13 Best Video Games To Play On Christmas

Some people like to get in the Christmas spirit by caroling, looking at Christmas lights, or shopping for presents. Some people get in the Christmas spirit with a favorite Christmas movie or a favorite TV special they come back to over and over again. Here at EIP.gg, we like to get in the holiday spirit the way we do everything else: with video games. With that in mind, we’ve found some Yuletide gems for you, from just about every era of video game history.

Some of these games are great at any time, but pick up an extra spot of joy and goodwill around December 25th. Other games on this list are heavily Christmas-themed, but are great in their own right. And one or two of them, like the porcelain village your nana carefully arranged beneath her tree, should only come out at this time of year.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, politely ignore it, or yell “Bah, humbug!” at the heavens every December, one of these games will fit in your stocking.

GamePlatform – GenreMetascoreHoliday CheerReason for the Season?
Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams”¦ Saturn/PS3/XBox 360 – Action 755/5It’s NiGHTS Into Dreams. But Christmas-themed.
XMas Shooting- Scramble! PC – Bullet HellN/A5/5Tiny Christmas-themed bullet hell that never outstays its welcome
The Grinch GBC – MazeN/A5/5Surprisingly great maze/stealth game from Konami
Batman: Arkham OriginsPS3/WiiU/XBox 360/PC- 3rd Person Action762/5Gritty Batman origin story taking place on Christmas Eve
Yakuza: Kiwami 2 XBox One/PC/PS4 – 3rd Person Open-World Action 883/5Merry Fist-mas to all Kiryu’s enemies.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons- Toy DayNIntendo Switch – Life Sim905/5If you want to spend time with family and friends, you can’t go wrong with ACNH.
Parasite EvePS1- Classic Real-Time JRPG812/5Biology horror with the classic PS1/PS2 Squaresoft team
Mario Party 6Gamecube- Party Game714/5Compete with your family and friends in a chaotic minigame spree
Santa Claus is Comin’ to TownWii – PlatformerN/A5/5An okay video game recreation of a Christmas classic.
Dead Rising 4PS4/Xbox 1/PC – 3rd Person Action744/5The best Dead Rising game? No. But it’s set during the Holiday Season!
Spider-Man: Miles MoralesPS4/PS5- 3rd Person Action853/5Miles Morales saves a holiday Manhattan.
Cthulhu Saves ChristmasSwitch/PC/PS5835/5Quirky indie turn-based RPG with a wry sense of humour.
Your Favorite Online Game’s Holiday EventDepends on your tastes!N/A4/5Share the holidays with your favourite game.

Christmas NiGHTS: Into Dreams (1996)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Sega Saturn; bonus content on the HD PS3/XBox 360 release of NiGHTS75 (full game)5/5Bonus promotional level pack for a cult-classic game, including Christmas-themed secrets and the ability to play as Sonic the Hedgehog

NiGHTS is an odd game to describe. It’s got the dreamlike visual style of early Sonic’s special stages, mixed with tight 2.5-D flying sections. Players take control of one of two children, Claris or Elliot, to free the jester NiGHTS and save the world of Nightopia. You fly around elaborate, trippy levels, gather collectables, and battle bosses — but, just like the early Sonic games, the main objective isn’t just to finish, but to get a high score. It’s a bit confusing to get into, but it’s a cult classic for a reason.

Christmas NiGHTS is a demo of NiGHTS released in 1996. It was free to rent at Blockbuster Video for a limited time, and was sent out as a demo disc in magazines. The gimmick with Christmas NiGHTS is that the game keeps track of your console’s clock. If you play this disc any time before November, it’s a pretty bare-bones demo of NiGHTS Into Dreams, containing the game’s first level and boss fight. But during the winter, the game alters to become more “Christmas-y”, with the game’s music, characters, and levels all becoming Christmas themed.

You might think it would be a pain in the butt to get your hands on Christmas NiGHTS, and if you’re talking about the original Saturn version, you wouldn’t be wrong. Luckily, it’s available as an unlockable extra in most modern versions of NiGHTS Into Dreams — the PS2, PS3, and XBOX 360 versions of the game all include it — so you can play it legally, even today. If you want a quick taste of Christmas cheer with some dreamlike visuals and gorgeous music, you can’t go wrong with Christmas NiGHTS.

XMas Shooting – Scramble!! (2016)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
PCN/A (not enough reviews)5/5Charming Japanese indie shoot-em-up with adorable Christmas vibes and a heartfelt story

XMas Shooting – Scramble!! is a Christmas-themed shoot-em-up developed by Orange_Juice, a circle of indie developers who’re best known for a digital board game called 100% Orange Juice. XMas Shooting- Scramble!! is a remake of one of their older games from the late 2000s, with expanded levels, some redesigned characters, and higher resolution graphics. It’s a short, sweet little game, and it’s one you might overlook in the plethora of cheap anime shlock on Steam. But don’t be fooled — Orange_Juice have made a number of shmups in their time. This one has all the polish and the challenge you’d expect from the genre, tied up in a festive bow.

If you’re a Touhou fan or a fan of bullet hell in general, you know what to expect here. The game has three levels stuffed with Christmas-themed enemies; everything from puffy-gloved snowmen and laser-spewing Christmas trees to exploding trains and bats in Santa hats. And, of course, you have your roster of adorable anime girl antagonists, each with her own cutesy gimmick.

Our heroine, Aru, fights back with her team of eight tiny reindeer, each capable of delivering a volley of high-speed projectiles. She dodges bullets, takes down her opponents, and rescues the Christmas presents that were stolen from her so that she can bring joy and good cheer to all the children of the world! The story’s brief, but surprisingly heartfelt — the question of ‘who stole the Christmas presents’ is simple, yeah, but it might give you some feels, especially if you’re a sucker for Christmas stories.

The Grinch (2000)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Gameboy ColorN/A (not enough reviews; 9/10 by IGN)5/5Konami-made maze stealth game with some interesting gameplay/ideas

Hold your red-nosed reindeer: we’re not talking about the infamously bad PS1 platformer. We’re talking about the Gameboy Color game that came out around the same time, which was made by the same team at Konami who worked on Castlevania: Legends. It’s been forgotten, mostly because everyone assumes it’s an even worse version of the PS1 game. And that’s a shame, because it’s a genuinely fun time.

The Grinch GBC is a maze stealth game — think a mix of Pac-Man and the original Metal Gear. You play as the Grinch, trying to collect all the presents in a level within a time limit. You can pick up items to extend the time limit, and it’s pretty forgiving anyway. The main obstacle are the Whos: Every Who down in Whoville wants to HUG and LOVE the Grinch, and will chase him down to do just that. And naturally, if you get too much friendship, your tiny shriveled heart can’t take it, and you get a Game Over. You have some tools to deal with the Whos — bad breath, snowballs, and rotten eggs — but these will mostly just stun them for a few moments. Your real weapon is stealth, and walls, cover, and avoidance are your friends. It’s a fascinating concept for a game, and much better than the generic platformer you’d expect from the time this game was made.

The game isn’t without its flaws. It can get repetitive pretty quickly, though the devs made a commendable effort to shake things up. There are a few levels where you can play as Max, the Grinch’s dog; there are buildings you need to sneak through; there are more offensive options and tougher enemies. Also, the game doesn’t have a built-in save system. There is a password system, so you can put the game down and pick it back up when you’re ready.

Overall, this is a hidden gem. If you’re feeling Grinchy or want an old-school game this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with The Grinch GBC.

Batman: Arkham Origins (2013)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
PS3/WiiU/XBox 360/PC 742/5It’s hard to go wrong with a Batman: Arkham game. And this one has a spooky cover of Carol of the Bells.

If you like your games less merry and bright, or if you think Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas classic, consider playing Batman: Arkham Origins over the holidays. Arkham Origins is part of the brilliant Batman: Arkham series, and while it’s definitely not the best game in the franchise, it’s a great playthrough if you haven’t already tried it.

As the title implies, this game stars a newer, unpolished Batman. He’s still building his reputation; the criminals of Gotham aren’t sure whether he’s a legend or a cryptid. Batman’s relationship with Alfred is strained, and he has neither Oracle nor Robin to help him fight crime. On Christmas Eve, the villainous Black Mask sends eight professional assassins to kill Batman. Batman must contend with these assassins, the corrupt Gotham City Police, famous villains from his rogues’ gallery like the Joker, and the usual superstitious and cowardly criminals. It’s an open world action game, just like the rest of the series, and it’s got everything you’d expect from an Arkham game: combo-based combat, crime-solving, and stealthing about as Batman through a snowy Gotham City.

Of course, the game isn’t perfect. The studio that made the first two Arkham games didn’t work on Arkham Origins; they farmed the development out to another company. Because of this, there aren’t many interesting changes to the gameplay; it’s as if the studio was afraid of going too far from the established formula. Another downside: Kevin Conroy doesn’t reprise his iconic role as the voice of Batman.

Still, the interesting mix of gameplay modes, the multiplayer mode, and the vast array of challenges and quests in the main game make for a fun experience. You’ll have enough caped crusading to take you through the Christmas season, Advent, and beyond.

Yakuza: Kiwami 2 (2017)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
XBox One/PC/PS4 883/5Yakuza is, surprisingly, a Christmas series. Who knew?

It’s easy not to realize that the Yakuza games are supposed to take place in December, around Christmastime. But as it turns out, most of them do. You can hear Christmas music in various locations, see Christmas decorations in many shops, and a couple NPCs mention that it’s Christmas. It’s a choice that fades into the background of the gangland mayhem that the series is best known for, but it still adds a little bit of texture to this open-world adventure that you might not have noticed.

And, to be fair, there’s so much texture in Yakuza Kiwami 2 that it might be difficult to notice. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is technically a remake of Yakuza 2, though it adds a lot of extra content, changes the gameplay style, and modernizes some aspects of the game. The main plot’s a pretty straight-laced story about rival mafia clans battling for dominance over Kamurocho.

But, like all Yakuza games, the main quest isn’t the most memorable or intriguing part of the game. Yakuza Kiwami 2 is full of absolutely bonkers sidequests and side stories that bring its world to life. You want to sing karaoke? Become a mahjong master? Beat Virtua Fighter? Become a boudoir photographer and get pictures of a pretty model in a Sexy Santa costume? (See, there’s the Christmas again!) You can do all of these things, and more, in Yakuza Kiwami 2. Couple that with a side mode where you play as fan favourite Majima, and a huge number of weird and wacky sidequests, and you’ve got a game that really makes its world come to life.

Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and Kiwami 2 all returned to XBox GamePass in July, so if you haven’t checked them out yet, you’ve got a chance. Any of these games can be a fantastic playthrough at any time of year; Christmas provides the perfect excuse to play.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Nintendo Switch905/5Who doesn’t want to give their adorable animal friends presents?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has a ton of seasonal events, from Bunny Day and Nature Day in the spring to Halloween and Turkey Day in the fall. The winter event, and the one that will fill you with the most holiday cheer, is Toy Day. Toy Day isn’t technically Christmas; it’s celebrated on December 24th. As we all know, almost Christmas means it isn’t Christmas. But considering that it’s a holiday containing stockings, reindeer, presents, and Santa Claus, it has more to do with Christmas than a lot of the other games on this list, so we’re including it anyway.

On Toy Day, Jingle the Black-Nosed Reindeer shows up in your town and asks you to craft him three rolls of Festive Wrapping Paper. Once you’ve done that, he gives you a magic bag that lets you deliver presents to all your villagers. If you have high friendship with your villagers, they’ll give you a present in return! When you finish giving your villagers presents, Jingle will reward you with DIY recipes and the Toy Day Sleigh. All told, it’s a fun little event that lets you craft festive items and be kind to your animal friends.

There are a couple cosmetic changes to the game for Toy Day, too. Your villagers, Tom Nook, Isabelle, and other NPCs all wear Santa hats. Every pine tree in the game grows Christmas ornaments, which you can use to craft special Christmas items. You can also buy a Santa suit from the Able Sisters, and if you wear it on Toy Day, your villagers will tell you that you look like Santa Claus.

Like most Animal Crossing events, Toy Day is short, sweet, and to the point. It’s a nice, optional extra that gives you some neat holiday items and a chance to appreciate your beloved villagers.

Parasite Eve

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Playstation 181/1002/5An RPG by the classic PS1/PS2 Squaresoft team; J-horror at its finest

This one’s for the Scrooges out there. Parasite Eve is another one of those games that takes place at Christmastime, but any lights you’ll see are caused by spontaneous human combustion. NYPD rookie Ava Brea attends a concert at Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve, only for the audience to go up in flames. The only people who survive are Ava, her blind date, and an actress on the stage…. and the actress begins mutating into a horrible monster that calls itself Eve. Ava must figure out what’s going on and stop Eve before it gives birth to an even greater monstrosity.

Parasite Eve is a JRPG with pausable real-time combat and survival horror elements, made by Squaresoft greats like Tetsuya Nomura and Yoko Shimomura. It takes place in NYC, and all of the locations (from the Museum of Natural History to Saint Francis Hospital) are beautifully drawn. The team brought in Square’s American designers for this one, and it shows. It’s the official sequel to an award-winning horror novel of the same name by Hideaki Sena, starring a different character from the novel but keeping a lot of the plot elements intact, and it’d go on to have several sequels of its own.

Parasite Eve’s widely considered to be one of Square’s greatest, though some folks feel like it hasn’t aged well. Still, if you like Final Fantasy VII or Shin Megami Tensei, this one’s worth a play. The buck wild story and gorgeous techno-opera soundtrack are reason enough on their own, and Christmas gives you an excuse to check it out.

Mario Party 6

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Gamecube71/1004/5An incredible party game that’s fun to play with family and friends, or take on solo.

For a lot of people, Mario Party is a nostalgic delight. It’s a crazy game of luck and skill, of strategy and button-mashing, of frantic minigames and wild swings of fortune. And Mario Party 6 is one of the best games in the series. Players of any age can pick it up, and the game’s comeback mechanics and randomness mean that players of any age can win. Over the holidays, when you’re with friends and family, it’s an excellent choice. Just make sure you disable the Mic minigames; they’ve aged like spoiled eggnog.

Our pick for a board to play at Christmastime would be Snowflake Lake, which is filled with cute snowmen, ski lifts, and penguin ice sculptures. But it’s also a gimmick board– instead of getting to go around the map and buy stars, you steal them from your opponents by riding Chain Chomps. Give more skilled players a higher star handicap and watch the chaos commence! If you want a more laid-back experience, you could also always play Faire Square; if you’re playing with much younger players, Towering Treetop is probably the way to go.

No matter what you choose, though, you’ll have a wacky free-for-all – all of the chaos of a family board game night, with none of the tedium.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (2011)

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
WiiN/A (…not great)5/5A charming recreation of the classic Rankin-Bass holiday specials as a simple Wii platformer

Let’s just get this out of the way: This is not a must-play game. It’s the kind of basic licensed 2D platformer that bloated the Wii’s library, complete with motion-controlled minigames. Some people might even call it shovelware. But Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town has one thing going for it: it’s a surprisingly faithful recreation of the stop-motion Christmas classic it’s based on.

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town is a simple 2D platformer with two objectives: collect a certain number of snowflakes, and get to the end of the level. These tasks are both easy enough for a young child to complete; an adult player will likely have no trouble with either. The levels are simple, repetitive, and easy. There are a few sidequests and minigames that try to keep things interesting, but the sidequests are largely pointless and the minigames are the kind of thing you’d expect from the Wii, frustrating waggly nonsense. The characters you know and love from the original special, like Topper the Penguin and the Winter Warlock, all make their appearances as you’d expect; there’s a mix of 3D rendered cutscenes and still images from the films to tell the story.

But if you’re talking about explicitly Christmas-themed games, you’re kind of grading on a curve (remember Elf Bowling?), so a mediocre game can be a breath of fresh air. And it’s clear that, at minimum, the people who made this game cared about it. The CG models do a good job of mimicking the stop motion puppets from the original specials; the gameplay, while simple, isn’t horribly dull, and it’s possible to skip most of the segments that could become annoying. It looks good, it plays decently, and there’s a multiplayer mode so you can play with a family member or a friend.

Basically: this is a must-try if and only if you have nostalgia for the Rankin-Bass stop motion films. If watching them gives you warm, fuzzy holiday feelings, and you want to play through them in video game form? You should try this one out at least once. Otherwise, feel free to skip it.

Dead Rising 4

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
PS4/Xbox 1/PC744/5 Fight a knife-wielding Santa Claus with a bat covered in Christmas lights. Nuff said.

Dead Rising is one of those series where everyone agrees the first game is good, and is split right down the middle about why. Every other entry in the series, however, has suffered from a divided fanbase. Dead Rising 4 is no exception. Some people love the 72-hour timer that the original game ran on; some hate it. Some people love the over-the-top bosses from the first few games; some are glad to see them gone. Some people love the revoiced, gruff, older version of the protagonist; some wanted to see the original voice actor back so badly that they signed a petition over it. No matter what the developers do, they can’t win.

But one thing is undeniable: Dead Rising 4 is the most Christmas-themed zombie-splatting game you will ever have the fortune to play. The series’ broad parody of American commercialism — cribbed from George Romero to the point of lawsuits — is only helped by the holiday theming. Everything from the peppy Christmas jazz music piped through the store speakers and the zombies’ coats, mittens, and occasional Santa hats, to the giant light-up Santa Claus on the ‘Welcome to Willamette’ sign, screams “Christmastime consumerism turns us into mindless monsters!” It’s not subtle, but then, Dead Rising has never been subtle.

Playing Dead Rising 4 is like fighting your way through a Hallmark Christmas movie gone horribly wrong. It’s gory, it’s silly, it’s over the top. It’s also a more casual experience than the rest of the series, so if you just want to unwind between holiday events, it might be a good choice. If you’ve never picked up a Dead Rising game, give it a play! If you’re a current Dead Rising fan and you haven’t played 4, give it a chance. Christmas may be the best time of year for it.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
PS4/PS585/1003/5Save a wintry Manhattan as Peter Parker’s protege.

Another superhero game that takes place over the holidays, Spider-Man: Miles Morales is a bite-sized treat that tastes good any time of year. It’s technically an expansion to Spider-Man (2018), but stands on its own, both in terms of story and gameplay. During the holidays, Miles Morales is left to watch over New York while Peter Parker travels abroad. The young Spider-Man must protect the city from corporations, supervillains, and– ultimately– his nearest and dearest.

Along the way, you get plenty of the web-slinging action that the original game perfected, a tech demo for Unreal 5’s impressive capabilities, and a game that you’ll want to come back to over and over again. You get to explore a snowy New York, fight villains old and new, and spend some quality time with one of the best comic book characters ever put to silicon. The worst thing anyone has to say about this game is that it’s too short.

If you’re a fan of Miles Morales, if you’re looking for more of the action that Spider-Man (2018) gave you, or if you want a superhero game to play over the holidays that’s a bit more Merry and Bright, you should check this one out. Hopefully, we’ll see more of Miles soon, whether in the inevitable sequel to Spider-Man or in another game of his own.

Cthulhu Saves Christmas

PlatformsMetascoreHoliday CheerGifts on Offer
Switch/PC/PS583/1005/5Quirky indie turn-based RPG with a wry sense of humour

Cthulhu Saves Christmas is exactly what it says on the tin: an irreverent, quirky RPG about the face of cosmic horror saving Santa Claus from the League of Christmas Evil. You team up with Santa’s daughter Crystal Claus, a young Baba Yaga, and other quirky characters, and you travel the world to find Santa and save the day. Build your R’ylehtionships, fight festive foes, and laugh — or groan — at the Christmas puns. The game’s a prequel to the studio’s original Cthulhu Saves The World, and it brings the same charm and comedy to the table. No one in this game takes anything seriously, and the narrator gets in on the jokes. The pixel art is fantastic, and the music is a standout of this game, featuring some heavy metal-inflected remixes of Christmas songs.

The game’s a turn-based RPG, with the improvements that you’d expect from a modern indie — grinding is limited, you’re fully healed after each battle, and your strategic options are less about churning through a giant mass of consumables and more about picking your items and choices wisely. You can fight a battle at any time from the menu, if that’s your idea of a good time, but you won’t have to fight any extra battles unless you want to.

You won’t find any cosmic horror here — for the best, really — but you’ll find the Mari Llywd as an enemy, and who doesn’t want to fight a cheese-loving horse skull? Cthulhu Saves Christmas has driven us mad…. with adoration.

Your Favorite Game’s Holiday Event

If none of these Christmas-themed games are your cup of eggnog, many non-holiday live service games run a holiday-themed event this time of year. You can play a game you already love while getting in the holiday spirit. If your favorite game isn’t on this list, then an event might still come out, so don’t lose hope! Here are eight non-Christmas games with a Christmas event worth checking out:

  1. Among Us: In a recent update, the developers told fans that if log into the game after the 26th (of December), they will receive a new cosmetic, which looks like a New Years costume.
  2. Dead By Daylight: Bone Chill 2023. Starting on December 14th, new holiday-themed cosmetics have been added for the newest killers and survivors alike. Every map has received a holiday upgrade, too– including snowmen that both survivors and killers can hide in, and snowballs to throw!
  3. Destiny 2: The Dawning 2023 starts December 12th. Bungie’s back with it’s cheerful antics, that menas freshly baked cookies are on the table. Guardians can also grab a new glaive event weapon, and a new momento with a unique shader on it.
  4. Final Fantasy XIV: The Starlight Celebration 2023. Complete a special holiday-themed quest and earn a new Santa Claus armor outfit, and a bush shaped like a chocobo that’s adorned with lights! You can also access old holiday items in the shop.
  5. Guild Wars 2: Wintersday 2023 is on until January 2nd! To start this event, head to Divinity’s Reach and check your mail for a ltter from Tixx about the holiday fun! Players can earn new winter themed weapons and armor.
  6. Overwatch 2: The Winter Wonderland event returns December 19th. During these events, you can unlock new skins by playing through the new Winter Fair Event Pass!
  7. Pokemon Go: For the holiday season, Pokémon Go has released Winter Holiday Part 1. During this event, players can catch Cetoddle for the first time in game, along with a bunch of Pokemon wearing holiday outfits!
  8. Rocket League: Frosty Fest 2023 is another returning event where players can play the Winter Breakaway and Speed Demon Limited Time Modes. As well as earn new customization items for their rides!

Whether you’re a fan of platformers, action games, life sims, MMOs, or bullet hell, there’s a Christmas-themed game you might enjoy. In the spirit of the holidays, you may also enjoy giving a game to a friend or loved one. And in that same spirit, consider giving us a comment down below, or checking out one of our other articles!

Happy holidays, everyone. Stay warm out there.

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Malcolm Schmitz
Malcolm Schmitz

Malcolm Schmitz is a freelance writer from the United States. He loves life sims, JRPGs, and strategy games, and loves modding games even more than he loves playing them.

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