Like it or loathe it, there’s no escaping that Christmas spirit from mid November (sometimes earlier) to the end of December.
But if you do happen to feel particularly Grinchesque this festive season – whether it’s because grandad keeps dropping revolting post Christmas dinner farts, or because your partner accidentally got you a PS3 instead of a PS4 – I’ve got something for you.
Below is a list of the best videogames set at Christmas, guaranteed to get you back in the cheery seasonal mood. If not, it at least gives you an excuse to hide away from the family for a bit and try out some new games. It’s win win, really.
So technically, Nintendo’s charming life-sim Animal Crossing isn’t set at Christmas all the time, but as a real-time game that covers all the major holidays (Halloween, New Year, even your Birthday), nothing quite beats Christmas in your strange little town.
Anyone who has played an Animal Crossing game before can attest this to anyone that hasn’t: They are ridiculously chill affairs. Seriously, booting up an AC game is like stepping into a warm bath after a long Winter walk – it’s a whimsical experience that asks nothing of you.
Naturally, Christmas amplifies this cosy experience. Everywhere is decked out in fairy lights, the animal villagers are delivering presents all around you, you can dress up as Santa, build snowmen, and collect special furniture for your house. It’s almost too feelgood.
Alright, admittedly only the first two Die-Hard films were set during the Christmas period, and only the first film really paid much attention to that fact, but that still means that the PlayStation’s Die-Hard trilogy is at least one third Christmassy – that’s pretty damn Christmassy.
Violent, frantic, loud, and heaps of fun, Die-Hard Trilogy is one hell of a game, which is great, since Die-Hard just happens to be one of the best Christmas films of all time (fact).
Honestly, if any game deserves a PS4/Xbox One remaster, it is undoubtedly this one. I’ve been asking Santa/Jesus for years now, but I’m still waiting.
Batman: Arkham Origins
As the only Arkham game not made by developer Rocksteady (WB Montréal took over for this prequel), Origins doesn’t get a lot of love.
This is a real shame, as it’s actually a pretty great addition to the series, with the same tight combat/stealth/exploration that we came to know and love, as well as one of the best boss fights of all time in the form of Batman’s first ever encounter with the assassin Deathstroke.
Oh, and it happens to be set over Christmas, which is why it makes the list. It’s not a hugely Christmassy game, but it does snow an awful lot, and there are plenty of characters who make reference to the special holiday season – usually before Batman breaks their jaw.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge
You’d think a game adaption of a film released over a decade after the film wouldn’t be worth writing home about, especially since Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas is considered a classic – but (gasp) Oogie’s Revenge is actually pretty damn good.
In many ways, this tie-in – set after the events of the film – was nothing more than Devil May Cry with a Burton makeover, but what’s wrong with that? Devil May Cry is fucking great!
Plus, Oogie’s Revenge made a welcome change from the usual mind numbing parade of film to videogame crap that was so often shovelled down our throats in 2004.
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams was never actually a fully-fledged game, oddly enough. Christmas NiGHTS was in fact a promotional disc that offered players a taster of the cult SEGA hit.
Of course for some strange reason, it was Christmas themed, with stages and characters all decked out in festive finery. This promo material actually proved so popular that it’s now bundled with the PC version of the game for everyone to try.
These days demos are rare enough as it is, so to be get one that offered both exclusive content and a decent chunk of gameplay was… well, it was a Christmas miracle.
Just like Christmas NiGHTS, Christmas Lemmings was a festive promotion back in those glorious days when demo discs were still a thing. Modern game companies = Scrooge. Confirmed.
As you probably know, Lemmings is a savage strategy/puzzle game in which you guide a crew of Lemmings through dangerous, hazardous areas, sacrificing Lemmings as and when you needed to for the good of the majority.
Not the most festive sounding experience, I’ll admit – but the Christmas promo did put your little minions in red and white Santa suits which, if anything, actually made it even harder (bordering on traumatizing) for everyone involved when you commanded one to march to its death.
Saints Row IV: How The Saints Saved Christmas
Saints Row and Christmas actually have quite a bit in common: Both are bloated, ridiculous, gloriously self indulgent affairs that make very little sense when held up to analysis, but are still absolutely terrific.
Naturally, this festive expansion pack for Saints Row IV went much further than your standard game would with Holiday themed DLC. We got a ton of new content, including Saints Row inspired riffs on classic Christmas tales, all packed with puns so cringeworthy they’d make a Christmas Cracker joke writer groan in agony.
Great writing (for the most part) and a genuinely decent helping of extra gameplay makes this expansion one of the best Santa has ever delivered to gamers.
Another surprisingly decent videogame tie in of a movie – maybe it’s just something about quality Christmas movies that make for a great videogame?
Sega’s Home Alone might not be the most faithful adaptation of the film, but it does offer up a solid slice of 2D platforming fun, with a surprising focus on exploration as you explored a massive series of houses, gathering supplies for traps to take out those pesky Wet Bandits.
Oh, and the music was seriously groovy, and for some random reason a bunch of houses looked like they were from Megaman or Metroid. Brilliant.
Duke: Nuclear Winter
Duke Nukem 3D’s fantastic Nuclear Winter expansion offered up one of the single greatest premises I have ever heard.
In short, Santa has been mind controlled by aliens (of course). To save him, we had to murder our way through hordes of elves, snowmen, and – naturally – Christmas tree tanks, before throwing down with St Nick himself.
Brilliantly barmy and full of gore, this Christmas expansion is one of the purest representations of the 90’s FPS – in the sense that it was absolutely fucking mental.
Obviously, you don’t have to limit your gaming habits to the above titles this Holiday season (I mean, there are so many brilliant games already out this last year alone).
However, if you really gave a shit about Santa, you would at least boot up Duke: Nuclear Winter for a little bit and gun down some elves. It’s what Jesus would have wanted.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.