Terrible Holiday-Themed Games

They don’t make them like this anymore. Holiday-themed games are not a genre you see in the new releases section of stores. This is partly due to game development becoming increasingly complex, and many titles see repeat delays, so hitting a holiday release is seemingly impossible. The other big reason is that the game market has matured, and gimmicks such as holiday-themed games aren’t as appealing anymore.

That’s not to say we won’t see a push in this genre in the future. After all, holiday movies and television shows still draw viewers. It is just a matter of whether an AAA studio will take the risk or if they see that another company was successful.

While we wait for a modern holiday blockbuster to come out, let’s take a look at a few games that were likely the cause for why holiday-themed games are no longer a thing. Here are a few of the most terrible holiday-themed games. 

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

The Santa Clause film series spawned three films and earned almost a combined $500 million on a total budget of $100 million. The third and final film, “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause,” received a quite bad tie-in game released on the Game Boy Advance.

“The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” is made up of various challenges across several levels and modes, with players gaining access to abilities to try and keep things feeling fresh. Unfortunately, the game falls short.

The core mechanic of the game relies on the player, who controls Santa Claus, to collect milk and cookies. After collecting 20 of these, the player needs to search the area for a candy cane that lets you move on to the next area. 

Between areas, the story of the game is told through snippets of the film and dialogue that doesn’t add up to much of anything. You collect milk and cookies in Santa’s factory, or you are searching for your children who have been kidnapped by Jack Frost for some reason or another. You ultimately save them by advancing after you collect even more milk and cookies.

Thankfully, the game does give Santa some exciting abilities to get through the levels while battling enemies that include bats, snowmen, and tinmen. Then there are the nearly impossible special stages that appear between levels that you can’t replay if you fail.

The game encourages you to complete every challenge and collect all of the milk and cookies, but it’s not worth your time unless you love the Santa Clause film series and aren’t a fan of the more superior platformers that this game borrows ideas from, such as Mario or Sonic.

The Grinch

Controls in games have come a long way. Sure, there are still moments where character animations can feel needlessly sluggish, the shooting isn’t as precise as we like, or making a jump is sometimes hard to judge, but rarely does a game collapse in on itself over how its controls are programmed.

To get an idea of how bad things were in the past, we look to “The Grinch,” released in 2000. This game was released following the success of the Ron Howard film starring Jim Carrey.

The gamer does differ some, depending on which version you play. However, it is the PC version that fares worst. You could also buy it for Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color. 

Like most video game movie tie-ins of that era, “The Grinch” likely turned more potential gamers into detractors. But nobody would blame you for picking up this game. If you were browsing the shelves of Toys R Us twenty years ago the bright green of “The Grinch” would surely catch your eye.

In this game, you play as the Grinch and go in search of your missing gadget blueprints while exploring Whoville. On the surface, “The Grinch” is a  pretty standard game that presents you with interesting designs and obstacles. There were even some quite inventive puzzles.

But things quickly turn south as the Grinch and his narration become tiresome with all of his needless anger that is never explained, a camera that doesn’t work, and too many glitches that reveal its low budget and short development cycle. They did manage to get the game out on every system in time for the holiday, and it shows how they achieved that. 

With a few more months of development, this could have been a classic.

Home Alone 

To think how far Bethesda has come! The titular game company is known for publishing standout series such as Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Doom. But back in the early 90s, Bethesda was working on a much simpler game. 

Like other film titles on this list, the Home Alone film series was a huge success and spawned a franchise of five films. Following the release of the first film in 1990, several game developers were brought together to build Home Alone games for the different consoles available at the time, including the Super NES, PC, NES, Sega Genesis and Game Gear, Master System, and Game Boy.

Bethesda handled the NES version of the game. Each release of the game varied, often with different stories and gameplay mechanics. This was the first problem. With each game being so varied, it didn’t feel like there was a cohesive vision for what the game should be.

For the NES, Bethesda built a gameplay loop based around Kevin (the player character) being chased by Harry and Marv (the villains) throughout the house. Along the way, players will come across various traps that trip or knock Harry or Marv unconscious for a length of time. There are multiple levels to the house, stairways, and a zipline rope from the attic to the treehouse. 

The player must avoid being caught for 20 minutes. That’s the entire game. The music is repetitive, there is no story, and after playing the game once, whether you succeed or fail, there isn’t much of a reason to do another run.

Maybe Don’t Play Them

For gamers who want a look back at gaming history and the bad genre-titles spawned by movies, these games are worth checking out. It may be a good idea for the rest of us to stick with the many better non-denominational holiday games releasing at the end of this year.