While plenty of game systems and titles are gifted during Christmas, this time period isn’t exactly thought of an iconic gaming setting. However, over the years plenty of titles have been set during the holidays that have been a blast to play. From nearly all of the Yakuza series being set around Christmas to actual Christmas-themed titles, there’s no shortage of holiday games to play. Here are the best Christmas games that are basically eggnog and candy canes in digital form.
Best Christmas Games – Dead Rising 4
The latest entry in Capcom’s long-running Dead Rising series once again features Frank West, and has plenty of humor in store for fans. While some elements have been streamlined, the core action and massive amount of zombies remains a joy. It’s also set during Christmas, which means players can expect plenty of ridiculous seasonal hijinks and snow to play with.
Best Christmas Games – Season’s Beatings
This Christmas-themed first-person shooter takes inspiration from Hotline Miami. That means that both the player and their foes die in a single hit. This results in ridiculously tense combat, and some truly thrilling moments. While it doesn’t quite reach the high marks of what it was inspired by, Season’s Beatings is still a fun twist that differentiates itself by being in 3D.
Best Christmas Games – Yakuza 5
While the bulk of the Yakuza series going back to the original game are set during late December, Yakuza 5 leans into it the most. This is particularly true during Taiga Saejima’s storyline as there is a substory that has him dressing up as Santa Claus in order to save Christmas. Throw in the ability to get into snowball fights and you have an action game that is simply filled with holiday cheer. It also helps that Yakuza 5 is the peak of the entire series.
Best Christmas Games – Batman: Arkham Origins
Taking place on Christmas Eve, the cheerful holiday provides a staunch contrast to the dark atmosphere of Gotham City. Batman: Arkham Origins doesn’t offer much new in terms of gameplay, but it does feature the best story of any 3D Batman title. That, when paired with its grittier tone, makes it well worth playing despite any sense of déjà vu that might pop up during its gameplay.
Best Christmas Games – Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
The fourth and final episode of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a grand murder trial that takes place on Christmas. The suspect is none other than Wright’s rival prosecutor, Miles Edgeworth, and the case features every twist imaginable including having to cross examine a talking parrot. “Turnabout Goodbyes” is a fantastic ending to the first game, and it’s one of the most emotional stories that the courtroom series has ever told.
Best Christmas Games – Shenmue
Ho ho ho! Shenmue takes place over a large space of time, but Christmas serves as a special date. Not only is Dobuita adorned with plenty of decorations and Christmas trees, but there is even a Santa Claus that walks around the streets doing advertising for stores. It’s not quite a magical moment, but it really drives home the festive theme. Plus, there are several Christmas songs that will play during late December including classics like “Jingle Bells” and “Silent Night.”
Best Christmas Games – Christmas Lemmings
DMA Design released several Christmas-themed expansions for Lemmings over the years. Originally just a few levels long, the 1994 release wound up being the size of a complete game. These feature a great holiday theme as the Lemmings wear red coats and the levels themselves feature snowmen and other Christmas decorations. The gameplay remains just as great as ever, and it’s easily one of the best Christmas games.
Best Christmas Games – Hitman: Blood Money
Who knew that Santa could be so deadly? The seventh mission of Hitman: Blood Money is called “You Better Watch Out…” and it features a drunk Santa that Agent 47 can assassinate and then use his outfit. It’s one of Blood Money‘s best levels, and the holiday party theme is a fantastic one. The 2016 Hitman and Hitman 2 also got Christmas DLC that draped the Paris level in festive adornments while the player hunts down two Home Alone-esque thieves.
Best Christmas Games – Duke Nuclear Winter
While this isn’t the best Duke Nukem game by any means, Simply Silly Software’s Nuclear Winter is still an enjoyable expansion for the iconic first-person shooter. It features an evil brainwashed Santa Claus (called “Santa Claws)” as the final boss, a “Feminist Elven Militia” to fight against, and plenty of snow-themed levels to shoot your way through. Particular highlights include going through a toy factory and Santa Claus’ corporate headquarters.
Best Christmas Games – Christmas NiGHTS into Dreams
This promotional game quickly became a collector’s item due to its exclusive content. It only features two variants of a single stage, but this NiGHTS Into Dreams semi-sequel has a wonderful Christmas vibe to it and plenty of unique graphics. One particularly neat feature is how the game changes depending on when it’s played. If played outside of winter, it’s displayed in-game as NiGHTS: Limited Edition, while Christmas and New Year’s have their own unique title screens and music.