An earlier version of this article appeared on this website in December 2012.
You better watch out, you better not cry
Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. St. Nick. Just the name brings to mind a benevolent and loving father figure who cranks the joy dial up to 11. He's the human embodiment of the generosity, joy, and Olympic-level eating that Christmas is all about. His very presence reminds us to be good and kind to our fellow man (with a little bribery on the side, but still), bringing out the best in everyone who celebrates Christmas during this most wonderful time of the year.
So naturally, we mortals have a morbid fascination with dragging Santa's sterling reputation through the slushy Christmas mud. You want to see the bad Santa, the creepy mall Santa, the Santa who's gone mad from his gift-giving burden and is trying to destroy the world. Nowhere is that more apparent than video games, where you are often charged with fighting the evil Father Christmas, or at least the corruption that has overtaken his holly-jolly soul. In these twelve games Santa Claus comes to town, and he's got a sleigh full of whoopass with your name on it. Read on, and remember, it's better to give than to receive!
Santa Clawz (Saints Row 4)
How and why are you fighting Santa? In the Saints Row 4 DLC How the Saints Save Christmas, after revealing that s/he doesn't care all that much about the holidays, the protagonist is warned by a fashionable Terminator reference that s/he has less than 24 hours to learn the reason for the season before the universe is conquered by a demon warlord Santa. You know, that old Christmas chestnut. Dubbed Santa Clawz following years of mind-bending torment by antagonist Zinyak, this killer Kringle's main goal is to ruin Christmas by putting everyone on the Naughty List and stuffing a big ol' lump of murder in their stocking.
Thankfully, the protagonist decides to get into the holiday spirit and deliver presents to the people of Steelport in Santa's stead, weakening evil's grip on St. Nick's soul. He makes a last ditch effort to go full demon and send the universe to holly jolly hell, but it's nothing a little impalement on a giant Christmas tree star topper can't fix.
Is he the real Santa? It sadly looks like it, but don't worry, he gets better!
How and why are you fighting Santa? You may be shouting at your screen this very moment, telling me that the Krampus is a separate Christmas creature and he's totally different from Santa Claus, duh! To that I say 1) stop talking to your monitor, I can't hear you, and 2) this guy's the Krampus in name only. While the Krampus of Alpine folklore is a demonic man-goat with an impossibly long tongue and a basket full of naughty children, the Krampus from CarnEvil is just an mean looking Santa with reindeer horns, pine claws, and inexplicably thorny ice skates. Because evil is pointy?
In any case, this freakish faux St. Nick is another abomination that rules part of the CarnEvil park, and he wants nothing more than to "stuff your stocking" (no really) with his Santa cla - talons. The clear answer to this problem is to fill his jelly belly full of lead until he keels over in a bizarrely comedic fashion. I guess after you go insane from seeing a childhood icon turned into a demon, everything's funny!
Is he the real Santa? He's more like an anti-Santa, so don't feel bad about putting him down. Plus, you bag a ten-pointer!
Evil Santa (Gex 3 Deep Cover Gecko)
How and why are you fighting Santa? In Gex 3, the titular Gecko travels through the multiverse inside a TV to save his coquettish and worryingly human love interest from an evil robot dragon (it was the '90s). The first stop on the telly train is a land composed entirely of cheesy Christmas tropes, where Gex inevitably runs into Santa. But apparently our reptilian hero is on the Naughty List (surprising no one), and this Santa's vision of gift giving involves a lot of violent box flinging.
On the bright side, Santa may have gift delivery down pat, but he apparently can't handle a Return to Sender. All Gex has to do is pull a rude relative and pass back Santa's present projectiles, and Father Christmas goes down like a sack of coal. Don't quit your day job, Mister Claus.
Is he the real Santa? Nope, since this Santa exists in a mix of bad Christmas movies and is basically a festive Frankenstein. That'd make anybody go a little sideways.
Thongwearer Santa (DeathSpank 2: Thongs of Virtue)
How and why are you fighting Santa? You probably never wanted to think about Santa Claus wearing a thong, but I didn't either, so you and I are going to share this brain-scarring pain. In Deathspank: Thongs of Virtue, the tragically named hero Deathspank must collect the six Thongs of Virtue and destroy them in the Fires of Bacon. How ham-fisted. Santa Claus is corrupted by the Thong of Generosity, and is apparently so huge he can't get up off his back, giving you a nice view of his underthings 100% of the time. Can I get some brain bleach for Christmas?
Though Deathspank is the sole occupant of the Nice List, that doesn't stop the jolly ol' jerkass from trapping him in an exitless dungeon (with one too many exits) or sending a coal golem to kill him. So you don't feel so bad when Deathspank finishes off the North Pole's merry minions and slices Santa like a holiday ham.
Is he the real Santa? I hope not, since if Santa's going to go down, I hope it isn't in the process of removing his thong.
Devil Santa (Hunter: The Reckoning: Redeemer)
How and why are you fighting Santa? It's generally not advisable to slice mall Santas open with a giant sword, as creepy and demonic as they may be. But when that mall Santa's been infected with a mutant zombie virus? Okay, maybe the sword's the way to go. In the enthusiastically punctuated Hunter: The Reckoning: Redeemer, Hunter Kylie is forced to fight an undead scourge that's taking over the city and putting a damper on the holiday cheer. She learns that the virus has left a professional Kris Kringle one partridge short of a pear tree, and only she can save the innocent civilians he's kidnapped. His ho-ho-hostages? ...No?
While that all sounds relatively reasonable (yeah yeah zombie Santa, you're not wowing me here), things take a turn for the weird when a perfectly normal human being turns into a demon with mouths in his mustache and invites you to sit on his lap. It takes some serious swordplay to crack this nut, but Kylie manages to pull it off, and then no one ever spoke of this moment again. Um, until now.
Is he the real Santa? Thankfully no. This is just a mall Santa with a nasty case of the undead flu.
Zombie Santa (Infected)
How and why are you fighting Santa? It's a pre-Christmas apocalypse and this time the Mayans are not involved. Instead, the awesome, fearful power of a long out-of-use stone calendar is replaced by the slightly more effective threat of a DNA warping zombification virus. It's early December. The streets are awash with blood. Chaos and violence erupts from every doorway and back alley. A hackneyed joke about Christmas shopping rears its ugly head, but fear not. We're going to be far too classy to run with it.
Being one of a tiny percentage resistant to the tasty delights of cranial offal cuisine, it's your task to fight your way through the stinking mob in order to find someone who can turn your vein juice into a bona fide cure. Given the time of year, the flesh-hungry masses comprise an influx of bearded, previously jolly men in red coats. But mid-zombie apocalypse, there's no time to be sentimental. He needs detonating into pate just like the rest of them.
Is he the real Santa? We hope not. A world without Santa is not a world worth saving.
War Profiteer Santa (Family Guy: Back to the Multiverse)
How and why are you fighting Santa? Back to the Multiverse uses parallel universes to create a wildly eclectic, thrillingly unpredictable narrative/really cheap method of mixing up the level design without requiring any real attempt at coherence.
In one of those universes, Stewie and Brian discover that due to the rise of online shopping (satire!) Santa has become redundant and has turned his factory into a freelance manufacturing plant for any and all bidders. He's currently building weapons for main antagonist and Stewie's evil(ler) twin Bertram, so the pair ignore that none of this makes the slightest bit of logical sense when you really think about it and head off to take the big man down. Which they do via a rather dull boss fight.
Is he the real Santa? Yes, but only in the universe that this particular level takes place in, so ours remains completely safe. Hurrah!
Sumo Santa (Clayfighter 63 1/3)
How and why are you fighting Santa? Because Clayfighter has always been such a 'hilarious', 'quirky' and no doubt quantifiably 'wacky' series, and because its mascot character is a snowman, it was crushingly inevitable that Santa would eventually appear. And in the third game he did. In an explosion of pioneering obviousness he was conceived and realized as a walking fat joke, fighting in a pseudo-sumo fashion and with his belly out because "LOL LOOK SANTA IS FAT!" Oh, and his finishing move is to butt-slam himself on top of his stunned enemy, wedge them up his crack, and fart out their bones. Keep it classy, Clayfighter.
The storyline reason for fighting him? Sumo Santa is sort of an evil version of Santa, and a rival of Bad Mr. Frosty. He's been exiled to the tropical Klaymodo Island since Frosty took control of the North Pole and he now wants it back. So, you know, fighting.
Is he the real Santa? Probably not. Though it' s all a bit vague. Let's say no, because the real Santa couldn't possibly be that crap.
Possessed Santa (Sam & Max: Season 2)
How and why are you fighting Santa? Discovering that the deadly Maimtron 9000 that attacked their street was sent by Santa, Sam & Max head to the North Pole and immediately have a defensive Santa stick a gun in their faces. Which, let's face it, is a bit of an upgrade from coal in the stocking. Eventually discovering that one of the elves is possessed by a demon, they perform an exorcism and seal said eldritch nightmare in a jelly. Day saved?
No. Santa then eats the jelly and turns the gun on them once more, this time less as a defensive measure, more as a deliberately murdery gesture. The two eventually knock him out using a Rube Goldberg contraption comprising a cannon, a present and a toy plane. Eventually the source of the demon is revealed as an administration error. He was meant to be sent to Satan, not Santa, so Sam & Max box up the bearded fella and post him to Hell.
Is he the real Santa? Unfortunately it seems so, despite looking a lot like Colonel Sanders.
Frostbitten Santa (Two Crude Dudes)
How and why are you fighting Santa? It's basically self-defense. He just turns up halfway through the obligatory ice level and starts attacking you. You see this Santa doesn't have toys in his bag. He has only death, by way of a seemingly infinite supply of bombs. Which makes it rather a shame that we used up the "worse than a lump of coal" joke in the last entry. Damn.
Anyway, given that it's the caring, sharing season of peace, goodwill and forgiveness there's only one way to deal with the little bugger: through the tried and tested medium of a barrel to the face. Given how cold it is, that's really going to sting. Incidentally, the boss of this level is a naked white-bearded muscle mutant with literal claws. We think we see what they did there.
Is he the real Santa? Possibly. Don't let the color of his suit fool you. Traditionally Santa doesn't have to wear red. Though we can only justify his behavior by theorizing that someone swapped the sherry and biscuits for PCP this year.
Cyborg Santa (Killing Floor)
How and why are you fighting Santa? Very little reason other than that it's Christmas. Literally. Every year, brutal co-op arena shooter Killing Floor has a special Twisted Christmas event, bringing a themed festive map and the gift of new high powered weaponry for all. During the event, the game's enemies are reskinned as evil Santas and evil cyborg Santas, as well as mutant elves, drill-handed nutcrackers, murderous carolers and the most horrific snowman ever to ruin the Christmas dreams of an innocent child.
In 2010, the event took place in a sinister grotto. In 2011 the festive fragging occurred in an ice cave. In 2012? Space. Obviously. Seriously, what did you expect? Weirdo.
Is he the real Santa? We like to assume not, given that 1) there's more than one of him and 2) the thought of this guy having nocturnally snuck into our bedrooms year after year makes us want to hose our childhoods down with bleach.
Santa in disguise (Secret of Mana)
How and why are you fighting Santa? Because you don't realize he's Santa until you've defeated him. You see the boss of Secret of Mana's Ice Palace is the Frost Gigas, the coldest and most blue of the world's three elemental giants.
Once he goes down though? Santa. He turns into Santa. Or rather he turns back into Santa. You see he's not really one of the Giga bros. What actually happened was that after becoming disheartened by children starting to lose faith in the true meaning of Christmas, Santa hatched a plan to grow an epic Christmas tree using one of the world's mythical Mana seeds. The idea backfired and the seed turned him into the Frost Gigas. But now he's saved! Because you, er... tried to kill him.
Is he the real Santa? Yes! His grand, selfless plan for the benefit of the world's children proves this, as does the appearance of Rudolph after the fight. So not only have you liberated the Ice Country and taken another step towards saving the world, you've also saved Christmas as well, probably for all worlds in the multiverse. Consider yourself coal-exempt for the rest of your life.
Congratulations, you saved Christmas from the dark machinations of evil Papa Noel! And/or ruined Christmas by brutally murdering its wayward patriarch. Either way, happy holidays! Which of these is your favorite Santa beatdown, you monster? Or is there another Santa-wrecking game that you prefer more, because you are a sick, sick soul? Tell us in the comments below, and remember, he sees you when you're sleeping
Did those tales of Christmas carnage get you in the holiday spirit? Then you'll love the 12 best games to play at Christmas and Game characters who should never, ever play Santa Claus.