From lavish balls full of intrigue and wonder to a one-eyed covert operative being gifted Cuban cigars, get yourself into the festive spirit with the most popping parties available on Xbox.
1. Mass Effect
Despite the whole ‘all sentient life in peril’ thing in the Mass Effect series, there’s apparently always time to kick back. Shepard can boogie in the Omega club in the second game, and if you wiggle the stick fast enough in Mass Effect 1’s Afterlife it looks like you’re dancing, even if you’re not. But the best example is The Citadel DLC. It’s the emotional high point of the series, reuniting Shepard with lost loves and former friends, celebrating all the bonds made in the intergalactic foxhole of Bioware’s space opera. It’s a fantastic touch after the impersonal ending of Mass Effect 3, and a reminder that Bioware has always been best at doing people, rather than action. And that, as anyone who’s been trapped a party with strangers will tell you, is the key to any enjoyable shindig.
For a monosyllabic egg with a shattered moral compass, Agent 47 certainly knows how to party. Over the course of the Hitman games, he’s been invited to more red-carpet events than the Kardashians. And the best example is in the 2017 reboot, if only because of the scale. The Paris area is everything you want from a Hitman level. You sashay in, looking amazing, change clothes twice and use the accoutrements of the party to murder your targets. What makes it especially cool is all the stuff going on behind the scenes: makeup artists desperately preparing models for the stage; catering staff rushing about to get everything ready in time. There’s even an expansive back garden if you need to step outside to collect your thoughts. And by ‘collect your thoughts’, we mean murder a man and dump his body in the river.
3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Mass Effect’s The Citadel DLC is the best example of an intimate get-together with close friends; the Winter Palace mission in Dragon Age: Inquisition is the grand, impersonal opposite. As the Inquisitor, you’re there playing The Great Game – a phrase used to describe the Machiavellian politics of Orlais. You have to lie, flatter and scheme, all in the name of politics. It has everything a good party should – lavish costumes; flirting with old ladies; the constant underlying threat of violence – and it’s the perfect way to alleviate some of the pressure in a game full of doom, threat and demon-spewing rifts in the sky. Care to dance?
4. Fallout 3
When you think of parties, the barren, irradiated wasteland of Fallout 3 probably isn’t the first thing that pops into your head. But during its intro, the third game has a great example of a cheerful kids’ birthday party, complete with cake, hats and friends falling out. (Hah! Falling out. Like Fallout.) It’s also a great way of cementing your relationship with your missing father; as any parent knows, gifts are the way to a child’s heart. It makes you want to stay in Vault 101 forever, but we suppose that’s exactly the point, right?
5. Fable 2
If Fable 2 was a popularity contest, the Party Animal Achievement would be the way to win. Just like in real life, making friends in Fable 2 is a mix of charisma and bribery. If you’re popular enough, you can command people to follow you as you swagger/stomp around Albion. Gather five people into your party, take them to the pub and buy them a round of drinks. Voila! You have your very own Fable 2 jamboree, and a shiny new Achievement. Plus, you’ve helped these simple people escape the misery of their nasty, brutish lives, even if it’s only for an afternoon. You hero, you.
6. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
This is the most Hideo Kojima way of throwing a party. You pop your birthday in Metal Gear Solid 5 when you first start, then probably forget about it as you get lost in a world of espionage, conspiracy and fultoning sheep. But log into the game on your special day, and you’ll come back to a deserted Mother Base – until Ocelot, Millar and your troops arrive, singing a terrible birthday ditty and presenting you with a special Diamond Dogs cake. If you’re buddies with Quiet, she’ll even shoot a birthday message into the side of a crate of Cuban cigars for you. Unconventional, but quite brilliant.
7. The Sims
Partying has always been part of The Sims. There was nothing quite like inviting over the Goths, locking Mortimer in the toilet and trying to seduce Bella while your significant other looked on in horror. And since then, whole expansions have been released, dedicated to partying hard in a virtual world, and the sequels have made the types of get-together more varied and nuanced. Christmas, pool, costume – there is no type of event that Sims won’t throw a party for. You can even throw funeral parties when one of your darling virtual creations departs this mortal coil. Bet the Goths would love that.
It’s hard to avoid the obvious cake reference when this entry is specifically about that, so we won’t even try. The cake is not a lie. And there’s a secret Portal party happening at the end of the game: you’re just not invited. After the credits have rolled in the first game, you’ll see a delicious-looking chocolate cake in a room full of Personality Cores and the Companion Cube. We almost felt left out seeing them having so much fun – if ‘fun’ is the right word for inanimate objects in a warehouse – but then we remembered all the testing, burning and despair. We’ll make our own cake.
9. Batman: Arkham Knight
There are brutal moments in Batman: Arkham Knight. The psychological trauma. The betrayal. The shattered kneecaps. But few things compare to the abject misery of Noel’s party for one in the opening moments of the game. Explore Pauli’s Diner at the start of the game and you’ll come across the sad sight of a man named Noel, enjoying a one-person party with a sad, solitary candle shoved in a cupcake. The good news is he’ll soon forget about how sad he is when Scarecrow’s goons deploy fear gas in the diner. Wait, that’s not good at all, is it?
As well as being deeply creative, Minecraft is a great way to hang out with friends. Open your world, invite a few friends and spend the day swapping gifts and building brilliant things. And the central point of any party, as everyone knows, is the cake. And the cake in Minecraft is brilliant because it can be shared by seven people (or, even better, hidden and eaten entirely by one). Throw in some fireworks, festive decorations and a few C418 tunes on the jukebox, and you get the perfect Minecraft party (even if it always seems to ends with TNT and punching).
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.