As the Christmas season approaches, gamers are probably looking for titles get them into the holiday spirit and keep them occupied over the break.
While there isn't really a specific holiday genre in gaming compared to movies and TV shows, there are a few games specifically set around Christmas, as well as DLCs and festive in-game events that definitely tie in with the season.
Here’s a selection of video games across various platforms, including mobile, PC and popular gaming consoles, that you might want to play if you’re in the mood to get lost in snowy winter landscapes.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Nintendo's 2020 social simulation game Animal Crossing: New Horizons is known for celebrating different holidays throughout the year, and seasonal in-game items and events can make the Christmas month feel even more festive.
Last year’s Winter Update featured a number of special timed events, a change in the weather, and a whole host of winter clothing, furniture and items to collect. The game recently held a ‘Nook Friday’ sale in time for real life Black Friday, and a Toy Day event is scheduled for Dec. 24, with Christmas-themed clothes and items available for purchase the whole month.
Starting Dec.15, ornaments will spawn on trees, which players will need to collect to make items (such as the gift wrapping paper) to join the Toy Day event.
Super Mario: Odyssey - Snow Kingdom
Platform: Nintendo Switch
For Nintendo Switch owners, the 2017 platform game Super Mario: Odyssey offers a fun globetrotting adventure that features a variety of locales to explore, including hot deserts and sunny beaches. It also comes with an exclusive world perfect for the holiday season, called Snow Kingdom, where you can chill out literally.
The winter region is home to the underground town of Shiveria (inspired by the icy cold areas of Siberia in Russia) and its warm community of people who enjoy traditional racing and baked goods like Frost-Frosted Cake. The town also draws inspiration from Scandinavia, as the locals resemble harp seals in knitwear and live in wooden Scandinavian-style housing.
Platform: Mobile, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5
Genshin Impact is a free to play action role-playing game developed and published by miHoYo originally released in September 2020 that continuously gets updated with brand new characters, special events, seasonal items, and whole new regions to explore.
Last year, the game launched Dragonspine, the vast snowy region that contains dozens of puzzles and challenges, a few days before Christmas.
The game’s latest Ver. 2.3 update “Shadows Amidst Snowstorms” will have players battling the biting cold of the frozen land and following shadows that lurk in the snow, most likely in the Dragonspine region.
An upcoming “Dust and Shadowed Snow” event will also include several holiday-themed challenges, such as training, snowman building, and special boss fights that reward you with special event currency.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Platform: PS4, PS5
Originally released last December 2020 by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the latest adventure in Marvel’s Spider-Man universe will have players traversing the snow-covered streets of a vibrant and bustling neighbourhood in New York City.
You play as teenager Miles Morales in the action-adventure game as he adjusts to his new home while following in the footsteps of his mentor, Peter Parker, as a new Spider-Man.
A lot of the game’s narrative revolves around celebrating with family and one's community, making this a good choice for a year-end game for those who haven’t had a chance to play it yet.
Batman: Arkham Origins
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360
In the same way that Die Hard is considered a Christmas movie, the 2013 game Batman: Arkham Origins is considered a Christmas game because the story takes place on Christmas Eve. Players get to enjoy seeing the neo-gothic Gotham city all covered with snow.
Taking place before the rise of Gotham City's most dangerous villains and assassins, the game showcases a young, raw, unrefined Batman as he faces a defining moment in his early career as a crime fighter that sets his path to becoming the Dark Knight. As the story unfolds, witness identities being formed and key relationships being forged.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds
Platforms: PS4, Microsoft Windows
While the story may not necessarily involve Christmas themes, the snowy landscapes make up a large feature of Horizon Zero Dawn’s expansion The Frozen Wilds. Guerilla Games made sure that the winter scenery of The Cut that Aloy explores is as realistic looking as possible in the DLC released in 2017.
The snow in the game responds to contact, characters can leave their tracks in it, and the location design stuns with its beauty. If you're in the mood for some exploration, mecha monster-hunting in realistic snow, and trophy completions, then The Frozen Wilds is a great choice to play or replay while waiting for the game's sequel Horizon Forbidden West to drop next year.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Platforms: PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC
Rise of the Tomb Raider, the eleventh entry in the Tomb Raider series released in 2015, follows Lara Croft as she ventures into the snowy wilds of Siberia in search of the legendary city of Kitezh while battling the paramilitary organization Trinity, which intends to uncover the city's promise of immortality.
Lara must traverse the harsh environment and combat enemies with firearms and stealth as she explores semi-open hubs. In these hubs she can raid challenge tombs to unlock new rewards, complete side missions, and scavenge for resources which can be used to craft useful materials.
Dead Rising 4
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PS4
The Dead Rising series is known mostly for its imaginative weapons that can be found or built to fight off hordes of zombies. The game itself is set during a zombie outbreak during the Black Friday sales, which makes it a fitting game to play this season.
The Dead Rising 4 Stocking Stuffer Holiday Pack released in 2016 lets players enjoy new combo weapons, a new combo vehicle, and the ability to dress up as Santa to shoot a horde of zombies dressed up for the holidays as elves, gingerbread men, reindeer, and snowmen, for even more holiday mayhem.
The Last of Us Part II
Set five years after 2013's The Last of Us, the game focuses on two playable characters in a post-apocalyptic United States whose lives intertwine: Ellie, who sets out for revenge after suffering a tragedy, and Abby, a soldier who becomes involved in a conflict between her militia and a religious cult. The action adventure game will have players fighting human enemies and cannibalistic zombie-like creatures with firearms, improvised weapons, and stealth.
Fair warning, 2020's The Last of Us Part IIis definitely not a feel-good game. Playing this (especially the second half) can be a real downer for the holiday season, but it does have some scenes set in snowy landscapes and a few memorable Christmas moments in cutscenes in between the emotional roller-coaster ride.
The Escapists 2 - Santa’s Shakedown
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Looking for something a bit more retro? The Escapists 2 is a strategy role playing video game released in 2017 that's all about surviving and escaping prison. The inmate must follow daily routines in the prison while at the same time, complete quests for fellow inmates and seek out opportunities to escape.
Santa’s Shakedown, the free Christmas-themed prison that comes free with the game, lets you play as an elf named Buddy trying to escape Santa’s clutches. Sounds like a fun game to pass the time.