The holiday season is fast approaching, and who would be better to ring it in than jolly old Santa Claus? His legendary status has afforded him appearances in advertisements, movies, parades, and of course... video games. Whatever form he ends up taking, Santa has spread Christmas cheer in everything from JRPGs to point-and-click adventures to idle browser games. So join us today as we count down the Top 10 Santa Appearances in Video Games!
10. Fate/Grand Order
- System: Android/iOS, Arcade
- Publisher: Aniplex
- Developer: Delightworks
- Release Dates: July 30, 2015 (JPN), June 25, 2017 (NA)
Artoria Pendragon has a bit of a bad reputation amongst the other servants, to say the least; so for Christmas 2015, she decided to change her image. Her new form, Santa Alter, gives her a cute new costume decorated with fur trim and a festive bow (it still has the same dark color palette as her normal outfit, though). She also carries a massive sack of toys along with her traditional sword.
She carefully picks out presents throughout the year but has a tendency to choose off-brand toys or other slightly wrong gifts just to get on people’s nerves. Nonetheless, Artoria takes her role as Santa very seriously and braves every harsh winter trial for the good of the world’s children. She isn’t a perfect Santa, but she tries her best!
9. Kingdom of Loathing
- System: Web Browser
- Publisher: Asymmetric Publications
- Developer: Asymmetric Publications
- Release Dates: February 10, 2003
Uncle Crimbo knows that he’s a sorry excuse for a Santa. His brother, Father Crimbo, was the real Christmas monarch of the Kingdom of Loathing, but suddenly passed away and left the position to him. This misanthropic layabout just wants to hang out in his mobile home and drink peppermint schnapps, so after a few years, he handed control of Christmas over to the Penguin Mafia and tried to rid himself of the entire holiday.
But, deep within his heart, Uncle Crimbo cares about the spirit of Christmas. When he found out that the Penguin Mafia wasn’t planning on handing out any presents at all in 2010, he made a triumphant comeback with a horde of hobo elves and made sure everyone in the Kingdom of Loathing got at least some kind of gift. He’s been back at the helm ever since, sending players letters and presents every year and seeming happier with each passing holiday.
8. ClayFighter 63 1/3
- System: Nintendo 64
- Publisher: Interplay Productions
- Developer: Interplay Productions
- Release Dates: October 23, 1997 (NA), November 19, 1997 (EU)
You can play as Santa in a fighting game? How does that even work? Well, ClayFighter 63 1/3 features Sumo Santa, the evil twin of Santa Claus who has taken over the North Pole. The ClayFighter series’ main character, Bad Mr. Frosty, is the only one who stands in the way of Sumo Santa expanding his empire and eventually ruling the world.
Interestingly, Sumo Santa still has the happiness of children first on his priority list. Despite his motives being undeniably selfish, he plans to use his newfound power to increase toy production and make sure that every child in Claydonia gets plenty of presents on Christmas. So... who’s the real bad guy here? Something tells us that anyone with a finishing move called the “Kringle Krush” can’t be that evil.
7. Kingdom Hearts II
- System: PS2
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release Dates: December 22, 2005 (JPN), March 28, 2006 (NA), September 29, 2006 (EU)
Originally appearing in the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas, this version of Santa Claus is the benevolent but bumbling leader of Christmas Town. Lately, Jack Skellington has constantly been pestering him with worrying questions about his holiday. Sora and friends arrive to find that Santa has been kidnapped by Oogie Boogie on Maleficent’s orders, with the aim of tunrning the gentle man into a Heartless.
With help from Jack and Sally, Sora saves Santa from Oogie Boogie’s trap. Santa tells Jack that he should just concentrate on Halloween, and reassures Sora that he will eventually see his friend Riku again. After all, if there’s anyone who believes in the good intentions of people who seem to be doing everything wrong, it’s this Santa.
6. Sam & Max Beyond Time and Space
- System: PC, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii
- Publisher: Telltale Games
- Developer: Telltale Games
- Release Dates: November 8, 2007
The Shambling Corporate Presence is a horrifying demon that was accidentally sent to Santa instead of Satan. It took the opportunity to possess one of the North Pole’s elves and spread misery, forcing Santa to barricade himself and the demon in a room where he tries and fails to kill it with a machine gun.
Sam and Max arrive and manage to cast out the demon, but it hides inside of a “Sinful” Jell-O and possesses Santa when he eats it. Luckily, our heroes triumph over the demon again, sending it back to Hell. Unfortunately, Santa is dragged along with it and was only eventually rescued five months later. This poor guy deserves a break for all he’s been through.
5. Star Ocean: The Last Hope
- System: Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: tri-Ace
- Release Dates: February 19, 2009 (JPN), February 23, 2009 (NA), June 5, 2009 (EU)
This Santa is a bit creepy-looking, floating ominously in the air with his sack of toys and an unmoving facial expression. Nonetheless, he still has a wealth of presents available for you and your party... if you can pay for them. He appears randomly in dungeons and is the only merchant who sells the best equipment in the entire game, but everything comes at a ridiculously high price that can only be slightly lowered by completing a quest for him. If you’re a high roller, though, there’s nothing better than finding Santa and leaving with some shiny new gifts.
4. Saints Row IV
- System: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Publisher: Deep Silver
- Developer: Volition
- Release Dates: August 20, 2013 (NA), August 23, 2013 (EU)
Mrs. Claus and the elves have been hiding a terrible secret from the world – Santa has been gone for years, having been abducted by the evil alien warlord Zinyak. You know, standard stuff for a Saints Row game. The cover-up worked for a while, but the mental damage from his kidnapping eventually turned Santa into a Christmas-hating monster called Clawz. It’s up to the 3rd Street Saints to travel back in time and save Santa from the horror he has become.
Initially, the protagonist is annoyed by the entire situation and chastises his partner Shaundi for her holiday spirit. But over the course of this three-mission DLC pack, he learns the true meaning of Christmas by personally rescuing and redeeming a holiday hero who he never thought existed. That’s the power of Santa!
3. Cookie Clicker
- System: Web Browser
- Publisher: Julien Thiennot
- Developer: Julien Thiennot
- Release Dates: August 10, 2013
Cookie Clicker doesn’t really have a plot, but there’s still much more to it than meets the eye. Purchasing upgrades for your cookie production line introduces all sorts of new items and characters, such as the famously cookie-loving Santa! He starts out as just a festive test tube, which can be upgraded into an ornament, a tree, an elf fetus, and eventually into the jolly man himself!
Santa bestows random bonuses to your cookie stats in the form of presents like ho ho ho-flavored frosting or an itchy sweater. If you keep upgrading him, he’ll eventually turn into a Lovecraftian monster called Final Claus that gives you massive bonuses. “My name is Claus, king of kings; Look upon my toys, ye Mighty, and despair!”
2. Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana)
- System: SNES
- Publisher: Square
- Developer: Square
- Release Dates: August 6, 1993 (JPN), October 3, 1993 (NA), November 24, 1994 (EU)
Our heroes travel through the Ice Palace in search of the stolen Mana Seed of Fire. At the end of the lengthy dungeon lies the Frost Gigas, a hulking creature with wild eyes and sharp teeth that they somehow manage to defeat. But when the monster falls, it transforms into someone very familiar: Santa Claus!
Santa was feeling depressed and worried because children didn’t seem to believe in him anymore. He thought that if he used the Mana Seed to create a giant Christmas tree, it would bring some holiday spirit back into the world. But Mana Seeds are dangerously powerful things, and Santa was warped into the Frost Gigas before he knew it. He gives his saviors the Seed and bids them on their way, happy that he could at least bring them joy.
1. Tobidase Doubutsu no Mori (Animal Crossing: New Leaf)
- System: 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release Dates: November 8, 2012 (JPN), June 9, 2013 (NA), June 14, 2013 (EU)
In past Animal Crossing games, Jingle the Reindeer visited town on Christmas/Toy Day and gave out holiday-themed furniture and shirts. That was fun, especially since you could trick him into giving you more than one present if you changed clothes out of his eyesight and fooled him into thinking that you were a different person, but we particularly love what New Leaf did with the Santa concept.
All December long, your villagers will hint at what kind of present they want for Christmas. If you buy the complete Santa outfit and find Jingle on December 24th, he’ll give you a magic sack containing items and a spell that makes everyone recognize you as Santa. You can spend a lovely Toy Day handing out the perfect presents to each villager, and if you get seven or more correct, Jingle will send you his photograph the next day. This is our favorite video game version of Santa because it lets us experience the joy of giving gifts that we know our friends will love!
Santa Claus is essentially the embodiment of everything that’s great about Christmas, so it’s fun to see how each of these games chooses to show that. Some are more pure or mean-spirited than others, but all of them reach the conclusion that Santa is a force for good who cares about the happiness of children first and foremost.
What did you think of our list? Who is your favorite video game Santa? Have you received gifts from any of these Santas? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!