The Top 7... Best demos of all time


2: Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams

This freebie was given away in late 1996 for Saturn owners who had bought one of a select handful of games (Worldwide Soccer '97, Manx TT and the full version of NiGHTS come to mind).

It was also given away on the front of the Official Sega Saturn Magazine the following year, sans its limited edition cardboard sleeve.

Above: My copy - signed by Tetsuya Iizuka, the game's level designer

It contains the first level of the main game as a demonstration of its awesomeness. But it also features an original version of Spring Valley for Elliot who doesn't visit that level in the full game. The exclusive content doesn't end there, with a Karaoke mode for the brilliantly cheesy theme song, an A-Life viewer that lets you see all your little Nightopian buddies not only in the demo but the full game AND the first ever playable 3D Sonic the Hedgehog.

Above: Sonic into Dreams. Crappy main level, but awesome boss (right)

With the calendar function offering year-round extras that aren't found in the full game (something we're still enjoying) and what remains one of the finest scoring systems ever devised, Christmas NiGHTS stands proud as one of the finest games ever produced, let alone demos. And it was free.


1: Metal Gear Solid 2

You know that Konami game called Zone of the Enders? You probably wouldn't know as much about it (if anything) if it weren't for the fact it came bundled with a playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2. And what a demo it was. It had every major gameplay element of the full game, from the new first-person aiming mode to cardboard box shenanigans, as well as the full cinematic intro.

Just look at how much there is to do (and humour to discover) in this video of one segment of the demo alone:

There's so much gameplay in the opening tanker section, we could (and did) spend countless hours trying out everything. Watching the guards spot our wet footprints, aiming for the spine or the head with the tranq gun (or timing another shot so the serum knocks them out the moment they spot you) or hiding bodies in lockers/the Hudson River. The sheer wealth of content in this demo puts 90% of full-price PS2 games to shame.

Above: Absolutely flawless in its execution, MGS2 still rocks

Thanks to its 60fps graphics, it's aged phenomenally well. The clean, crisp graphical style and precise animation cycles are solid (no pun). Timeless, in fact. Stick this in HD and you could release it today. As it is, it's clear why this was so impressive at the time - it pushed PS2 to the limit of its capabilities right at the start of the console's life.

So it's little wonder people bought ZOE just to get the MGS2 demo. It was more than worth £40, especially so many weeks before the proper game launched. That said, it was technically a free giveaway for people who bought the game, so it is unquestionably the best demo of all time.

10 May, 2010

The most brutal kills in the God of War III demo
See gruesome pics of the demo's most malicious mythical murders


What other games should learn from MGS2's boss battles
Looking back at the series' best bosses and what other games should take away from them

The Top 7... Christmas moments
From heartwarming to horrific, we count down gaming's most memorable holiday scenes


Top 7


  • turqua - January 19, 2014 3:09 p.m.

    the best shooter demo is obviously sof2 demo ... soldier of fortune II, good old times man, a simple, perfect game
  • The8bitWalrus - July 13, 2010 8:47 p.m.

    Brutal legend, best demo EVER!
  • Bri77777 - May 15, 2010 3:20 a.m.

    The Lost Planet 2 one was awsome for me. You could actually go inside the freaking thing and escape through the ass!
  • Spybreak8 - May 14, 2010 8:58 p.m.

    Wow other than Lost Planet 2 I haven't played any of these. I'd have to add GTA2 on the list but hey this is modern games. (I loved timed demos on the pc.)
  • GodofPS314 - May 12, 2010 11:03 p.m.

    Bioshock's was fantastic. It took you from the beginning of the game all the way to the first boss. It was about an hour and 20 minutes of playing time.
  • LizarDAZZLE - May 12, 2010 2:43 a.m.

    Half Life 2 and Battlefield 1942 Multiplayer The HL2 demo was amazing simply because you got to explore the first level toyour content playing with - gasp! - PHYSICS!! and B1942 because I still play it today. The airplanes are so much fun
  • kor2disturbed - May 11, 2010 1:55 p.m.

    Wow that's kinda weird I got the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo disc when it came out and I loved it, but for some reason I never ended up playing the actual game.
  • speno93 - May 11, 2010 10:43 a.m.

    what about Portal :first slice, 10 levels out of 19 is a pretty generous offer and portal is awesome
  • philipshaw - May 11, 2010 9:55 a.m.

    Have to agree with the MGS2 demo, I played that thing for hours before MGS2 came out
  • enoop - May 11, 2010 2:03 a.m.

    What about the Phantasy Star demo that's the full multiplayer with only a few things missing.
  • RamenDragon - May 11, 2010 1:48 a.m.

    I'm surprised not to see the Mirror's Edge demo here.
  • NearNRiver - May 11, 2010 1:43 a.m.

    What about Portal:First Slice?
  • infestedandy - May 10, 2010 11:46 p.m.

    @Rhymenocerous Hell yeah man. I remember first opening my Playstation and then popping that universal demo disc into the system. Man did that have some great games on there! Crash Bandicoot Warped, Metal Gear Solid, and Brave Fencer Musashi to name a few. Saying that, I definitely played through the MGS demo about 50 times. Incredible.
  • Cyberninja - May 10, 2010 11:46 p.m.

    demos are good i hope they stay free
  • winghoo - May 10, 2010 11:23 p.m.

    Wow what a trip down memory lane that was! Lou
  • CH3BURASHKA - May 10, 2010 10:25 p.m.

    Looking back, the tanker level was one of the best parts of all of MGS2, and not because it had S.S. in it - it was a genuinely well designed and executed part of the game.
  • lovinmyps3 - May 10, 2010 10:04 p.m.

    I actually didn't like the God of War III demo that much. I didn't find it all that impressive.
  • drroxxo1 - May 10, 2010 9:10 p.m.

    i think the Psychonauts demo was the best one. If it wasnt for that demo i wouldn't have bought the game. Also i think im one of the few people who actually bought pyschonauts at full price when it came out...
  • Shrimpandwhitewine - May 10, 2010 9:08 p.m.

    What about dead rising? That demo was phenomenal and wildly popular.
  • MatzGamer - May 10, 2010 8:32 p.m.

    What about Bataman AA ??? it was a doos demo that gave a combat and stealthy experience of the game!

Showing 1-20 of 56 comments

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