[UPDATED: 12/24 – Updated Pokemon GO!]
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — when games share warm and fuzzy holiday joy in the form of events, add-ons, and awesome content to keep even the most cynical Scrooge happy. 2016 has been a bumpy year (an understatement), so it only makes sense to settle indoors for the simple delights of holiday gaming. Whether you’re returning to an old favorite or giving something new a try, here are 12 games with winter updates that deserve your attention.
So, what’s the difference between a holiday event and an add-on? Events are limited time only celebrations, usually with exclusive rewards and missions to experience. Games like Overwatch, Destiny, and Elder Scrolls Online get events — others, like Modern Warfare Remaster, Hitman (2016) and Forza Horizon 3 are taking a different tactic — delivering presents in the form of new maps, assassination targets, and race tracks. It’s going to be a busy season, so check out all the games with holiday content below and let us know which ones you plan to check out.
The holiday season is still in full swing. If there’s a new (or old!) 2016 holiday event we missed you think needs to get added to the list, let us know in the comments!
The iOS and Android app that was also the most searched Google term of 2016 just released a gaggle of adorable baby Pokemon for the tail-end of 2016, and now you’ll have a better chance to collect those Johto region babies (along with rare starters) during the Holiday Event. Here’s a quick run-down of everything the holiday event brings
- The Holiday Event runs from Dec. 25th to Jan. 3rd.
- Higher chance of hatching Johto region baby Pokemon from Eggs (Found in Pokestops)
- Guaranteed one incubator per day for logging in
- From Dec. 30th to Jan. 8th, Kanto starters (Charizard, Venusuar, Blastoise) will have a higher chance of appearing in the wild.
- During this period, Lure Modules last 60 minutes.
The December update also includes a Santa hat clad Pikachu. The electric mouse’s evolution Raichu also joins in on the fun, donning its own Santa hat — if you can catch them, that is. Holiday cap Pikachu / Raichu will be available until January 3rd, 2017.
Both Pikachu and Raichu are a temporary, seasonal-only addition, and these collectible variants on the popular Pokemon are found in the wild. Just like any normal Pokemon, Pikachu and Raichu are totally random. Your regular, already-caught versions won’t gain hats — and any hat-wearing Pikachu/Raichu you catch will keep the seasonal headgear forever. Not a bad find if you’re holding out hope for that rumored trading feature that just might release in 2017.
Starting on Dec. 21 and running until Dec. 29, the Battlefield 1 holiday update adds a new mode to the mix. Something new unlocks everyday — starting with the custom game mode “Blind Pigeon”. Everyone gets these free items, but Season Pass owners get a bonus. Anyone with a Season Pass that logs in Dec.23-29 will receive two Superior Battlepacks. Everyone else (non-Pass Owners) get one free basic Battlepack.
The big rewards during the holiday season are customization options. Log in on Dec. 22nd to get the “Holiday Truce” dog-tag, and new vehicle skins unlock on the same day. Battlepacks will randomly include Heavy Tank skins, so it might be a good idea to open those free Battlepacks over the holiday break.
Check out the full calendar revealed by EA right here.
Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy 15 celebrates the season with the New Game+ free update. While that’s a great addition, we’re more interested in the Holiday Pack. This seasonal grab bag comes included with the Season Pass, and (as you can see above) includes a handful of new Prompto photo frames. Not bad for showing off your Holiday Cheer on social media with Noctis and his crew.
There are two versions of the Holiday Pack — a free version, and a premium version. The free version includes a Carnival Passport ticket, among other interesting items, but most of the good stuff is included for a price. The premium variation comes with seasonal outfits, unique devices to accelerate Noctis’ various RPG meters, a ring that makes your party members immune to magical friendly fire, and a badge that gives Noctis infinite stamina.
Turn your drab vault into a truly festive facility with the new holiday-themed content drop for Fallout Shelter. New quests, decorations, items and outfits for your inhabitants are available for the Fallout-themed mobile game. Everything gets a shiny coat of holiday paint — but for a limited time only. The developers haven’t revealed how long we’ll have, so if you’re looking to add some cheer to your underground bunker, now’s the time to log in.
Follow the Fallout twitter account for the latest updates.
Dead Rising 4
Dead Rising 4 double-dips with even more Christmas-themed outfits and combo weapons. The holiday already looms large in this seasonal zombie-slaying action-adventure, set during the holiday season, so these new additions included in the first DLC pack won’t look out of place in the slightest.
The Stocking Stuffer Holiday Pack includes new weapons, vehicles, outfits, and camera filters — you’ll get a Santa suit so Frank West can cosplay as the jolly ‘ol elf. There’s the “Santa’s Little Melter” combo vehicle, a reindeer-headed motorcycle that shoots laser beams, and the “Candy Pain” baseball bat wrapped in Christmas lights (along with standard barbed wire) — the DLC pack comes included with the Dead Rising 4 Season Pass for $20, or available separately for $5.
Gears of War 4
Celebrate ‘Gearsmas’ in Gears of War 4 with ugly sweater skins and double XP. The event lasts until Dec. 28th and includes 28 pieces of cosmetic content anyone can unlock by purchasing the ‘Gearsmas Collection Pack’ for 400 in-game credits or .99 cents of real-life cash. There’s more than just loot crates to unlock — Microsoft also announced a new seasonal game mode to enjoy; Snowball Fight.
In this mode, every player gets access to a modified Boomshot. The ‘Snowshot’ is a slow (but powerful!) weapon that launches deadly snowballs. Everyone starts with one, and you’ll have to scavenge for extra ammo to keep the great snowball battle going.
There are also free gifts to earn just by logging in on December 16 or December 24-26; you’ll get the Chuzzmas Emblem as a free reward on December 16, and the Ice Boomshot skin for logging in between December 24-26. Microsoft also teased a special bonus exclusive on December 25, so be sure to login! Get all the details here.
The December 15 Winter Update for the famed freeform amusement park construction game is here right in time for the holidays — and there is a ton of new features added, from new coaster prestige rankings, to better park management options, and tons of rides, coasters, and scenarios to experience. It’s all free with the update, but let’s focus on the “winter” part of the Winter Update to Planet Coaster.
First off, there’s a whole new location to construct parks: Arctic is now available for Sandbox and Challenge Mode. Then there’s the Festive Funland scenario, tasking the player to enhance an already-established holiday wonderland with even more seasonal decorations. Speaking of decorations, the update adds over 140 new pieces of scenery — Gingerbread houses, icey layers, Christmas Trees, boxes of presents, and much more. Finally, there’s a Sleigh Ride available to plop down in your park for an instant infusion of Santa Claus into any park. Check out the full patch notes right here.
The “Winter Wonderland” update for Overwatch brings Holiday-themed everything to the table in 2016. New Loot Boxes (presents, natch) include tons of character skins, victory poses, emotes, and cosmetics of all kinds. The Loot Boxes are limited time only, so you’ll have to earn (and open!) these seasonal crates before time runs out. The costumes are a mix of elevated holiday fun, and they’re absolutely worth checking out — Zenyatta as a Nutcracker, complete with nuts? Yes, please.
Cosmetics and costumes aren’t the only new additions to Winter Wonderland. You’ll also find winter-ized versions of Hanamura and King’s Row for a cozy cold atmosphere. There’s also a new game mode — Mei’s Snowball Offensive. In this silly brawl, you (and everyone else!) play as Mei in a 6v6, single-elimination battle. Instead of shooting a constant stream of ice, Mei’s Endothermic Blaster launches a giant snowball that takes down opponents in a single hit. Each shot can only be fired once — and a reload requires finding the nearest snow pile. The event runs from Dec. 12 to Jan. 2, so there’s plenty of time to unlock awesome cosmetic gear.
For Destiny, “The Dawning” is an annual event that adds new missions, new armor, and three Exotic weapons. There’s plenty to experience in this free event, and the Guardian’s main hub The Tower has been remade for the festive spirit of the holiday. By completing missions, beating challenges, and earning ranks, you’ll get to open fancy present boxes that are full of loot.
Along with new missions comes the return of the Sparrow Racing League. Of course, that means you’ll be able to find and equip fancy Sparrows — although none of the new Sparrows are particularly holiday-themed. The Dawning takes a different approach, trying to build a (admittedly jokey) lore around the yearly season. It’s a dawn of a new year, and you can earn daily presents by completing missions in the Tower. Make sure to stop and talk to everyone — from giving presents, to making NPCs smile — there’s plenty of cheer to go around in this off-brand version of December.
Forza Horizon 3
The first paid expansion on this list, Forza Horizon 3 takes a break from the arid outback to explore the chilly peaks of Blizzard Mountain. Available through the $35 season pass, or separately for $20, Blizzard Mountain is an entirely new location filled with treacherous mountain driving — snow-covered tracks and frozen conditions are the breakout stars of this add-on.
While not exactly holiday themed, the cold mountain is full of those seasonal hallmarks; lots of snow, cold skies, and cozy cabins beaming warm orange light from the windowsills. We can imagine families sitting around a hearth, exchanging gifts — okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but Forza Horizzon 3 still brings the winter feels.
Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online gets into the holiday spirit with its own twist on the season — “The New Life Festival” adds quests, items, armor, and double the XP for all the good little boys and girls of Tamriel. To access all this new content and join the festivities, including daily quests during the event, you’ll need to travel Windhelm and talk to the NPC Breda. Complete her merry little quest to gain access to nine additional jobs.
Each mission is set in a different zone and related to all nine of the playable races. For each quest you complete, you’ll earn a fancy New Life Gift Box, complete with New Life Festival mementos and a whole bunch of cosmetic items — Skinchanger motifs, a bather’s towel, fur hats, and plenty more. Check out our post on Gameranx for all the details.
The “Holiday Hoarders” bonus mission transforms the Paris location from Hitman (2016) into a Christmas-themed wonderland, with decorations, snow, and two bumbling targets for Agent 47 to take out. To spice things up, there’s a new Santa Claus disguise available for the silent assassin, adding an extra level of bizarre hilarity to the proceedings. We’ve never seen Santa silently slaughter a couple of Home Alone-style holiday thieves, but there’s a first time for everything.
The bonus mission is totally free and included in the December 12th update. Adding to the holiday cheer, the bonus mission is in support of the World Cancer Research Fund, and the developers of Hitman (2016) ask that charitable players make a donation via the organization’s website right here.
Steal Christmas in Payday 2 with the Xmas Heist, an new (and free!) mission available to everyone this holiday season. This time, the gang must infiltrate a mall where Vlad’s screw-up brother is holed up. Rather than breaking in, this job is all about collecting presents. The mall is a big area, and the usual map has been updated with all the decorations you’d expect — with the Christmas Tree being the most important part of the puzzle.
After collecting presents, the heisters need to dump the presents off under the tree then hoist the tree (presents and all) up through the skylight to escape. It’s like a reverse-Santa operation. You’re taking the toys and flying off for a very naughty Xmas Eve. There are also unique holiday-themed masks to collect, turning your gang of thieves into living decorations.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered
The December Update for Modern Warfare Remastered isn’t just about holiday-themed goodies — but those are there too. The update includes 7 returning maps, two game modes, female soldiers, and tons of ‘Operation: Arctic Wolf’ loot drops filled with cosmetics to acquire.
Let’s focus on the holiday-only side of things; the previously PC-only map Winter Crash is arriving for the first time on consoles. This seasonal map is filled with decorations, snow, and that dark Christmas atmosphere that’ll make you want to bundle up at night. The add-on also includes two new holiday-centric weapon camos; the Ugly Sweater and Gift Wrap. Not a bad haul for an old game.
GTA Online is all about ugly sweaters, expensive cars, and free masks in the new Christmas Update available now. For a limited time, you’ll find tons of free clothing to choose from — including ugly Santa Claus and Gingerbread Man masks. Also, if you’re an owner of the Import/Export update, you’ll earn lots more money for selling those stolen vehicles; upwards of $50,000 more. That’s a lot of cash for you stocking-stuffers out there.
While snow falls all across the San Andreas map, there are also further discounts in the in-game stores. Custom apartments and guns all get a 25% discount. If you’re looking to upgrade, now is as good a time as ever in the violent world of GTA Online.
That’s all the biggest holiday events we know about (so far) — but if you’re a Xmas aficionado, please drop a comment and let us know about all the best seasonal surprises we didn’t list here.