What are the best demos

Playing this generous PC demo of Dragon Quest Builders 2 (10 hours in and still going) is taking me back to days of playing demo discs endlessly. As a result of wanting you to buy their game, the developers often included the best level (or levels in the case of shareware), so sometimes you didn’t even need to buy the full game!!

Here are my favorites:

  • Thief: I’m sure many playstyles were born through this demo just by virtue of endless repetition, and that everyone came to the “ghost” playtype independently just because going through a level without touching anything was the thing you did on the third or fourth playthrough of the demo. I used to knock out every single enemy in the game and then just explore the Manor and invent my own stories.

  • Halo: The PC demo inexplicably came with the best multiplayer map (Blood Gulch). Everyone had already played the campaign on Xbox, so this demo was really all you needed for online Halo. People actually kept the demo installed after buying the full game because that’s where everyone was!! I seriously played this nearly every day for an entire summer. GameSpy Arcade!!!

  • Crysis: Nobody could afford this game because they just spent like the $300 or whatever on a new video card just to play it. So not only did you get this demo with amazing grafix, you could spend hours running around this cool tropical island, throwing stuff into the ocean and shooting trees in half or whatever. They even included an editor so you could go in and mess around with the level some more. This is the last demo I remember playing a lot, because the very next year I had good enough internet to just pirate any game I wanted. I think that’s why they stopped making demos?!


Thief 2: Life of the Party. Already arguably the best level in the franchise, the demo version actually has a few smallish differences to where some folks say it’s the best version of again, the best level in the best stealth franchise.

didn’t that pacman championship whatever it was called have a demo that just let you play a full round of the only game mode or something


I have probably played a few dozen hours of Mechwarrior 4’s demo in my life because it had like four mechs, a mech lab with nearly all the weapon options, and an incredibly detailed map that I think was probably the strongest instant action map in the game.

And like, all four mechs were really distinct from each other. Add on the mechlab, and ability to use any customized mech as an opponent and the variety was completely ludicrous.

1 Like

Also I played through the doom demo like eight times.

In 2004.


Battlefield 2’s demo was the Gulf of Oman map. Which is the best map (in a game with a lot of good maps). And they ran that demo for like 3 months before release. I played it every day.

Tomba! had a great demo. That’s a pretty long game. The chunk of game they allowed you to play was long enough----you might have forgotten you were playing a demo. And then get real bummed out when you came to the stopping point.


There were a handful of demos that were completely unique from the main game. I think Half-Life Uplink was one of those.

MGS2 The Tanker

*IIRC: I don’t think it included the lower deck portion, where you go down to where Rex is at. I think at some point you go through the doorway which leads to that part and the demo ended.


A whole room was filled around Christmas time for hours as we took turns playing the demo for Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. For this reason “Superman” is burned into my brain.




had a megacd sensible soccer demo that was essentially the full game

WinRar’s demo was better IMO


install the right-click context commands and never open the actual program has anyone on earth ever paid for winrar?


also Call of Duty 1

The demo to the first F.E.A.R. was also like that. It kind of strung together multiple sections from across the game into a single level pretty seamlessly which was confusing when I did eventually play the full game.


In the early Xbox 360 days there were some great demos out there. The one for Condemned: Criminal Origins comes to mind.

Master of Magic had a tight, tense, well-balanced 1v1 scenario as its demo. Then the actual game was a sprawling freeform mess with a zillion different overpowered mechanics and AIs that cheat to counterbalance that.

I enjoyed both but I still have fonder memories of the demo, and I’m not sure if I could still find it.

1 Like



Grand Theft Auto 1 with the timer crack.