Have yourself a Retro little Christmas: 8 Christmas retro classics

’Tis the season of good will to all men, and maybe even a little retro games playing time. But which games should you play?
I have many fond retro gaming memories of Christmases past. So far, I’ve not led enough of a Scrooge-like life to be visited by ghosts who will show me Christmas future, and I don’t want to spoil Christmas present for my kids just yet.
Horribly forced Charles Dickens references aside, Christmas can be a great time to kick back and enjoy some retro games. What you play is ultimately up to you, but the question of Christmas-themed games popped into my head this morning, and it made me think about what you should play to make this Christmas a properly retro Christmas.

James Pond II: Robocod (Megadrive/Amiga)

Remember back when all you needed to sell a game was a lousy pun?
James Pond II: Robocod has two of them, but the backdrop for what is otherwise a pretty ordinary little platform game is a mission where you’ve got to liberate the workers in Santa’s workshop. How very socialist!
OK, I’m not exactly starting with a stone cold classic game here. It’s rather endemic to Christmas games, however, because there are many terrible festive season games. Robocod stands out because it’s simply ordinary, rather than awful.
The one advantage you have with Robocod is that Megadrive games don’t typically attract hideous retro prices, so you shouldn’t break the bank picking it up.

Die Hard Trilogy (PSOne)

Ho Ho Ho. Now I have a machine gun. And a solid-if-somewhat-chunky platform-shooter, and a racing/bomb-defusing game, which is a genre that never really took off. Still, how can I ignore the world’s favourite profanity-and-violence-laden Christmas movie, and its PlayStation original tie-in game?

While visuals have moved on a touch, Die Hard Trilogy still plays well today, and was one of the best early reasons to pick up a PlayStation. Just ignore anything that pretends to be a sequel. No, if I ignore it, then it didn’t happen.

Likewise, they stopped making Die Hard movies after the third one. Anything else you think you might have seen was just a bad dream. I think we can all agree there.
While the original PlayStation is now quite solidly retro, its games haven’t quite hit the insanity level of, say, SNES titles, so it should’t be too pricey to pick up either.

Secret Of Mana (SNES)

Rescuing Santa Claus is a good and noble task, and Squaresoft’s Secret Of Mana handles it nicely, with a winter level that sees you tasked by a red nosed reindeer of non-specific nomenclature to rescue his boss. Some big chubby merry fellow in red.
You know. That guy. The one in the Coca Cola ads!
Secret Of Mana isn’t a cheap game to pick up if you live in the PAL world like I do, but it’s so very, very good. I’m currently playing through it with my kids and having an awesome time of it.

Christmas Nights Into Dreams (Saturn)

I make a point of playing all the way through regular Nights at least once a year, but it’s been a while since I dipped my toes into Christmas Nights, the rather specific Christmas-themed version of the game. Clearly, I must make amends to Sega’s dreamy, trippy, casually-relaxed-yet-somehow-frantic 3D action classic.
Nights is one of those games that every Saturn owner should own, although the remastered version can also be had on Steam pretty cheaply if you really must. It’s still good, if not quite as authentic as playing with the charming Nights controller.

Cannon Soccer (Amiga)

Cheating to include two demos rather than full games?
Yeah, probably. But it’s also a factor I think in the way that a Christmas game is likely to work. You’re only going to be able to sell it for maybe two months of a given year, whereas a Christmas-themed demo that helps sell other games is a solid idea.
Especially when you combine the excellent Sensible Soccer with the equally brilliant Cannon Fodder.
Sure, it’s a little violent for a Christmas game, but we’ve all had those family Christmases, right?

Die Hard (NES)

Hang on. Didn’t we already do Die Hard? Sure, yes, we did, but the NES version is one of the earliest movie games I can think of that’s actually rather good.
Hard, and nasty in places because there are relatively few other games I can think of that make your character crawl over broken glass (no, really!). But if you want the authentic first movie experience, this is the way to go. Like most movie games of its era, don’t expect it to pop up on any Virtual Console services, or indeed a second NES Classic Mini when Nintendo inevitably gets around to making that.

Banjo Kazooie (N64/Xbox One)

There are plenty of games that opt for winter themes; I could easily fill out a whole month of them if I tried hard enough. I’ll give Banjo Kazooie the nod for Freezy Peaks, though, because it’s so delightful, and while it’s a level in the traditional game sense, the way that Banjo Kazooie returns to levels to meet new objectives means that there’s a lot more snowy Christmas here than in many other wintry titles.
At least this is a retro game you can play very cheaply, presuming you already have an Xbox One. Pick up Rare Replay, which is stupidly cheap now.
Seriously, go do it now. You don’t even have to like Banjo Kazooie, although you’re mad if you don’t. Seriously.
Why are you still here, not buying Rare Replay?

Bubble Bobble (Arcade/Master System/Just about everything else)

It has presents, candy, so much cute that your eyes might bleed, and it just so happens to be the best game ever.
What do you mean that’s a pretty tenuous link to Christmas?
Look, Christmas is all about good cheer and good will to all men, and there’s no game that exemplifies that more than Bubble Bobble.
Clearly, I will be playing Bubble Bobble during the Christmas break, and you should be too.
It might not be the precise image of Christmas, but it’s perfectly in tune with the spirit of Christmas.
Especially that bit where you steal all the powerup sweets before the other player can. That’s very Christmassy, that is.

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