For many of us, Christmas and gaming go hand in hand.
This might be because we ask Father Christmas to leave a shiny new game in our stocking, or because we just use the time away from work/school/university to tackle our ‘to be completed’ pile.
Whatever the reason, plenty of gamers spend countless hours over the festive season huddled over their console of choice, controller in hand, thumbs blistering.
Still, surprising as it may be, there aren’t actually a huge amount of games based around Christmas itself. There are a few here and there which actually let you play as Father Christmas (or Santa, if you prefer), and the rest tend to just be set during the festive season instead.
Whether you want to actually step into Father Christmas’s big shiny boots or just soak up some Yuletide atmospherics, here’s 8 festive video games to play this season …
Yeah, we know it seems pretty weird to feature a dark, violent Batman video game on this list, but it’s actually a perfect way to enjoy a little virtual Christmas-adventuring.
Arkham Origins is set on Christmas Eve, and the snow-coated Gotham City at your disposal looks absolutely stunning. Festive decorations litter the environments, and the soundtrack (by Christopher Drake, who has composed various Batman animated movies) features plenty of jingling bells and seasonal flourishes.
You’ll see fairy lights hanging in windows, decorated trees standing in homes and offices, and hear footsteps crunching on snow – just a few ways Arkham Origins oozes Christmas charm.
The game’s visuals actually borrow heavily from the terrific Batman: Noel graphic novel by Lee Barmejo, a gritty take on A Christmas Carol starring the Dark Knight and pals. One of the unlockable costumes in the game is even taken from the graphic novel itself.
Die Hard Trilogy
Die Hard is regarded by many fans as an essential Christmas movie, though the second film (also set on Christmas Eve) gets a little less love. The films’ festive setting was captured brilliantly in the unforgettable Die Hard Trilogy (PS1, Sega Saturn), which famously featured three games in one package.
Die Hard’s adaptation was a fast-paced, third-person run-and-gun through Nakatomi Plaza’s corridors. However, there’s little to no festive decorating to be found.
For that true Christmas vibe, we have to look to Die Hard 2: Die Harder instead. This on-rails shooter is rooted firmly in the season, with plenty of snowfall and even a snowmobile chase, while the first level itself boasts explicit Christmas connections.
Such as? Well, the music features tinkling bells and other atmospheric touches, and Christmas decorations cover the airport’s interior. You also receive a ‘Merry Christmas’ message and a few bonuses if you avoid icing innocents, leading McClane to say (all together now): “hey, I must’ve been a good boy!”.
Obviously, there’s no Christmas in Die Hard With a Vengeance, so we’ll skip over that …
Tim Burton’s second Batman flick has its fair share of problems, but it does manage to create a nice, authentic Christmas feel. Gotham looks great with a little frosting, and seeing Bruce hang out in an elegantly-decorated Wayne Manor’s a nice touch.
The SNES tie-in game does an equally top job of capturing the Christmas spirit. This side-scrolling beat-em-up is one of the best Batman games, with lots of visceral action, and the festive setting helps it to stand out from the Dark Knight’s many other 2D outings.
Batman is a character best-suited to wintry urban locations anyway, so it’s always great to see that done well. Plus, you get to put clowns’ heads through shop windows, so what’s not to love?
Daze Before Christmas
All right, so this is where things get weird.
On the surface, Daze Before Christmas is a very safe, simple, cuddly little platformer starring Santa himself. You carry a sack, run with a charming little wobble, and collect presents.
So, what’s strange?
Well, at certain points in the game (after collecting a cup of steaming coffee), you get to transform into a horned, blue-skinned beast who pummels enemies with his sack.
These moments are only brief, but they bring an unexpected touch to an otherwise sweet game. You also get to pilot Santa’s sleigh now and then, for a little more festive goodness.
It has to be said, Daze Before Christmas looks absolutely stunning today, with amazing sprites and environments.
James Pond II: Codename RoboCod
James Pond II sees everyone’s favourite fishy, pun-tastic take on 007 rescue Santa’s workshop from the evil Doctor Maybe. The visuals are nicely festive, with plenty of snow, toys, and presents. You even get to fight a monstrous snowman as the final boss.
If you complete the game, you’re also treated to an adorable glimpse of James Pond riding Santa’s sleigh. There’s a nice little riff on the classic RoboCop theme too, albeit in a much more up-tempo style.
Christmas Nights into Dreams
Okay, so technically not a full game, but this does a great job of applying festive magic to a terrific game.
This was given away free, but actually features valuable extra content. The game consists of two versions of one level, and it actually adjusts to the Sega Saturn’s internal clock, adding changes at other times of the year.
Everything on the screen screams Christmas, with an abundance of snow and gift-wrapped presents, and more. It’s beloved by fans of the game and the Saturn alike, with good reason.
Home Alone is a stone-cold Christmas classic most of us watch at least once a year, but how many of us have played the video game?
Not the bizarre PS2 release that hit in the mid-2000s (look it up, seriously!), but the tie-in to the first movie that came in 1991. The SNES version still looks pretty decent today, even though the McCallisters’s house appears to be some kind of palace.
There’s also no Christmas visuals to be found either, though the music does tend to have some festive moments throughout. Still, we all know Home Alone’s a Christmas story, so playing the game should help you feel immersed in the season regardless.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the most distinctive festive movies, and this tie-in (from 2005) manages to capture the film’s look and feel perfectly.
You actually get to visit Christmas Town in this game, when Jack’s tasked with saving Santa from Oogie Boogie, and it’s a real stunner.
The gameplay has been compared to Devil May Cry, though fans of that particular title may find the comparisons unfair (and unflattering). Still, for any lovers of The Nightmare Before Christmas, this game’s definitely worth playing, if only for the storyline and the nice festive feel.
So, there you go: 8 festive games to try this Christmas!
Have you played any of these festive games, or are there any others you think deserve a mention? Let us know!