This time of year, there’s no shortage of holiday movies on TV or songs about it played on repeat as you rush around crowded stores looking for the perfect gift for that special someone. But what about those who want to celebrate this festive time of year while at the same time avoiding the hustle and bustle by sequestering themselves away from people with a video game? Here are ten video games that will assuredly get you into the holiday spirit.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Electric Bento!
10) SUPERMAN (SEGA GENESIS)
This very tough Sega Genesis game starring the Man of Steel doesn’t task you with stopping the Toy Man from stealing children’s toys – though you do have to rescue children- but it is a stealth holiday game nonetheless. As pointed out by industry veteran Chris Baker in his video Superman – A Christmas Video Game (Kinda…) for Sega Genesis / Mega Drive (1992), the Daily Planet headlines that appear before stages clearly set this game between the dates of December 22nd and December 24th. Given how hard this game is, you may not make it to Christmas Eve, but that’s how we all feel around this time of year sometimes, isn’t it?
9) DIE HARD TRILOGY (PLAYSTATION/SEGA SATURN/PC)
Everyone has their own shared or personal holiday traditions, and now one of them is seeing Hans Gruber fall from the top of Nakatomi Plaza. Die Hard Trilogy is made up of three unique games based off the first three films in the Die Hard film franchise, two of which take place at Christmas time. The first part of the game based off the Christmas classic original is a third-person shooter where the player as the always-in-the-wrong-place hero John McClane must fight off terrorists as he ascends the floors of Nakatomi Plaza. The second, set during the events of Die Hard 2: Die Harder, is an on-rails shooter where you must stop another group of terrorists who have taken over Dulles Airport. Though you can’t play with a light-gun on the original PlayStation version, you can in the Sega Saturn port. Welcome to the (Christmas) party, pal!
8) ELITE BEAT AGENTS (NINTENDO DS)
One of the best and criminally underrated games on the original DS, you play as a group of secret agent cheerleaders who help people throughout the world with the power of song and dance. In one of the more honestly touching stages of the game, the Agents must help a mother who is coping with the loss of her husband and raising their daughter all by herself, all set to “You’re the Inspiration” by Chicago. You’ll be wiping the tears from the touch screen as you tap along to the song to help this family’s holiday wishes come true.
7) BANJO-KAZOOIE (NINTENDO 64/XBOX 360/XBOX ONE)
There’s very few levels as holly jolly as Banjo-Kazooie’s Freezeezy Peak. In this snowy, winter wonderland, complete with a Christmas tree and snowman the size of a mountain, you’ll compete in a toboggan race, help sentient Christmas lights find their way to a tree and deliver lost presents to children who have been neglected by their deadbeat dad. Okay, maybe that last one got a little on the dark side, but this part of a very wonderful game has just about every holiday activity you can think of packed into it so either load up your old save file or get the bear and bird duo to the Peak for some holiday fun time.
6) SNOOPY VS. THE RED BARON (PLAYSTATION 2/PLAYSTATION PORTABLE/PC)
“Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land”
If those lyrics mean anything to you, then you’ll probably know why this game is on the list, and also because it’s a buried treasure that deserves some more attention. Snoopy vs. The Red Baron can be best described as an all ages Crimsons Skies where you fly around open areas literally dog-fighting enemy planes, completing optional objectives to power up your plane and buy secondary weapons that allow you to open up alternate paths in stages. It doesn’t feature any Christmas carols – not even the iconic one – in its soundtrack, but Snoopy vs. The Red Baron is a game that deserved better than what it got and deserves a second look if you have a few extra days off.
5) DEAD RISING 4 (PLAYSTATION 4/XBOX ONE/PC)
To start things off, a moment of silence for Capcom Vancouver who sadly and unexpectedly closed this year.
Dead Rising 4 isn’t exactly the most beloved entry in the somewhat young series, but it’s a low commitment, wacky good time during the holidays. This chapter sees Frank West return to the city of Willamette, Colorado, and in particular, the mall from the first game, which is a monument to consumerism around the holiday time. Dead Rising 4 isn’t the deepest game you’ll play, and that’s not really what the late Capcom Vancouver was going for. This game is meant to put a smile on your face, and it’s hard not too when you’re running around in a Mega Man costume firing firework rockets and hearing Christmas carols in the pause screen menu. Relax, pour up some eggnog, and enjoy the last game crafted by some very talented people.
4) BATMAN RETURNS (MULTI)
The summer is an odd time to release a movie set during the Christmas season, but when has director Tim Burton ever not been odd? A game with the name Batman Returns arrived on nearly every system that could handle one in 1992, from the arcade brawler’s from Konami on the NES and SNES to the action-platformer that was exclusive to the Sega Genesis. Christmas is a time to put aside grudges, so there’s no need to bring up the age old rivalry over whether the Genesis or the SNES was the superior 16-bit hardware. Take out whatever system you have, pop in any cart with Batman Returns on the label and have a blast.
3) CHRISTMAS NIGHTS (SEGA SATURN/PLAYSTATION 3/XBOX 360/PC)
Originally a small stand-alone expansion to the Sega Saturn exclusive NiGHTS Into Dreams, Christmas NiGHTS is now easier to access now than even when it was new as it can downloaded on the for the last generation of consoles and PC. Developed by Sonic Team, NiGHTS Into Dreams has the player take control of two children, Claire and Elliott, who enter the world of Nightopia where they can take flight after merging with the character, NiGHTS. In Christmas NiGHTS, Claire and Elliot return to NiGHTS homeland in search of the star from a missing Christmas tree. Items are replaced by Christmas presents, and carols replace some of the background tracks. Christmas NiGHTS was a treat to those who could get their hands on back in 1996, but that was a very small number given how poorly the Saturn sold in North America. Thankfully that isn’t the case now at all, so play out on this Christmas video game classic.
2) PARASITE EVE (PLAYSTATION/PLAYSTATION 3/PLAYSTATION PORTABLE/PS VITA)
This is more of a Nightmare Before Christmas title, but a great game to revisit around this time of year nonetheless. Taking place over the holiday, you play as NYPD officer Aya Brea, who after witnessing a full room of people spontaneously combust at the opera, discovers she has hidden powers and is mysteriously linked to a creature known only as “Eve”. Dubbed the “Cinematic RPG” in its marketing, Parasite Eve was Square’s attempt at blending their skill with crafting RPGs with the growing horror genre. The mixture created an unforgettable title with characters you grow to deeply care about, a haunting soundtrack, disgusting monsters and an innovative battle system. Originally for the PlayStation, you can buy Parasite Eve on the PlayStation Store for play on the PS3, PSP and PS Vita.
1) BATMAN: ARKHAM ORIGINS (PLAYSTATION 3/XBOX 360/PC)
Being the first Arkham game not developed by Rocksteady, Batman: Arkham Origins was always fighting an uphill battle from the moment it was announced. Upon its arrival in late 2013, it was a success, but it failed to be as universally loved as the games that came before yet. Years later though, it’s a different story as the appreciation for Origins has turned around significantly and people have come to see it for what it really is: a game that deserves its place in the Arkham series. Taking place during Christmas and when Gotham City is silent and empty because of a snow storm, Batman must hunt down the assassins who are tracking him down to win a bounty put up by the criminal, Black Mask.
Batman: Arkham Origins uses its Christmas setting to great effect, especially during the introduction of the Joker; the “carol of the bells” has never felt so haunting. Origins DLC chapter takes place during New Years, so you get a two-for-one holiday season in this package. If you’ve got time for one holiday game in your schedule this season, make it this underappreciated chapter in the Arkham saga.
Does anyone have any other holiday favorites? Let us know on social media, we’d love to hear about them!