Merry almost Christmas everyone! It’s almost time for people around the world to celebrate the holiday’s most common tradition: Sitting home during a snowstorm and playing a video game! But what video game should you play? Well, why not celebrate the season even more by playing a game with a Christmas aesthetic?
Ever since the medium began video game developers have been setting video games during the Christmas season. From old classics like Lemmings to new age favorites like Spider-Man Miles Morales, there is no shortage of games to play that celebrate the season. However, I think one company in particular ends up celebrating Christmas far more often than others: Sega.
Originally I wanted to write a simple article just talking about how many Christmas video games exist and which ones you should play, but as I began to list them out I was outright shocked by how dominant Sega was on my list. I was instantly able to think of seven Sega games that celebrate the holiday and I assure you, I missed some. So how about we take a trip down memory lane and look at several times Sega celebrated Christmas over the years?
When talking about Sega and Christmas we of course have to start with one of the most genius game promotions ever: Christmas Nights!
Christmas Nights was a demo of the game given out at events and in magazine orders but it had a special gimmick. That gimmick being that the entire game was given a Christmas reskin! This game may only be a single stage long but it’s full of charm with nearly every asset being reworked to fit the holiday. They even put a little Santa cameo in it!
Regardless of if this demo actually got people to buy Nights, it has a special place in history as even to this day everyone talks about Christmas Nights as this fascinating phenomenon. Even people not knee deep into Sega’s library like me have at least heard of it.
Christmas Nights is definitely the most well known Saturn game with a Christmas stage, but it’s far from my favorite. No, that honor absolutely must go to Sakura Wars 2!
Now, while most of the Sakura Wars games have you go on a Christmas date with your girl of choice, Sakura Wars 2 goes above and beyond by introducing one of the most iconic plays and songs in the franchise: Miracle Bell. Seeing the cast of Sakura Wars 2 prepare for this Christmas play while you, as Ogami, choose which girl you’re going to date by casting them as the lead angel in the upcoming play is so perfect!
And then there’s the song! Miracle Bell/Kiseki no Kane is one of the best songs in the Sakura Wars franchise! Everything about this song is perfect and you absolutely need to add it to your Christmas song playlists. Future Sakura Wars games would also have Christmas dates and chapters (Sakura Wars 5 in particular has a big Christmas event) but this song is what truly make Sakura Wars 2 stand out among the crowd.
Moving onto the next generation of Sega consoles we’ve got a game with a distinctly Christmas feel: Shenmue 1 on the Sega Dreamcast! Being a game that takes place in December, Shenmue has a very wintery atmosphere with a constant array of gray clouds in the sky and the occasional snowfall. The town of Dobuita is aligned with a few banners celebrating the upcoming holiday and even Santa Claus is walling around advertising the great deals you can get at various stores!
Interestingly enough, there is no event in this game where Ryo can celebrate Christmas with his loved ones, but a few days after Christmas he and Nozomi can spend some time together and lament how they missed Christmas because of Ryo’s quest for revenge. It’s a bittersweet celebration of the holiday that you don’t see often in games.
Now, just because the Dreamcast died doesn’t mean Sega’s Christmas spirit did with it because when it came to developing Yakuza 1 and 2 on the Playstation 2 they put Christmas all over those games!
Plot wise both of these games have very little to do with Christmas aside from taking place during the holiday, but aesthetically these games feel very Christmas. All around Kamurocho and Sotenbori you can see girls in Santa outfits and Christmas trees decorated in lights. Yakuza 2 in particular embraced the Christmas time period and used Silent Night as it’s credits theme!
Sadly Christmas would become less and less prominent in the Yakuza franchise as time went on, however there was one game that seemed to keep the holiday cheer: Yakuza 5!
Yakuza 5 fully embraced its winter aesthetic by playing Christmas music while walking through crowded shopping areas, having snow all over the ground, and even featured the Sapporo Snow Festival as a major set piece in one of the games cities. The game also features several substories that celebrate the holiday. One of the most notable being a substory where you must help The Little Match Girl sell all of her matches as soon as you can!
The biggest and most popular Christmas thing in Yakuza 5 by far though has to be Saejima’s Santa costume. At one point in the game when hiding from the cops he dawns this brilliant disguise and then in a genius decision by RGG they let you wear it all the time in the post-game!
Can you name a single thing that encapsulates the Christmas spirit better than clotheslining a man before rolling him into the snow to turn him into a snowman? I certainly can’t.
I hope in the future that the Yakuza franchise returns to embracing the Christmas season. It’s nice to see a dirty city like Kamurocho try to decorate itself for the holidays.
Speaking of Sega franchises embracing Christmas again, in 2019 we finally got a new game in the Sakura Wars series! Shin Sakura Wars was a very controversial entry for many reasons that I do not want to talk about in this Christmas themed article. Instead let’s talk about this game’s Christmas chapter!
Remember how I really talked up Miracle Bell as being one of the best Christmas songs ever? Well I didn’t talk it up nearly as much as this game does. Shin Sakura Wars gets accused a lot of not respecting the franchise before it but I just don’t think that’s true. Miracle Bell and the original performance of it is spoken about like it’s the most important thing on earth and that the new cast being able to perform it is an honor they need to train all month for.
I’m a complete sheep when it comes to Kohei Tanaka’s music, as soon as the instrumental version of Miracle Bell began playing in this chapter I teared up a bit. It’s just that beautiful a song. This chapter has issues like the Christmas dates not actually locking you into any girl’s route, but I really don’t mind that here just because the chapter’s whole vibes are perfect.
The only thing about this chapter that disappoints me is that you only hear the girls actually singing the song for a few seconds, but even then I can’t get too angry about that because look at Azami in her angel outfit! So cute!
It’s been a few years since Sega has released another game taking place during the Christmas season, but just because a game doesn’t take place during the holiday doesn’t mean Sega won’t find some way to incorporate Christmas into it.
Yes, tomorrow on December 21st 2022 Sega will be releasing a free update to Sonic Frontiers that will allow you to dress Sonic up in a red Santa hat and vest. While Sonic likely won’t be laying the beat down on enemies like Saejima in Yakuza 5 he can be just as fashionable as him.
And that’s a quick run down of Sega’s Christmas games, I know I missed a few but I wanted to highlight the games I specifically have played over the years. If I missed some charming Sega Christmas stuff tell me about it below and how it affected you! I’m genuinely interested to hear about the ones I missed.
And hey, even if it isn’t a game at the very least every year we will remember the absolutely amazing Christmas card that they put out in 2009
I’m Skeith from The Story Arc, signing out.