With Christmas tomorrow, we wanted to put a nice laid back article together for the occasion. So here’s a list of our favourite Christmas and Snow based levels in games.
Hitman: Blood Money – You Better Watch Out
Hitman as a series could probably be considered on the darker side of things. You play as a stern, bald, bar coded, clone killing machine taking out assassination targets in varied and brutal ways. So it might surprise you to know that many levels across the series have a pretty goofy setup, pulling from many areas in pop culture. Blood Money has a few such levels and one of my favourites is “You Better Watch Out” taking place at a Christmas Party in a Porn Tycoon’s Mansion. As you might gather from the name it has a Christmas theme.
You are tasked with killing both the Porn Tycoon in question and also the son of a Senator that’s attending the party, as well as retrieving a tape of said same son being used to black mail the Senator. It’s not stated outright but it’s implied the hit was ordered by either the Senator himself or someone in his office.
As with all missions in the series it’s really up to you how you complete your goals. You could run in guns blazing, shooting all the Santa hat wearing guards to make your way to the target, or you could subtly knock out the very drunk Santa walking about, taking his place using his costume to mingle with the guests. My favourite method and one that sticks in my mind years later is the glass bottomed pool that you can shoot out from the very beginning of the level, taking out the Senator’s son immediately.
Diablo 2 Lord of Destruction – Mount Arreat
This one isn’t Christmas but the whole of Mount Arreat from Diablo 2 LoD is blanketed in snow and that makes it qualify for me. Diablo 2 is easily in my top 5 of all games. I’ve completed the campaign multiple times with every character class over the years and I’ll still keep playing in the future.
The strength in Diablo for me has always been the atmosphere of its settings and Act V’s Mount Arreat is one of the best for me. The blood stained tundra swarming with Bhaal’s demon spawn and dotted with portals to Hell along with the questline make you feel more like you’re waging a war against Hell than any other parts of the game. Even more so than the previous Act that’s actually set in Hell.
Hades – The Surface
If you are familiar with Greek mythology (no biggie if you’re not, a classics degree is a big investment) it should not have come as any surprise that the surface world in Hades (if you haven’t played Hades you need to sell your overhyped 8th gen games console and sort yourself out right the hell now you goddamned uncultured swine) is blanketed in snow.
In the game, you play as the rebellious, nebulously teenaged Zagreus as he attempts to escape his home in the Underworld in search of his mother Persephone (it does take some delightful liberties with the mythology). On his travels, he has to contend with various denizens of the afterlife, commanded by Zag’s father. That’s the admin of the abyss, the sovereign of the Styx and the original plutocrat: Hades the god of the dead.
After fighting your way through hordes of the undead in locales that include the dark confines of Tartarus, the molten fields of Asphodel, and the serene but heavily fortified warrior paradise of Elysium, you finally breach the gateway to the living in the Temple of Styx. You are met with a chilly reception from both the weather and the final boss. As you might have guessed, Hades himself provides the final possible challenge in any run. His grim countenance, hulking physique and blazing footsteps are a strong contrast to the natural light, still water and expansive, if perpetually frozen forest.
This snow level is my favourite because of the stakes. You’re witnessing what you have to gain, but what you also have to lose. As you complete more runs you eventually find out that the world is frozen because Demeter, the goddess of the harvest, hasn’t lost her cool, she’s grabbed her cool by the neck and is using it to beat humanity into a frozen pulp until she finds out where Persephone is. As you do battle with the titular titan-killing tache, the world will remain in its perpetual state of decay and you can’t be sure how long even Zag’s mother will last out there since even Zeus fears Demeter’s wrath. This snow level recontextualises the entire situation, giving you an incentive to do more runs as well as giving them a tangible sense of urgency.
Also, Hades looks like Santa Claus. And his presents are death. Have fun kids!
Metal Gear Solid – Shadow Moses Island
Solid Snake’s 3D debut takes place in the fictional nuclear disposal facility on Shadow Moses Island, part of the Fox Archipelago. After successfully making his way into the base and up the elevator, Snake is thrust into the cold, polygonal landscape of the facility’s helipad area. Blanketed in an omnipresent blizzard and bordered with thick snow that introduces a bevy of new features, Shadow Moses Island serves as an atmospheric and daunting setting for the game. Though admittedly, most of the game’s action takes place within the complex itself, the setpieces that happen outside are all very memorable and probably worthy of write-ups of their own. Perhaps most poignant of all the exterior scenes amidst the chilly backdrop is the conclusion to the Sniper Wolf boss fight. There won’t be any (22 year old)spoilers here, but the scene that plays out is a sobering moment between characters that both twists the players heart whilst motivating them to see the mission to the end.
Bully – Bullworth
The anachronistic Bullworth academy and its surrounding town of the same name get a festive makeover during Bully’s wintery third chapter which sees protagonist Jimmy Hopkins taking down the Greasers clique. The characters are all dressed for the season, snowball fights occur in great frequency and the punishment minigame gets a nice variation from its usual grass-mowing. It’s one of the most memorable parts of the game just based on its change of scenery alone, since the other four chapters are all pretty much the same, visually.
During the snowy period, a variety of Christmas-themed activities and missions are available and the player can easily spend hours just mooching about the town, revelling in the jolly atmosphere and chucking snowballs at unsuspecting prefects.
Silent Hill – Silent Hill
Though Christoph Gans’ movie adaptation may have planted the idea that the eponymous town was subjected to constant downfall of ash, the original Silent Hill game back in 1999 featured snow as its backdrop, accompanying the infamous fog. The pixelated snowflakes falling upon the deserted streets of the town added an extra layer of eeriness to the already-uncomfortable experience. Snow is usually a pleasant or peaceful sight that conjures feelings of serenity and playfulness, but in the nightmarish world of Silent Hill, it’s the exact opposite. Harry Mason’s quest to find his daughter is hampered by grotesque creatures obscured by the fog that don’t become visible until they’re just close enough to strike, and with the snow in constant flux around you, you’re never sure if those pixels you’re seeing are the early signs of an incoming threat or just another innocent white pixel daintily flitting past the screen. The later games would abandon the snow in favor of just fog, though, perhaps in a nod to the original, the 2009 re-imagining Shattered Memories featured the town in the state of an even thicker snowfall, nearly completely-frozen over
Snowpeak Ruins – The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
One of the most unconvential Zelda dungeons came from the Gamecube/Wii installment and required Link to explore an abandoned mansion on a wintery mountain inhabited by abominable snowmen, it has a spooky and solemn atmosphere but somehow feels warm and welcoming by the inhabitants Yeti’s as you explore the dungeon looking for ingredients for a stew whilst fighting icy foes that haunt the floors of this forgotten place.
The boss for this dungeon is equally as chilling as you have to face off against a possessed version of Yeta and free her soul from the darkness that the shard of the fused shadow has caused her to be overcome with darkness and turn sinister and evil that motivates you to want to save her. Snowpeak is one of my favourite Zelda dungeons and peak snow level design.
Holoska Day Stages – Sonic Unleashed
The biggest part of Modern Sonic gameplay is the spectacle, blazing through different landscapes and set pieces at high speed whilst dodging obstacles and taking down Eggmans Robots is an amazing feeling. Combine that with set pieces like sledding, running on a whales back and dodging giant icicles and you have a perfect high speed winter wonderland.
Sonic Unleashed piorneered the boost formula and its daytime stages continue to be some of the best in the series and Holoska is a good middle ground stage that has some tricky fast routes to master but isnt as punishing as some of the later levels in the game.The music choice for the stage is perfect, it hits that known staple of high notes ice levels are known to have whist keeping up the upbeat melody to motivate you to travel as fast as you possibly can.
Snowpoint City – Pokemon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum
After taking a long and tedious journey through a long snowswept road across the mountains, falling into the snow and being barraged with a plethora of ice types you finally hit a small town, the music hits you just before you enter the focal point of the town, a haunting melody of pianos. You know this town is quiet, quaint but has a mystery to uncover from the moment you land here, a respite for those that have traveled through the thick snow to get here but also rewarding your curiosity with an old ruin to explore and uncover.
This town is more than just another stop on your journey to get all of the badges, it’s also the home to a legendary golem who has its own puzzle to solve by traveling the world and uncovering the secrets of the Regi trio to face off against the highest level wild legendary Pokemon in the series at that time. Even with this forboding task, sometimes its nice to just travel to the iced paths of snowpoint and just reminisce in the atmosphere and chilling music as you are envolped in the snowy atmosphere that Pokemon has failed to match to this day.
So there’s our favourite Christmas and snow levels in games. There were no hard or fast rules about what to include here so we there was a good variety of games to check out.
Have a Merry Christmas everyone!