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Christmas Specials Worth... Playing?

Silver Linings #12

Hello, and welcome back to Silver Linings where I put a spotlight on the maligned, forgotten, and ignored.

Everyone that celebrates Christmas has at least half a dozen DVDs of Christmas specials that are watched every year.  People have grown up watching Charlie Brown finding the true meaning of Christmas and the Grinch stealing presents. They've watched George Bailey realize what the world would be like if he wasn't born, in addition to tons of other stories.  On top of that, I guarantee that, no matter where you live, at least half of the local radio stations are playing marathons of Christmas music, both traditional and not so traditional, that run from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

However, the gaming world seems to be largely ignored when it comes to Christmas.  Now, I'm not talking about games as Christmas gifts; those are a given.  I'm talking about games that are set at Christmas, the ones that can count as playable Christmas specials. They shouldn't be ignored as a part of the Christmas festivities, and I'm not going to ignore them.  So here's a collection of twelve games that can provide some merry mayhem between the caroling and gift wrapping.  Whether they provide just one festive level or are jolly the whole way through, these games are perfect for when you want a break from all the Scrooge films.

'Batman Returns' — Super Nintendo

The second Batman movie was a mixed bag, but the games based on it were all great and all very different. For me, the best one was easily the Super Nintendo game, a classic side-scrolling beat-em-up that recreated all the key scenes from the movie while being a simple and addictive game to pick up and play. While I could've also chosen Batman: Arkham Origins which is also set during Christmas, Batman Returns in 16-bit was just more fun. It's that simple.

'Christmas NiGHTS' — Saturn, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

NiGHTS was easily the biggest success on the Saturn. To capitalize on it, a Christmas variation was provided on various demo discs that provide a couple of new levels with a festive theme. Fortunately, you don't have to go hunting for those discs as Christmas NiGHTS is included in the HD remaster of the original game on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Flying through a winter wonderland as a jester never gets old.

'Costume Quest' — Xbox 360, Playstation 3

Okay, I know what you're thinking right now. "Hey, isn't that a Halloween game?" It is, but the expansion Grubbins On Ice picks up some time later on Christmas. A new winter landscape is yours to explore while you gain new appropriately themed costumes to get candy and fight monsters. Thanks to this expansion, Costume Quest gets to join movies like Krampus and Gremlins as something that can be enjoyed for two holidays every year, not just one.

'Dead Rising 4' — Xbox One, Playstation 4

Remember Dawn of the Dead? Remember how it passed commentary by comparing consumer zombies to actual zombies? Well, that's what Dead Rising 4 does with Christmas shoppers. The game is dripping with Christmas with trees, lights, costumes... the whole package. There's nothing like the joy that comes from beating up zombie gingerbread men with a giant candy cane!

'Die Hard Trilogy' — Saturn, Playstation

When I reviewed this game, I noted that only two-of-the-three games on the disc were really worth playing. Fortunately, the two that are worth playing are both Christmas-themed. Die Hard and its first sequel are the perfect action movies to plug in at Christmas, and the games based on them are simple, but enjoyable, shooters. Pull out your light gun and say, "Yippee-ki-yay," to that!

'Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble' — Super Nintendo, Game Boy Advance

This one is a bit of a cheat, literally. By plugging in the word "MERRY" as a cheat at the start, all the bonus levels of the third Donkey Kong Country game turn Christmas-themed! Grabbing jingle bells to Christmas music is the perfect break from bopping on a bunch of Kremling heads while searching for DK and Diddy. 

'Hitman: Blood Money' — Playstation 2, Xbox, Xbox 360, Playstation 3

The Hitman games were always some of the toughest stealth games out there... that is, if you were actually trying to be stealthy. The fourth game is the best one as it provides plenty of tools to play however you want. It also provides the most unique scenarios in the whole series, one of which involves a hit at a Christmas party. Seeing Agent 47 strangling someone while dressed as Santa Claus is both the most ridiculous thing and most awesome thing you'll ever see in a game!

'Home Alone' — Genesis/MegaDrive

Whenever the title Home Alone is mentioned, thoughts immediately go to the terrible NES platformers that the Angry Video Game Nerd covered on his show. However, the Genesis/MegaDrive actually got a good game based on the Macaulay Culkin classic. It's a simple strategy game focused on setting traps with some platforming thrown in. It was a unique game for its time and is much better than many 16-bit games based on movies. Blast the NES Home Alone games with a blowtorch, and play this one instead.

'The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge' — Playstation 2, Xbox

The Nightmare Before Christmas is another movie perfect for both Halloween and Christmas, and the playable sequel Oogie's Revenge is the same way. Jack Skellington has to save Santa from a stitched-together Oogie Boogie in this easier re-skin of Devil May Cry. It plays well and feels like a perfect follow-up to the movie. At least it's a better choice than the Halloweentown section of Kingdom Hearts 2.

'Parasite Eve' — Playstation

New York City is an almost magical place to experience. Fortunately, your visit to the Big Apple will definitely be a better experience than Aya Brea has in this PS1 classic. People tend to forget that this horror RPG is a Christmas game despite it being drenched in Christmas for the first half. I have reviewed this game before, and I'll gladly load it up and blast mutated pigeons in a snow-covered Central Park again.

'Saints Row 4' — Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Playstation 4

The Saints Row series is pure insanity that reached its zenith with the fourth game. Adding in super powers was one of the most brilliant moves made for the game, and those powers become essential when the Third Street Saints have to rescue Santa from the Matrix in the expansion "How the Saints Save Christmas". The action is a blast, and the spoofs of classic Christmas films got me busting up big-time! Hey, it's Christmas! Go crazy!

'Snatcher' — Sega CD

This is another one that I'd mentioned before. Snatcher is worth seeking out just because it's an incredible adventure game that very much resembles Blade Runner produced by the legendary Hideo Kojima. It also has a segment set during Christmas where the player character Gillian has to dress up as Santa to elude some vicious androids. Sure, it's only one small part of the game, but it's still a good enough excuse to load up this forgotten gem.

Are there any other Christmas games I left off? What are you playing right now? Let me know, and Happy Holidays!

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