A little taster of what’s to come.
The indie game demo has become a genre in its own right as developers work to create more and more interesting snippets to either promote their games or add fun extra scenes to their creations. Not only are they great to spend a few hours delving through everything the indie scene has to offer, but the best demos also give us the chance to try something we’d never usually take a risk with when money enters the equation. After a little taster, we’re more than happy to pick up the full game and find out what we’ve been missing out on.
Demos thrive on mystery and easy to pick up mechanics, making them the perfect time killers or the best way to test out a new rig quickly. We’ve rounded up the very best free indie game demos around so you can get to the goods even quicker.
If you need to be told to check out a terrifying VR demo then you’re in the wrong place. Don’t Knock Twice was one of the first indie horror games to take on the goggles and the resulting demo needed to be filled with as much horror as possible without literally giving the game away. What results is one of the best snippets of a demonic story told through virtual reality out there, and it’s definitely not one to wear your white pants for.
What’s more, Don’t Knock Twice supports room-scale tracking on Oculus, meaning you can interact with the terrifying mansion you find yourself in in incredibly immersive ways, heightening every pounding heartbeat and tentative door creak to almost unbearable levels. Even if you’re just looking to test out your VR rig, or your ability to withstand horror on such technology, Don’t Knock Twice is the ultimate free demo to try out.
The strange and episodic series, Stories Untold, has gone on to be a well regarded hidden gem over the last few years but it all started with a demo. Released on both Steam and GoG, this free trial featured the pilot episode of the cancelled series explored in the games called The House Abandon.
This prologue really set the tone for the complex narrative-driven experimental adventure, allowing players to get a feel of what the game was about. Mixing classic text-based and point-and-click genres in a fusion of gameplay really set this apart as something special. The idea of exploring this mysterious anthology only became all the more exciting after the teaser managed so well to capture the atmosphere and retro nostalgia.
If you haven’t played Stories Untold then the demo is still available on GoG, go check it out.
The DreadOut demo takes place before the events of the main game, meaning even if you’ve already played the mystery thriller you still stand to gain new insights through the short prequel-like experience available for free. Linda’s dream foreshadows the events of DreadOut in an eery, Indonesian-style vignette filled with all the creepy abandoned locations and blood-thinning cell phone photographs you’ve come to expect from an indie horror.
Plus, there are still puzzles to be solved and mysteries to be unravelled as you step into a precursory world trying everything in its power to warn you of what’s to come.
Nintendo consoles are famous for their first-party IPs that you can’t get anywhere else. Everyone’s favourite moustachioed plumber is an obvious example, including the popular DIY platforming Super Mario Maker series. But that doesn’t stop indie devs giving their own creative spin on Nintendo’s ideas, with Million to One Hero being a pretty expansive level editor platformer.
The demo version of Million to One Hero lets you get down and dirty with not only the beginning of the main campaign mode, but also some bonus levels and the level editor. You could feasibly spend several few hours playing about with it before having to even spend a penny.
Of course, there are limitations – you can’t download new user-created levels in the demo version, or play the ‘Weekly Feat’ challenge, for example. A developer’s gotta eat too, ya’know? But it still gives you plenty of opportunity to see for yourself how it stacks up to Nintendo’s build-your-own game.
Teslagrad has been out for a while now, but that doesn’t mean its demo doesn’t offer a fun side-scrolling platform puzzler experience in itself. As you tinker with the electromagnetic properties of the blocks and items that fall in your path, you’ll be introduced to the main mechanics of the full game in an approximately six or seven minute experience.
It’s a perfectly timed appetiser to the full game, providing an excellent challenge in its own right rather than allowing its players to walk each puzzle. It would have been easy for the developers to rely on its charming aesthetic or easy controls in a demo setting, but instead they invite us straight into the action. It’s an oldie for sure, but a fantastic way to spend some clicks nonetheless.
2. Fran Bow
When a game isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea (but absolutely loved by others), a demo is particularly useful. Fran Bow is a great example of this, with a deeply morbid tone and story about a little girl who traumatically loses her parents and is institutionalised in a horrific mental hospital for children.
While this theme likely won’t appeal to all point-and-click fans, those with a penchant for the creepy and macabre will be well served by Fran Bow. Its demo, released before the full game came out – always ideal, to avoid disappointed preorders – gives players a half-hour or so taste of the story and light puzzles on offer.
Fran Bow was generally well-received thanks to its interesting and unique style. More recently, it’s been succeeded by Little Misfortune, a game with clear parallels to its predecessor about another little girl. And you’ll be pleased to hear it has a demo of its own!
The now cult-classic Stanley Parable began its life in a much more humble fashion. Designed by developer Davey Wreden, it was originally released as a free mod for Half-Life 2. It was then later built into a full release when Source engine modeller William Pugh was brought on board. The game went on to be a huge success, captivating players with its unique deconstruction of gaming narrative and player agency.
The game follows office worker Stanley as he makes a series of choices relating to the player through an external narrator. It’s very much a game about how your decisions can affect a narrative in a format like video games, where the narrative is often set. It’s funny and fascinating in a multitude of ways that still comes across in that original demo that caught the attention of the gaming community, particularly on YouTube.
If you haven’t played it you can still check out The Stanley Parable Demo by heading over to Steam.
Fancy more free stuff? We’ve gone one step further and collected all the best free indie games you can play right now without spending a single penny. Or, if you’re not quite feeling the January budget yet, why not check out some of the best indie games of 2019 for your next fix.