Christmas is here! Time to play Christmas games, right? How about no. If you've had it up to here with that office dude who still thinks emailing around Elf Bowling is hilarious, then how about the gaming equivalent of Die Hard: games that aren't strictly Christmas games, but are also the best Christmas games.
These will help get you Christmas-y, just without the cheesy music and crackers.
For anyone who has never played Little Inferno, it may be my favourite Christmas game not actually set at Christmas. You play a young child sat in front of a fireplace, purchasing goods like a well behaved consumer, before setting them alight in various combinations.
While the game itself features fairly minimal gameplay, selecting items from a catalogue and burning them, trying to create combinations that will earn more money to buy more items, there’s something soothing and welcoming about sitting in front of an interactive fireplace, watching photos from your hard drive slowly roasting and listening to the crackle as the ink changes the colour of the flame.
The game has a story, one that’s a little sombre at times, but ultimately reminds us that the capitalist tone of the holiday is ultimately self destructive if followed to extremes. Still, it’s pretty to watch things burn. So many lovely flames...
Batman: Arkham Origins
Released back in October 2013, Batman: Arkham Origins is set on Christmas Eve of Batman’s second year fighting crime. A killer has put a bounty on Batman’s head, and eight powerful villains are out to take him down, all while The Joker wrecks havoc on the city.
Sure, it starts on Christmas Eve, and ends on the morning of Christmas Day, but a game about beating people up while dressed as a nocturnal predator doesn’t feel overbearingly tied into the festive spirit.
Then again, a game about a man who sneaks around undetected in a city on Christmas Eve, so that all the good girls and boys can wake up happy and safe to open their presents on Christmas morning does sound pretty Christmas-y. Hey kids, your gift this year is not being killed by naughty villains. Ho ho ho!
When Steep released back in 2016, it was the first time in a while we had seen a big-budget video game on a modern console with a cool snowboarding mechanic. So, this Christmas, I’m going to suggest you go try out Steep, because while not explicitly Christmas themed, gliding fast across the snow and seeing all sorts of snow-covered sights certainly helps me get into the winter spirit.
Drop onto a mountain range, ski on varied routes, drift past fluffy snow banks, and experience the closest to a white Christmas we’re likely to get in rainy old England.
Dead Rising 4
Dead Rising 4 kind of feels a bit like Die Hard, in that it’s an action set-piece set against Christmas as a backdrop. Focusing on series protagonist Frank West, a photo journalist who got caught up in a zombie outbreak in a shopping centre, this game sees him back in the town where his story began, but while it’s covered in twinkly rainbow lights.
It’s a massacre of violence, a murder spree against the undead using bizarre weapons, and it all ostensibly takes place around the Christmas period, in such a way that doesn’t impact the story much, but does lend an amusing overlay to the carnage.
In many Hitman games, including 2016’s Hitman reboot, you play as Agent 47, an emotionless assassin whose job is to get into secure locations, commit murders, and get out without being caught.
There are countless ways to do this, from sneaking into a sports stadium dressed as a mascot, to wearing a chef’s uniform to gain access to a building’s staff entrance. However, this time of year, I only want to commit my killings in one disguise: a Santa outfit. The Santa suit can either be stolen from Santa’s body during a heist, or unlocked as a permanent costume option by completing challenges. There’s nothing that gets me better into the Christmas mood than going and striking some very naughty boys and girls permanently off Santa’s naughty list. You know, with murder.
Viscera Cleanup Detail: Santa's Massacre
While this game is technically about Christmas, it's in practice about as far as one could get from the cheesy music and happy smiles the season is often associated with.
The basic idea is Santa, after years of selflessness, has finally snapped. He killed a whole lot of his elves, and it's your job to come in and clear up the mess. Wash the blood off the floors, put the limbs into disposal bins, and calmly try to bring Santa's workshop back to a reasonable state. Don't give this one to the kids but, if you've had it up to here with the in-laws, this and a few eggnogs may prove therapeutic.