Gaming’s Greatest Tech Demos

best video game tech demos unreal engine 5 ps5 gameplay

Video game technology is improving all the time, and honestly, we reckon in a few years we won’t be able to tell the difference between video game worlds and actual footage of real-life bandicoots smashing crates. While some of these older demos may look a little dated now, at the time they were mindblowingly advanced, and it’s still hard not to feel a twinge of excitement when you see all the incredible things that video game technology has had to offer.

best video game tech demos unreal engine 5 ps5 gameplay game logo

Video game technology is improving all the time, and honestly, we reckon in a few years we won’t be able to tell the difference between video game worlds and actual footage of real-life bandicoots smashing crates. While some of these older demos may look a little dated now, at the time they were mindblowingly advanced, and it’s still hard not to feel a twinge of excitement when you see all the incredible things that video game technology has had to offer.

So whether it’s a horde of miniature Marios manhandling each other off the edge of a giant pizza, a stunning fantasy world filled with hundreds of intricately carved statues, or just a wobbly cube of meat showing off how it responds to physics, here are a few highlights from video game tech demos over the years.

1. Unreal Engine 5

May’s tech demo showed off an outstandingly powerful new engine, which, let’s be honest, looks more realistic than real life. Everything from the dynamic lighting to the way the main character’s clothes move as she scales a cliff looks phenomenal, and the sheer amount of detail on the various objects in each scene is pretty mind-boggling too.

Epic Games co-founder Tim Sweeney has since confirmed that PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, and PC will all support Unreal Engine 5, so we’re itching to see how next-gen games are going to look with this kind of tech behind them.

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2. Super Mario 128

Characterised by its 128 Marios running around joyfully trying to murder each other and, for some reason, a giant pizza, this demo first appeared at Nintendo’s Space World trade show in 2000 to showcase the power of the GameCube. There had been plenty of rumours that it was an upcoming Mario game too, but that never materialised and instead the technology was incorporated into games such as Pikmin, Metroid Prime, and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.

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3. Unreal Engine 3

There’s a lot to take in from this demo. There’s the lovely shiny water that splashes and ripples when you fire at it, the hordes of soldiers charging down an alleyway (with better manners than you might expect), and the terrifying, quivering cube of meat which rolls so squishily off a ramp to show off its physics. Why a cube of meat? We’ll never know. But it sure sticks in the memory.

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4. The Samaritan

The sparks! The smoke! The robots! This GDC tech demo of Unreal Engine 3 might be from 2011, but it still looks super impressive today, mainly because you can watch it twelve times in a row and still spot new tiny details. Incidentally, we’re really curious about this character and the gritty, Cyberpunk-esque world he lives in. We’re still holding out hope that one day we’ll get this as a full game.

Shop Cyberpunk 2077 here

5. Half-Life 2

You can tell how much technology had improved in just six years simply by looking at the G-Man’s face in the first 15 seconds of this one. But the really mind-boggling part was the idea that you could pick objects up and throw them around, use them to block doors, and so on. And now with the most recent Half-Life title, the flagship VR game Half-Life: Alyx, we’re now at the point where you can physically walk around in the Half-Life universe, rummaging around at the back of shelves and drawing in marker pen all over the windows. Who could have imagined being able to do all that back in 2003?

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6. Agni’s Philosophy

We first got to see this realtime tech demo back in 2012 at E3, and doesn’t it look amazing even now? Has a video game beard ever looked so detailed?

Also, we’d never really thought about how Final Fantasy’s potions worked before, but watching them push out bullets and heal up gaping wounds (with actual smoke) makes us think we should really have tried a bit harder to defend our poor hapless characters from harm. That stuff looks painful.

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