The evolution of Santa Claus

A look back at the videogame career of Christmas' legendary fat man

Why, if you didn’t know he was Santa, and you didn’t try and sneak up on him to steal a few extra presents, you might actually be surprised when he whipped open his cape and blasted off on his awesome jetpack that he just happened to have.

As an aside, Santa Funk makes ToeJam & Earl an oddity (which is saying a lot for a game about bizarre aliens exploring a series of flat, randomly generated landscapes floating in space), because the game isn’t Christmas-themed, but features Santa as a key plot point. It seems the fat man dumped a ton of presents across the game world before you showed up, and now they’re scattered everywhere for you to collect and open. Sometimes they’re useful and sometimes they’ll slowly kill you, and you won’t know which until you open them. Santa Funk’s a bastard that way.

When you first encounter Secret of Mana’s version of Santa, you probably won’t recognize him at all, because he looks like this:

No red coat, no silly pom hat, and his beard is blue. Also, he’s making a pretty good effort to kill you. Strip away the layers of monster, however (preferably with a sword), and you’ll find that this is as conventional a St. Nick as could be designed:

Still, this is probably the most effort that’s ever been put into one of Santa’s videogame backstories. Once he’s re-Santa’d, he explains that he tried to harness the incredible power of an artifact called the Mana Seed to grow a giant Christmas tree. A. Giant. Christmas. Tree. That’s so stupid, it has to be a cover story for deliberately mutating into a giant blue child-eating monster out of spite.

Tugged along through the background of Christmas NiGHTs by three bulbous-faced reindeer, this Santa is a pleasant, plot-free throwback to the simpler Santas of the Commodore 64 days, and he doesn’t even have to flit around collecting presents.

Still, he’s less of a defined character than the last two Santas, which sort of makes him a sad evolutionary dead end, doomed to carve out an existence in a harsh world he was never made for. Or something. Whatever. He’s boring and we hate him.


After graduating from college in 2000 with a BA in journalism, I worked for five years as a copy editor, page designer and videogame-review columnist at a couple of mid-sized newspapers you've never heard of. My column eventually got me a freelancing gig with GMR magazine, which folded a few months later. I was hired on full-time by GamesRadar in late 2005, and have since been paid actual money to write silly articles about lovable blobs.
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