While it's true that you just don't see that many AAA Christmas games these days, that's really not the case when it comes to indie efforts. Just take a look at Itch.io, the site is practically filled to bursting with so many Christmas-themed games that it's almost impossible to try and pick out the best ones. Then again, it is the Christmas season, a time for trying to pull off completely insane acts in the name of festivity. That's why we’ve taken a look at the site and can now present to you the top Christmas games on Itch.io (at least, in our opinion).
The Madvent Calendar 2021
If you've not heard of the PSX Haunted Demo Disc community, then clearly you've not been reading our site for very long. They're a team who put out horror titles that look like PS1-era games and collect them into groups that they call demo discs. They do great work, and since 2020, they've started a new yearly tradition of creating a festive outing for the holidays. The first bundle features such classic concepts as a game themed around unwrapping, and one set in a snowy void that you had to navigate almost blindly in your boat.
The latest edition, the 2021 version, features a new batch of excellent games so far. While not all of the games are overly Christmassy, a fair few are at least either tangentially related or very wintery. One standout is called The Arrogance of Man, a game basically about trying your best not to freeze to death when your car breaks down during a snowstorm. The games are locked away until the particular day they're intended for arrives, just like a real advent calendar, so you'll have something new to look forward to each day. If you haven't already tried these out, now is the time to do it. Who knows, maybe it'll become a new yearly tradition for you.
Check out: Madvent Calendar 2021
I promise some of the other games on this list won't be horror-related. For some reason though, Santa going nuts and becoming insanely violent seems to be a common theme in Christmas video games. This particular outing is a first-person horror game that has a PS1 aesthetic (also not all of the games will be PS1 style. That's just a coincidence I promise). It's Christmas Eve, and after finishing a late-night shift at your job, you have to drop off a Christmas present for your estranged son. After that, it's just a short walk back to the warmth of your lonely apartment...or is it?
With the streets blocked off, you're forced to take a walk through the subway, and that's where you come face to face with an ax-wielding version of Santa who has clearly been driven mad by listening to "Last Christmas" one too many times. Slay Bells isn't an overly long game, but it's pretty fun. You have to carefully balance using your flashlight to see while not attracting St. Nick's attention. Luckily he has predetermined paths, so it's not too difficult to avoid him... most of the time. It's absolutely terrifying when he does see you, partially thanks to his face, but mostly due to the sudden musical change. Either way, this is 100% worth your time, especially with its Christmas-theming and satisfying ending.
Check out: Slay Bells
Back Home for Christmas
Finally, something cute and heartwarming for the list. Back Home for Christmas puts you in the flippers of a small penguin who is trying to make its way home for Christmas after getting lost while searching for a toy that blew away in the wind. The whole thing is presented in rhyme and feels insanely Christmassy from start to finish. The main form of gameplay is walking through the snow to find your way home, meeting various characters along the way, such as a gnome who has lost his glasses and a snowman whose face has fallen off. Everything is voice acted, and a lot of work and love appears to have gone into creating this cutesy masterpiece.
Once again, it's not a very long game, potentially only running you around 10 minutes or so, but if you want a game that's going to get you feeling all warm and cozy, this will do it for you. The visuals are so wintery and soft, the music is stunning with how it changes based on where you're walking, and the narrator does a fantastic job of capturing the feeling of an old-school Christmas special. Watching the snow pattern you leave behind as your skating down a snowy hill in the forest is a particular highlight.
Check out: Back Home For Christmas
No More Snow
If you’re more into the idea of a Christmas action game, then No More Snow is probably more your speed. You play as Santa (who is green for some reason) and have to take on a horde of evil snowmen. To do this, you’ll pick up various weapons, from shotguns to rocket launchers, and take them down in isometric style. The graphics are cartoony, and it’s probably one of the longer games on the list if you don’t count The Madvent Calendar as a single game anyway. Either way, No More Snow is also one of the simplest games on the list as well. Run forward, take down hordes of evil snowmen, then kill bosses.
Check Out: No More Snow
This is probably one of the stranger inclusions on the list for two reasons. Sanki isn’t a game in the traditional sense. There are no scores, timers, or even real goals. The second reason is that while it’s hosted and playable on Itch.io, Sanki was designed to be played on the Pico-8 fantasy console and was made as part of the Pico-8 Advent Calendar Project 2018. It’s a very simple game that tasks you with just sledding down a hill until you stop or crash, then doing it all over again.
It’s hard to put into words exactly why this is so appealing, but I probably played this longer than most of the other games on this list. You also have one control to worry about, which is left and right to tilt the sled. Other than that, just enjoy the snowing and the fun music. It’s playable in-browser so you won’t have to download anything, and I can highly recommend that you give this one a go.
Check Out: Sanki
There’s nothing quite like the simplicity of a 2D platformer. Chimney Presents is exactly that, a short 2D platformer where you control Santa. He’s been having some trouble delivering his presents, and he needs your help! You have to jump around the icy levels and drop presents into chimneys, before making it back to the sleigh to hit your next destination.
Once again, this is a short experience, but a lot of fun. Unlike the other games on this list, there’s a bit of challenge behind Chimney Presents. Some of the challenges you’re faced with will require you to have excellent platformer instincts, and you’ll probably have to take a few attempts at some of the later stages. Luckily, this game has a lot of Super Meat Boy vibes when it comes to how quickly you restart after death, so it’s not particularly frustrating.
Check Out: Chimney Presents
What would Christmas be without a slightly depressing story to round out our list? Grand Story is a short tale told through the medium of a first-person narrative game. You play an old grandmother living in a rural area as the end of December approaches. Every day, you have to get up and perform your daily routine, while constantly hoping to hear from your younger relatives.
While it’s true that the game can be quite heartbreaking, it’s well worth making your way through. I won’t spoil anything that actually happens, but there are some other interesting elements to this one. It’s very clear that the point of the game is to get you to think about some of your older relatives that may be lonely this time of year. To aid in that, the game features an automated display on the main menu that displays some stories of people who contacted their relatives thanks to the game. You can even share your own story by clicking the "share your story" button on the main menu.
Check out: Grand Story
Those are all our favorite Christmas games from Itch.io! Have you played any that aren't on our list? Let us know in the comments below.