Tue. May 21st, 2024

As video games continue to get bigger and more expensive, buying new ones can feel like a huge commitment. It’s more important than ever to be confident that a new game is worth your money. Fortunately, you can try out many games before you buy them (even if you have to be a little creative).

Try Games by Downloading Digital Demos

Probably the most tried and true method for trying out a new game is to download a digital demo. Publishers often release playable sections of upcoming titles to give fans a taste of what is to come in the full release. These are typically free and infinitely replayable, offering a short glimpse of the gameplay so you can tell if spending money on the full release is worth it.

It’s also not uncommon to find games released in an episodic fashion with a free “demo” of the first episode or portion of the game. The first episode of the wildly popular franchise Life is Strange, for instance, has been free for years. That’s how confident DONTNOD Entertainment is that you’ll be sucked into the time-bending interactive story and spend $20 for the rest of the episodes.

Though demos used to be a dime a dozen, they’re not quite as common these days and are typically published directly by the developers themselves. The good news is that demos have started to appear more frequently on digital storefronts. To look for yourself, go to your preferred platform’s online storefront and look for a “Demos” category or tag and see what kind of games they might have available to try out.

A portion of the demos currently free to download on the PS5 PlayStation Store.
Zachary Cimaglio/How-To Geek

Additionally, some games allow you to transfer save data from a demo version to the full game if you choose to purchase it and carry on playing. Make sure to check the demo’s description to see if it is compatible with this feature or not.

Try Games With Game Pass and PlayStation Plus

You can access a library of games for a set price with a Game Pass or PlayStation Plus trials. PlayStation Plus Premium members, in particular, get access to time-limited trials of games that don’t restrict the availability of in-game content, but rather limit play time to a specific number of hours.

Game Pass is still a good way to try a game before you want to buy it, assuming the game is in the Game Pass library. Titles are often removed from Game Pass, so if you want to keep playing a game you’ll need to buy it outright. Such titles are usually discounted at the end of their Game Pass period so that you can save money on the full price and keep playing.

A free trial for God of War: Ragnarok accessible only through PlayStation Plus Premium.
Zachary Cimaglio/How-To Geek

With such services you could effectively play through the intro sequences of many games to get a feel for them and even keep your progress if you purchase the full game. Other game subscription services like EA Play also offer similar trials.

PlayStation Plus also gives PS4 or PS5 players access to the Share Play feature, which lets you stream your games to someone else’s console so they can play it remotely. This requires a solid internet connection and you’ll need to remain connected during play. The feature effectively lets you “loan” your games digitally to a friend for a short period. Of course, both players need a PlayStation Plus subscription to use the feature, which comes at an extra cost.

The Steam Refund

Steam, the primary gaming platform for PCs, is well-known for its epic sales events, but it also makes it easy to try before you buy, thanks to a generous refund policy. According to Steam, players are eligible for a full refund as long as they have played the game for less than two hours and submit their refund request within two weeks of purchasing the game.To request a refund on a recent purchase, open Steam on your PC and click on “Help” and then “Steam Support” in the top left corner.

The home page of Steam with the
Zachary Cimaglio/How-To Geek

Select “Purchases” and click on the game you want to refund listed under “I need help with a previous purchase or shipping.”

The Steam Support section detailing recent purchases you have made.
Zachary Cimaglio/How-To Geek

Click on “I would like a refund” followed by “I’d like to request a refund” and select your preferred method from the drop-down menu.

The second screen of the refund request process on Steam, prompting you to select what you want to do withy our purchase.
Zachary Cimaglio/How-To Geek

You may choose to have the money refunded to the original payment method if you used a credit card, or just add it to your Steam wallet to spend on a different game. Anecdotally speaking, Steam Support is seen as being fairly lenient about refunds, so there’s a chance you could get one anyway, even if you don’t quite meet the guidelines.

The Old-Fashioned Way: Borrow A Disc

If all else fails and the option is there, you can always just borrow a physical copy from a friend or colleague. One of the many benefits of owning a console that uses physical media is that you can exchange discs or cartridges like it’s 1995. This leaves you with the option to simply borrow someone else’s copy for the time being and experience the game yourself at no cost.

A selection of PS4 disc games: Snowrunner, The Outer Wilds, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1+2
Tim Brookes / How-To Geek

You can try out or play whole games this way. It’s the oldest method of playing games you don’t want to buy. Of course, this can get tricky in an age where many buy their games digitally, so it’s not always the most practical option. Not to mention the social obligation required when you finally have to return the game to your friend.

To make things easier, many public libraries are beginning to offer modern video games on their shelves for patrons to check out. In other words, as long as you’re willing to wait a while for that copy of Modern Warfare III you put on hold months ago, you can enjoy it to your heart’s content up until the due date with no personal obligations to anyone you might know.

If you find yourself able to fork out hundreds of dollars for tickets and travel to gaming conventions, you can often find booths at events like PAX, Gamescom, and smaller local events that give attendees hands-on access to upcoming video games.

This is arguably the most expensive option, as tickets to these events tend to cost much more than a full-priced video game anyway, but it may be worth it for avid fans. In addition to games that are on shelves right now, you may also get a sneak peek at unreleased titles.

While big gaming conventions like E3 are slowly dissipating into smaller, more niche events, many developers still provide physical demos of upcoming games. In some cases, you might even get to speak with the developers and get an understanding of what a game has to offer. This may not be the most accessible option out there, but for those in a position to afford tickets, it can be a hugely immersive way to engage with a title you may be interested in.

In addition to trying before you buy, check out our best tips for saving money on games. Waiting for the next Steam sale and wisely juggling your subscription services can also help you balance your gaming budget.

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By John P.

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