The winter season is upon us and, as gamers know, that means torrents of fresh new video game golly pouring about as well as an extra little slice of time to delve back into some old goodies. There is a little nuance for the common gaming enthusiast, however; a want to engulf themselves in the digital world as a reflection of their current world. It seems to make the game feel more real. Horror games see a spike in the fall as Halloween nears, so why should the joyous winter season not receive the same sensation of digital embodiment?
Defining a video game can be boiled down to three main devices: the story, the gameplay, and the setting. From time to time the latter is overlooked when discussing games and their impact, yet it is still one of the big three. The setting is what engulfs the game, immerses the player, and pushes play forward through completion. The art of game design ranges from hyper-realism to surrealist and even playfully cartoony, but all leave a mark in their own way.
The winter season is upon us, and for, so many, that means time with family and friends, festivities galore, and plenty of video games. With this joyous time of year afoot, let’s take a look at some of the video games with the best winter settings.
Super Mario Galaxy 2
In Super Mario Galaxy 2 you eventually find yourself in the Freezy Flake Galaxy. This area of gameplay is predominantly covered in snow or ice, leading to some classic Mario wackiness in the beautifully cartoonish Mario world.
Pokemon Diamond & Pearl
The 2006 return to the beloved Pokemon universe in Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl brought about a polished Snowpoint City. Moving through the top-down pokemap we have all grown to love, players trudge through the snow hunting for the rarest of all ice type pocket monsters.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Moving through The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess you eventually came to Snowpeak Ruins. In the dilapidated ruins of an old Yeti couple’s home, Link embarks into the fifth crawl of the game surrounded by snow flurries on the mountaintop.
Mario Kart 64
One of the most cherished and playful racing games of all time, Mario Kart 64, you have the option to race through Sherbet Land. This snowy land of banana dodging and fear of the dreaded blue tortoiseshell looks like what nostalgia feels like.
Shooting your way through Metroid Prime you find yourself in the Phendrana Drifts. This icy coated space rendition of Seamus’ journey even incorporates snow themed versions of the enemies you have grown accustomed to.
As you enter the world of Donkey Kong Country you get a chance to move through the Snow Barrel Blast level. In the same cartoon vein as the Donkey Kong realm, this little slice gets a winter coating with textured snow and draping pines in plenty.
Super Mario 64
Continuing with the playful cartoon style, Super Mario 64 leads you to Cool, Cool Mountain. There is little more winter-esque than racing penguins tube style down an icy mountainside.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The vast and seemingly never-ending world of Skyrim is no exception to the mountains and snow usually found in fantasy games. With beautiful graphics and physics engines, the Old Kingdom set one of the most dumbfounding winter landscapes in gaming.
Assassin’s Creed III
There is an ever spanning love for the stealth hunter series Assassin’s Creed. Traveling across the globe and various time periods, it is Assassin’s Creed III that brings the fight between Assassins and Templars to colonial America. Hunting through northern American cities like Boston and New York, there is more than enough snow and ice to keep your spirits up.
Lego Harry Potter
Another strange candidate, Lego Harry Potter, especially during the period of year 3, creates a winter wonderland that looks like nothing else in gaming. The playful world of Lego games have a tendency to build a beauty and aesthetic all their own. As you travel through Hogsmead, preparing to face down your old enemy Malfoy, make sure to take a moment to look and the brick by brick holiday cheer.
Being one of the most loved shooting games of all console gaming, GoldenEye 007 gave a couple levels based out of a Serbian base. The gentle, subtle snow of the game’s location helps define the setting and urgency for progression.
The third installment of the top-down action roleplaying game Diablo III almost broke fan-centric forums with pre-release leaked screenshots of levels incorporating snow. Though the series is not known for their graphics work, the scattered bits of snow add a mild winter cheer and greater immersion to the horrors of Sanctuary.
Arguably the best game in the downhill, trick-for-bonus snowboard racing franchise is SSX Tricky. Here, a lovable cast of characters battling for supremacy along hills of wonderfully rendered snow leave distinct markings about the ornately done levels.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
What could be harder than being the new kid? Well, try being the new kid as the town’s children are at war. Though it must seem like a strange addition to a list about winter setting, South Park: The Stick of Truth brings the layered paper aesthetic of a little Colorado town to gaming in a way that only South Park can.
What winter and snow-filled games are you playing this holiday season? Be sure to leave all of your thoughts in the comments section below, or join the discussion over on our Facebook page.
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Brett Medlock is Nintendo Enthusiast’s Editor-in-chief. He’s obsessed with action-adventure games, platinum trophies, and K-pop. To hear more about how lame he is, follow him on Twitter @brettnll