The RetroBeat: Christmas Nights is the best game for the holidays

Christmastime is my favorite part of the year. I love decorating my tree, listening to the festive music, and watching holiday movies. But when it comes to gaming, there isn’t much I can do to get into the holiday spirit.

We don’t have many Christmas games, let alone good ones. But there is one title that could turn any gaming Scrooge into a Saint Nick: Christmas Nights.

Christmas Nights is interesting. It’s like DLC before we had DLC. Nights was one of Sega’s best games for its ill-fated Saturn. The 1996 title from Sonic Team is a 2.5D sidescroller with a lot of flying and small sections of 3D platforming. It’s great, but Super Mario 64 quickly overshadowed it.

But while Nights is neat and all that, Christmas Nights is where it’s at. This standalone release includes a single level from the original game with a giant holiday layover. The stage is full of Christmas bells, trees, lights, and presents. It also has a new soundtrack that includes a kickin’ rendition of “Jingle Bells.”

I also love how you even got this thing. It was packaged with a magazine. Remember when some of those old gaming magazines would have demo disks? Well, Christmas Nights came into the world in the same way. It was a bonus item, and it’s the greatest one any gaming magazine ever had. Sure, it’s short, but it’s a standalone experience. This kind of post-release content, especially available without purchase of the original game, was rare for the day.

Celebrate with Sonic

Even though Christmas Nights only has one level, it has a surprising amount of content. You can unlock a bunch of extras, including a sound test mode. You could also unlock Sonic the Hedgehog as a playable character! This was before Sonic Adventure, so playing Sonic in a 3D environment was a huge novelty.

Thankfully, if you want to enjoy Christmas Nights today, you don’t need to find a Saturn and the original disk. You can buy Nights for PC on Steam, and it comes with Christmas Nights. The Xbox 360 version of the game is also backward compatible with the Xbox One.

But you won’t be able to play Christmas Nights right away. You’ll have to play through both campaigns in the original Nights first and get at least a C ranking on each level. Yeah, it’s a bit of work, but Nights is fantastic. If you love retro games, especially from the early days of 3D graphics, you can think of worse ways to spend a cold December evening.

And once you do, you get to enjoy the greatest holiday gaming experience around. On these nights (heh) before Christmas, consider spending a festive and jolly time with this Saturn classic.

The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.

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