The cold embrace of death
Snowmen are one of the more innocuous forms of winter myth. These bland piles of frozen water are known for blank expressions and being a uniform three spheres of compacted ice, but Ive always feared there was something sinister hidden within their frozen facades. As Ive told many a therapist, those empty coal eyes, the unchanging smile, and the perilously thin stick arms can make for a creepy character, the sort games have brought to life for decades.
Today I honor that darker side of the snowman and explore its many evil incarnations. Sometimes its a zombie stand-in, others handle impossibly hot fire, but they all have one thing in common they want you dead. That demonic bunch includes...
TimeSplitters 2s Snow Business
Ive desired a new TimeSplitters game for a good part of a decade, and some of my favorite aspects of the franchise are encapsulated by its snowmen. On the surface, the campaign is a self-serious exploration of different timelines, mainly used as a way to pull together a number of unconnected stories and settings. But a moment with multiplayer shows that TimeSplitters fully embraces its goofier qualities in levels like Snow Business.
The team deathmatch stage gives you a flamethrower and asks you to burn all the snowmen in sight--and theyre trying to do the same to you. The gleeful snow arsonists are more than happy to burn you to death, which makes it all the sweeter to set them ablaze as they scream Im melting! Finishing Snow Business unlocks snowmen in regular multiplayer, letting loose the bloodthirsty snow people for all to enjoy/burn.
Duke: Nuclear Winter
Now these are murderous snowmen I can support. I really want these frozen jerks to off the walking embodiment of noxious 90s dude-ittude that is Duke Nukem. Sadly, it was not to be in the goofball (and poorly received) expansion pack Nuclear Winter, but that doesnt mean I cant still root for those guys via an entry on this list.
Nuclear Winters intentionally silly plot sees Santa Claus kidnapped and brainwashed by the Feminist Elven Militia (barf), which is mainly used as an excuse to replay old Nukem 3D levels that are now covered in snow. The bad guys use magical snowmen to battle Duke, and the frozen dudes often work as simple sentries thanks to their lack of working legs. However, their snowballs can be surprisingly damaging to Duke, so either they throw them really hard, or Duke is a secret wuss. I know which theory I believe.
Banjo-Kazooies Sir Slush
Rare already had a gross snowman in the form of Donkey Kong Country 3s Bleak, and the developer upped the ante with Banjo-Kazooies ice people. Sir Slush and his ilk hang out in Freezeezy Peak, the snow world of the game. Their main form of attack is rolling massive snowballs at the bird and bear duo, which do damage on their own on top of potentially knocking players off platforms into certain doom.
Sir Slush does all this while laughing maniacally, and with good reason. Almost none of Banjos normal attacks damage the frozen bastard. Only hitting his hat with a Beak Bomb will stop him, because they share the same magic hat weakness as the famous Frosty. Its a pretty obvious Achilles Heel, one made all the more clear by the huge red 'X' on Sir Slushs hat. Im not sure what advantage their creator saw in adding that.
Fire-breathing dragons are dangerous no matter what youre made of (unless youre a Hobbit, those guys are seemingly dragon-proof). But snowmen in particular should fear the mythical creatures, even purple, shrimpy ones like Spyro. Thats why its so surprising that they can get so aggressive in Spyro: Year of the Dragon.
The snowmen of the Frozen Altars are fine if you give them their space, but when approached they lift you up and throttle you within an inch of your life. Spyro mostly just has to avoid these weirdos until he can find the lasers needed to effectively melt them, and hell no doubt be seeing them in his nightmares long after this mission. I mean, just look at the carrots on their heads! Thats messed up.
Terrarias Frost Legion
The 2D mash-up of Metroid and Minecraft turned out to be a surprise hit over the last couple years, spreading from PC to Xbox Live and PSN in 2013. Normally the game tasks players with defending their homestead from the Goblin Army, but the holiday themed event Frost Legion replaced those fantasy creatures with shotgun-wielding snowmen.
Wave after wave of more than 100 snowmen chase after the hero in this mode. Some just throw snowballs, but others carry a knife or blast at you with a gun, all while wearing a pasted-on grin. At least youre in for a treat if you can outlast the frosty jerks--youll get a holiday gift from the man himself, Santa Claus.
Earthworm Jims Rusty the Snowman
In a world of colorful mascot platformers, Earthworm Jim was one of the earliest to come at the genre with any sense of humor or satire. Were not saying it had spectacular writing, but its hard not to laugh at launching a cow in the air or shooting a guy that belches out giant fish. Good old Rusty is a perfect example of the games style: hes a snowy badass that not only exists in Hell, but breathes fire and destroys players without much effort.
Stationed in the Hell--er, Heck levels, Rusty happily coexists with demons, then goes after Jim while displaying the same coal smile. Rustys brief appearance in the original game was expanded in the HD remake, where the snow beast teleports around Jim, breathing fire in his general direction. And just as before, the miniboss eventually falls to the might of Jims laser gun, though even in death he refuses to melt.
Clayfighters Bad Mr. Frosty
Basically all the snowmen on this list appear in games with some level of comedy attached, likely because the developers find something humorous in snowmen, a subject I find deadly serious. No doubt the top satirical snow creature of the 1990s was Bad Mr. Frosty, star of Mortal Kombat parody, Clayfighter. And despite his painfully unimaginitive name, the character garnered some level of fame as the brief franchises mascot.
Voiced by the talented Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck, Winnie the Pooh), Bad Mr. Frosty appeared in every Clayfighters entry, and he was at his most dastardly in the original game. Later, after being freed from prison by Santa, Frosty became the lead good guy fans wanted him to be. But Ill always remember him as the earlier guidebook described: The good manners of snowmen no longer mean anything to Bad Mr. Frosty. He believes in the cold of winter and little else.
Super Mario Galaxy 2's Sorbetti
Honestly, this entire list couldve just been Marios most dangerous snowmen. Flurries, Mr. Blizzard, and Dr. Freezegood are just a few of the snow monsters the plumber has battled over the years, but in the interest of brevity, Ill limit myself to his most colossal encounter. Sorbetti controls the Freezy Flake Galaxy, and his body is big enough to take up a small planet.
Shaped like an icier version of standard enemy Tap-Tap, Sorbetti works like most Mario enemies--meaning he relentlessly chases the plumber and is defeated by getting hit three times. Perhaps Sorbetti would do better against Nintendos mascot if he used his arms in addition to his free roaming head to try to kill Mario. Also, if his name is anything to go by, this snowman stands out from the pack as the only Italian on the list. Way to represent, pizan!
Rule of Roses messed up snowman
I dont know whats going on with this snowman, and--given Rule of Roses weird tale of childhood trauma--Im pretty sure I dont want to know.
I snow what you mean
Those are the snowmen that have scared me over the years, but you likely have your own favorite frozen warriors. Feel free to share them in the comments below, just refrain from starting a virtual snowball fight.