In-game events are a popular way for modern developers to capitalise on real-world events and trends. Global festivities such as Christmas make the perfect theme for those developers to add some replayability to their games.
But this marvel of the technological era that we now live in, wasn’t always so readily available. Hard though it is to believe, Wi-Fi is only 20 years old and didn’t achieve widespread availability until a good time after that.
Meaning, in days gone by when developers wanted to add a Christmas element to their game it had to be the entire theme. A strange marketing tactic but it does at least explain some of the thinking behind these bizarre Christmas themed titles.
Christmas Carnage is what you get when you cross Santa’s workshop with gory ‘90s FPS games. In the guise of popular games of the time like Doom and Wolfenstein 3D but with a jaunty soundtrack. Players explore the North Pole violently murdering Elves, multiple Santas and Snowmen with laser vision.
Ammo and health packs have been replaced with Christmas presents and that’s pretty much it. A shoddy clone of more popular games. Christmas Carnage is probably best left in the past even if ‘90s nostalgia is strong in the current market.
Santa Claus Saves The Earth
Released on both the Gameboy Advance and PlayStation 1, Santa Claus Saves The Earth was a little more successful than Christmas Carnage. That doesn’t mean it made any more sense though. An evil fairy named Nilam has kidnapped Santa after becoming enraged with the good he is doing in the world.
Trapped in Nilam’s magical land, Santa must battle his way through a series of platforming levels. Leading up to a final confrontation with Nilam herself, who Santa must defeat to save Christmas and therefore the world.
Daze Before Christmas
Not to be outdone in the console wars Sega and Nintendo offered another Christmas platforming adventure in Daze Before Christmas. This time it’s an evil snowman who’s taken the North Pole by siege and Santa must rescue his elves. Possessing the ability to turn common enemies into presents, Santa embarks on his journey.
The game also featured a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde mechanic with Santa transforming into Anti-Claus. A more violent and invincible version of Santa who beats enemies with his sack full of toys. Santa also takes regular breaks from platforming action to pilot his sledge and drop parcels down chimneys, adding some variety to gameplay.
What if bowling but instead of pins they were elves. That’s it really, that’s the entire premise of this game yet surprisingly it is the most successful entry on this list. The 1998 Gameboy Advance release has received seven sequels to date, on subsequent Nintendo handheld consoles.
The most recent entry Elf Bowling: Hawaiian Vacation was released a full decade later in 2008. And the empire didn’t stop there as believe it or not, there was even a film adaptation of the franchise. Elf Bowling the Movie: The Great North Pole Elf Strike came out in 2007, revolving around Santa rescuing the elves from his brother.
The least Christmasy entry on this list but like the movie it was based off, Batman Returns was set at Christmas. A respectable beat ‘em up for the time, Batman engaged in combat with numerous faceless goons and familiar foes.
The Christmas theme did make a bizarre juxtaposition for the gritty narrative and character of the Dark Knight. Backdrops were littered with Christmas trees, lights and various other decorations as Batman beats his way through Gotham. WB Games Montreal paid homage to the theme with the much grittier setting of Batman: Arkham Origins.