Hey all, Christmas was yesterday, so I suppose it falls to me to close out this year’s Listmas season. This year we had what I felt was a great selection of fun topics…which made picking my last one a bit tricky. What to talk about after food, party games and mascots? Well…how about Christmas gaming itself? As gamers, I’m sure we all have some fond memories of playing games around Christmas time, so here are a few of my own personal favorites.
Donkey Kong Country 3 (SNES)
Donkey Kong Country 3 represents what is perhaps one my earliest Christmas gaming memories. I would have been around 7 years old when this happened, but I honestly don’t recall a ton of details. I just remember having seen the game on display at Toys R Us and K-mart several times that year, and I went on about it to my parents every time I saw it. I can only assume that it was on the Christmas list that year, and I remember being rather disappointed when I didn’t find it under the tree…at first. See, my dad really enjoyed playing up the Santa story and did things now and then to make him seem more real.
This time, he said something to the effect that he thought he’d heard a strange sound in front of the house the night before, like something had fallen and hit the porch. “Maybe something fell out of Santa’s sleigh when he landed,” he’d said. So, my brother and I both ran outside, spotted a hole in the snow and pulled out one last present: Donkey Kong Country 3. We were both over the moon about it and quickly raced back inside to play it. My dad even joined us (which was rather rare since he didn’t really like video games all that much). For this reason, perhaps, Donkey Kong Country 3 remains one of my absolute favorite games.
Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
This one came about two or three Christmases later, I think. My brother and I really wanted a Nintendo 64, but it was looking like it wouldn’t happen that year because money was (probably) tight. Well, one day a package comes from Grandma. It’s our Christmas present from her, and it came early. We couldn’t really tell what it was, but we were convinced that it definitely wasn’t an N64 since…I’m actually not sure why we thought so. Perhaps it’s that image kids have of their parents being supreme. If they can’t do it, who can? You know?
Well, apparently Grandma could. She called our house on Christmas Eve and asked our parents to let us open the package early since she was going to be busy elsewhere the next day and wanted to hear our reactions. Well, it turned out to be the one thing we were absolutely certain we weren’t going to get: the N64! She even gave us Donkey Kong 64 along with it! I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure my brother and I both lost it then and there, something my grandma thought was very funny apparently. Needless to say, we spent every minute we could playing it that night. A few years later, I learned that my parent hadn’t known that she was going to do that, so it was one of the rare times everyone was surprised by a gift. It was totally awesome!
Animal Crossing (GCN)
Unlike the previous two, this one is kind of an amalgamation of a few years’ worth of Christmas season memories. See, after Animal Crossing released, my best friend and I became kind of obsessed with it. We were glued to our towns and did everything we could to perfect our houses and fine-tune our villages. We even had a “no time-traveling” rule for a while, but it only lasted as long as our patience. However, I remember the winter season being something of an exception. We never actually reinstated the rule for it, but we still didn’t really do time-traveling in the winter months.
Maybe it was the daily Snowman events. Maybe it was the lead-up to Jingle’s visit or perhaps the special New Year’s stuff. Whatever the case, I remember winter as a slow, relaxed time where my friend and I would play Animal Crossing together almost daily, not rushing or anything. Instead, we just hung out and enjoyed the slow village life that’s supposed to be the whole point of Animal Crossing to begin with. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had a more relaxing gaming experience than those quiet winter days we spent together in the original Animal Crossing. I guess there was a certain magic to that game, and winter brought it out to the fullest.
Alright, I promise this one isn’t quiet so wistful and starry-eyed. If you’re old enough to remember it, you’ll recall that EyeToy for PS2 was one of the very earliest attempts at motion controlled gaming. It was a silly little camera that was only compatible with a handful of games and didn’t ever manage to offer much beyond a bit of novelty. Well, one year my brother and I each got one for Christmas, and for some reason the whole family was enthralled by it!
I don’t know if it was just such a new and interesting way to play or if the EyeToy Play games were just that much fun, but, whatever the case, my family couldn’t drag ourselves away from it! If I remember correctly, we competed for high scores in the ninja and soap games right up until the last minute before we had to leave for my aunt’s Christmas party that day. It was such a blast and was the one and only time my entire family would play a video game together! The novelty wore-off only a few days later, but until then we really had some fun together! If only the Kinect had had a similar impact…
Dragon Age: Origins
This is probably the last game that should come to mind during Christmas time. I mean, it’s a downright brutal and disturbing game considering the presentation and subject matter. Yet, here we are, though I will qualify this by saying that it’s more of a winter memory than a Christmas one. At the time this came out, I was in my second year of college and was super-busy trying to wrap-up a bunch of gen-ed credit courses. I’d seen the “This is War” trailer just a couple weeks ago, and was beyond ready to be done with my exams and pick finally pick up this fantasy RPG made by the masters themselves: BioWare. I was also eager to download that song too. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and it remains the one and only song from 30 Seconds to Mars that I like.
Well, the day finally came, and it was about as picturesque as a winter day could be. We’d had a major snowstorm in my college’s town the night before, and it brought a thick layer of wet, packing snow with it. In the morning we awoke to the campus being entirely blanketed in the stuff, so much so that the only color you could really see was white. It was a quiet morning too. So quiet, so still (even though you could see people moving around)!
It was this morning that the both the song and the game finally released, and my brother and I finally got to return home for Christmas vacation. I remember waking up early that day for some reason, so early that the sun had only just started rising. I got things ready, packed up most of my stuff, and just killed time listening to that song and browsing this and that on the internet. It was such a quiet, relaxed and happy morning that, well it was notable enough to remember, eh?
And Dragon Age: Origins was a big part of it thanks to that song. I recall playing the game itself later on in the evening after settling back in at home, and I was indeed immediately sucked into it (it really is an excellent RPG!). Even so, it’s that morning that I recall most vividly (even though I was mostly jazzed to play the game). I suppose that’s just proof that life itself will always be more interesting than even the best video games, eh?
I have quite a few fond memories like these actually, so it was a little hard to narrow it down to just five. Still these are my favorites, and I’ll probably carry them with me until the end comes (whenever that may be). While gaming is indeed just a hobby and not all that important in the grand scheme of things, I still can’t help but feel incredibly glad to have it (and thus all these warm memories) in my life as a result. It may not be “important,” but it’s still a wonderful spice nonetheless. Merry Listmas and absolutely a very Merry Christmas to you!
Well, that’s it for Listmas 2021! We hope you enjoyed reading our lists as we did writing them! There’s still a bit more coming for New Year’s, so stay tuned! For now though, why not share some of your own memories below? 🙂
Image is the Donkey Kong 64 title art