The evolution of Santa Claus

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

We’ve seen a lot of Santas by this point, but Tim Allen’s Santa – from the GBA adaptation of The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause – is probably the only one who looks like a fit, ready-for-action adult.

Thankfully, Allen’s digital avatar appears to be the final appearance of Santa in side-scrollers; he’s either the ultimate evolution of the species, or the fateful mutation that killed it by poisoning the gene pool. We’re guessing the latter, because although his double-jump, and ability to clobber… whatevers… with his trusty jack-in-the-box make him the fittest Santa to survive in a harsh wilderness, shaped by the experience of generations of previous Santas, he is nevertheless the star of a crappy cash-in GBA game starring Tim Allen’s likeness. And we can’t condone that.


A complete departure from the norm, the version of Santa that showed up in Sam & Max Ep. 201: Ice Station Santa is short, skinny and almost impossible to approach without catching a faceful of lead.

At first we thought he was just terrified that a Tim Allen Santa would force its way into his workshop and attempt to mate with him, thereby dooming his progeny to a stunted half-existence as sterile mutants. But it turns out he’s really just afraid of a demonic Shambling Corporate Presence that’s been trying to ruin Christmas (oh, CLEVER). Whatever his hang-ups, he’s probably a better candidate to carry the Santa torch than the next – and as of 2008, final – videogame appearance of a St. Nick-like figure.

After at least 24 years of appearing in videogames, Santa finally seems burned out on the whole thing. 2008’s Bully: Scholarship Edition gave us a Santa in the form of a washed-up, drunken bum named Rudy who hangs out in a dingy alley, wears a droopy Claus costume and desperately wants to steal business from a legitimate Santa operation down the street.

Despite being a disgusting wino who wants to have his picture taken with kids while sitting on a discarded toilet in a filthy “workshop,” however, Rudy is probably more fun to watch than any other Santa on the list. He belligerently careens around his workshop, beseeching young “hero” Jimmy Hopkins for help beating up elves and digging through trash for scraps of tinsel. He doesn’t seem to know where he is half the time, and he can’t even seem to keep his beard on straight.

Rudy may not be the Santa we need, but in these dark economic times, he’s probably the one we deserve.

Dec 24, 2008

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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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