The Games of Christmas Past

Taking a look at the video games that always spring back to mind this time of the year.
December 22, 2014
The Games of Christmas Past

As a kid growing up in the 90's and early 00's I used to get far too pumped for Christmas. Obviously. This goes without saying. For one reason or another, though, I would tend to play video games much more during the holiday season than the rest of year - and this especially rang true when I was younger. I guess it was an attempt to pass the time leading up to Christmas - which as a kid was a large feat in itself. As is the case with most favorite memories, you didn't realize they were happening at the time. What is now remembered as a great time must have seemed like a boring night in at a time when I could have been playing out in the snow with my pals.

I'll go from earliest memory to latest, & follow it up with some honorable mentions at the end.

Cruis'n USA (1994 Age: 5) - Back during the N64 heyday, my sister and I stayed up every night with our system set up in the living room. So in order to play it, you'd need to sit in direct view of our Christmas tree. For whatever reason, we dug Cruis'n USA big time. I think we borrowed it from our uncle who was big into games at the time. We played it to death one December - unlocking everything we could. Now anytime I sit in the living room with the tree, I get a crazy urge to play Cruis'N USA.

Pokemon Blue (1998 Age: 9) - I remember having my mother buy me this game after visiting Wal-mart and I couldn't get enough of it. I was probably 8 - but I'm not sure when I actually got the game. All I remember is I woke up early one Christmas morning and after a failed attempt to wake my family to open presents, I sat on the big chair next to the Christmas tree & played the shit out of Pokemon Blue. After we opened presents, I was still fixated on the game and played it a little more and actually beat it that Christmas morning. There's no way that epic feat of an 9-year-old couldn't be a reminder of the good ol' days around the holiday season.

South Park 64 (1998 Age: 9) - A real bad N64 game... but another that I have fond memories of playing nonetheless. I know I got this game in the winter time as I remember relating to the miserable first level of a snow-covered South Park. This aspect of it stuck with me & actually helped me enjoy the game further. Despite the kind of crappy game play & bad level design as far as game-play goes, I really do love the levels & being able to see a poorly-rendered 3D version of South Park with poorly-rendered 3D character models. Really crazy to see how much of a difference keeping the tone of the show actually made in SP games. Anyways, this may or may not have been a Christmas gift - but this time of the year, the gray skies and snowy weather, always reminds me of that first level of South Park.

WCW Backstage Assault (2000 Age: 11) - Another REAL bad game on the Nintendo 64. This was the final game before WCW was sold to WWE & it reflects the company perfectly. Just awful... everything takes place backstage & there are literally no rings at all. However, I played it to death after getting it for Christmas just because I was 10 & this was another wrestling game. Even then, I knew WCW was garbage & didn't really LIKE the game, but I was happy someone noticed my interest in pro wrestling enough to even get me the game at the time so I would've taken anything. Game sucks though, don't play it unless you have Christmas memories of it. Take it from me.

Final Fantasy IX (2000 Age: 11) - FF9 is another. The same "pals" mentioned earlier lived a street over from me during my grade-school days & we'd always act-out elaborate scenarios based on games like Final Fantasy with us as characters and an assortment of sticks as weapons and villains. This particular tradition started when we discovered Final Fantasy IX when I was 11. I recall one time after walking home from their house, I was still in the play-time mood and started fighting a giant snowbank in my front yard, by myself. Imagining I was fighting Black Waltz #1 in the Ice Cavern.... I hope the neighbors thought I was out of my mind.

Luigi's Mansion & Star Wars: Rogue Leader (2001 Age: 12) - This is the year I decided to throw all my cards on the table and ask for a Gamecube for Christmas. Being the little asshole I was, & being persuaded by my middle-school friend, I decided I'd peak at what I got a few weeks early. When we discovered the Gamecube, we were jumping for joy (sarcastically, but literally). I mean, I could've just asked and been told - but still, I felt bad for peaking. Anyways, this didn't stop my excitement when I opened it Christmas morning along with Luigi's Mansion. I played that game the entire night, after family dinner & all that. Either that Christmas or later that winter i got Rogue Leader and played that religiously with some middle school friends, so that one's up there too.

PC emulated Super Mario All-Stars (2006 Age: 16) - PLEASE NOTE: I own & have owned Super Nintendo & Super Mario All-Stars in its physical form since I was 3. Therefore, it was legal for me to be playing a copy of the game. Thanks! ;) Not just All-Stars... but PC emulated Super Mario All-Stars. The reason this is important is becasue of the way my house is set-up. My family's dining room & living room are right next to each other with no door separating them, just nice big book case dividers protruding from the wall creating a big "door" shape. For the longest time - and still to this day actually - what was considered the "family computer" was set up in the dining room and with a simple glare of the eyes you'd be staring at the huge tree with all the presents underneath it set up in the corner of the living room. One year I couldn't get enough of Super Mario All-Stars on my computer's emulator. I specifically remember having trouble with some later levels of Super Mario Bros. due to the keyboard controls & switching to Super Mario World because even with the keyboard, that's my game. So, just like Cruis'N USA, I get a nagging "play Mario on your computer" feeling anytime I see the Christmas tree set up. And more often than not, I give in. (This year I beat SMBU though so I'm sure that will be on this list when I'm 35.)

WWE Smackdown vs. Raw 2009 Wii (2009 Age: 20) This was only 5 years ago but... oh wow. This was already 5 years ago. I wasn't the biggest fan of this game in the long run (hate the Wii controls for wrestling games), but during the time I had off due to Christmas I remember playing through all the wrestler scenarios since it was one of the new games I had received & now it sticks with me for some reason. I remember sitting among my Charlie Brown & Peanuts Christmas decorations on Christmas Night in my room while my family chatted with the neighbors after dinner had died down. I had just watched my new House M.D. DVD when I decided I'd play through some SvR 2009. After getting used to the rough motion controls, I remember laughing out loud at some of the storyline decisions in the story modes. Boogeyman vs. Undertaker? Let's get real.

Honorable Mentions - My honorable mentions would include the Super Nintendo game Porky's Haunted Holiday, had it for SNES as a kid, loved the Christmas level & played it a lot during shop-cycle in high school - right around the time they set up the holiday decorations. General Chaos for the Sega Genesis - a game I dreamed of getting for Christmas the night before actually opening it. Whatever Guitar Hero was out in 2007, when I worked at Circuit City. XIII - that action-spy game starring David Duchovny from X-Files. Got that for Christmas... never beat it but actually thought it was real fun, first time witnessing cell-shaded graphics when I was 14. I should revisit that one actually.

So, as you can see, there were many games over the years that have stuck with me around the Christmas season. I sincerely hope readers here have their own gaming memories for the holidays!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays & Happy New Year

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