Best PlayStation Game Demos

While it is now an almost-lost art, the video game demo was once an essential part of a game’s marketing. In an era where the majority of gamers were still too young to be buying games on the regular, the opportunity to play a small section of a game for free to see if it clicked was a massive boon for players and a significant factor in which games found financial success upon their release.

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Often, game demos were reluctant to give too much away and wouldn’t show much more than what players could see in trailers, or what was shown off on the floor of events like E3. However, some games – and PlayStation games in particular – took their demos very seriously, and it frequently paid dividends down the road, enrapturing players so deeply with that small glimpse of gameplay that they had no choice but to check out the full game once it was released.


7 Resident Evil 7: Beginning Hour

When it was announced, Resident Evil 7 was following up on what was arguably the series’ worst entry: the widely-criticized Resident Evil 6. The franchise’s switch to a first-person perspective, as well as the introduction of a brand new protagonist in Ethan Winters, was enough to give the sense that Capcom was pushing for a fresh start for the series. It wasn’t enough to assuage the fears that fans had about the quality of the games themselves as the franchise moved forward, though.

Wisely, Capcom chose to release a demo for the game to help which some of those concerns. Tea Resident Evil 7 demo was separate from the main game, instead serving to give a sense of the tone and gameplay that the eventual release would have. Featuring multiple endings depending on the player’s choices, the demo served as an hour-long introduction to both the world of RE7 and its mechanics. It’s also not just one of the scariest game demos of all time, but one of the scariest video games period, rivaled only by a handful of other titles (one of which is the full release of Resident Evil 7).

6 Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

They seem worlds apart when looking back, but when Star Wars: The Force Unleashed was announced, it was riding the momentum of Revenge of the Sith’s release from just a couple of years earlier. The game’s focus on physics simulation to go along with its amped-up force powers was a big draw for fans, not to mention its fantastic announcement trailer that got every Star Wars salivating fan.

However, while it was originally scheduled to release in 2007, the game was delayed into 2008 and was again pushed back to late in the year that Spring. Gamers had doubts that the game could reach its lofty ambitions, so LucasArts put out a demo of its first level a month ahead of the full launch. Immediately, players were convinced. The joy of charging through a cargo bay and tossing stormtroopers through windows and over ledges with the Force was unheard of in video games before then, thanks in large part to the game’s physics-based destruction and character animations. By the time the game reached its full release, players were lining up to get a bigger taste of Starkiller’s power.

5 god of war 3

The demo for god of war 3 could go down as the most complete game demo of all time. It had everything a fan could want from an entry in the franchise: epic combat, a wide array of unique weapons, engaging puzzles, and boss battles on a massive scale. It came included as part of the District 9 Blu-ray release, as well as being included in the God Of War Collection.

The jump from the menu screen right into gameplay was a statement from Santa Monica Studio, a testament to how far their visuals had progressed since god of war 2. Within moments, Kratos was battling monsters with the Blades of Chaos, and not long after that players were killing Helios and watching Kratos decapitate him with his bare hands. It didn’t end there, Kratos continued the fight until he squared off with a full-sized Titan. It would be hard to ask for anything more from an entire god of war game, and players got every bit of it for free in a two-hour demo.

4 Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

Back before skateboarding video games were even a blip on the industry radar, a game that began as a tech demo with Bruce Willis on a skateboard grew into a full-blown project with Tony Hawk himself on board.

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater demo was released on the Pizza Hut Powered Playstation Giveaway demo disk as part of a promotion with the restaurant chain. The demo received almost unanimous praise, particularly in regard to the trick variety and wide-open skate parks that did away with the linear racetracks of previous skateboarding games. This was the demo that led to the game that led to the now iconic franchise, reshaping the very idea of ​​a skateboarding video game in the process.

3 JustCause 2

Sometimes a simple idea is the best idea. JustCause 2 was an open-world action game with a ton of ways to blow up enemies, but very little in the way of narrative or scripted gameplay. How does a studio make a demo of something like that? It turns out, they just release the whole game and put a timer on it.

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That description is a bit reductive, but Avalanche Studios thought outside the box with this demo, taking a small area of ​​their game’s map, putting a timer on it, and then letting players run wild with their gameplay mechanics. The demo was a massive success, generating a ton of hype for the game’s eventual release. If anything it worked a little too well, as many gamers were more than satisfied just playing the demo over and over again, and didn’t even pick up the full game.

2 PT

As of this writing PT (short for “Playable Teaser”) may be the last iconic video game demo we’ll ever see. Hideo Kojima’s scary, looping gameplay introduction to his planned Silent Hills collaboration with Guillermo del Toro and Norman Reedus was announced at Gamescom 2014 as a mysterious new horror game being developed by the non-existent 7780s Studio. It was released for free on the Playstation Store that night. A month later, it had been downloaded over a million times.

What followed was a tragedy of corporation versus creator, as Hideo Kojima’s falling out with Konami – centered around the maligned development of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain – resulted in the eventual cancellation of Silent Hills. While Kojima and Norman Reedus did eventually work together on death strandingthere is a distinct vacancy in the gaming industry that was left behind by Silent Hills which persists to this day. A vacancy that can only be filled by a new game in the silent Hill franchise.

When the conversation around the best video game demos arises, Metal Gear Solid 2 nearly always comes out on top. Released as a pre-order bonus for Zone of the Endersthe demo’s inclusion with that lesser-known Kojima game significantly boosted its sales, especially given that Zone of the Enders was a PlayStation 2 exclusive with very little hype surrounding it. Many players reported that they never actually played Zone of the Endersinstead opting to stick with the Metal Gear demo because of how much content it included.

In another stroke of genius, the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo had players controlling Solid Snake the whole time, much like in the first Metal Gear Solid. When the full game was released, players quickly realized that they would spend the majority of the game playing not as Snake, but as Raiden. A game demo that can be played repeatedly and scoured for every detail while still preserving a surprise as big as who the game’s main playable character would be is just too wild of an idea to not get recognition even all these years later. The demo generated a huge amount of positive attention for Metal Gear Solid 2, and the subversion of expectations that came with the game’s full release elevated it to legendary status.

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