The TechRadar Gaming team’s Christmas games 2023

A collage of characters from GTA V, Lies of P, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder
(Image credit: Rockstar/Neowiz Games/Nintendo)

Even though there’s never a bad time of year to get stuck into a game - or several games - the Christmas break always feels like a perfect time. With a holiday that’s often conducive to a chunk of time off school or work - and that has a decent amount of downtime in between family visits - it’s ideal for getting your teeth into a chunky game, playing something seasonal, or revisiting a classic.

This concept of a ‘Christmas game’ is one that I’ve had and tried to keep for years now. Previous choices include Mass Effect 3 in 2013, Dragon Age: Inquisition in 2014, and more recent adventures like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla in 2020, and Marvel’s Spider-Man Miles Morales in 2021 - although with the latter I finished it by mid-December not realizing it was so short. I then had to swap in Metro Exodus as a last-minute substitute (one which ultimately didn’t stick, sadly).

We've already revealed what we think are the best games of 2023, but what will we actually be playing this holiday? I asked each of the TechRadar Gaming team what their Christmas game for 2023 is going to be to see what range of adventures we’d be indulging in during the holidays.

Shadows of Doubt

Screenshot from Shadows of Doubt

(Image credit: ColePowered Games)

It would be easy to talk about Ready or Not here, a S.W.A.T shooter that’s demolishing my life despite the political ickiness. However, what I really want to do is solve a murder in Shadows of Doubt, a sci-fi detective game that has you solving crimes in a fully-formed city.

How you go about sleuthing is up to you; I haven’t properly dug into the world myself yet, but in one tutorial playthrough I found myself burgling one suspect for clues, and breaking into the workplace of another to read the emails on their work PC.

If you’ve got a Blade Runner fantasy - and let’s face it, who doesn’t - then Shadows of Doubt is probably your best chance to solve a murder without joining the actual police, and you know, who would want to do that? 

- Jake Tucker, Editor-in-Chief

GTA 5

GTA 5

(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

It absolutely has to be Grand Theft Auto 5 for me. The trailer for GTA 6 from a couple of weeks ago awakened a fierce sense of missing out-itis in me, and I’ve vowed not to let GTA 6 pass me by in the same way that GTA 5 has - and the best way to start preparing for that is to jump feet first into Los Santos.

I’m coming to it so late now that you might say "about time" of course, and while I’m well aware of the game, its world, and characters, I do feel like I can go into GTA 5 with it still (somehow) relatively unspoiled. I don’t know any major story points or twists, and this only serves to enhance my first time playing it. What could be better GTA 6 preparation than enjoying the latest version of GTA 5 and doing so as if it were (basically) brand new?

So while I do get pangs of guilt for not going back to finish my Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater playthrough on PlayStation 3, or sinking back into Diablo 4 - and even if GTA isn’t the most Christmassy game - I can’t wait to get into Los Santos for dozens of hours during the holidays on PlayStation 5 and on my PlayStation Portal

- Rob Dwiar, Deputy Editor

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2023)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 artwork

(Image credit: Activision)

Okay, you’re going to have to hear me out with this one. I might not have been the biggest fan of the single-player campaign in this latest Call of Duty when it debuted back in November, but the Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer has become a bit of a guilty pleasure as of late.

Sure, it's incredibly derivative when compared to previous games (even its map selection is mostly retreads of old Modern Warfare 2 environments from more than a decade ago) but it really delivers fast-paced firefights in spades. There’s also the new Season One content which has managed to get a bit of a hold on me. I’m already well over halfway through the latest battle pass and don’t think I’ll be slowing down over the holidays.

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I’ve also spent a decent chunk of change buying the game’s recent anime bundle - which grants you two neon-pink SMGs complete with an animated VTuber figure who dances whenever the weapons are inspected. It’s incredibly silly and impractical, but loads of fun and I’m keen to get my money's worth out of this new gear.

- Dashiell Wood, Hardware Writer

Baldur's Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3 official artwork

(Image credit: Larian Studios)

I’ve spent over 200 hours with Larian Studios' award-winning fantasy role-playing game (RPG) and, despite having completed three playthroughs, I seem to be showing no signs of stopping. This game about elves, wizards, and psychic tadpoles is better suited to the festive season than you might think. The Winter holidays are all about family, friendship, and camaraderie - values that stand at the core of Baldur’s Gate 3’s storytelling. 

Thanks to thoughtful voice acting and playful writing, your party members in Baldur’s Gate 3 become found family as you play. Shadowheart’s brooding exterior and Gale’s wordy sophistry worm their way into your brain (pun intended), continuing to charm and delight even after multiple replays.

The game’s systems, too, are joyous and open-ended, encouraging you to find new ways to solve problems each time you encounter them. Whether you wish to solve a potential battle with honeyed words, stealth, or large explosions, Baldur’s Gate 3 will accommodate you, keeping each new campaign feeling fresh and rewarding. 

- Cat Bussell, Staff Writer

Super Mario Bros. Wonder

Elephant Mario jumping

(Image credit: Nintendo)

I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to sink into Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and there’s no better time than the holidays given the series' focus on fun and being joyful. As I’ll be visiting my family, it’s also a great opportunity to get my siblings involved too, and hopefully avoid any squabbles over who gets to play who due to how many characters there are to choose from. Plus, with two characters available to assist players who don’t have a lot of gaming experience, it makes the idea of a game night far more approachable for my family who don’t play a lot. 

Having spent a little time away from the Nintendo Switch after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, it’ll be a great chance for me to reignite my love for the console too, especially with one of Nintendo’s most popular series. Plus, with Princess Peach: Showtime! on the horizon in the new year too, there’s no better time to refresh my memory on what Mario is all about before it takes a different direction. 

- Kara Phillips, Evergreen Writer 

Lies of P

Lies of P artwork

(Image credit: Neowiz Games)

The holiday season is a time of year commonly associated with sharing classic fictional tales such as The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, A Christmas Carol, and The Night Before Christmas. As such, what better time to visit a modern take on Pinocchio in Lies of P? In this action-adventure, you play as the puppet himself, and smash, stab, destroy, and dismantle your way through a host of evil puppets and Lovecraftian enemies that have taken over the city of Krat. Now that’s what I call festive. 

Okay, admittedly, Lies of P doesn’t have a lot of Christmas vibes in it, but this stylish soulslike is one I’ve had my eye on since its launch in September - I’ve just not had the time to properly sink into it. While I was able to pick it up for less in November, as it was available as one of the best Black Friday video game deals, after a quick dip into it I quickly realized that the brutal action game required my full attention in order to get to grips with its fast-paced combat mechanics. That’s not to mention the fact that the beautiful world - which I’ve barely scratched the surface of in my couple of hours of play - is one that demands thorough exploration, not just to uncover its secrets and treasures, but because of how stunning its locations are. 

As such, coming up to the holidays, I’m incredibly excited to immerse myself in and fully embrace P’s journey through Krat and see what challenging bosses await me. Plus, thanks to a recent update, you can even dress P up with a red nose and antlers, and that’s very important. 

- Catherine Lewis, News Writer

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

A screenshot from Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

(Image credit: Cygames Inc./Arc System Works)

I’ve usually got a lot of time on my hands over the Christmas break, so I often find myself picking up a fighting game to get stuck into at this time of year. It’s a fun time investment, and the act of improving is always satisfying. This year, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is especially valuable because it’s only just released, meaning thousands of players are learning this fresh fighting game experience together.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising features characters from the immensely popular mobile game. As an ‘anime’ fighter, you might expect it to be ridiculously fast-paced, with players air-dashing and special-canceling at breakneck speeds. But not so here; Rising is relatively more measured in its pace, featuring a more grounded game not unlike Street Fighter 6 or Mortal Kombat 1

I’ve also found it exceptionally easy to get into so far, with a nice range of accessible mechanics that act as a solid foundation for getting started with online ranked play. There’s still a lofty skill ceiling, though, so my appetite for improving will remain as I play it through the Christmas break in anticipation of Tekken 8’s January 26 release. 

- Rhys Wood, Hardware Editor

Monopoly

Monopoly

(Image credit: txking / Shutterstock.com)

I’ll be going home this holiday season, and in doing so I'll be ditching my gaming consoles and PC. This means the only things I’ll play over my break will be good old-fashioned board games

The game we’ll play the most over my time off will likely be Monopoly. This iconic board game sees multiple players buy properties, houses, and hotels to collect rent from their opponents, with the goal of driving them to bankruptcy: the perfect feel-good family game. 

While playing Monopoly around the festive period is a tradition, it’s not one that usually ends well. My family can be particularly competitive at times, so even a simple board game can get a bit heated. One infamous game actually lasted for four months as my Dad and brother refused to give up. Needless to say, ever since then, I’ve enacted a four-hour rule for myself, which means that if the game is still going after that amount of time, I mortgage all my properties, throw my cash to the wind, and try to find The Muppet Christmas Carol on BBC iPlayer.  

- Elie Gould, Features Writer


You can see how all these games stack up against some other top-rated picks by browsing our guides to the best PS5 games, best PS4 games, best Nintendo Switch games, best Xbox Series X games, best Xbox One games, and best PC games.

Rob Dwiar
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Rob is Deputy Editor of TechRadar Gaming, a video games journalist, critic, editor, and writer, and has years of experience gained from multiple publications. Prior to being TechRadar Gaming's Deputy Editor, he was a longstanding member of GamesRadar+, being the Commissioning Editor for Hardware there for years, while also squeezing in a short stint as Gaming Editor at WePC before joining TechRadar Gaming. He is also a freelance writer on tech, gaming hardware, video games, gardens, and landscapes and is crowdfunding a book on video game landscapes that you can back and pre-order now too.