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Ten Awesome Christmas Levels in Video Games

Celebrate the Holidays with a controller in hand. 

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One thing that separates Christmas from other holidays is its wide array of specially-themed media. Every year new movies, music, TV specials, and plays are produced in an effort to give people new ways to celebrate the season.

Video games get in on this as well, albeit in varying ways. Some have in-game holiday events that offer up festive content for players, while others feature individual levels or story DLC mixing in elements of the Holidays with the rest of the game. While there are many, many options, these are ten that we’ve enjoyed the most through the years.

Dead Rising 4

It’s more than one level, but Dead Rising 4’s entire aesthetic hinges on being set during Christmas. Thus, we get to enjoy killing hordes of zombies with all manner of holiday-themed weaponry and apparel. Tis the season to be gory.

Freezeezy Peak – Banjo-Kazooie

This holiday-themed winter level was rife with activities, collectibles, and quests featuring Christmas presents, polar bears, lightbulbs, and one gigantic Christmas tree to scale. It’s a sprawling place to explore, with all manner of secrets to learn and hidden areas to unlock.

You Better Watch Out - Hitman: Blood Money

Argued as one of the best Hitman games to date, You Better Watch Out takes place during the holiday season, where 47 has to take out the son of a senator who has been naughty instead of nice (sorry, not sorry). It’s the most wonderful time of the year, with plenty of options for murder and mayhem.

Christmas is Here – Bully

This mission is one that strikes as all too familiar for many who suffered through their own awkward teenage years; ugly Christmas sweaters, the embarrassment of presents mailed from family, and the ridicule of fellow classmates. It feels like a scene ripped straight from A Christmas Story, and we love it for that.  

How the Saints Saved Christmas - Saints Row IV

Christmas, Saints Row style. Naturally, in fitting with the rest of this series, this holiday-themed DLC put the Saints in the mix with some of the greatest holiday hits; Santa, BB guns from A Christmas Story, and your good, old-fashioned “save Christmas!” storyline, but with 100% more madcap murder and alien simulation.

Halloween Town - Kingdom Hearts II

The Nightmare Before Christmas has one of the more entertaining depictions of the holidays in recent years, with its gothic Claymation design and whimsy set against a bleak, creepy Halloween world. In Kingdom Hearts II, visiting Jack Skellington and the gang and experiencing Christmas alongside them was a fun way to experience a slice of the film’s world and characters, all with cool character costumes to boot.

Snowflake Mountain – Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing’s winter levels are basically a collage of different holiday themes and decorations, including giant snowballs, candy canes, ice caves, and snowy evergreen trees. Add to that a bright, fun soundtrack, and you’ve got a solid race course to celebrate the holidays.

Nuclear Winter – Duke Nukem

In this expansion for Duke Nukem 3D, Santa has been captured and brainwashed by same alien enemies Duke fought before. To save him—and Christmas—Duke travels to the North Pole to get Christmas cheer back, Nukem style.

Grubbins on Ice – Costume Quest

Grubbins on Ice was more Costume Quest, but in cute Wintry environments. It all kicks off when Everett, Lucy, Wren, and Reynold get sucked into Repugia through bizarre happenstance. New enemies, an adorable story, and costumes await in this frozen-over adventure add on.

Holiday Celebration – Animal Crossing: New Leaf

One of Animal Crossing’s many features includes its proclivity to celebrate the various holidays with themed get-togethers for the residents of its little town. Christmas is no exception; during the holidays, the adorable citizens get together and celebrate in bright, festive, and cute ways. Plus, the holidays usually give players access to exclusive gear not obtained via any other means.

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

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    December 11, 2016 2:00 PM

    Cassidee Moser posted a new article, Ten Awesome Christmas Levels in Video Games

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      December 11, 2016 3:27 PM

      Ahh Saint's Row 4. Maybe this will be the year I have a coop buddy who doesn't abandon saving Santa half way through?

      No. Probably not. I should just finish it solo.

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        December 11, 2016 9:04 PM

        I need to get around to finally playing this. SR the Third is one of my all time favorite sandbox games, but for some reason 4 has sat in my library unplayed.

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          December 11, 2016 9:10 PM

          I think in many ways SR2 might be the best of the series, but SR4 is just... it's like they pulled off the reigns and opened the throttle. There is so much fun to be had.

          While it might seem a bummer to revisit Steel Port, you travel the city so differently that it almost might as well be a new one.

          Plus I love the look back on the series and the poking fun at itself and other games/tropes which gets pretty overt in a wonderful way.

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            December 11, 2016 10:29 PM

            It was the Crackdown dose I needed but with a perfect balance of camp and comedy.

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      December 11, 2016 7:55 PM

      I liked Batman: Arkham Origins' Christmas decor. I've had a strong affinity for Christmas settings in Batman stories since seeing Batman Returns as a kid. There's something about the juxtaposition of Batman's bleak mood set against the festive cheer of lights and Christmas trees that seems fitting. Light swallows darkness for one night a year.

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      December 11, 2016 8:00 PM

      I totally forgot about Nuclear Winter. Was just trying to think of Christmas appropriate games aside from Jazz Jackrabbit Holiday edition too. Thanks!

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        December 11, 2016 8:55 PM

        OH YEAH! Jazz Jackrabbit totally had a Christmas/winter themed freeware episode.

        Holiday Hare.

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      December 11, 2016 9:09 PM

      No Killing Floor Annual (2010-2014) Twisted Christmas? Christmas themed maps: Santa's Evil Lair, Ice Cave, Santa's Moon Base, Forgotten, Hell, Thrills & Chills Amusement Park.
      Also, all of the Zeds were remixed as Winter or Christmas themed. The Ice Crystal Scrake is STILL my favorite version, and the Gingerbread Gorefast was pretty good too.

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      December 12, 2016 1:38 AM

      These top ten lists get better than average traffic, right? I mean, they did when I worked on a games site around 2000, so I'm guessing that's still the case. Everyone loves lists for some reason.

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        December 12, 2016 1:39 AM

        lists don't require a mental investment. it's like the popcorn of Internet information

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          December 12, 2016 1:42 AM

          That's well put, hard to disagree.

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        December 12, 2016 1:53 AM

        Top 10 lists are great because if they suck, you know exactly how much longer they are gonna suck for.

        - paraphrasing Guy Kawasaki

        And yes, they still do better than average traffic.

        This Top 10 Indie Games video Greg produced has over 440k views.

        https://youtu.be/jiVkU6l6BQc

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          December 12, 2016 1:58 AM

          These days, do videos or text articles (of the same type - say, lists in this example) drive more traffic / revenue to the site?

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            December 12, 2016 2:04 AM

            Videos make less revenue per view than an article page view. This is one reason why we frequently turn our videos into articles. We also have a feed that populates our video tab with both Shacknews and GamerhubTV videos automatically. Creating video articles (shells as we call them) also helps with search engine optimization, so it is not entirely revenue driven. We want to get as many eyes as possible on our content.

            That being said, we have video content deals with some companies that are very profitable for us. NewEgg and Amazon are two big partners on that front.

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              December 12, 2016 2:08 AM

              Thanks for the info! That's interesting. Now... if everything isn't driven by revenue as the prime directive, even if the ultimate goal is to get more eyes, that motivation is still revenue-generating in nature -- just in a more long-term way?

              To clarify - if something drives traffic to the site, but doesn't generate a lot of revenue on its own per impression, the eyeballs it brings might (ideally) continue to stick around and lead to more revenue down the line, as well as overall site growth?

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                December 12, 2016 2:19 AM

                More unique visitors yield more page views. Websites are frequently valued by those two metrics alongside revenues.

                That point about sticking around is key. It is definitely financially beneficial if we create content that may not generate a whole lot of revenue by itself, but engages a new user to the point that they come back to the site.

                We can do a much better job of retaining users. New visitors to the site per month have been between 80-90% of all unique visitors almost all year.

                Much of the next quarter will be spent on dev efforts to better engage new visitors and to create a great new user experience for everyone.

                I wish we had done it sooner, but there is still time.

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                  December 12, 2016 2:22 AM

                  Gotcha.

                  As far as working on retaining users - how do you think that will involve or change the chatty?

                  We know the chatty is a huge resource suck (you've said as much) and the people who post here regularly aren't generating a lot of revenue while they consume a bunch of bandwidth (I assume?). Would growing the chatty actually be a wise move, then? Or are you going to focus on other methods of user retention?

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                    December 12, 2016 2:30 AM

                    The chatty will be at the core of this strategy. It has been neglected for too long. There are various site functions that GameFly removed that would be the first obvious place to start. Profiles for instance. I can't show all of my cards yet, but this is a plan that I have been working on for several months. I am very excited to rebuild this site in a way that will empower our users.

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                      December 12, 2016 2:33 AM

                      Thanks briefcase, for pulling back the curtain a little.

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                      December 12, 2016 2:44 AM

                      Thanks for engaging with my questions. I know I have been vocally critical of the purpose, direction, and use of the chatty in the past (the irony of doing so in the chatty and with a personal history of 30k+ posts is not lost on me). Part of that was due to me being particularly cynical after the Gamefly thing and projecting a general feeling that this place had a toxic vibe at times. I don't think I was completely wrong with that impression, but it wasn't as bad as I was perceiving it to be, and I also wasn't helping to make it better. That's partly due to a bunch of difficult shit in my personal life that has weighed heavily on me over the last few years, and I just become a dick over dumb stuff because it's a proxy venting for things IRL that I can't really tackle head on in the same way. I'm sorry for that.

                      The reality is that I've been a regular off and on here for almost 2 decades, and I would like to see it evolve and grow rather than languish on the vine. I don't know if your approach is the right one, but I appreciate the fact that you're genuinely trying, which is more than what we've had in the past. Given that, I feel that your vision needs the support of the community, and I appreciate you peeling back on that a bit here, and I will look forward to when you divulge more.

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      December 12, 2016 2:47 AM

      Nuclear Winter? Really? Was it that hard to find a tenth entry that you felt compelled to include what is widely considered an awful expansion pack? At that point you should have pulled a Cracked.com and gone with a top 7.

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        December 12, 2016 4:25 AM

        I assumed it was part of the list in accordance with the Shacknews mandate of, "Whenever possible mention Doom, Quake, or Duke."