‘Tis the season to jolly, fala-lalala-lala-lala! You have no idea how much I love Christmas. The family is all together, the food is great, the Christmas tree is flickering merrily and oozing that sweet, sweet-smelling sap, the homeless people outside try to survive the unbearable cold while middle-class folks merrily shop in brightly, colorful stores… Love it! LOVE IT! Love every second of it!
And Christmas also means a lot of free time to relax and recharge before the next year of soul-crushing hardships. And we’re all gamers here, we all know what that means. It means playing games, that’s what it means. Well, playing games longer than usual. So I prepared a handy list of games that are going to be super fun to play on Christmas.
They’re not necessarily Christmas-themed, but they do indeed have something special to offer on Christmas. For the most part they’re just fun to play for extended periods of time. There’s a wide selection of genres here and of course there’s 12 of them because, well, come on, one for every day of the holiday.
Since Christmas is a family affair and I certainly wouldn’t want you to be antisocial on the greatest time of the year, I’ll be concentrating on games that can be enjoyed in multiplayer. But at the same time I realize that a lot of you are somewhat introverted and like to recharge social batteries alone and it’s not like you can’t enjoy companionship without directly interacting with everybody.. There’s something for you here as well.
On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Gangsters have fun on Christmas too.
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360 | Genre: Action-Adventure
Release year: 2010 | Modes: Single-Player
Maybe not the most in Christmas spirit, but the game actually consists of a flashback sequence taking the player back in time to 1945 and taking place during Christmas, so it technically counts. And even if it didn’t, Mafia II is certainly a game worth playing. It does a truly wonderful job at world building and establishing this amazing noir setting of struggle between law enforcement and the Mafiosos, trying to live the American Dream in their own, twisted way.
The story, complemented by great gameplay with solid gun-play and driving mechanics, is truly exceptional. It’s gritty, dramatic and grounded in realism withal of which fits the time period when criminal organizations in the United States were so powerful they could challenge the government. It’s a long journey perfectly fit for a Christmas evening.
On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Grand Theft Auto V!
El Santa visits Los Santos.
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One | Genre: Action-Adventure
Release year: 2013 | Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer
I’m putting GTA V so early on the list because while it is a fantastic, you’ve probably already had your fill of the game through the year. But on the other hand, maybe that’s a good opportunity to revisit it. Or maybe it’s a good opportunity to try it for the first time if you didn’t get a chance to. It’s discounted by now and it will probably be even cheaper by the time Christmas sales hit.
While thematically it’s pretty far removed from Christmas, the online component of the game has special, holiday-themed events. And there’s a lot of custom multiplayer modes, races etc. designed for Christmas. I recall last year I found a custom mission that basically turned your group of people into Santa’s little helpers, where you had to rob a bank and give the money to the poor. Could be fun.
On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Will make your heart grow 3 times its size.
Platforms: PC, PS2, Xbox 360, Android, iOS, Wii | Genre: Action-Adventure
Release year: 2006 | Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer
An odd, but thoroughly enjoyable game, Bully explores the difficult high school years of one Jimmy Hopkins, a rebel and a rascal, but also a person with a good heart. More than anything else, it’s a very cliché, hilarious parody of what high school is supposed to be and it allows the player the cathartic power fantasy of sticking it to the bullies, getting the prom date, becoming popular and maybe even learning something along the way, things that none of us got to actually experience in high school.
There’s a multiplayer component to the game, in the form of short arcade games in which one player competes as Jimmy with another playing Gary. These are pretty varied and fun, but a little bit limited in scope. Good for a short bout during the holiday evening, but the bulk of the experience comes from the excellent single-player campaign. And yes, it spans multiple seasons, including Christmas, so there’s that.
On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
For those who want to simulate being out in the cold.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One | Genre: Survival
Release year: 2017 | Modes: Single-Player
Long Dark isn’t an easy game. In fact it’s a frustrating game that certainly provides a great deal of challenge to an intrepid gamer. It’s one of the better survival games on Steam, getting pretty high praises on a virtual platform filled to the brim with games like that. It pits a Canadian survivor of a global apocalypse in the cold, inhospitable world of the north and doesn’t pull any punches.
The game’s mechanics are extensive and involve known elements like hunger and thirst but also ones unique to the snowy environment the game takes place in, like specific needs for a calory intake and maintaining body temperature. While it lacks multiplayer, it has a survival mode operating in a somewhat rogue-like fashion, where item spawning is randomized so no two runs are going to be the same. Certainly a solid idea for a long, dark night during holiday time.
On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
World of Warcraft!
Merry Christmas to all of Azeroth and may the Light bless us all! | Platforms: PC Genre: MMO RPG
Release year: 2004 | Modes: Multiplayer
Ah yes, what Christmas could possibly be complete without sinking for hours into WoW. The Feast of Winter Veil has arrived and everybody’s here. As with most MMOs, WoW has its own Christmas tradition, a time when textures change and special celebratory events take place. You can also expect some free goodies from Blizzard on this special occasion. This also includes Warcraft-related card game Hearthstone, which will be undergoing a major expansion rush at the same time.
I’m writing this mostly for the avid fans of Warcraft, because I realize how exceedingly hard it is to get into those games for the first time. In which case you don’t need me to tell you to at least briefly visit the Tavern. However, I think Christmas is also a great occasion to give these games a try. It’s always better to start by getting free stuff from Blizzard and when you have enough time to slowly ease yourself into all the game mechanics. And while WoW is subscription-based, you can try it out for free until your character hits level 20, and Hearthstone is free in general.
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Hey, some of us like to get frisky on Christmas.
Genre: Visual Novel | Platforms: PC
Release year: 2015 | Modes: Single-Player
Ok, so here’s the thing. I really love VNs. It’s like my thing, but you wouldn’t really know that from reading my articles, unfortunately. But since it’s Christmas, I get to cheat a little bit and I managed to sneak this one through [I’ll allow it this time — Ed.], don’t tell anybody, it’s going to be our Christmas secret. Also, you have NO bloody idea how difficult it is to find a Christmas-themed VN on Steam that isn’t too erotic, and we actually have on sale.
Unfortunately there isn’t much to this one, it features a lonely College kid on Christmas (where have I heard that before?) who, through a twist of fate, finds himself being eyed by three anime girls. Hey, happens to anybody at least once right? He has to woo the heart of his chosen technicolor moe stereotype and fulfill his dream of not being alone on Christmas. It’s very simple and pure but if you’re anything like me all you needed was “Christmas-themed VN on Steam” and you were sold immediately. If you weren’t, can’t help ya [we’re fine — Ed.].
On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Don’t Starve Together!
Dying of starvation in the game would be tragically ironic.
Genre: Survival | Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release year 2016 | Modes: Multiplayer
Don’t Starve Together lies somewhere between a sequel and an independent expansion to Don’t Starve, a charmingly morbid game about various weird people, including children and automatons, teleported by Satan to a strange land and forced to scrounge for survival. Its very Adams Family-esque art style tied with various mechanics like sanity (replenished by merrily gathering flowers) make it a very unique experience in the grander survival games landscape.
As the name suggests (in an appropriately morbid manner), Don’t Starve Together is played with friends, who can work together to build structures that make survival more feasible, while frantically trying to keep the darkness, monsters, and winter at bay. It has additional game modes and an open lobby, so if you feel generous with your generosity you can open up a soup kitchen and visit other players’ servers to help them out. Maybe then Santa, I mean Satan, won’t banish YOU to the cornfield.
On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Build the Polar Bear Express
Genre: City Builder, Survival | Platforms: PC
Release year: 2018 | Modes: Single-Player
For the fans of city builders out there, we have Frostpunk, the game that doubles as a great morality simulator in addition to being a grueling survival game. Your mission is to build the last city on Earth, in the only place that isn’t too cold for survival, which in this case still means it’s below 40 degrees on a regular basis, and save the remaining human survivors.
Given the Christmas atmosphere, I encourage you take the personal challenge and try to make your enclave as humanitarian as possible. No sending children to coal mines, no using corpses as fertilizer and all that. Try to keep as many people well fed, warm and keeping as many limbs as possible. It’s not going to be easy, will likely result in crushing defeat, but ‘good will towards humanity’ and all that.
On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Dark Souls III!
Father Ariandel will surely appreciate the gift of fire.
Genre: Action RPG | Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release year: 2016 | Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer
None of the games in the Souls series sound like a good Christmas game, but you’d be surprised. Sitting down with your buddies and doing a Christmas party in Ariandel, decorating the tree (which is actually one of the players using a Chameleon spell) with Glowstones, sharing a nice toast of Siegebrau and munching on Bug Pellets or even invading other players as the red-hued Santa to give them presents: Dung Pies for the naughty ones, and Embers for the good lads.
This sounds weird, but this is exactly what this game’s community tends to on Christmas, it’s the best community ever. There’s even a section of Christmas-themed mods, if you want to fully commit to the idea. Though I’d be wary of using them in multiplayer, FromSoftware is well known for soft-banning people who do that. Alternatively you can just do things the regular way, but where’s the fun in that?
On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Monster Hunter World!
Before you cook it, you need to hunt that dino ham down.
Genre: Action RPG | Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release year: 2018 | Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer
You have no real excuse for not already having sunk hours upon hours into what will surely land on our Best Games of 2018 list (slight spoiler but come on, it was obviously going to be there). Monster Hunter World is fun and great at any time of the year, especially due to timed events that seem to just follow one after another this time of the year.
Speaking of which, Astera will be going through a Christmas-themed celebration during Christmas. It started on November 30th and will last until December 17th, so technically it ends just about before Christmas proper begins, but that just means you’ll have other games to enjoy during the holiday itself. But enjoy this one too, it’s a great game and when else during the year are you going to have an opportunity to sit down with friends and farm the best-looking armors and weapons?
On the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
BECOME the Santa!
Genre: Survival, Simulation | Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS
Release year: 2011 | Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer, MMO (yes, there are servers for that)
There’re few games that allow you the degree of flexibility that Minecraft does when it comes to designing your own fun with friends. The game is so expansive and robust that you can do almost anything inside it and with the long, winter evenings coming up, you’ll have plenty of time to build something truly extraordinary.
And then of course there’re mods. A plethora of mods with varying degree of complexity that can make Minecraft even more Christmas-themed. Even the basic game itself is going to do something special, that is slightly change the basic textures to more festive, during the holiday. Not a lot, but certainly something. Go ahead and make Santa proud, help him craft gifts for all the good children in the world.
On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…
Todd Howard is the original SatanSanta.
Genre: Action RPG
Platforms: it would be faster to list platforms it wasn’t released on, which at this point is only Toaster™ I think.
Release year: 2011 | Modes: Single-Player
Ah yes, of course. What other game could possibly be a better pick to play on Christmas, than one taking place in the home of the Nords, where winter never really stops and every day is Christmas? None could, that’s the answer. Lack of multiplayer is an issue, but just you wait, Todd will release Skyrim multiplayer one of these days.
Of course I encourage you to take a long look at TES Nexus and download some good, wholesome Christmas mods. There’s one that turns Whiterun into Santa’s workshop and Jarl Balgruuf (or Jarl Ballin’ as he’s better known to the internet at large) into the jolly red fellow himself. Have a Christmas party and help the Jarl bring joy to every Nord man, woman and child. Give something to Ulfric Stormcloack while you’re at it, maybe all he needed to relax was a bit of that Christmas spirit
What even is a ‘partridge under pear tree’ anyway?
Folks, Christmas is coming and I hope you’re as excited as I am. Whatever you decide to do this year, I hope you’re going to have a great time and that you’ll find the time to enjoy your beloved hobby and that you’ll get to share it with your friends and family.
Merry Christmas! Ho ho ho ho ho!