The chill of winter has settled in once again, which means the holidays are not far off! For a lot of excited young gamers in households across the country, the waning days of December provide a welcome ramp-up to the upcoming thrill of opening presents and enjoying the winter break.
Of course, the holidays can also mean much more, too—a time to visit loved ones and reconnect with family, a time to frolic in the crisp air and new snowfall with pets and pals, and a time to dig into delicious foods and tasty seasonal treats. With that broad range of pleasant festivities in mind, here are six unique games to help get you in the holiday spirit!
Animal Crossing: New Leaf
Platforms: 3DS, 2DS
ESRB: Rated E for Comic Mischief
The cutesy, colorful world of Animal Crossing: New Leaf drops you into an adorable animal community and lets you help your neighbors, expand your own home, collect lots of cool furniture, and much more. It’s a lighthearted game that encourages you to play a little each day in order to interact with local villagers and make your mark on the town over time.
Since the game’s clock tracks the little world’s ever-evolving progress in real time, the village and its holidays shift with the seasons. The arrival of December, for example, changes the landscape into a snowy wonderland and opens up new encounters and opportunities for fun. This time of year, the local shop contains a Santa’s outfit for the month, which plays into a secret holiday quest you can unlock.
If you play the game on the evening of Dec. 24, which is “Toy Day,” you’ll have a chance to meet a mysterious reindeer named Jingle who visits town once a year to deliver presents. Try donning your Santa suit and give him a chat!
Costume Quest: Grubbins on Ice DLC
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
ESRB: Rated E10+ for Cartoon Violence and Tobacco Reference
Costume Quest, everyone’s favorite trick-or-treat-themed cartoonish RPG romp, takes a turn towards chillier territory in this downloadable content pack that adds a new campaign adventure to the main game. Taking place shortly after the events that unfold at the end of the core game, Grubbins on Ice sees the trio of costumed kid heroes exploring the wintry monster world of Repugia to recover their missing pal. While the upbeat mixture of costumed collecting, RPG battling, and silly character encounters doesn’t veer far from the gameplay of the original, the new seasonal settings and wacky characters add a lot to this charming tale.
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Vita, iOS
ESRB: Rated E10+ for Fantasy Violence
There’s something so peaceful about walking through a snow-covered forest in one of Minecraft‘s colder regions with a soothing piano score in the background—at least until nightfall comes and perilous beasties begin to roam, that is. This runaway indie hit challenges players to survive, build, and explore in a fascinating blocky realm that you can shape to your own design.
Open-ended first-person gameplay lets you explore the surface world and forage for supplies to create useful tools, or you can dig deep below ground to mine resources for crafting everything from towering fortresses to elaborate catacombs. Battling monsters and befriending wild critters is all part of the fun too. The free-form creative spirit woven throughout Minecraft makes it a great playground for young minds to experiment with, but it’s a deep sandbox that’s well suited for young and old alike.
The Unfinished Swan
Platforms: PS4, Vita, PS3
ESRB: Rated E10+ for Fantasy Violence
Taking your first few steps in The Unfinished Swan, you might think you’re caught in a snowstorm. Indeed, that’s what it feels like for much of your time in this interesting and very different game. In a world that’s filled with white space like a blank page, flinging blobs of ink to fill in the gaps and reveal the invisible structures around you is absorbing.
In this storybook-like first-person journey, a young orphaned boy named Munroe enters a fascinating land of magic, mystery, and visual puzzles that connect to his mom’s artistic legacy in interesting ways. The journey isn’t so much holiday specific as it is simply heartwarming, particularly as the story begins to take shape.
Road Not Taken
Platforms: PS4, PC
ESRB: Rated E
Helping others in need is certainly in the spirit of the giving season, and that’s what Road Not Taken is all about. In this gorgeous-looking indie, you play a wizard who must navigate a frosty landscape to rescue young children who have been caught out in a blizzard while picking winter berries. Each grid-like area is full of magic-matching puzzles that gently tease your brain. Overcoming clever obstacles and woodland monsters, you’ll work to save the lost youngsters from harm and return them safely to their parents in the village.
Platforms: Wii U, iOS
ESRB: Rated T for Drug Reference and Crude Humor
One of the best parts of keeping warm during the colder months is sitting around the fireplace with loved ones. Little Inferno takes that idea in a cute but somewhat dark direction, with its wintry tale of staying warm by being a little firebug. This unusual and addictive puzzler involves spending virtual coins you collect to buy a wide assortment of items that you can hurl into a fireplace. Burning different combinations of items creates strange effects and unlocks more goodies to torch, which in turn progresses the strange story that ties it all together. Even if you don’t have a real fireplace to warm up to, you can at least stay toasty in spirit!