The Internet Archive has had thousands of games available to play in your browser for over five years now, but the joy of booting up these items immediately never seems to grow old. In fact, the main issue is there’s so many, and they’re from all different eras and times, that it might be worth it to point out 12 Christmas (and general Holiday Season) themed games just to try out.
(Most of these should work fine in most modern browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, along with browsers that use the same engines. Safari and Internet Explorer, as well as others, might have issues here and there. Always give Jason Scott, our Software Curator, a heads-up as to what problems you might have.)
The Daze Before Christmas is a platformer for the Sega Genesis.
This is a pretty wild game, made in 1994 by a Norwegian game studio and featuring a very santa-like character who fights a huge range of enemies across a wide range of levels. Your command buttons are ARROW KEYS for movement, the CTRL key for the A button, ALT/OPTION key for B button, and the SPACE bar for C. The manual for this game is located here.
A conversion mod was done for an earlier iD Software creation, Commander Keen; again, all the usual sprites and graphics have been totally redone to give us holiday cheer. You can play the redone Commander Keen here.
The commands are the usual ARROW KEYS to move and CTRL to take actions. After a top-down view, it switches to a fast paced platform for everyone’s favorite kid, wearing a Santa hat.
This 1993 platformer game has it all – stunning MS-DOS graphics, slick and easy controls, and a sense of real craft put into every frame. Complete all seven levels and Christmas will be saved.
When you start the game, there’s a small selection screen. Be sure to hit the F key, so you get that rocking Christmas music in the background. Use ARROW KEYS to move and SPACE to… throw snowballs.
Trust me, this sounds a lot better than it looks. Part of our larger handheld collection, this license of the original Burton-Selick movie has Jack walking, minding his own business while avoiding snowballs and other creatures. You use the ARROW KEYS as well as the CTRL key to take action, although you’ll be hard pressed to enjoy it! Unless the Pumpkin King holds such a sway with you that you’ll take the effort…
This ZX game has a lovely set of colors and graphics as you guide santa through finding pieces of his sleigh, then riding through the night. If you’ve never played a game on the ZX Spectrum (a fascinating machine in its own right) then the controls are going to seem a little bit odd. Be sure to select 1. KEYBOARD at the selection screen, and then check out these controls:
Use the O KEY for left, the P KEY for right, A KEY for down and Q KEY for up. Press SPACE for action and fire. Trust me, the keyboard was very small and your hands would have thanked you, back then.
If you ever played text adventures in decades past, you’ll have feelings about the fact they’re still around, still accessible to play, and still text-based interactive stories that allow you to play them one sentence at a time. In this case, you can play THE ELF’S CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE, an Adventure Game Toolkit story of a hapless elf pulled back into an emergency back at the North Pole.
Just curl up near a crackling fire, boot the game up, and start typing commands – you’ll fall into the old fun and frustrations of text adventures in no time.
The groundbreaking Castle Wolfenstein by iD Software (1992) got a holiday makeover in the late 1990s, with the WWII imagery replaced by trees, wreaths, nutcrackers, banners of holiday cheer – you name it. Just click here to try this version out.
It’s still a first-person shooter, however, so you’re armed and causing mortal damage, although maybe tell yourself it’s evil people wearing Santa suits at the annual Dungeon Holiday Party. The standard keys work: ARROW KEYS to move and CTRL to fire, with SPACE to open doors and secret wall entrances.
This Commodore 64 game is rather slow in places (you can wait a long time for it to load), but a parent playing with a child can enjoy the music and graphics a lot. This 1986 interactive christmas card came from American Greetings. There’s even a singalong!
(Not kidding about how long it takes to load – but the music and graphics make it worth the wait.)
When Lemmings, an incredibly popular game of the early 1990s, decided to release a holiday version with Christmas themes including graphics and sound, it too was an enormous hit. Some people even preferred it to the original, since it was so incredibly festive and the music was a beautiful Amiga soundtrack of holiday hits. Click here to play.
After a grey bootup screen, the game will come up, with you clicking your mouse into the window to activate the little lemming hand/mouse pointer. Choose PLAY and enjoy the game: You’re guiding dozens of little lemmings dropping out of a trap door to send them into an exit. Assign them different duties (building, digging, blocking) by clicking on the tiles at the bottom. (There are numbers to indicate how many times you can assign the lemmings a job). If you get stuck, there’s a little nuclear option to choose too.
(If you’ve never played Lemmings before, you’ll be in love with the little guys in minutes.)
This revamping of the classic platformer JAZZ JACKRABBIT came out as a holiday gift, with a green bunny fighting to save the world while dressed for handing out presents. Use the ARROW KEYS to move around, ALT/OPTION to jump, and SPACE to shoot.
This game is fast, an obvious nod to Sonic the Hedgehog, and so once you get going you’ll be hard-pressed to keep track of everything going on the screen. But the festive graphics and sound will keep you coming back. Click here to play it.
JETPACK CHRISTMAS SPECIAL! is a platformer with a small santa running around collecting presents and causing havoc trying to save Christmas. When starting up the game, press I for an excellent included instruction manual about the backstory and how to play the game. Otherwise:
Press S to start, and then the ARROW KEYS to move, SPACE for your status, ALT/OPTION to thrust, and CTRL to “Phase”. Note that this game is all about the Jetpack, allowing you, Santa, to fly all over the place.
Fun fact: If you leave the title/credits screen going, the snow will start to pile up. 25 years ago, this was a big deal, computer graphics-wise.
Another fun fact: This game has one of the legendary BOSS KEYS that were a staple of videogames of the time – pressing F10 during the game will kick it over to look like just a regular MS-DOS prompt, complete with blinking cursor. Press F10 again to bring the game right back!
Finally, a simple 1993 platformer with lovely music, “Santa is Back!” has Santa running between all manner of platforms, collecting snow globes and presents and all sorts of different holiday items to save Christmas. Just use the ARROW KEYS to move around and the SPACE to kneel. There’s multiple screens and a few short levels.
Have a delightful holidays, enjoy these many strange and fun games, and thanks for being a user at the Internet Archive!