Three times a year, Steam puts on an event called Steam Next Fest, a week-long event that features literally hundreds of game demos of upcoming steam games. It’s an awesome event, but going through all those demos and trying to get through to the really good stuff – stuff like Cult of the Lamb, Toem, and Sable – just to name a few previous Steam Next Fest games, is time consuming to say the last. Which is why we called upon some of IGN’s biggest indie fans to divvy up the work and come back with our picks for the 15 Under the Radar Games You Don’t Want to Miss from the October Steam Next Fest. Note that these picks are not in any particular order.

15. 9 Years of Shadows

Metroidvanias are a very common genre among indie games, but few manage to capture the essence and vibe of Castlevania like Nine Years of Shadows, and even fewer that aren’t actually developed by Koji Igarashi himself. This demo features gorgeous pixel art, tight controls, great enemy design (even if much of their behaviors are lifted directly from Castlevania), and a promising tease at some fun gameplay mechanics involving your teddy bear partner that can double as a ranged blaster, an elemental alignment system, and more. 9 Years of Shadows will be available on Steam on Nov 14.

14. Wildfrost

No pun intended here, but it’s fair to say that the success of Slay the Spire certainly inspired a lot of indie developers to take their own crack at the deck building roguelite genre, and one of the most promising examples of that is Wildfrost. It’s an adorable deck builder with simple and easy to understand rules, but don’t let that charming art style fool you, Wildfrost can be brutal. In a good way of course. You choose a randomly generated hero card at the start of every run and essentially must protect that card at all costs, because if it dies, your run is over. You’re able to add companion cards to your deck to both act as a sword and a shield, with them being capable of dealing big damage to enemies, but also can be slotted in front of a card to take the brunt of an attack. It’s a really well crafted system, and I can’t wait to dive deeper when the full game releases later this year.

13. Season: A Letter to the Future

Seasons: A Letter to The Future throws you into a collision course with a cataclysm of unknown origin looking to unravel the minds and histories of the world. YOU cannot stop it. Preserve your world through photos and recordings as you unravel the mystery of the disaster about to come. As each of the pages fill up with the memories you want to save, you gain inspiration and sight in the form of stickers or words you add to the page. Both similar and different from our own world, Seasons looks to draw players in through beauty and mystery. Try not to forget that Seasons: A Letter to the Future comes out on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC sometime in the near future.

12. Vernal Edge

I’m a simple man: Tell me a game has a combat system with clear inspirations from Devil May Cry, and you’ve got my attention without even saying another word. But Vernal Edge is much more than just its combat, which for the record, is really really good. There’s a great feeling of speed to its platforming, with level design that certainly encourages you to move quickly through its environments; you’re greatly rewarded for exploration with fun, challenging fights, and worthwhile rewards; and the world feels deeply developed and is a joy to explore. Okay, but really, the star of the show here is the combat, which not only leans into the style and creative freedom that the Devil May Cry games are known for, but also adds its own unique spin on the formula by giving certain enemies poise, which must be broken with either strong or counter attacks, in order to make them vulnerable to all of the cool juggles and stylish abilities your character is capable of. A firm release date is not yet set, but expect to see Vernal Edge relatively soon on Steam.

11. Inkulinati

Inkulinati is a truly bizarre game. With an art style that mixes papyrus line art with Mario Paint-esque human hands and a battle system mixing turn-based tactics with side scrolling positional considerations like Darkest Dungeon, it’s a strange game to wrap your head around. You must protect your Tiny Inkulinati, the representation of your character drawing on the parchment, and use ink as a resource to draw creatures, attack enemies, and most importantly, push them off the side of the canvas. These movement options are often more lethal than just straight attacks, so a good understanding of your movement range, the behavior of objects to block your fall, and your beasts’ need to nap every turn is vital. And just when you think you have a handle on it, be prepared for a goofy FMV cutscene. Inkulinati may not be for everyone, but it is definitely for a very specific someone.

If you like From Soft games, but you wish they had more color, and more of an obvious story, Asterigos: Curse of the Stars may be right up your alley. This game puts you in the knee-high boots of Hilda, a warrior in search of her father and his legion of soldiers who have gone missing. You start off with no gear, but quickly amass a collection of weapons that each have multiple attacks and special attacks. You’ll use these to fight off regular monsters, as well as towering bosses with health bars that span the length of the screen. Asterigos is out October 11 for PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

9. Dredge

Much like its own murky waters, Dredge seems to be hiding a lot below its relatively calm surface. A fairly straightforward fishing game on top, there’s an eldritch story at play here that’s as spooky as it is enticing. But even before you dive deep, Dredge offers an extremely compelling combination of ideas. You take your customizable boat out to catch fish around its open ocean map, playing a quick timing minigame to reel them in before trying to Tetris their unwieldy shapes into your hold and sell them for profit. That’s already a lot of fun, enhanced by some excellent visuals and a whole host of upgrade options that got me excited to see how these systems will evolve. We’ll have to wait to cast our line any further for now though, as Dredge is set to hit all major platforms sometime next year.

8. Soulstone Survivors

Like many surprise successes before it, it would seem Vampire Survivors has now spawned its own genre of copycats that put their own spin on the idea of auto-firing bullet hell. Soulstone Survivor’s demo shows that it has a few different approaches beyond going from barely animated sprites to simple 3D characters and bad guys: its character progression is completely different, there’s a dash move to escape danger, and its persistent progression has a whole crafting system built into it. The demo gives you a few maps and characters to try out, and if nothing else it’s a fun way to experience this type of gameplay with a new look and feel while you wait for another round of Vampire Surivor characters and weapons to roll out.

7. The Entropy Centre

On the surface, you can take one look at The Entropy Centre and immediately write it off as a Portal clone, but believe me when I tell you that it is much more than that. Sure, there’s a sentient AI guiding you from chamber to chamber, and your main goal as a puzzle operative is to solve a series of challenge rooms using various switches, blocks, and moving platforms. But where The Entropy Centre finds its own voice, however, is in how these puzzles are solved. The gun you’re holding can’t shoot a Portal, or anything rather. No, instead, it grabs an object and causes it to rewind in real time. For instance, if you pick up a cube from switch A and move it over to switch B, from a distance, you can make the cube rewind back to switch A. From the short 20 minute demo that’s currently available, I was constantly filled with that Portal-esque feeling of staring at a puzzle, working it out in my head, and then literally saying out loud, “Oh, got it”. The “ah-ha!” moments you’re looking for are definitely there so far, and I can’t wait to see how the puzzles evolve once other elements, such as turrets, get introduced.

6. Homicidal All Stars

Homicidal All-Stars borrows heavily from the XCOM formula, and packages it in a gaudy, garish reality show. Heavy on dismemberment, splashes of gore, and including a live, gameshow-like commentary on the action, it certainly achieves a particular tone. The difficulty seems tuned to XCOM levels as well; my first run through the demo saw me barely scraping by as an enemy backup squad arrived on my flank as soon as I dispatched the first wave of enemies. The return of Overwatch, powerful melee attacks, and a recharging AP-based attack system all ensure that Homicidal All-Stars doesn’t do too much to differentiate itself gameplay-wise from its sci-fi older brother, but hopefully the over-the-top presentation and gleeful insanity will be enough to set it apart.

5. Conscript

World War I was horrific in ways previous wars weren’t. Soldiers hunkered in trenches, worrying about new threats like tanks, airplanes, machine guns, and poison gas. This is the setting for Conscript. You play a French soldier navigating the trenches. But instead of making a standard shooter to depict the harsh realities of the first World War, Catchweight Studio has created a survival horror game. In the tradition of the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill, combat is slow and purposeful, and your progress is blocked by puzzles you’ll need to solve to navigate through the hostile war zone. This demo is worth checking out for the graphics and atmosphere alone. Conscript is coming to PC in 2023.

4. The Case of the Golden Idol

The Case of the Golden Idol has you piecing together the who, what, and how’s of a series of mysterious deaths all centered around the titular artifact. There are those who will do anything to obtain the idol and to each of them, a bloody fate awaits. Pull names and clues into a word bank to help fill in the gaps and find out what really happened to each of the victims. The pixel art makes the macabre scenes comical to search through as you dive into scenes of death and dismemberment. Shine up those magnifying glasses because The Case of the Golden Idol comes out on October 13 for PC.

3. Gunbrella

Gunbrella is a pixel art side scrolling platformer with a heavy noir aesthetic. Your tool of choice for offense, defense, and exploration is the titular object itself. Your Gunbrella can load several weapon types, such as shotgun shells, rifle rounds, and grenades, and opening your umbrella at the exact time an enemy attacks you can repel that attack back on your foe. Opening the umbrella in an upwards trajectory while grounded or in any trajectory while you’re in the air will lead to a short burst of speed that will turn into a hover when you continue to hold the button. In the first fifteen minutes, the game had me air-dashing around obstacles, swapping multiple ammo types to deal with slyly-positioned foes, and chuckling along with the main character’s incredulous responses to the various NPCs’ insanities. Add in a droning and understated, but evocative soundtrack, and excellent sound design, and Gunbrella is shaping up to be a fantastic indie when it releases.

2. The Knight Witch

Like a digital Turducken, The Knight Witch manages to squeeze in a twin-stick shooter into a Metroidvania with a deck building magic system. Without all the gaming jargon, know that you’ll be playing as the student of the famed knight witch who banished evil decades ago. With the heroes missing and evil rising up once again, it’s up to you to banish these mechanized foes, build trust with the townspeople, and solve the mystery behind the invasion. Keep aiming for the stars when The Knight Witch comes out across all platforms on November 29th.

1. Masterplan Tycoon

The line between simplifying and dumbing down can be a very tricky one to walk, but it’s one Masterplan Tycoon balances on quite nicely. You’ve probably seen production lines like this before in games like Factorio, but perhaps never quite this raw. Masterplan Tycoon strips off all the fat, looking more like a corporate powerpoint presentation at times than it does a video game. But that’s very much by design, and it doesn’t mean developer Bureau Bravin hasn’t managed to bring a different kind of style and personality to the look and sound of your expanding enterprise. And, quite importantly, managing resources and weaving resource lines is just a lot of fun, with little self contained mission areas giving you specific goals that feed out into your larger production. Masterplan Tycoon is coming to PC Q1 of 2023, at which point we’ll surely be lost in a tangled web of our own supply chains.

And those are our picks for 15 under the radar games from Steam Next Fest that you should check out. There were so many games on display during the Next Fest, that it’s nearly impossible for us to cover them all, but hopefully this put a few games that are relevant to your interests on your radar.

Mitchell Saltzman is an editorial producer at IGN. You can find him on twitter @JurassicRabbit



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