PC games are a brilliant way to get into the holiday spirit, especially this year. With the pandemic pretty much ruining people’s planned gatherings and parties – not to mention, cancelling Christmas markets and holiday events altogether – holiday-themed titles are, in fact, among the very few ways left to do so.
Luckily, some developers are still planning on rolling out their Christmas events, much like last year, which saw such titles as Red Dead Redemption 2 and Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare get Yuletide updates. On top of those, there are quite a few games out there – indie and otherwise – that envelop players in all that cosy Christmas cheer.
Just because you can’t sit at a long table with the whole family to stuff your tummies with ham and mashed potatoes this holiday season, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Put on a soft pair of warm socks, make yourself a nice delectable cup of Belgian hot chocolate (or mulled wine), and tuck into one of these PC games to celebrate the festive season.
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1. Sims 4
Everyone’s favorite life simulation game, Sims 4, has always done holidays well with expansion pack Seasons. It lets you celebrate things like Valentine’s Day (Love Day), Thanksgiving (Harvest Feast), and Christmas (Winterfest) in the game much like you would in real life.
This year, it’s taken that to another level with winter-in-Japan-themed Snowy Escape. You might not be able to hit the actual slopes this year, but at least, you can do it vicariously through your sims.
2. First Snow
If it’s your first (or umpteenth) time celebrating Christmas alone, trust that you’re not the only one doing so this year.
Luckily, you’ve got First Snow to keep you company and easily relate to, playing as Allison Merlo, a college freshman struggling through her first winter away from family and friends. Its beautiful art direction, a great storyline, and convincing LGBTQ+ characters make this game the perfect winter companion for all the lonely hearts this festive season.
3. Cthulhu Saves Christmas
Just because Halloween is over, doesn’t mean the horror-fest must end. Christmas-themed horror-comedy entertainment is hardly unheard of, and Cthulhu Saves Christmas is but one of many. In this turn-based JRPG, you play Cthulhu, the lord of insanity, as he sets about getting his powers back.
As this is Christmas, the only way he can do so is to save Santa from the wretched League of Christmas Evil whose members include – naturally – Krampus and Mari Lwyd.
4. Roman's Christmas
Christmas and murder mystery inexplicably meet in Roman’s Christmas, a unique take on the Ace Attorney-style games. Only, it’s filled with anthropomorphic characters.
You play the wolf detective Roman who, whilst on a holiday, is forced to solve a mystery at a tavern he’s staying in. Unearth clues, Interrogate characters and make choices that can affect the outcome of the game. And, like any good murder-mystery, there will be a few deaths, so maybe play this without the kiddies.
5. Kaori After Story
Visual Novel fans should enjoy the holidays playing the fully-voiced (in English) Kaori After Story. Sequel to ACE Academy, the game continues the love story between your character and Kaori over Christmas and New Years as you meet the family and take part in the festivities.
The game is more of a romantic interactive story than anything else, but if you’ve run out of Netflix holiday rom-coms, this will fill that void in a pinch.
6. Christmas Adventure: Candy Storm
Christmas Adventure: Candy Storm is a perfect game to get you into the holiday spirit. You’re tasked with saving Christmas in this delightful hidden object adventure. And, like most hidden object games, you’ll dig into a relaxing puzzler that complements the spirit of Christmas perfectly.
While it isn’t the longest game out there, it offers plenty of family-friendly fun for a very affordable price and will run on any Windows device this side of 2000.
7. Secret Santa
While most holiday-themed games are relaxing supplements to holiday fun, Secret Santa adds an element of danger. In this pixel art entry, you’re tasked, as Santa, with delivering presents.
There’s a twist though. You have to stay hidden and avoid obstacles to complete your objective; otherwise, you might get shot, chopped, or blown up. Not only does the game offer 30 stages of stealthy fun, but it does so for free.
8. Delicious - Emily's Christmas Carol
If you’re a fan of time management games, then Delicious – Emily’s Christmas Carol will be right up your alley. Fulfil characters’ yuletide orders across 6 locations, 61 story levels, and 31 bonus levels for enough fun to carry you through most of the holidays.
With a holiday-themed score as well as story and locations, you’ll be more than ready for Christmas Day after playing this holiday entry in the Delicious series.
Steep might not necessarily be holiday-themed, but anything with this much snow is perfect for the holidays. If you can’t make it to your favourite ski locale this holiday due to the pandemic, then Steep is the perfect substitute.
Tackle a snowy open world on skis, snowboard, or even a wingsuit to get your adrenaline pumping. If you want an even more immersive experience, Steep is compatible with all Tobii Eye Tracking gaming devices.
10. Stardew Valley
In the charming 2D pixel art game Stardew Valley, you can participate in the village festivities. A perfect way to get primed for the real holidays, you get to be part of Pelican Town’s own Feast of the Winter Star.
You just need to enter the town between 9 am and 2 pm on Winter 25th of each year to attend, play Secret Santa with a random character, and get a Secret Santa gift yourself.
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Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.