We have been celebrating Christmas longer than we have had video games. That may seem obvious, but outside of in-game events, games that are explicitly connected to the holiday are quite far and few in between. I mean, sure, there's still more than 50 of them, but for a holiday that is celebrated by different cultures across the globe, you'd be surprised at how sparse video games connected to Christmas are.
So how about we celebrate the few video games that do succeed at bringing the holiday cheers? Some of the games that we'll be shining the spotlight on today are games that are largely focused on the holiday while some have plots that only happen on Christmas. But no matter which end of the Christmas spectrum they stand in, there's bound to be something in there for you to celebrate the holiday cheers with. Let's ring those bells and begin the Christmas games countdown!
We’ll be starting with this obscure little gem. If you’ve ever played or heard of NiGHTS into Dreams before, this title will be mostly the same but with more of the spirit of Christmas at work. The most curious thing about this Christmas NiGHTS is that there’s only one level in the game, Christmas Spring Valley, which also means there’s only one boss. You can choose to play as either Elliot or Claris, but there’s not much difference between the two.
The reason why they did this, though, is because this was a promotional sampler disc of NiGHTS into Dreams for the Sega Saturn that was released during the holiday season of 1996. This makes hunting an original copy of the sampler disc quite a challenge. Thankfully, if you’ve been wanting to play through this one, HD remasters of NiGHTS into Dreams included it as an unlockable. Hooray for modern technology!
Cthulhu Saves Christmas
For something a lot easier to access but still rather obscure, we’ve got this little gem of an RPG on Steam. Cthulhu Saves Christmas has a visual style that harkens back to the good ol’ SNES era but is more comically self-aware than any of the classic RPGs. It centers around Cthulhu trying to rescue Santa Claus from the League of Christmas Evil so that he can get his powers back. It’s incredibly fast-paced and funny, and while there’s not a lot of innovation in terms of gameplay, it makes up for it in how irreverent the humor is.
One thing to note is that this game is the second game to come out in Zeboyd Digital’s Cthulhu Saves Something RPG series. Fortunately, it’s also a prequel, so you don’t need to have played Cthulhu Saves the World before diving into this one. If you love the style of Cthulhu Saves Christmas, then it’s best to check out the rest of Zeboyd’s games. They’re all pretty great!
The Darkside Detective
Unlike the rest of the games on this list, The Darkside Detective doesn’t solely focus on Christmas, but among the many cases to solve in this gripping point-and-click adventure game, one of them is a nod to Christmas specials! That may not be enough to put this game on a list like this, but we’ll be making an exception for The Darkside Detective on the account that it is just too good of a game to pass up. If you don’t like the genre, this won’t turn you into a believer, but if you’re open to games as long as they have a rich story, then this will most likely be up your alley.
Also, this is somewhat proof of what we were talking about with regards to games and Christmas. There’s usually very little in terms of the quantity of Christmas-themed games. Imagine the shenanigans we could get if all of The Darkside Detective’s cases occurred during Christmas instead of us getting that sole Christmas Spectacular Special. But, hey, at least we got one, right? More opportunities to talk about this sweet game so that we could potentially get more of Francis McQueen in the future. Pick up this game on Steam, PS4, PS5, XBOX, or Switch.
Daze Before Christmas
Now this one is a full-on Christmas-themed game! Daze Before Christmas players even gets to play as Santa Claus as he tries to save Christmas from an evil mouse who stole the presents supposedly for kids. And how will players be doing that? By using his magic powers to turn his enemies into harmless Christmas presents, of course! This game is a glorious 2D action platformer on the Mega Drive and SNES!
The game itself is pretty barebones platforming, but there are plenty of moments in the game that are just truly bizarre. I mean, you drink tea to turn into Anti-Santa, and while in this state, you’re an invincible devilish-looking version of Santa that swings his sack of toys at enemies to defeat them. In this form, he can’t use his magic or open presents. Whoever thought of that is both a genius and a madman. We need more Christmas weirdness in our games!
If you’ve ever read a list of Christmas-themed games that did not have Elf Bowling in it, consider that list incomplete. This game for ye olde Windows during the ‘90s was one of the most played PC games that were not bundled with Windows, hitting 7.6 million players at the time. That may seem like a small number compared to the millions of players that newer games were getting, but remember that PCs were not as commonplace back in the ‘90s as they are now. And with this game mostly being shared via email, it was no surprise that a lot of people who owned a PC then were able to play it.
Of course, for all the people out there who had no idea that Elf Bowling existed before this article, it’s a pretty basic bowling game. You play as Santa, and you are trying to knock down elves who are arranged like bowling pins. There’s absolutely nothing fancy about the gameplay, but the game had a lot of antics that ranged from silly to crude. The elves will taunt Santa when he misses, dances when the game ends, and even randomly moons him. Sure, they can be decapitated by the bowling ball, but they can also randomly dodge it. Pooping rabbits, crossing frogs, and lurking deer are also present, making this one of the weirder bowling games released.
There were multiple versions of the video game tie-in of Home Alone, but we’ll be talking about the one that got the most positive reception. The Master System version of Home Alone has players control Kevin while he races to collect various valuables lying around the house before the Wet Bandits can get to them. Once he collects all of them, he will then need to place those valuables inside a vault. If he can do this without the Bandits leaving the house with valuables in tow, players will succeed in clearing the level and move on to the next one.
While the Master System version will take a while to get into challenging territory, it’s the best of the bunch. Critics considered the Game Boy version to be slow and tedious and the other versions underdeveloped and overpriced. If you’re curious about how these criticisms hold up to today’s standards, the other versions of Home Alone were released for NES, SNES, PC, Game Boy, Genesis, Game Gear, and Amiga.
Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare
Much like Christmas NiGHTS, Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare is a special shareware edition of the original game that featured extra content centered around Christmas. There were two of these that were released, though: one was for 1994, the other was for 1995. Holiday Hare 1994 had three extra levels while 1995 only had two. Nevertheless, both Holiday Hare versions were extra Christmas-themed content with the same smooth platforming that Jazz Jackrabbit was known for, so we’ll happily play through both of them.
If you’re hunting for both Holiday Hares, make it a priority to get 1995. 1994’s extra levels were later integrated into the main Jazz Jackrabbit game as episode X, but 1995 didn’t get the same treatment. Since both of them are shareware, it’s probably not going to be hard to look for copies of both of them if you’re just looking to play through bite-sized sessions of Jazz Jackrabbit, but, hey, the more you know, right?
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake
When you first take a look at it, there’s nothing about Metal Gear 2 that screams Christmas. But when you do get to play it, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll be embarking on a rescue mission on Christmas Eve. Yep, we’ve got a nuclear threat on both Christmas and the world. Time to sneak around as Solid Snake in classic grid-based stealth!
Oh, right, this isn’t your newfangled Metal Gear Solid. This was way before it became cool on the Playstation. Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake was released on the MSX2, and it’s probably one of the best 8-bit games ever released. The thing about it is, aside from the plot occurring during Christmas Eve, there’s not a whole lot about the game that will provide the holiday cheers. There are plenty of double-crosses, tactical warfare, and clever stealth mechanics, sure. But if you’re looking for the Christmas spirit somewhere in there, you’d be hard-pressed to find it here.
Merry Gear Solid: Secret Santa
If you’re looking to play a game with plenty of sneaking around while also being a game that is themed around Christmas, then look no further than this fan-created game in the vein of the Metal Gear series. Merry Gear Solid: Secret Santa combines the gameplay of the 2D Metal Gear games while stylistically resembling the 3D games, putting the visual cues largely in line with the modern games. Players will be playing as Solid Santa, a holiday veteran who needs to deliver presents to several children on Christmas Eve.
It’s got plenty of Christmas-y twists to the militaristic flair that the core series has, but it’s now replaced enemy soldiers with naughty kids who are waiting for Santa and oblivious adults who can’t even see you unless you come in physical contact with them. The overall game is a bit short, but it’s a free game based on an excellent IP, so I can’t hear anyone complaining.
Our last game is similar to Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake in that the plot unfolds during Christmas Eve but doesn’t have a lot of Christmas spirit. It’s got more of a horror vibe to it, with the primary antagonist Eve making herself known to the world. Of course, she has to do it on Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s more dramatic that way, no? Enter Parasite Eve.
As Aya Brea, players embark on a journey to stop Eve from destroying the human race through spontaneous human combustion. Set-up as an Action RPG this was then-Squaresoft’s first M-rated game. Gamers were all sure back then that they wouldn’t be pulling any punches. Plenty of praise was hailed on the game’s graphics and gameplay, but the linear nature of the plot meant that there was little replay value to be had. Fortunately, that story is something that should be experienced by all kinds of gamers. We probably need an HD remake of this sooner rather than later.
We Just Want More Christmas Games
Beyond these ten games, there are still quite a few more games that have some sort of Christmas connection to them, but that's all we'll be covering for now. If you love Christmas, here's to hoping that more video game plots get to happen during the holiday season. We need more protagonists getting into trouble during the holidays or odd revelations in the most wholesome season of each year. Until then, be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more holiday cheers! You can also head on over to our Mega Cat Discord and discuss with us any Christmas-themed games we may have missed!