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The magic of a proper holiday game

A beautiful, comfortable, perfect-for-the-sofa videogame is a must-have for Christmas, so we explore our personal holiday game picks for the jolly season

Holiday games: a grey haired man with a fluffy collared coat on and a Christmas hat, alongside a candy cane strapped to his back like a sword. Nope, not Santa Claus, it's Geralt, the main character from The Witcher 3!

There’s a general idea in the PT office of what a holiday game is, but we realised we don’t all have the same criteria. There are fundamentals, for sure, but we all fancy something different this holiday season. Also, saying ‘holiday game’ when you’re British makes it sound like playing Uno when it rains in Lloret de Mar, so…

Yep, so, what are the fundamentals? Well, a Christmas game definitely isn’t a game with tinsel in it. It’s a game we can play with our family or friends – whoever we choose to spend our time with – in front of the television or curled up in a ball on the sofa without feeling the need to hear all the audio or pay sincere attention to some dramatic story (for the most part). But that’s not all.

In reality, the holiday period can be a little tough, even if it is about coming together. It all depends on who you are and what your situation is. Maybe the perfect holiday videogame is an escape, or maybe it’s one you can share with a group. It can be whatever it needs to be!

So, rather than over-worry about creating clear defining barriers as to what can and can’t be a holiday game – you can find that stuff in our Switch Christmas games guide – let’s just talk about some. What are the Pocket Tactics team picks for this Christmas?

Holiday games: a large, red eyed vampire in art for Vampire Survivors. It's just their big ol' head staring right forward with long black hair behind and a raised collar. Real scary.

Well, for me, I’m going to be playing [redacted] pretty much constantly. I can’t wait to tell you all about [redacted], it’s going to be so much fun. Oh, and I’ll check out them new graphics in The Witcher 3, do a bit more Fallout: New Vegas over the cloud (with an excellent controller you can learn about in our Nacon MG-X Pro for iPhone review), and maybe finally give Vampire Survivors a go.

For me, the perfect Christmas videogame is one that gives me a nice distraction from a very tiny house full of very, definitely-adult people. There’s also going to be a one-year-old child there this year – which is of course wonderful – but maybe that could get a bit noisy…

Our head honcho Ruby is, well, completely predictable: “This holiday, much like every other, I’m planning to replay the original Final Fantasy VII on Nintendo Switch. I can almost play this game blindfolded, and I love to just turn my brain off and join Cloud and the crew as they save the world from demise.”

Holiday games: the blonde hair and big buster sword of Cloud from FFVII foregrounded, staring up at the mako reactor in the distance. It's a giant, cyberpunk power station thing, all lit up in blue.

I think last time she mentioned FFVII she said she’s already played it three times this year? Crikey. Still, she does have a rough plan to diversify a tad, sort of: “If I manage to plough through VII in a timely manner, I may also do a little bit of FFVIII, IX, or X if I don’t receive any other new toys that occupy my short attention span.”

And it would seem comfort food is the port of call for others at PT this holiday season, with Connor picking a game close to my heart as a Classics connoisseur: “This Christmas I’m planning on spending as much time as humanly possible catching up with Zagreus, Megaera, and the lovely Dusa as I hack and slash my way through Hades for what I can only presume is the thousandth time.

“Much like Sisyphus, despite having the option to do something else, I’ll quite happily linger in the dark depths of the underworld thanks to a gameplay loop that I still can’t get enough of, some of the best dialogue in contemporary gaming, and a lovely pup by the name of Cerberus. Bring on the holiday season in hell.” All I say is, I don’t think Sisyphus had a choice, but still… big up Cerberus!

Holiday games: art from Hades showing the main characeter, half his chest revealed, slashing around with skulls on his knees and looking pretty cool, with a large figure of a blonde woman faded in the background.

Same goes for Daz, showing PT as a team with good taste: “I’ll be playing two games over the holidays, both beginning with H! I recently started Harvestella, and I think the chill farming vibes will be the perfect way to spend my time. The other one is Hades, which is kinda the complete opposite. I’m just excited for Hades II!”

I remember when they showed off Hades II at my good friend Geoff ‘Jefferson’ Keighley’s The Game Awards. I hooted and I hollered. I just full-on yelped at the television. I shouted, “why didn’t they call it Lady Hades?!” Then I shouted, “why not just Lades?!?” I was alone in this room. Anyway…

Our deputy editor Kayleigh has the same idea as me, popping into the Continent to catch up with her one true love: “Who doesn’t love a dash of jolly good monster slaying throughout the holidays? It’s why The Witcher 3 is the game I play every Christmas, a luscious world, fantastic story, and gorgeous sorceresses all come together to give me a cosy winter feeling. Plus you’re supposed to spend this time of year with loved ones, and as Geralt is my husband, I feel we should spend some quality time together.”

Holiday games: a large open plain seen from a grassy hill in Genshin Impact, with a blonde woman looking out into the distance at a tall mountain in lightly-clouded blue sky.

One of our resident Genshin Impact experts, Tilly, is continuing her Teyvat travels this time around: “Over the holiday season I will, of course, be playing a copious amount of Genshin Impact – but I play that every day anyway. When I’m not bashing hillichurls, adding primogems to my Genshin Impact Alhaitham fund, and getting ready for the Lantern Rite, I’ll be spending my time with Dragon Quest Treasures.”

As the PT reviewer, Tilly has spent a lot of time with it and has a lot of praise: “This silly little game is the most fun I’ve had in ages. Curling up by the fire and grabbing your motley monster crew to head off in search of treasures is the perfect pastime during the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year’s.” I highly recommend checking out our Dragon Quest Treasures review if you’re thinking of picking it up for a little Christmas treat.

That’s not all for Tilly, however: “Oh, and I’ll also be checking in with Disney Dreamlight Valley’s Scrooge on the daily to see what festive furniture I can snap up.” What a packed schedule, while I’ll just be stuffing my face with chocolate playing [redacted] and [redacted] alone. (Sorry I don’t know why I’ve made that joke twice I’m just running out of steam…).

Holiday games: two characters with snowballs in Disney Dreamlight Valley art with Stitch from Lilo and Stitch stood below on the ice with a large castle in the background.

Tilly’s not the only Genshin maven in the PT crew, however; Holly has similar ideas: “After a raucous Christmas seeing my entire family, I plan on isolating myself and building the new characters that I’ll be pulling for on Genshin Impact, such as the best hydro character in the game, Kamisato Ayato. Or perhaps I’ll restart The Witcher 3 for a festive journey with Geralt on my shiny new PlayStation.”

Wait, let me get my biggest calculator out and do some even bigger maths. Currently, Hades has two votes, Genshin Impact has two votes, and The Witcher 3 has three votes (fittingly!). Let’s see if our Nintendo lover can tip the scales at all…

That Ninty lover is Nathan, who has what I personally think is the most Christmassy pick on the list: “The Mario series is perfect for Christmas, whether it’s the stars adorned in every corner, the countless snow or ice levels, or the jovial music – and maybe there’s even an intrinsic link in my brain because I wished for Mario games for Christmas so many times…” (Ben’s note: the first game I ever got for Christmas was Super Mario Land!).

Holiday games: art for Super Mario Galaxy showing the red and blue plumber in from of large creatures from the series, like a Pirhana Plant.

It’s not just childhood nostalgia, however. Nathan thinks the dungareed Italian shares qualities with the superpowered Christmas man himself: “The big moustachioed man feels as indicative of the holidays as old Santa Clause himself, so the holiday break is the perfect time to replay the timeless Mario series.” I mean, he does wear red, so fair enough, right?

“Every year when I’m not encumbered by review deadlines, or trying to beat a game to avoid spoilers, I treat myself to a nice whisky and get making old fashions like I’m Tom Cruise in Cocktail, and slap on a Mazza game of old.” I know I’ll be on the Negronis this year (but don’t tell my mother).

Nathan has a clear game plan, too: “This year I’m planning to replay Super Mario Galaxy, which is definitely the most Christmas-themed game in Mario’s oeuvre, and perhaps take a quick trip to Isle Delfino if I can find the time. Don’t forget to wish upon a star, so that hopefully Nintendo gives us Super Mario Galaxy 2 (the best Mario game) on the Switch someday soon.”

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You know, I think the true reason Super Mario Galaxy feels so perfect for Christmastime is due to that absolutely gorgeous, prancing, playful, and light hub world music. It’s a gosh darn Disney tune in the wintry cold of space. It’s beautiful. And sure feels like the end of Christmas film when it all gets going. I’ve left the ten-hour version up above for anyone who needs a good vibe.

And, with that, it looks like the most planned-to-be-played game is The Witcher 3. And who can blame us, ey? The Witcher 3 on Switch is easily the best way to experience the game. Everyone knows this. Us portable videogame fans at Pocket Tactics are definitely only going to play The Switcher 3. Definitely not downloading it on my Xbox Series X. Promise.

Anyway, happy holidays to all videogame likers out there. We’ve had a wonderful year here at Pocket Tactics, and we hope you’ve had a wonderful year with us. See you in the New Year when we can finally tell you all about [redacted]… (crikey, I really did not want to make that joke three times…).