Ghosts of Christmas past
Ah Christmas. A time of heavy drinking, good will to all men, booze, generosity, excessive alcohol consumption, carol singing, and the odd beer or two. Oh yeah, and reflection. Thats an important one. See, its at this time of year we look back at our lives, and remember fond memories and failures alike. And, if youre reading this, chances are your memories might involve video games. Flawless segue complete!
The GamesRadar+ team have been playing games for years. We grew up on them. And we have some wonderful, funny, tragic, uplifting, and very readable gaming memories from Christmas past. So, cosy up, and let us tell you about our favourite seasonal recollections.
Sophia goes bananas
"Christmas was always a big deal for my brother and I because it meant we would get a new video game, one that we had asked for. My parents didnt have a lot of money, so they obviously didnt want to buy us something we didnt want, like Madden. Wed discuss ahead of time and mull it over carefully because it would be a joint gift. I was reading Nintendo Power at the time for research, to make sure we were making the right decision. And I decided on Donkey Kong. After all, this was going to be the only game we would play every day for another 5 months until my birthday."
"It was 1994, and I remember this particular year because my aunt was visiting with her boyfriend and family visits were rare. It was probably the first gaming marathon I could think of, because I remember playing that game non-stop from Christmas day until New Years. My aunt stayed up and would watch us play and her boyfriend would join in from time to time. There was a lot of shouting whenever someone missed a jump, a lot of backseat gaming like, "GET THE BANANA!" or "THE K IS RIGHT THERE!" I also remember NOT getting yelled at by my parents to go to bed because there were guests in the house. Good times."
Jann has a Smokin Good Time with the Rescue Rangers
"To be completely honest, I didn't own a video game console till I was almost 20. My parents would not let me have one. Like the Lambada, it was forbidden. But one Christmas break my brother and I threw caution to the wind and pooled our funds to rent an NES and a few games for the week."
"Our favourite game turned out to be Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. We played morning, noon, and night... for three days. There was no sleep and we lived off Coca Cola and Chips Ahoy. It was not a pretty sight. We played for so long that on the third evening, the back of the television started to smoke. And by smoke, I mean smoke poured out of the back of the set and it smelled like burning. We never did finish the game. I think we were both terrified the we would start an electrical fire. It became a running joke for us and years later he bought me my very own copy for Christmas."
Andy has a beastly surprise
"Back in 1991 I was desperate to play Sonic The Hedgehog. The game appeared in the UK in June, which gave me six whole months to nag my parents about how much Id love a Mega Drive for Christmas. I remember the TV adverts featuring a guy playing the original Sonic, and it just looked so much better and faster than anything Id played before. So, on Christmas day, I was thrilled to find a Sega-shaped parcel under the tree. I opened it: a Mega Drive with Sonic bundle! Hurray! Then I opened the box
"Owing to some kind of heinous packaging error, I was confronted with a shiny new Mega Drive and a copy of Altered Beast. Ugh. I tried my best to hide the disappointment, but it burned inside me like a flaming, brandy-soaked Christmas pudding. I even tried to play it that afternoon, but even my 11-year-old self knew it was a 4/10 game. My step-dad, to his considerable credit, took me to finally get my copy of Sonic at 9am on the 27 December (the minute the games shop opened after its Christmas break), and I was blazing through Green Hill zone by lunchtime, thoroughly contented."
Henry's father becomes a Virtua Cop
There were many, many Christmas mornings spent with Mario and his pals, but my strongest holiday gaming memory is attached to the Sega Saturn of all things. It was December 1995, and I'd spent the lead up to the holidays playing the crap out of Yoshi's Island, but I knew what the main event would be on the 25th. Sure enough, my younger brother and I opened up a Saturn that morning, with accompanying Virtua Fighter Remix, Virtua Cop, Daytona USA, and (ugh) Bug. Then my parents told us that, for this special occasion, we could play on the bigger TV in the living room, which was usually off-limits for games.
Seeing those big, blocky polygons come to life on a 32-inch, standard definition screen truly felt like the arrival of the future of gaming. My brother and I swore the games looked better than they did in the arcades - we were obviously deluding ourselves - and were very impressed at our father's skills with a light gun. From the far off couch, he shot from the hip and was landing the most difficult of shots with ease. My dad once worked for the sheriff's department, so shooting digital men in the hands was pretty easy compared to the real thing. In retrospect, perhaps he only let us set-up the machine in the living room so he could show off.
Maxwell learns to be careful what he wishes for
Let me tell you a story about a little game called Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds. For some unknown reason - probably because I was a child with poor taste - I was wildly excited for this game. I loved Star Wars, I loved Age of Empires II on PC, and this game seemed to have the best of both. On Christmas morning I awoke to find a copy of Galactic Battlegrounds resting under the tree. I quickly threw the disk into the family computer and installed the game, ready to take the Rebels to task as the mighty Imperial army.
Come to find out, Galactic Battlegrounds has a lot in common with Age of Empires II. And by 'a lot' I mean literally everything. In Age of Empires II you have settlers who can collect wood from trees so you can build new structures. In Galactic Battlegrounds you have droids who can collect space wood from space trees so you can build new buildings. Why does Darth Vader need to worry about chopping down space trees? He has the whole freaking Galactic Empire at his command. In the end, while I appreciated my parents making the effort, this Star Wars-flavoured Age of Empires game ended up tasting sour, leaving me a bit wiser - and wearier - regarding future game requests.
Connor nearly leaves without a GameCube
"My dad and brother were watching Lara Croft: Tomb Raider on DVD in the early hours of November 18, 2001. I occasionally glanced at the screen but was more concerned with pacing around, lying on the couch for a few moments before sitting up again, and otherwise personifying the concept of 'anxious fidgeting'. We were already a twelfth of the way into the release day of Nintendo GameCube, and somehow we weren't standing in line at the Target - even though my dad had assured we would go out and grab one as an early Christmas present. Mind that the world was still recovering from 2000's holiday-ruining PS2 shortages, so buying early seemed more important than ever."
"Eventually we made our way to the line, and Target employees started asking people about tickets an hour later. Did we have tickets? Did we need tickets? How many tickets would be distributed? Uncertainty gnawed at my Nintendo fanchild heart. But my father, ever a man of action, didn't wait around to find out - we drove straight to the K-Mart down the street where no distribution system beyond "grab one" was established and in the ensuing chaos snagged everything we needed (including a Memory Card, after some confusion). Then I geeked out over the wicked-cool shadows and drapes in Luigi's Mansion and collapsed of exhaustion a few hours later. Next month, when the holiday proper rolled around? Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 2 Rogue Leader (yeah!) and XG3: Xtreme G-Racing (ok!). Best Christmas ever."
Ashley gets Snow at Christmas
"A few years after the Xbox 360 came out - and before I had one of my own - Christmas was on its way and I told my mom we should get one for my Halo-loving dad. She ignored me for the most part. I tried to convince her once more on Thanksgiving, since I was going to be accompanying a friend of hers to a midnight Black Friday sale at an electronics store (where he would be picking things up for some customers of his). She brushed me off and I got irritated, but let the matter drop. While at the sale, her friend grabbed a 360 and put it in our cart for one of his customers, along with a copy of Final Fantasy 13. I wanted both of those things very badly, and stared at them wistfully until we checked out."
"Christmas comes around, everyone opens their presents and all is joyful. We finish and start cleaning up, when mom tells dad and me to sit down while she runs into the other room. She comes back with two identical boxes, hands us each one, and tells us to open them. Turns out that she had saved up enough to get us each a 360 and tricked me into picking up my own system without me being any the wiser. And while I sat there dumbfounded, she handed me FF13. Never underestimate moms."
Justin gets his present early
"Ah, Christmas, 1992. My parents knew I wanted a Mega Drive and had obviously bought one because they said: "Now, we're not saying you've definitely got a Mega Drive for Christmas, but here are some vouchers for money off Mega Drive games, so if you wanted to buy some that you like, you can". Obviously I did. So I ended up owning the two most used-yet-never-played copies of Sonic 2 and Super Monaco GP 2 in the world. I carefully took the cartridges out of their boxes and marveled at them. I put up one of the Sonic posters they came with (and gave the other to my mum, who duly put it up inside her wardrobe door). I read the instruction booklets over and over again.
"And then, when Christmas Day arrived, it turned out I did indeed have a shiny new Mega Drive. Even though I had carefully considered which game I was going to play first (Sonic 2), the first game I ended up playing was Sonic 1, as it was a pack-in bundle and quickest to get set up. I still remember collecting that first shield in Green Hill. But one freeze frame in particular, for some unknown reason, is still emblazoned into my memory. Every time I jump to collect the rings in the little secret area near the end of Chemical Plant Act 1 (pictured), I am transported back in time to Christmas afternoon, almost 22 years ago. Just for a second."
Sam Riley isn't allowed to play his own games at Christmas
"First things first, I'm a wee bit younger than the rest of these guys. How much younger, you ask? Well, let's just say that if this were the movie 'Logan's Run', I'd be legally entitled to hunt them down for 'age crimes'. The reason I'm telling you all this is so that you're not unduly shocked by the fact that my first ever console was the Sony PlayStation. *exaggerated faint* No SNESs or SEGA MegaDrives for me, oh no, I was still too busy trying to get over that awkward 'foetus stage'."
"Anyhoo, I was seven, it was Christmas day 1997, and the movie Se7en had just transformed a young Brad Pitt from Hollywood eye candy into proper 'big school' actor. Life was good, and it was only about to get better as I hastily unwrapped my brand new PS1. Everything was in order, all the necessary kit was there, it even came bundled with three (count them, three!) exciting titles: Porsche Challenge (8/10), Crash Bandicoot (9/10) and Adidas Power Soccer 97 (-13/10). I was of course delighted, though it seemed my older sister had some other plans for my machine. Her's was the only television in the upstairs bedrooms, and so I'd need to plug in there to play. Everything had been arranged and was ready to go, when she savagely demanded first dibs on the joypad. I therefore proceeded to spend my first couple of hours as a gamer watching somebody else play my games Some nights I still wake up screaming."
Lucas discovers that family means more than online strangers
"It's December 2008, and I'm back home from college for Christmas break. World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King is the latest MMO hotness (or should I say coldness, given its icy theme), and like a relapsing addict, I'm hooked once more. But I've been out of the WoW raiding game for some time - so my cousin and I feel quite lucky to find a random pick-up group for the redone Naxxramas instance on Christmas Eve."
"Before we can face the final boss Kel'Thuzad, we have to down his pet frost dragon Sapphiron. Problem is, our raid group is having the darndest time downing the beastie - and I suddenly realize that my mom's been shouting up the stairs for the past 15 minutes that Christmas Eve dinner is waiting, along with the rest of my family. In that moment, I realize: contrary to WoW etiquette, I don't owe these complete strangers a second more of my time. I jump up from my computer, rush downstairs, and enjoy a delightful meal with my relatives, my mind far removed from visions of epic loot. I learned something important that night: Christmas should be spent with family, not a bunch of people who you only know by their virtual avatars."
Mega Driving home for Christmas
So, those are our Christmas gaming memories. What did you think? Hopefully one or two of them raised a smile. If you feel like sharing, why not drop your own festive recollections in the comments below. Excellent.
Want more Xmas features and that? Here's one about 8 Video Game Characters Who Should NEVER Play Santa. Also, sod it, you may as well grab a glass of sherry and read about the 50 Best Christmas Movies Ever.