The 12 games of Christmas
Want to have a great time with your family this Christmas? Then there's almost certainly something here that'll practically guarantee a swell time is had by all. I say 'practically' because you just know someone's going to say something about your aunt's affair with the bin man. Oh boy...
Best way to avoid the nastiness? Make sure everyone's playing games instead! The following 12 games are not necessarily Christmas-themed (though there are some of those in here), but they have been hand-picked by yours truly as being perfect for getting out after Christmas dinner. It makes me excited just thinking about it. It's going to be so much FUN! Alright, I can calm down. Here we go...
Super Smash Bros for Wii U
Got a few Wii Remotes and nunchucks lying around? Or even that fancy Gamecube adaptor that lets you use Gamecube pads with your Wii U? Well this is the perfect multiplayer game to play 'on the big telly'. Especially if the kids have been given a Wii U for Christmas. And by the time this article's through, I have a feeling that's going to be very likely...
How long the grown-ups will last playing this one is debatable. Nintendo fans will love it, of course. But Grandad will probably complain that it's too fast and, after asking which one he is for the 15th time, will declare himself out and ask if anyone's seen his dentures. Everyone else will have a whale of a time, even if they're secretly wondering which one they are too.
Towerfall: Ascension (PS4)
STOP! Don't dismiss this game because you don't know what it is or it looks like some retro rubbish. Towerfall Ascension is your new favourite game. It's a 4-player local multiplayer festival that plays out on one screen and sees you shooting arrows at your friends and family. You can catch arrows. You can shoot arrows out of the air. You can bounce on people's heads... unless they shoot you in the feet first. Did I mention IT'S SO GOOD?!
You'll have to excuse my enthusiasm, but it's really rather rare to be able to unconditionally recommend a game to anyone. Well, obviously you'll need a PS4 and 2-4 controllers, but get a 4-player game on the go and everyone will have fun. This is fact. So do it, and do it now. Oh, or at Christmas... yes, I remember what we're here for now.
Guitar Hero (Wii, PS2, PS3, Xbox 360)
OK, so this is an old game now and one that you can't buy on Xbox One, PS4 or Wii U. But it's still brilliant. And perfect for Christmas. Strumming a plastic guitar along to classic rock anthems, your father will be able to live out his Jimi Hendrix fantasies, the kids can thrash out The Killers or whatever it is they're into these days... it'll be brilliant.
Which version should you go for? Well, any except the first one, really, as its music is mostly soundalikes and not the real artists. Guitar Hero 2 and 3 are both ace. And I personally have a soft spot for Guitar Hero World Tour, particularly if you still have (or can get hold of) a drum set to go with it. Ah, happy times. More of which could be had by you. This Christmas. With Guitar Hero. It may have been forced down our throats until we were sick of it a few years ago, but it remains a fantastic, joyous experience that's worth rediscovering.
FIFA 15 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
FIFA 15 is a fantastic video game. It looks and sounds exceptionally close to a real life TV broadcast from the Premier League, thanks to faithful recreation of every facet of the FIFA license. What's more, it's a heck of a fun game to play... just so long as everyone in the room likes football.
Assuming you do and you're still reading, hear this: you don't even have to worry about players having different levels of skill with a controller. FIFA 15 offers a two-button control option. One is pass and the other is shoot. So simple. The game works out what kind of pass or shot you're likely going for, leaving you to concentrate on enjoying the game and not which shoulder button you have to hold to 'do the robot'.
Trials Fusion (PS4, XBO, Xbox 360, PC)
Trials Fusion may not be the most obvious choice for a Christmas game, but its multiplayer is amazing. As always, its brilliance lies in its simplicity. You just press one button to go forward, and another to brake or go backwards. The only other thing to do is push the stick left and right to shift your balance on the bike.
Expert players can jump off the bike as they cross the line, which makes for some amusing last-second victories (and painful-looking failures). When fueled by boozy Christmas pud, you may lose a rib through laughing so much. Just warning you.
Nintendo Land (Wii U)
This one may have been forgotten by the gaming world since it launched with the Wii U itself, but there are few party games better than it. Well, if you know which segments to choose. The Luigi's Ghost Mansion segment is one of the finest multiplayer experiences known to man, so you should probably get on that one post-haste.
One player holds the Game Pad and controls a ghost on its screen. The other players use Wii Remotes and try to shine a torch on the ghost. Doing so weakens it. If the ghost touches a player, then they're down until revived. It sounds silly, but it is SO MUCH FUN. And simple enough that everyone can enjoy it. Which they will.
Toybox Turbos (PS3, 360, PC)
If I was writing this article 20 years ago, I would say "Micro Machines 2 is absolutely the game you should be prioritising for your Christmas gaming". But if I did that now, I'd probably be fired. Fortunately for both you and my career prospects, Micro Machines' spirit lives on in Toybox Turbos. It's a game for 1-4 players where you race miniature cars around household tracks like the breakfast table, study and kitchen.
With weapons to pick up, hazards to avoid and a devilishly evil rocket that you can only fire after you've been knocked out of the current round, it's a lot of fun. And said fun multiplies exponentially depending on how many people you have playing. One is fun. Two is great. Three is a hoot. Four is a riot.
Singstar (PS2, PS3, PS4)
Well, maybe not the PS4 version because it's really rather bad compared to the series' previous incarnations. All you need for Singstar is a USB microphone (or preferably two) and enough alcohol/sugar to make sure your inhibitions are put resolutely to one side.
It's just karaoke. But it's karaoke that grades you on your singing ability! Don't worry, you can set it to 'easy' so it isn't too harsh. The PS4 version should be awesome because you can use any smartphone as a microphone... but honestly, you really are better off with one of the earlier editions. Take your pick - there's something there to suit everyone. And there's always the online store if you want more songs.
Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Mario Kart has been a Christmas favourite for literally decades now. And the ability to play local split-screen multiplayer is actually quite rare in racing games these days. You can play with up to four players if you have enough controllers (though I do recommend Pro Controllers instead of Wii Remotes if you want to have the most fun - and of course you do).
Stick to the standard 'cups' instead of Battle Mode (cos it's rubbish in this version) and you should have a great time. And don't be sad if you only have two controllers. The game looks better with the two-player split instead of four, plus it means the screen sizes should be big enough for spectators to enjoy the game too.
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
It's no coincidence that there are a lot of Wii U games on this list. Wii U has a great many multiplayer games, but also offers titles that appeal to all ages, which suit Christmas gaming perfectly. And Super Mario 3D World is no exception. Older gamers will love the old-school platforming, while newcomers will love the colourful worlds and fun moves. As for Princess Peach dressed as a cat... well, whatever floats your boat.
There's a feeling of inclusivity to Mario's latest 3D adventure that other games simply don't have. Just don't forget to make sure you have enough controllers. One player can use the Game Pad that comes with the Wii U, but the others will need Wii Remotes or Pro Controllers. One thing you won't need more of is imagination (aha! I'm so sorry) because this game has it in abundance.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)
The excitement around the release of the new Animal Crossing may have died down, but if you haven't played your copy in a while then now is absolutely the time to get back into it. The game features a calendar feature that uses the internal clock to bring real-world events into the village in the game. So... it's Christmas, baby!
Load it up, build a snowman, get some rare Christmas items and trade gifts. Granted, it's not the sort of thing you can play in front of the family on Christmas day, but it's still essential gaming if you want to get into the spirit of things. Oh, and that snowman? I swear he isn't even half as evil as he looks. Although he did ask tell me to say that. Last night, after I bought him the lumberjack's axe he asked for.
Minecraft (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360)
OK, if all else fails and you just want to shut the kids up for an hour or five, then Minecraft is your answer. I don't know what it is about Minecraft in particular, but kids cannot get enough of it. Thankfully, it's harmless enough - not to mention creative - as you build... things out of barely-textured cubes.
Is it fun for everyone? Probably not so much fun to watch, unless you like psychoanalysing young people, particularly when they dig a really deep hole and fill it with livestock, leaving the pigs and sheep no method of ever getting out again. Strange game. But only because people are strange. If that sounds like your family then this will be a massive hit with them this Christmas.
What? No Christmas NiGHTS?
You know what? You're absolutely right. Christmas NiGHTS should totally have been in this article. Not only does the internal clock recognise that Christmas is coming and change the game world's appearance accordingly, it also sports one of the finest scoring systems ever devised. I could say that NiGHTS into Dreams for Xbox 360, PC and PS3 lets you enjoy Christmas NiGHTS in glorious HD. I could say its music will make your house feel properly festive. I could, but nobody would listen, or care. Ah well.
Find more Christmas articles on XmasRadar. Supported by LG.