The dark horse of Steam Next Fest is a gorgeous open-world racer inspired by Initial D

Japanese Drift Master
(Image credit: Gaming Factory)

Steam Next Fest's surprise breakout is Japanese Drift Master, an open-world racing game that takes some serious inspiration from Initial D, and after spending some time with the demo it's easy to see why.

Japanese Drift Master puts you in the driver's seat around the roads of a rural tourist destination in the mountains. As the name implies, there's a big focus on drifting. Tap the handbrake and your rear end will just kick right out, challenging you to collect as many points as you can - there's even a Tony Hawk-style combo system and balance meter to encourage you to stay on the road.

The starter car is called the "Toyoni Hachi" - a fictional name, but there's no mistaking the silhouette as anything but that of the Toyota AE86, the central car in the uber-popular street racing manga and anime series Initial D. While JDM doesn't have the license, from the setting to the car selection it's clearly that it's thoroughly inspired by the classic series, and - outside of a Japan-only Sega arcade series - this is likely the best Initial D video game we're ever going to see.

I'm terrible at drifting in racing games, and JDM hasn't changed that, but even as I go careening into guardrails and oncoming traffic it still feels sublime to play. The demo supports several racing wheels, but even on a standard Xbox gamepad there's a terrific feel to the cars that perfectly splits the balance between arcade approachability and genuine depth.

The demo available on Steam is pretty robust, too, letting you travel around a sizable section of the game's open world and try out a number of different events, from speed-driven time trials to score-based drift challenges.

It's already proven a hit - the demo is the second-biggest thing in Steam Next Fest according to the store's 'daily active demo players' metric, second only to the Dark Souls-meets-Valheim hit Enshrouded.

If you're looking for more of the best Steam Next Fest demos, you can follow that link for a breakdown for some of our top favorites.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.