The festive season is upon us, and that provokes one of two reactions. Either you're a woolly-headed Christmas fanatic who can't get enough tinsel and holly in you, or you're a cynic who cringes at every bauble and hides behind your sofa when wassails call. If like me, you find yourself in the former category, then you probably spend each December trying to find some new Christmas games to play that you haven't already tried before and usually come up empty. Today, I'm here to present you with five games that you've probably never played and that you should think about trying out this Christmas season.
Feeling more like a Scrooge this season? Check out our list of the 5 worst Christmas games.
5. The Search for Santa Clues
The first game on this list will be something of a barometer for the reader. If you cringed and wanted to skip past as soon as you saw that screenshot, then you might not actually enjoy this one. As you can tell, The Search for Santa Clues is a pretty old game. It was released back in 1989 by Softdisk Publishing for the Commodore 64. Due to the publisher's reputation, it probably came as a free giveaway disk or cassette on a magazine (that's what Softdisk did).
Either way, the main point of The Search for Santa Clues is that it's Christmas Eve, Santa has gone missing, and for some reason, you think that you should be the one to fix this mess. That's the entire setup, and then the game becomes an interactive adventure where you must make the right decisions to find and rescue Santa, and therefore save Christmas.
Because the gameplay consisting of pressing four different buttons, the game has aged pretty well. The graphics are basic, but the real fun to be had here comes from the writing. By making different decisions, you can end up with some pretty funny results worth looking out for. While the entire thing is too short to really feel substantial, it's nice to have a bit-sized experience during this busy time of year. Get your hands on a copy, and you might have just found a new Christmas tradition.
4. Secret Santa
For some reason, Santa breaking into people's houses and getting shot at seems to be pretty much its own game genre. Secret Santa is another game along those lines. You take control of Santa on Christmas night and must enter the homes of various people worldwide and deliver gifts without being caught by the occupants of the home. You need to be really careful because some of those occupants seem to be elderly relatives with itchy trigger fingers.
So, Secret Santa is a stealth game, and you have a few classic stealth gimmicks to help you out. Everyone has view cones or spheres, so you know exactly where you need to avoid standing to get caught out. You can also hide inside giant Christmas presents or use magic sleeping powder to put children straight to sleep. The levels get progressively harder as you go along, starting with the houses on the nice and naughty lists before taking care of some presumably vicious little buggers who've ended up on the Krampus' list.
Secret Santa is a game from a pretty small developer, and the gameplay and graphics are great. One of the best parts of the game is that since 2019 it's been completely free. So if you feel like saving Christmas day and also potentially watching Santa eating a bullet, then you should get the game on Steam right now.
3. Christmas Shopper Simulator 2
If there's something that makes you really feel the Christmas spirit, it's being all wrapped up warm and safe while imagining all those soles out in the streets murdering each other for a TV. That's the goal of Christmas Shopper Simulator 2: Black Friday. It's a game created by the UK-based retailer GAME as a free giveaway to promote the store. How do they promote the store? By ripping off Goat Simulator but making it about many people killing each other for the latest deals... obviously.
As you can probably tell, Christmas Shopper Simulator 2 is a sequel, but there's not much point playing the first game since it's a smaller version of this one. Both games are physics-based simulations with you running around a shopping center, being vile to other people while you complete various challenge modes. Just like the game that it's aping, there's not much consistency to the gameplay. You ragdoll all over the place, and 'precise' is not exactly the word I'd use to describe the controls.
This game gets a place on this list because it's mad, zany fun, and it'll never stop being funny to ragdoll off the third floor of a shopping center into screaming citizens below. As you complete challenges and make purchases, you also unlock new abilities, such as a first-person camera. Probably the biggest stand-out from a comedy standpoint is the shop signs. My top pick is 'Pet Provocateur,' which features a cat in bikini bottoms. If you got a chuckle out of that idea, then give this game a try. It's promotional freeware, after all, so it's pretty easy to find online.
2. The Christmas Stories Collection
OK, so I already know that various people are cringing and getting ready to call me out on this one (and most of them work at TechRaptor), but the Christmas Stories series are worth it. At first glance, they don't seem all that special. Hidden-item games tend to have a poor reputation amongst most gamers, and it's not hard to see why. Any game where most of your time is spent playing Where's Waldo with random trash isn't going to be that appealing. The thing is, the Christmas Stories series is a bit different.
There certainly are sections that have you digging through trash, but mostly each game in the series plays like a Christmas-themed adventure game. Your time is spent solving puzzles to progress, with the occasional 'item hunt' moment thrown in sparingly enough that they're really not that annoying at all. The element that really sells it for me is the very slapdash approach to visual design in many cases.
Most of the time, the game looks acceptable and has many Christmas set dressing, which puts you right in the Christmas spirit. Occasionally you'll come across something that seems like it was clearly taken from Google images. Also, pretty much any of the game's animations will put you in hysterics. I included the entire series because they're all basically the same. Pick your favorite, and you can even get yourself a free demo on your platform of choice from the developers.
Okay, so this one actually is cheating a little bit. The only reason people haven't heard of Santacraft yet is that it's been out for barely a week. As the name suggests, Santacraft is a crafting game that tasks you with helping Santa to rebuild the North Pole after a disastrous storm has completely wrecked it. It's not long until Christmas, so you need to rebuild the elves' village and get ready to start replacing those toys.
The graphics in Santacraft are really well done. The lovingly crafted pixel art suits a Christmas game down to the ground, and I get a kick out of seeing a suspiciously Rankin-Bass-Esque Yeti in this art style. That's another fun thing about Santacraft; it's filled with Christmas special references. You'll also find a bit more direction than you might be used to in your typical survival game. You're not just trying to keep yourself alive (Santa is immortal after all); you're trying to find resources to build with, and you have objectives to move through as you go.
I think that's the thing that really makes Santacraft so great. Finally, a game exists where you get to build the North Pole. Most Christmas games tend to fall into the arcade or puzzle model. They're small in scale because Christmas is a short time of year, so there's not much incentive to buy or play these games 11 months out of the year. Santacraft feels like a full-fledged Christmas title that allows you to fulfill your personal fantasy of building Santa's workshop, or maybe that's just one of my personal fantasies.
From everyone here at TechRaptor, we wish you a happy holidays, and we hope you're enjoying your favorite games!