With the most wonderful time of the year right around the corner, Game Rant takes a look back at the greatest yuletide levels to ever grace video games.
It feels as though Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year. The carolers start bundling up around October, and the jolly fat man himself starts popping up in malls across the country in early November. But while Christmas may be escaping December, its coming means that gamers finally have an excuse to do some yuletide gaming. Video games have a long history of Christmas-themed releases, and GameRant is here to shine the light on the five best. Here are the five best Christmas levels in all of gaming, just in time for the ho-ho-holidays.
5. Saints Row IV– “How The Saints Saved Christmas”
While the Saints might spend most of their time blowing up passerby’s with rocket launchers, fighting alien warlords, or escaping Hell, they still find time to ring in the holidays. Such is the concept of the ridiculous DLC expansion for Saint’s Row IV, which finds the violence-inclined Saints coming together to save Christmas.
Presented as a heart-warming fireside tale that just happens to include laser guns and explosions, the protagonist of Saints Row IV reveals that he/she does not care about Christmas, leading to the Saints labeling him/her a Grinch, all before they are interrupted by a time traveler who informs them that “Santa Clawz” has conquered the future and has now set his sights on the past. Cue plenty of Die Hard references, A Christmas Story jokes, and yuletide guns.
4. Banjo-Kazooie – “Freezeezy Peak”
Considered by many to be one of the finest 3D platforming games ever released (earning its place in the recently released studio retrospective Rare Replay), Banjo-Kazooie was a goofy, colorful ode to all things jumping and collecting. As bighearted bear Banjo and his feathered friend Kazooie quested to recuse Banjo’s little sister Tooty, they traversed deserts, ghost towns, and a Christmas-obsessed village watched over by a massive snowman, Freezeezy Peak.
Here, Banjo and Kazooie crossed paths with snowball slinging snowmen, Christmas lights, and a sled-happy polar bear, all before finding their way inside a giant Christmas tree and to the top of the giant snowman. The jolly fat man nor his little helpers are nowhere to be found, but Freezeezy Peak is still a great homage to all things Christmas.
3. Gex 3: Enter The Gecko– “Totally Scrooged”
There was a time when it was practically law to have every platform star be a quip-slinging animal of some kind, and that time was the 90s. Pop culture-savvy gecko Gex was the stalwart face of the genre in the late 90s (despite Bubbsy’s best efforts), with his special brand of movie references and fart jokes attracting fans.
The series was based around TV channels, allowing the games to skewer popular shows and movies. In the series final entry, Gex 3: Enter The Gecko, the motor-mouthed gecko was whisked away to a snowy tundra packed with Christmas trees, surly elves, and dancing candy canes, all lorded over by an evil Santa.
2. Borderlands 2– “How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day”
The loot crazy Borderlands series has never been one to back down from a ridiculous joke, but no one expected Borderlands 2 to go Christmas crazy and devote an entire DLC story to the holidays. But that’s just what developer Gearbox Software did when they released the seasonal tie-in How Marcus Saved Mercenary Day.
In the expansion, the player is recruited by shyster arms dealer Marcus Kincaid on the Christmas stand-in “Mercenary Day” to pay a visit to the snowy little burg of Gingerton, where the gun-strapped character encounters abominable yetis, killer snowmen, and holiday happy psychos. As the player character slaughters all comers in between Christmas trees and giant candy canes, Marcus directs the player to “Smaller-Than-Average Timothy,” who reveals that a giant snowman is to blame for freezing Gingerton’s residents, which of course leads to a battle against a skyscraper sized snowman named Tinder Snowflake. Hey, story-wise, Tales from the Borderland this is not.
1. Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams
While Sega seems satisfied releasing critically derided Sonic the Hedgehog titles these days, there was time they had consoles of their own, entering into the world of 3D gaming with the Saturn. The ill-fated system featured a game entitled NiGHTS Into Dreams, casting players as a jester-hatted “NiGHT,” soaring across grassy polygonal fields and racing through hoops. The title sold well, but Sega wanted to boost sales of the game for the holidays, leading to the big S cranking out a quasi-sequel just in time for Christmas.
The imaginatively titled Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams plunked players in a winter wonderland, turning the titular Nights loose on a Christmas village to assist elves, decorate Christmas trees, and spread holiday cheer. The title featured the tight gameplay that fans knew and loved from NiGHTS, but gussied up with a fine yuletide coat. Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams is a great slice of Sega gaming goodness, showing what the company was capable of before they, self-admittedly, betrayed fans.
Did we skip your favorite Christmas-themed level? Let us know in the comments!