Retro Christmas Games

Christmas bauble

With the sleigh bells ringing and jolly old St. Nick and his elves on their way, why not spice up your long winter nights with some retro Christmas-themed games from ghosts of gaming past?

Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams (Sega, Saturn)

NiGHTS Into Dreams was a critically acclaimed but not terribly financially successful title for the Sega Saturn that was meant to help Sega compete with the surging Sony PlayStation. As a way to push their holiday console bundles, Sega created a Christmas-themed NiGHTS sampler to include in console packages.

Later, the game became available bagged with magazines and through other promotional venues. What makes Christmas NiGHTS very interesting is that it used the Saturn’s internal clock to determine its presentation. If played outside of winter, the game is simply a two-stage version of the regular NiGHTS. However, in November and January, the game is “Winter NiGHTS”, with different snowy theming and weather patterns – based on the time of day the game is played. When played in December, the game takes on a full, festive Christmas atmosphere. Full of hidden secrets despite only containing two stages, Christmas NiGHTS has attained cult classic status.

Daze Before Christmas (Sunsoft, SNES and Genesis)

Side-scrolling platform games were extremely popular during the 16-bit era. Mario and Sonic struggled for dominance, but even mythological gift-bearing men got into the act. Daze Before Christmas is a standard platformer that never saw a release in the United States but was available in Australia and Europe. Santa must fight an evil snowman in order to free his elves, or Christmas is ruined! There is running. There is jumping. And, oddly enough, there’s a power-up that turns Santa into a cute version of the Krampus, his Scandinavian partner-in-crime that punishes the bad children (while Santa rewards the good). Talk about Christmas cheer.

Home Alone (Multiple Developers, Multiple Platforms)

Home Alone was a huge hit in theatres in 1990, and a year later a slew of video game adaptations were released across nearly every platform available at the time. Three different developers (Bethesda, Sega, and Imagineering) worked on the games, resulting in several different gameplay variations. Some are platformers while others try to recreate the scenes from the movies where the hero, Kevin, sets traps to thwart the robbers that are trying to ransack his house.

Santa Claus Saves The Earth (Telegames, PlayStation and Game Boy Advance)

Another Santa-starring Christmas-themed platformer, Santa Claus Saves The Earth is probably better to be avoided. It’s a slap-dash, ugly, and difficult-to-play game hoping to cash in on holiday-themed presents. The less said about this game, the better. If you want to, you can watch people insult the game for 12-15 minutes in various YouTube videos.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie’s Revenge (Capcom, Playstation 2 and Xbox)

With a story combining a clash between the worlds of Halloween and Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas film has enjoyed enduring popularity, and over 10 years after its release, high-quality developer Capcom created a PS2 3D action-adventure title in which, as hero Jack Skellington, the player must save not only Christmas but all the holidays. Santa is involved, though the main baddie is ghoul Oogie Boogie. While the game got mediocre reviews, there is some fun to be had, and it’s quite pretty in spots for a PS2 game.

There are also a ton of DLC packs for modern games that are Christmas-themed, but the above are better choices if you want some old-fashioned gameplay with your egg nog this holiday season. Why not see what else the Christmas gaming experience has to offer by checking out our arcade machines and the full list of retro arcade games (including some Christmas crackers).

Photo by David Singleton