It’s the Holidays again; for me, Christmas.
I’ll say Christmas because I’d feel a little silly saying I celebrate “Holidays.” Here’s my tree, here’s my wreath, here’s a Nativity scene, it’s December 25, but Happy Holidays! Doesn’t really work.
So GameLuster wishes you a Happy Holidays, but I tip my hat with a “Merry Christmas.” It’s what I celebrate this time of year, though not to the full, original intentions of the Roman Catholic Church. I don’t see St. Nicholas popping in Mario Kart 64 for the traditional Frappe Snowland race.
Each year at this time I catch up on all the titles I missed for the calendar year, cramming in as much as possible while on break from work. My work as a gamer and a writer never ends, but when I’m off the clock I can game and write without passing out, getting distracted, or hearing the alarm go off. Nothing says warm Christmastime spirits more than sinking deep into wonderful gaming binges, killing Nazis and such. (Yes, I’m currently playing Wolfenstein II.)
I’m a seasonal guy, so I don’t only play catch-up with big releases, but also replay my traditional Christmas library specifically to get me in the mood for the season.
My library includes a few specific game stages, a Thief II fan mission, and some games that are only Christmas by association.
Freezeezy Peak, from Banjo-Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie is a wonderful storybook adventure, and this level is a wonderful storybook Winter Wonderland. It’s unabashedly Christmas-y. Those British developers!
Bells jingle in the music, there’s a big Christmas tree, present boxes are part of the stage, there’s a huge snowman, there are several evil snowmen, there are cute little Christmas lights you protect from being eaten, and ants. (Nothing says Christmas and wintertime like ants, right? That, and Christmas lights being eaten alive – ho, ho, ho.)
You’ll feel the cold whenever Banjo loses health in the water. You’ll feel the Walrus when Mumbo Jumbo transforms you into one. You’ll frolic and play the polar bear way as you race a fat papa polar bear on a sled (and you’re the Walrus when you do this).
As soon as the bear-and-bird duo warp into this world, trust me, you’ll understand why it’s Holiday magic.
Chilly Waters, from Mario Party 3
When the family’s over, play Mario Party, because there’s nothing better to do.
In truth, the exact opposite applies – at any given time, everything is better than playing Mario Party.
If you decide to play Mario Party during Christmas, or the Holidays, or whenever it’s cold and there’s snow, play Chilly Waters in Mario Party 3. The stage is cleverly named just like the other Mario Party 3 boards, like Woody Woods and Creepy Cavern. There are slippery slopes that may screw up your progress and friends who may cause snowballs to roll you off to a different side of the board, so it’s standard Mario Party misery.
If you have no friends, play with bots. Time can never be spent better than by playing Mario Party with bots. Trust me.
Frappe Snowland, from Mario Kart 64
Nothing says Holiday cheer like cursing — cursing, slamming, and screaming as you pummel time and again into every single snowman on this race course.
The controls and character models in MK64 lead you toward barely touching the outline of each little snowman every single time. They must be built out of bombs, because when you barely graze a snowman pixel there’s an explosion sound and you fly upwards, wailing. You’ll go from first to eighth quicker than you can say holy frappe.
The cheery music belies the evil nature of this course; if you play this for tradition, do so cautiously.
How the hell did this game get on the list? Because I got it for Christmas and played it during Christmas.
The shadowy UAC could use some Christmas cheer, but I don’t think the UAC personnel are so Holiday-inclined. Perhaps if they had accidentally opened up a gateway to heaven…
It is timely to purchase Doom on the Switch for someone’s stocking, so Doom holiday magic is more appropriate than you think.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Murdering demons, and now murdering Nazis (again!)? What kind of a list is this?
Well, it’s one, as forewarned, partly built from my own associative memories.
I remember playing this during Christmas back in 2002, and it fit because of how cold it felt.
You begin in Castle Wolfenstein with large, stone corridors and the freezing mountains outside. You continue to the surrounding village with snow on the ground and on soldiers’ uniforms. You hear a Nazi talking about not having bathed in over two weeks due to the lack of hot water, and his friend snickering and saying, “Ja, ja, I know!” It makes you feel cold; and thankful for modern conveniences.
Playing Wolfenstein II now, I’m keeping up my Nazi-killing Christmas tradition. Before I know it, whenever Christmas decorations go up and the music starts playing, I’ll have a compelling urge to murder Nazis.
Wait – I already do.
A Thief’s Holiday
Here’s an entry with no ambiguity. This Thief II fan mission by TTLG user Yandros is as Christmas a game experience as you can have.
In it, you are Garrett, the series’ Master Thief, and have retired to your country home for the holidays. You have friends coming over and must prepare the house for their arrival. This includes cleaning, decorating, and setting the table.
On Normal difficulty, every item – be it the cookies to place on the table, the broom to sweep the porches, or the record to put on the viktrola – is placed logically. But on Hard and Expert, you’ll have to look in the rafters, on the roof, in the shed, and in every nook and cranny to find the necessary items.
Being the Thief veteran I am, when I first played this FM I instantly selected Expert. Imagine my surprise when, after a couple hours, all I had found were one or two cookies!
It ended up being fun but really, really hard, and each year since I have revisited this FM on Christmas Eve. I play on Normal first then, for the real memories, go to Expert again.
Nothing says video game Merry Christmas for me more than A Thief’s Holiday, and I mean that.
There you go. If you celebrate Christmas – or Holidays, or Solstice, or anything else – the Trevor way, you’ll be wasting time with Mario Party and Kart, murdering Nazis, using a flashlight in a Mars research facility, and looking for cookies on your roof. You’ll also be playing Banjo-Kazooie.
Gaming or not, I wish you a Merry Holidays.
Back to killing Nazis.
The Banjo-Kazooie screenshot is from microsoft.com and can be found here.
The playthrough from which the Mario Party 3 screenshot was taken can be found at YouTube here. It was uploaded by Jobexi.
The Mario Kart 64 screenshot is from Nintendo.com and can be found here.
The other screenshots are from my personal collection.