Top Six Christmas Video Games December 5, 2014Posted by Maniac in Editorials.
With Christmas just around the corner and the season’s spirit out in the air, I strongly believe that this time of year is so ubiquitous that it can find itself in almost every single medium. I’m sure that many of you could spend hours reading out all the books, films, and television shows that featured this holiday front and center, but how many of you can name the video games that show off the spirit of the season in a way that only video games can?
Well, I’ve been following video games for plenty of Christmases and I’m sure going to try. The important criteria for this list has entirely to do with the game’s use of Christmas, either in the game’s story, visuals, or gameplay. However, a game can still make this list even if it doesn’t specifically reference Christmas itself, as long as it includes images or story elements generally associated with Christmas, like snow. So without further ado, let’s count down the Top Six Christmas Video Games!
6. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire – You can’t get more iconic than the Star Wars franchise. I know we’ve got the start of an entirely new trilogy coming next year, but back in the mid 90s all Star Wars fans had in canon were three beloved films, some novels, and an expanding comic universe. Before the prequel trilogy was even spoken of in hushed tomes by fans hanging on George Lucas’s every word, gamers got the biggest canonical expansion to the Star Wars universe in the mid-90s in the form of the game Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Set during the events between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the game puts you in control of Dash Rendar and his ship the Outrider as we got to explore the Star Wars universe in glorious 3D. While the game itself has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas, or as its known as in Star Wars, Life Day, what better way for a Star Wars fan to spend Christmas than fighting in the Battle of Hoth? I’m sure that many early N64 adopters fondly remember receiving this game alongside their brand new Nintendo 64 on Christmas morning, making it a great addition to this list.
5. Faherenheit (Indigo Prophecy) – This is probably one of my last favorite PC titles, even though it is available on the PS2 and Xbox. Taking us back to NYC, or as the game calls it, the Capital of the Universe, you play as several characters investigating the strange, almost ritualistic killings happening as the city gets blanketed in one of the coldest winters it has seen in years. It had been years since I played an adventure game on the PC, but after reading the guys at Penny Arcade had recommended it I decided to check out the game’s demo and I immediately was hooked. The story is fantastic, the motion captured animation was fluid, the soundtrack rocked, and the quick time events, while difficult for some, was a lot of fun for me. This game laid the groundwork for games like Heavy Rain and BEYOND: Two Souls. Do you want the heroes to overcome evil, or do you want evil to win out and for humanity to be blanketed in never ending winter? The choice is yours. What happens is left to you. If you don’t have an original Xbox don’t worry, the game will play just fine on the Xbox 360.
4. Max Payne – This game is without a doubt one of the greatest third person shooters in gaming history, and not only featured some of the best graphics of its time, but entirely new gameplay that is still being replicated to this day. While the game does not officially take place during Christmas (we never find out exactly what days of the year the first Max Payne game took place), the majority of the game takes place during one of New York City’s worst blizzards. As we can see immediately following the game’s prologue, NYC is a winter wonderland covered in snow, and if your PC is powerful enough, that snow will fall non stop. As you look at the images of the snow covered city during the game’s graphic novel segments, you can see that the snow itself is almost like another character in the game. In this game, Max isn’t going to be checking out the city’s great landmarks, we’re going to be fighting our way through some pretty seedy areas that even the game’s developer admits probably don’t exist anymore. You will find yourself traveling to some pretty dangerous places in the Big Apple, like Subways infested with gangs of mercenaries, or gothic nightclubs serving as the headquarters for some of the most dangerous drug lords in the city.
3. Batman: Arkham Origins – Batman had long standing issues in the video game space, but that all changed when Rocksteady released Batman: Arkham Asylum a few years ago. Last year WB Games Montreal released this prequel title to show the…*ahem* origins of the Arkham franchise. It is Christmas Eve and Batman has just started his war against crime. The city’s villains aren’t very happy they have to deal with a giant flying bat and someone places a bounty on the head of Gotham City’s vigilante. This brings out some of most dangerous super criminals in Batman’s rogues gallery including Bane, Deathstroke, Killer Croc, and Copperhead. With almost all of Gotham now gunning for Batman, The Dark Knight must defeat his new foes and make it back to Wayne Manor in time for Christmas ham. I really don’t want to say anything more as it might spoil the game’s story, but needless to say it is a great way to ring in the Holiday season. Just make sure to save Mr. Freeze’s DLC, Cold, Cold Night, for New Year’s!
2. Parasite Eve – Having grown up on the East Coast of the US, I have to admit I have a romantic fondness for New York City. While the city can be quite cold during the Holidays, it can also be so charming seeing it covered in snow when all the lights go on, and that feeling is captured quite nicely in Square’s PS1 classic, Parasite Eve. As the game opens we see snow fall all around the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center’s ice rink is covered in a white blanket of snow, and our game’s hero, Aya, is having a date to the opera on Christmas Eve. Immediately the city becomes an important staple of the game, and the signs of Christmas are around you. Sadly, your date goes badly. So badly in fact that almost everyone at the opera who didn’t flee immediately is presumed dead when one of the stars of the show unleashes an incredible power upon seeing you. The game takes place over the course of the next six days as you try to determine just what the heck happened at the Opera, and what was so special about you that your life was spared. If you want to check the game out for yourselves and don’t have an original copy of the game on PlayStation, you can always buy it digitally off the PlayStation Store.
1. Infected – As far as I’m concerned, this game is the definitive Christmas title, and I do my best to try and spend some time playing it every holiday season. One of the most prominent early titles in the PSP’s back catalog, Infected sadly never got the attention I believed it deserved. The game starts during the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center just as a zombie pandemic hits New York City. Okay, seriously, at this point even I’m shocked by how many Christmas games on this list happen to also take place in New York City. In fact, you could say it’s sadly comical, as developer Planet Moon Studios did a lot to inject their humor into what would otherwise have been a depressing, generic title. You are one of the few officers found to be immune to the zombie virus, and you have to spend the days leading up to Christmas eradicating the city of all traces of the outbreak. As the credits roll, the player is treated to an all new version of “They Don’t Even Know its Christmas” but this one is written on behalf of the zombies. Sadly, this game has not gotten a digital release on the PlayStation Store, so you’ll have to track down a physical UMD copy if you want to play it, but trust me, it is my favorite game on the PSP system.