It’s getting to be that time of year. An array of winter holidays are coming up. That might mean you’ll have a lot more time to spend playing a game or two, due to having time off of school or work. Maybe there will be an opportunity to play with friends or family you don’t often see. Basically, there are a lot of possibilities, and we wanted to share some games that we’d suggest playing over this holiday season.
This might be a bit of an obvious one, but it’s a very good time to head back to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The latest winter update paved the way for Toy Day, which means you’ll have something to do at Christmas if you’re social distancing. But even before that, there’s a good reason to head back. Puppies. Well, I mean, not just puppies. There’s a wide selection of toys at Nook’s Cranny in addition to the very good dogs. Snow should be falling too, in case you want to build a snowperson. — Jenni
Holidays are usually associated with extended vacation time, but sometimes that’s not always available to everyone. Jobs, family situations, and in this case, the ongoing pandemic might mean that not everyone can enjoy some time comfy on the couch, their brains buried in a big, deep video game.
That might happen to me this year, and if it’s happening to you, I’d recommend a game you can play while taking care of other business, be it food prep, multitasking while taking care of year-end tasks at the day job, or just enjoying yourself while still being present for a family Zoom call.
To that end, visual novels like Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, or Granblue Fantasy might do just the trick, being available on a phone or a portable Switch. All that might just happen this holiday, at least between sessions of Fate/Grand Order, which will undoubtedly run its next Christmas event soon enough. — Josh
My holidays are usually sporadically paced. I’ll have game time, but it could be hours or minutes, and generally I need to be ready to shift gears to some other activity. To that end: it’s a great time for Picross. It’s handheld. It’s bite-sized. You can also binge on puzzles for an hour or two if you want. It pulls your attention when you need that, but you can always pause and pick things up later too. Mario’s Super Picross is on the Switch eShop, but some of the newer Picross S releases are full-featured and more comfortable to play, and worth paying to grab.
Also: Picross is just generally good in any context. — Graham
December has always been an important month in the Yakuza series, with some of the games set sometime during that pivotal month. That’s why Yakuza Kiwami (or even Yakuza 5 for that matter) is potentially one of the best holiday games out there. While it won’t have the same kind of seasonal cheer as something more lighthearted or jovial, Yakuza Kiwami is like watching an interactive crime drama with friends, family, and loved ones. You get intrigue, plot-twists, and action aplenty, which can provide a great source of entertainment over the long break. If you’re the kind of person that agrees with the sentiment that Die Hard is the perfect winter holiday film, then Yakuza Kiwami will be the right for you. — Kazuma
Years ago, I spent my entire holiday break searching for Lan Di on the streets of Hong Kong in Shenmue 2, and it’s always been a happy memory for me. There was this captivating mixture of mystery, tense action, and strangely-soothing normalcy about the game that made it suit just about any experience I was in the mood for over the break. The hunt for Ryo’s father’s killer took me to a world that felt vibrant and alive, filled with people I loved to talk to and learn more about (whether because they were interesting or ridiculous). It doesn’t really have much to do with the holidays, but its meandering spirit, filled with all manner of emotions, made it perfect for a time of rare quiet in my life. I love the freedom to do whatever that comes with the holidays, and Shenmue 2 embodies this spirit for me. — Joel
Dating back to Persona 3 Portable, I’ve always had a thing for playing Persona games during the holidays. There’s just something extra comforting about hunkering down with some Persona and hot cocoa. I think that Persona 5 Royal would be a great title to play over the holidays, especially if you haven’t played the original Persona 5. That said, keep in mind that it can easily take up to 100 hours to beat, so you’re in for a long ride! — Sato
The newest Pokemon Sword and Shield DLC released about six weeks ago, and I have been trying to find time to play it since launch. With the upcoming holiday, I might finally be able to, at the very least, download the content. At this point, I’m almost glad I had to wait because these games, like their predecessors, are perfect games for the holidays.
I’ll admit that there’s an element of nostalgia present in my appraisal, as I did spend multiple Christmas days catching Pokémon instead of “being part of the family.” But fond memories aside, there are practical reasons that the games are well-suited for the holidays.
For starters, Pokemon games can be played in very short bursts, which is a long-standing truth that took me years to acknowledge. I’ve found that the experience fits comfortably in the small spaces between wrapping presents and lengthy family phone calls. Heck, when I’m feeling daring, I can even hatch some Pokemon eggs during lengthy family phone calls without anyone catching on.
The games, and the Nintendo Switch itself, are unparalleled travel companions, as well. I hope traveling to visit family is more feasible next year. I’ve just learned that my younger cousins are getting a Nintendo Switch for Christmas, and I look forward to the possibility of playing Pokémon with them on Christmas day so that they can avoid a lecture about how it’s impolite to ignore your family and “fight Pikachus on the the Nintendo.” — Ben
While I’ll be playing several games over the holiday break, the one I know will be part of my morning routine is Ring Fit Adventures. With all the gingerbread cookies and cakes I plan on baking and consuming, it’s only right that I keep chasing Dragaux. Keeping those healthy habits going makes it easier to stick with them. If I let it slide until the New Year, it would be that much tougher to get going again. — Annette
If you like anime and soccer, I’d recommend Captain Tsubasa: Rise of New Champions for you this holiday season. This game comes the closest to re-enacting an anime show, even when compared to other anime-based games. In addition to doing an awesome job in reproducing character moves from both the manga and anime, the game’s story is also designed in such a way that it makes you feel like you’re marathoning an actual anime show! Once you’re done with a New Hero season, you can either create another Hero, experiment with Dream Teams, or even test your skills online during the remaining days of your holiday break! — Kite
Parasite Eve is an excellent game to play during the holidays. The story isn’t Christmas-themed, but the atmosphere during its events is so very end-of-the-year. Made during Square’s “Golden Era,” the story takes place in New York, starting on Christmas Eve. You play as Aya Brea, an officer at the NYPD investigating a supernatural phenomenon where members of the audience at Carnegie Hall burst into flames. The story goes wild from there and it doesn’t let up.
To over-simplify, Parasite Eve is a JRPG with body horror influenced in part by The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incredible score from Yoko Shimomura that blends trance, prog rock, and electronica. For me, there’s a unique and dreadful feeling during the holidays in a big city. It’s oppressive, cold, heavy–everyone’s mind is occupied, and it feels like something big is coming to an end. — Oni