It’s that time of year again where, for the most part, everything is absolutely nuts and also kind of entirely terrible. Everything happens so much and I don’t have time for that. No matter which holiday you celebrate at this time of year, we must all suffer under the oppressive, tyrannical rule of Wham and Mariah Carey. Perhaps the true meaning of Christmas is learning to overcome these trials.
So perhaps you think to yourself, ‘I will play a video game to escape’. No! You won’t! I am forcing you to get into the holiday spirit even through gaming with a look at some delightfully festive examples of levels and DLC in games. There is no escape. You will deck the halls, or I will deck you.
Jazz Jackrabbit: Holiday Hare
In the 90s, if you didn’t have a Sega console and a copy of a Sonic game, you played Jazz Jackrabbit on your PC instead. You went fast, and you shot things with a gun that had all kinds of cool, crazy bullets. Which Sonic didn’t have. Another thing Sonic didn’t have was a special 3 level holiday themed shareware edition titled Holiday Hare, and then a second Holiday Hare the following year, bringing the total holiday themed level count up to 5.
Speed through snowy, Christmasy levels, full of giant candy and weird enemies that are kind of upsetting looking? I think they’re meant to be evil rabbits or something? Which is weird, because the main enemy is usually turtles. It’s a 90s platformer, any kind of sense making isn’t high on the priority list. Fun is, though, and with its wintery tunes and delightful platforming, it’s a fun way to ring in the holiday season.
Quite frankly, Epic needs to take a break from Fortnite and giving us free games or whatever and make a new Jazz Jackrabbit. Just saying.
Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts is a series that’s particularly close to my heart. While it doesn’t have a dedicated Christmas DLC, it does have a dedicated Christmas world, because you can’t really retell the Nightmare Before Christmas without the whole… Christmas thing. I mean, they did a couple of times, but the Christmas part is still pretty integral, being in the name and all. So it had to happen eventually.
And so, as Sora, you venture in to see what kind of monumental mess Jack Skellington has made of things this time. The trio arrives to discover the town in full Christmas spirit, and they find Jack who explains he’s going to take another crack at this whole Christmas thing.
Jack gets his Santa suit with the intention of handing out gifts, only for Heartless to, as usual, appear and ruin absolutely everything they get their adorable little shadowy mitts on. Santa gets kidnapped at some point. Sora isn’t on the nice list and is mad about it.
There’s a lot going on and I don’t know if any of it is the true meaning of Christmas, but it’s definitely the true meaning of something.
Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’d Double Trouble!
Sometimes Christmas isn’t a DLC or a level, sometimes it’s just a cheat code that makes everything look really festive. That’s the case for the SNES Donkey Kong Country 3, the third (and, some would say, most lackluster) entry in the Donkey Kong Country series.
Once players discover the cheat menu, all they have to do is enter the word ‘MERRY’ and a world of festivity is unleashed upon their game in the form of its bonus levels. Music is replaced with more Christmas-ey sounding tracks, there’s Christmas ornaments instead of stars and presents instead of green bananas. It’s not a huge cosmetic change, and the levels otherwise look pretty much the same, but it’s a cute touch.
NiGHTS Into Dreams
NiGHTS Into Dreams is possibly one of the best games on the Sega Saturn, it had a big weird controller with it, and it was an absolutely gorgeous game to play through and to look at. It was also pretty weird, but that’s a given considering it’s a game about dreams. In December 1996, things got slightly weirder with Christmas NiGHTS Into Dreams, a 2 level Christmas pack that was given away with copies of other games or through magazines.
Realising that there’s some very un-festive nonsense going on, the two main characters Elliot and Claris travel to the dream world of Nightopia, team up once more with their buddy Nights, and aim to solve whatever is going on. Festively. Christmas NiGHTS also works as a sort of ‘demo’ of the main game, with the first level accessible and completely redecorated with ribbons and wreaths and all kinds of stuff that you probably see in peoples houses that like to put a lot of effort into decorating and don’t just have a tiny kind of sad tree on a table.
Both kids are playable, and the festivities kick in once the Saturn’s internal clock hits December, with the music changing, aesthetics changing, even the enemies change.
Saints Row IV
The Saints Row series is possibly one of my favourite series of games to exist ever. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and just gets increasingly silly as the games go on. In what is possibly one of the silliest pieces of DLC the fourth game received, How The Saints Save Christmas, our favourite gang/world saviours/buddies go on an adventure through possibly every cheesy Christmas trope possible to save Santa.
The Boss is against this, and doesn’t care, and it’s up to the rest of the Saints to show him the true meaning of Christmas. I also want to add there’s also like. A whole Terminator style plot going on here too with a bit of time travel and evil Santa and stuff.
There’s also a whole little text adventure and references to basically every piece of Christmas media you could imagine. It’s my personal holiday tradition.