You’ve done it, I’ve done it, we’ve all been burned by a bad game we paid our cold hard cash on. Either through direct download or retail, bad game purchases can leave a lasting sour taste in your mouth. Often, gamers go through response targeting their frustrations on the game series, developer, or even the distributor.

You can avoid a lot of this pain by trying demos out before purchasing the game. Steam, one of the largest and most popular direct download distributors, has a giant and active selection of demos available for many of their offered products. If you liked Dragon Age but want to make sure Dragon Age 2 is something you’ll enjoy as well, there’s a demo for that.

Many MMORPGs offer a 14-day free trial either directly through their website or by referral from existing customers. Game forums, especially the official ones linked to the MMORPG, are full of players that would be happy to offer a trial key to potential new players. This is also a great way to meet guilds/clans/corporations/alliances that can help you on your journey to saving the world/universe/inter-dimensional space.

For many players with dated hardware, a demo can tell you whether you’ll be buying a game and having to buy a new computer to play it, or able to enjoy it right out of the box. For example, when Operation Flashpoint came out for the PC back in 2001, I bought it only to discover I needed a much better graphics card, processor, more ram, and to fit all these new components a new motherboard. I ended up spending about $750 at the time for a $30 game. If I had only tried the demo first, this would have been something I could plan around.

This goes for console gamers as well. PlayStation Network and Xbox Live have demos available for many of their featured titles and if they don’t, Red Box and many movie rental stores can rent you the game for a couple bucks.

While the concept of demos certainly isn’t new, they are often an overlooked part of the gaming economy that can save you money or reinforce that this is a title worth dropping the cash on.