Oh, the holidays. A time to get together with friends and loved ones to celebrate the joys of what makes this time special. However, this year, after a lengthy move, I am sitting in my studio apartment alone. But that won’t stop me from celebrating in other ways. If I can’t go out and celebrate, I’ll find some digital celebrations to enjoy instead.
I wanted to find levels that took heavy influence from the Christmas aesthetic in their level design, but levels that also represented the themes of the holiday received some bonus consideration. Now you better watch out because here are the best Christmas levels in gaming.
Diamond City Christmas Event – Fallout 4
Fallout isn’t known for its traditional holiday celebrations, but Fallout 4 did incorporate a little easter egg for those players looking for a little Christmas cheer during their nuclear winter. The only caveat is that the calendar in-game must match December 25th and not necessarily the real calendar. However, You can easily manipulate the time if you choose and ensure that the time is right for the citizens of Diamond City to pull out their favorite decorations.
Once it’s ready, you will be able to enjoy the festive lights of Diamond City, complete with little Christmas trees. It’s not the most elaborate example on this list, but it can be special, especially when you least expect it. Even in the apocalypse, you shouldn’t be completely alone.
Snowdin – Undertale
Snowdin is one of the most festive locations on this list as the town is completely decked out for the holiday season. Even the music is enough to put you in the holiday mindset. Sans and his brother Praryrus are also present with their line of humor. If the holidays make you feel like a fish out of water in your home or town, then visiting Snowdin might be a nice change of pace.
As you learn to live in the world of monsters set against this familiar backdrop of fairy lights and ornamented Christmas trees. It all works out to be one of the more familiar and less threatening exposure to the holiday on this list.
Santa’s Workshop – Payday 2
If you are more of a Grinch, the Payday set of missions Santa’s Workshop will put your right at ease. Work through rooms adorned with candy canes, Christmas lights, and presents on your way to steal tons of duffle bags of cash. There’s even a snow-making machine that helps to add to the wintery look of the level. The typical Payday music beats have a certain Christman flair to them as familiar jingles are intermixed with holiday classics, sleighbells, and electric synths.
This mission can be difficult for those that are not going in with a well-prepared team so make sure you are bringing your fellow Scrooges on this one. You can easily spends hours trying to perfect this mission with your friends or strangers, and this is a great opportunity to spend the holiday bonding with other people even if you are ruining the virtual holidays for others.
Willamette – Dead Rising 4
There are few games that I so strongly associate with Christmas as Dead Rising 4. That’s because Dead Rising has everything that the real holiday has: malls and shuffling families who are willing to tear you limb from limb for skipping in line. There’s more zombies than ever and more ways to kill them than ever as candy canes are lethal weapons and nutcrackers take on a new meaning.
Dead Rising 4 is the most laid back in the series as it does away with the timer that often left some more casual players finding them more stressed than having fun. If the holidays fill you with a certain bloodcurdling anger at all things consumerism, then it might be in your best interest to load up Dead Rising 4 dismantle the boards of the establishment, limb by limb.
Mount Celeste – Celeste
While it may not directly be a Christmas level, Mount Celeste is one big winter adventure that focuses on introspection, friends, and family. It has all the themes that one might typically see during the holidays, all mashed between some frustratingly good platforming sections. As the snowy winds blow across the slopes, Madeline is faced with her own past and insecurities. The only comfort she finds are in the strangers she passes during her journey.
If you are the type to get lost inside your own head, especially during the holidays, Celeste might be just the thing for you or maybe the one on this list yous should skip. It depends on how you think you will react to these feelings. Either way, start your own journey when the time is right.
You Better Watch Out – Hitman: Blood Money
The Hitman series uses its settings to their fullest as they allows players to take out targets with creativity. Are you going to scope out the area and find a way to quietly do the individual in, or are you going to send a chandelier crashing down on top of them? In “You Better Watch Out,” you can don a Santa hat and lurk behind giant Christmas trees surrounded by presents as your plan your next move.
Someone’s Christmas is going to be ruined, and it won’t be Agent 47’s. If you are looking for a way to get in the holiday spirit without focusing too much on the themes of the day, this level in Hitman: Blood Money might be just the thing you need. Just try to make sure you don’t spend your whole day working.
Gotham – Batman: Arkham Origins
Batman has a habit of having some pretty rough nights, especially in the Arkham games, and Origins is no different. Taking place in Gotham on Christmas Eve, Batman must fend off Black Mask’s goons while the city prepares for ol’ Saint Nick to stop by, but the only pitter-patter people are going to hear are Batman’s boots on their roofs. The signs of Christmas are everywhere in Origins from the giant Christmas trees to piles of presents being hoarded by villains.
The streets of Gotham are covered in snow, and some of the goons are even wearing decorative disguises. If you want to lean into the whole lone wolf identity this Christmas, there are few games that will fit that bill, as well as Batman: Arkham Origins. Just make sure to take a break from crime-fighting to do something for yourself.
Toy Day – Animal Crossing: New Horizons
What was once a tropical paradise is turned into a winter wonderland around the holidays. Animal Crossing has a history of supporting different holiday events throughout the year, and New Horizons is no different. A lot of Toy Day is spent in the lead-up to the actual day itself. You can prep your presents by getting the recipes for new holiday-themed decorations and greet the surprise visitor to the island.
By the end of this event, you will have the opportunity to have your home completely decorated with Christmas-themed decorations like trees, lights, and ornaments. If you are light on cash but are really in the spirit of making things look decorated, New Horizons gives you that opportunity (for free if you own the game already).
Freezeezy Peak – Banjo and Kazooie
Most games, when they incorporate a snow level in a game, it’s just that, snow. However, Banjo and Kazooie took that a step further and made it Christmas-themed with a giant Christmas tree that you decorate with light bulbs and a star that you fly through. The snowmen are decked in top hats reminiscent of Frosty the Snowman, and there’s even a family of polar bears that are trying to celebrate with some gift-giving.
There are few pockets of Banjo and Kazooie that can feel as alive as Freezeezy Peak and few games that use as many Christmas-themed items. It feels like I’m visiting a small winter village with its own strange customs every time I materialize into Freezeezy Peak. The only thing that could make it better would be if Banjo donned a little Santa hat when he became his walrus transformation.
Feast of the Winter Star – Stardew Valley
Christmas is about spending time with those you care about and, for some, it may also be base on receiving and giving gifts to loved ones. Stardew Valley provides both of those experiences for people with an entire community of people that are both likable and memorable. Stardew Valley’s greatest strength is its community, so it just works perfectly with a holiday focused on just that.
Take some time to visit the town square, which is lit up with festive lights, decorated tree, and tables laid out with a feast. The only thing that is missing is a roaring fire and some eggnog. The town all comes together to bask in the warmth of this celebration. It can be a heartwarming event even for people who don’t subscribe to the more social sim aspect of Stardew Valley. The holidays can be rough for some, but sometimes I find that Stardew Valley does the best job of giving me a taste of something that I am missing. I hope it can do the same for you too.