big-bottomed craft-me-bang in question is Once Human, which cuts you loose upon an Earth infested with Stardust. A world’s worth of Stardust sounds quite enticing, right? Touch of Disney with your wolf-skinning, guvnor? Wrong, Stardust is some kind of horrible endemic lifeform. Consuming water or food contaminated with it will drive you insane. I assume the Stardust plague is also the reason for those towering tentacle bosses you’ll meet when not fishing or building a patio.


Number two on the list is Level Zero: Extraction, which is kind of PvP GTFO for squads of three. You are a dudemerc with a fondness for loot, pitting your murdergadgetry against other dudemercs in maps of the Area 51 or Black Mesa persuasion. You can also play as a perfidious, evolving alien creature equipped (should you choose) with an EMP scream and invisibility. The creature’s key weakness is that it can’t bear light, which sounds like a fun constraint to strategise around. GTFO aside, this reminds me of the wonderful, ill-fated Evolve. The demo is still live at the time of writing if you’re keen.


And then there’s number three, which is where we go off-piste somewhat. According to a Google translation of its Steam blurb, Chinese Online Game is “a simulation game that stitches all the gameplay and routines of domestic online games, where players will play an older unmarried young man, Lao Wang, because of a lack of money for marriage, he was accidentally attracted by a pop-up advertisement of an online game endorsed by a certain star when he was trying to find a way, and at that moment the gears of fate began to turn.” Not open world, not a crafting sim, not a shooter, not military-themed = intriguing! The art feels like a purposefully ramshackle collage of MS Paint-level 2D art with a moderately posh 3D action-RPG buried inside it. There’s no English language version, but I might have a go at the demo later (also still live at the time of writing). Bear in mind that you won’t see it unless you use the “Narrow by” option to stop the list excluding certain languages.


Some other eye-catchers from the full list: Aloft, a floating island sim featuring wingsuits that reminds me of Bossa’s Worlds Adrift; Dungeons & Degenerate Gamblers, which I tried the demo for a while back, and which now looks like a credible alternative to Balatro; and the aforementioned Goblin Cleanup, in which you are a goblin maid labouring to restore and replenish a dungeon before the next bunch of cavalier adventurers swan in and wreck the place. You can read about more Nextival demos over on the Wishlisted hub we are pleased to share with the fine folk of Eurogamer and VG247.

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