Best games to play at Christmas 2017

Get yourself in the festive spirit with 10 slices of virtual merriment and digital delight

December is upon us! The trees have been decorated, the turkeys have been ordered and the DVR set to record Doctor Who on Christmas Day. Now that all the important stuff has been taken care of, it's time to sit back and double down on the best festive frolics the world of gaming can provide.

Whether it be a winter wonderland teeming with talking dragons, a school-based sandbox with Christmas pranks or a festive city that's been overrun with the undead, video games are teeming with some of the most creative use of fairy lights and tinsel you'll ever see. So grab a fresh mug of eggnog, pop on that flimsy paper crown and let T3 unwrap 10 Christmas crackers this holiday season...

Batman: Arkham Origins

Bringing justice to Gotham's snow-laden streets

Reasons to buy
+Take on one of the biggest gallery of rogues in the Arkham universe+Its Christmas aesthetic is so Batman Returns

Clearly taking a few cues from Tim Burton’s uber-Gothic Batman Returns, the much-maligned Arkham prequel Origins went full Crimbo by setting its entire story on Christmas Eve. 

Turns out a much younger Batman has had a price set on his head by the Black Mask, an act that brings together some of Gotham’s deadliest mercenaries as they try to claim the famous cowl for themselves.

Dark it might be, but with a heavy snowfall dusting Gotham in white while Christmas trees and fairy lights twinkle across the city, there a few more festive locales for a comic book fan than Warner Bros Montreal’s underrated sandbox prequel.


Carve some powder in this eternal winter wonderland

Reasons to buy
+The best snowboarding sim on current-gen consoles+The official Olympic licence adds some sporting class

Depending on where you are in the world, there's no guarantee your Christmas holidays will be blessed with the magical sight of snowfall. So, to ensure your Xmas break definitely has a fresh supply of tundra, jump onto the virtual mountains of Steep.

Whether skiing, snowboarding or wingsuiting your way down, Ubisoft Annecy's extreme sports sim offer the best way to pump your adrenaline glands dry and carve endless trails or glorious, icy powder. There's also a brand new Road To The Olympics expansion that adds in a ton of sporting events to test your mettle on the slopes as you count down the days to Christmas Day and the New Year.

Bully: Scholarship Edition

Back at school, we are the leaders...

Reasons to buy
+Fight, prank and race your way through a Xmas-themed school+Help out a drunken santa

Whether you know it as Bully, Canis Canem Edit or as the Scholarship Edition, Rockstar's return to the halcyon days of school has secured its place as one of the best sandboxes of the last decade or so. And, like a foul-mouthed Harry Potter, your time as a student will see you roaming the holly-decked halls of Bullworth Academy.

Not only does the New England setting get a fresh sprinkling of snow, but everywhere from the local town to the school grounds themselves are decorated with a festive glow. The setting also informs some of the most creative and memorable missions, including helping out a local Santa with an alcohol problem to a rather unfortunate school talent show performance. Who says your school days weren't the best days of your life?

Banjo-Kazooie (Rare Replay)

Festive fun and Freezeezy Peak

Reasons to buy
+Climb (and slide down) the world's biggest snowman+Race some polar bears on the ice

When it comes to winter-themed levels, very few have quite as much festive cheer per square inch as Banjo-Kazooie's wonderful Freezeezy Peak. Trying to follow in the wake of Super Mario 64's iconic Cool, Cool Mountain and Snowman's Land seems an impossible task, but British developer Rare was more than up to the task with Banjo-Kazooie's most memorable level.

Whether you're racing Boggy the polar bear's cubs across the ice, climbing to the top of a giant snowman and taking out some rather nasty ones with a little aerial dogfighting. Add in Grant Kirkhope's charmingly whimsical score and you've got a recipe for festive success.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Special Edition

Roaming the snowy realm of the Nords

Reasons to buy
+Explore a wonderland filled with dragons, trolls and more+Throw goats off a cliff by yelling at them

The world of RPGs has seen its fair share of exciting and evocative realms, but not many can hold a torch to those under the Elder Scrolls banner. Much like the enduring Morrowind before it, 2011's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim took one of its most famour locales and filled it with quests, monsters and bags full of personality.

Having been re-released on almost as many platforms as Minecraft (including Nintendo Switch just last month), Skyrim's dangerous winter wonderland is the perfect place to explore and conquer this December. Whether you're ascending the Throat Of The World to learn some new shouts or tussling with snow trolls in the ruins of a snow-draped fort, Skyrim's own brand of festiveness is a must.

Dead Rising 4

Unleash creative (and festive) destruction on the undead

Reasons to buy
+Cull the zombie horde with a variety of festive weapons+Nothing says 'Christmas' like a baseball bat wrapped in fairy lights

Nothing quite says Christmas cheer like eviscerating an endless horde of zombies, so what better way to celebrate the best time of year by jumping into the survival horror beat ’em up madness of Dead Rising 4? Set during the Black Friday sales, it’s up to you to survive a familiar shopping mall decorated up to the nines with Christmas lights and more.

Horror it might be, but that doesn't stop Dead Rising 4 from going full Xmas on us. You can run around wearing a giant snowman head, you can take out zombies with an ornament launcher and even turn the undead into candy canes via a special magic wand. It’s The Walking Dead’s very own Christmas Special.

Hitman: Blood Money

You'd better watch out (Agent 47 is coming to town)

Reasons to buy
+Kill your chosen target dressed as Santa+Blow up the local Grotto

There are so many Christmas-themed games and levels to choose from over the years, but we’d be crazy not to include the brilliant ‘You’d Better Watch Out’ mission from 2006’s stellar Hitman: Blood Money. 

Sure, bald-headed assassin Agent 47 has been sent to dispatch a porn mogul, but hey, it’s Christmas and what better place to celebrate it than the snowy Rocky Mountains?

Any mission that lets you steal that iconic red and white costume from an inebriated Father Christmas has our vote, as does rigging explosives and causing a small riot inside Santa’s Grotto. Blood Money’s seventh mission is a virtual Grinch simulator and we love it still a decade later.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix

Explore The Nightmare Before Christmas

Reasons to buy
+The best recreation of The Nightmare Before Christmas out there+Added Halloween/Xmas costumes for Goofy and Donald Duck

Having access to almost any corner of the Disney back catalogue, the Kingdom Hearts series has managed to clock trips to the world of Tarzan, Aladdin and Neverland. But it's in the snowy streets of Christmas Town that Kingdom Hearts bags its most memorable journey. With its The Nightmare Before Christmas theme (juxtaposing a cute Christmas setting with some Gothy Halloween costumes), Halloween Town sends you on a true tongue-in-cheek adventure with Jack Skellington.

Accessible during the Halloween Town setting in KH2, this brilliant level faithfully recreates Santa's home in all its Xmas glory right down to the warm glow of the cottages and the giant candy canes that stick out of the ground like oversized decorations. Add in Danny Elfman's score from the film and you've got one unique take on Yuletide.

World Of Warcraft

Attend the Feast Of Winter Veil

Reasons to buy
+One of the longest running annual events in WOW history+Unique quests, characters and items to be found in Azeroth

There’s plenty of games with winter or festive themes out there, but not many that hold an annual Christmas celebration event of their own. But then again, if you’re a game as big as World of Warcraft, holding your own version of Xmas probably isn’t that weird at all.

The Feast of Winter Veil has been going on as long as the game’s servers have been live, with each year’s World Event offering unique quests that see you exploring Azeroth to find lost reindeer or defeat the Abominable Greench. And if you’re really good, you might even get to meet the WoW Santa Claus analogue himself, Greatfather Winter.

Tom Clancy's The Division

Welcome to the Blackest of Fridays...

Reasons to buy
+Explore a freshly-decorated New York City+Unfortunately, said city has also been devastated by a viral outbreak

Okay, we'll admit, the post-apocalyptic setting of Tom Clancy's The Division might not be the cheeriest of settings, but you'll struggle to find an online game world as festively decorated as this ruined take on New York City. Having been turned into a hostile ghost town following a mass pandemic on Black Friday (hello, subtle consumerism allegory), The Division's online locale has been dressed up to the nines with Christmas trees, lights, tinsel and a truck-load of baubles.

Having been frozen in time by the tragic events of its story, it's up to you as a member of the titular Division to help re-establish civilisation, help survivors and put down any roving looters or gangs. Enforcing post-apocalyptic law - the true meaning of Christmas.