It’s the winter holiday season, and I thought I would take a moment to highlight some of the games over the years that have either featured exceptional winter/snowy levels or are just winter/snowy games themselves. As always, this is personal favorites so if you notice some “missing” I maybe didn’t enjoy it enough, it got cut, or I haven’t played the game. In those cases, please comment and let me know your favorites.
Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice
Grubbins on Ice is the winter DLC to the adorable and hilarious Costume Quest. This time you are fighting through the world, the monsters came from in the main game. It adds some new features, including a Yeti costume, and has lots of winter/snowy fun and themes. It was an excellent DLC for an awesome game.
Banjo-Kazooie: Freezeezy Peak
More light-hearted than a handful of games on this list. Banjo-Kazooie is one of my favorite games, and it excelled at theme levels, including their winter one. Freezeezy Peak is challenging, but it is also charming, has great music, an excellent look, and will get you in the winter spirit. Also awesome snowman as the central feature of the level.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
I have actually paused this game to put on a sweater while playing it before. This game manages to nail “cold” in such a fantastic way. It’s beautiful, stormy, and freezing. Even the few breaks from the colder areas still carry something with them from the more intensely snowy moments. I love this game, and I love how well they landed the atmosphere (lol).
Animal Crossing Games: Winter Time
So not really a “game” or a “level,” but every year during the winter, Animal Crossing makes sure to do it up. You have snow, special events, special things you can catch, new characters, great music, all the fun stuff. It’s not different than what these games do for every season, but it feels a little special because it’s winter. Another reason I love these games so damn much.
A shockingly good movie tie in-game from a time where a lot of them were major misses. The game serves as a sequel of sorts to the movie, with you leading a team investigating what happened to the outpost. The game, like the movie, does an excellent job of capturing the isolation and cold feeling of the setting. It is dark, chilly, and pretty decent.
Despite the missteps with the launch, I enjoyed The Division. Set in New York around the holiday seasons, the use of Christmas decorations vs. the backdrop of the city destroyed by the outbreak is pretty darn fantastic. It creates an interesting aesthetic with happy holidays meets chaos and violence. Not the most cheerful winter game but a fun one, and one that brought something unique to the concept of snowy/winter/holiday themes.
2015’s horror game that follows a group of teens staying at a cabin in the mountains during the winter. There are a lot of twists and turns to this horror game, and it is worth plaything through several times to see all the ways you can impact the outcome. It’s dark, scary, and cold.
So a bit odd putting this on here with The Thing since it was a major inspiration. However, I think they are different enough in gameplay and story that even though they share themes, there is space for both. In Distrust, you have to control a team of characters through an abandoned arctic base trying to solve the puzzle for each level while keeping your warmth, hunger, and energy up. It is a challenging game but fun none the less. It also wholly captures the cold and isolated feeling of the movie that inspired it.
Winter in Fairbrook
I mean, I kind of had to… Winter in Fairbrook is an otome game in which you play a character that moves to Fairbrook for the winter season. You spend your time working in a flower shop, meeting all the people, and likely developing a romance. It’s a sweet game that is pretty easy to play through to get all the endings. It also plays with winter well both in using it as a fun backdrop as well as the dangers.
Honorable Mention- Plague Inc: Santa’s Little Helper Scenario
So not a full addition to the game or anything but rather an official scenario. In it, holidays have been banned, so you must play the Neurax Worm to take over everyone’s brains and spread holiday cheer. Hilarious.
There are so many other fantastic levels and games that could easily have fit into the list. What are some of your favorites?