10 Demos BETTER Than The Actual Game

A look at ten games that suffered from "Star Wars Trailer Syndrome".

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Gamers of a certain age will remember the rush of peeling the coverdisc off their latest magazine and inserting the humble demo disc into their PC/PS2/XBox, before spending a merry couple of hours blasting through a litany of upcoming digital treats.

Gamers of an even more certain age will recall inserting demo CDs into their PS1, while their elders will have fond memories of coming home after a hard day's mammoth-hunting to boot up Episode 1 of DOOM on the floppy disk lent to them by their cave-neighbour.

Sadly game demos (and game magazines) have become increasingly rare, to the point where a AAA game actually getting a demo is a newsworthy event. Which is a damn shame for us gamers because, as this article will show, the demo is sometimes even better than the game it's meant to be promoting.

This list is packed with demos that did their job a bit too well. Whether they spoiled the best part of the game, gave an unrealistic idea of what the finished product would be like, or included more content than the publishers intended, these 10 demos all wound up overshadowing the finished release.

10. Duke Nukem 3D

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3D Realms

The early 90's were a golden time for game demos. Publishers and game developers released huge swathes of their games with reckless abandon, confident that the the 30% of the game they gave away was so good gamers would fall over themselves to buy the remaining 70%. DOOM was undoubtedly the most famous example of this marketing technique, but Duke Nukem 3D was another exemplar of the form.

Unfortunately, it was also an exemplar of the problem that came with it - a tendency to frontload the demo with the best parts of the game.

Duke Nukem 3D's first episode is by far and away the best, immersing the player in an (at the time) mind-blowingly interactive first person environment. Flushable toilets! Openable cupboards! Pixelated strippers! (Look, we said it was impressive "at the time", i.e. when we were younger and even more immature).

Duke's follow-up episodes, while decent enough, failed to match the impact of its opening set of levels - especially episode two, which swapped the streets of LA for a generic sci-fi setting. Players who forked out for the full game were essentially getting "The same, but slightly worse" - a double helping of diet soda that, while palatable, paled in comparison to the full-flavoured sugar rush offered by the demo.


Hello! My name's Iain Tayor. I write about video games, wrestling and comic books, and I apparently can't figure out how to set my profile picture correctly.