Sega’s Christmas Nights is the best Christmas video game

Twenty-five years back, Sega took its acrobatic, theater kid Sonic follow-up Nights Into Dreams and spun it off into among the market’s terrific examples of fan service. Part demonstration, part growth, part buddy disc, Christmas Nights was an event of computer game reward includes covered in a Christmas visual, provided to gamers free of charge because duration when video game business were finding simply how inexpensively they might produce CDs.

In spite of the Japanese box art declaring “Only This Winter,” for numerous fans the video game has actually ended up being a yearly custom.

In some methods, playing Christmas Nights now is simply a reason to play more Nights, because there’s still little else like it. Sonic Group’s video game happened when studios were exploring with how to make 3D platformers. Nintendo chose open 3D phases in Super Mario 64. Naughty Pet funneled gamers through narrow courses and side-scrolling levels in Crash Bandicoot. And Sonic Group eliminated leaping, in part, in favor of a character-based racing video game where you drifted along a 2D airplane with a 3D world behind you.

Nights made substantial crucial praise, however didn’t reach anywhere near the sales of Mario and Crash, and never ever ended up being huge enough that rivals began copying it. So playing Nights now doesn’t seem like the very first version of something that has actually been improved for 25 years; it seems like the very best variation of something we haven’t seen because (apart from a frustrating 2007 Wii follow up).

As a follow-up bonus disc designed to help sell Sega’s Saturn hardware in Japan, Christmas Nights offered Sonic Team the chance to drench its game in decorations and holiday-themed music, and to overload it with “presents,” like a karaoke mode, a time attack mode, and a music player. The developers also leaned heavily on Saturn’s internal clock to unlock features on different days and at different times of day, which — apart from the the obvious surface-level concept — is why some folks like to play it on Christmas, where they can see different background effects throughout the day. Sure, you can change the clock and do that any time (and the game includes unlockables year-round, even if you don’t mess with the clock). But if you’re going so far as to pull out a 25-plus-year-old console to play it, sometimes it feels nice to do things the way they were intended.

If you want to play Christmas Nights on something a bit more modern, you can find it inside the PlayStation 3, Windows PC, and Xbox 360 ports of Nights — the latter of which is playable on Xbox Series X. Those versions are missing a few things from the Saturn original, though, like the reward mode Sonic the Hedgehog Into Dreams, where you run around in 3D as Sonic — which was awkward even by 1996 standards, but gets a pass considering how rare guest characters were back then.

Anyway, consider this your public service announcement. There’s no bad time to play Christmas Nights, but on the 25th anniversary of the day the video game was called after, it’s seldom felt better suited.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.