Press Start: Video gaming's best winter wonderlands
It might not feel like it, but as of this week, winter is officially here.
Though the ground may be bare and the temperatures cool, there are plenty of video game worlds that perfectly capture the wintery weather. So if you're feeling blue and still dreaming of a white Christmas, cozy up and settle in with some of my favorite snowy worlds from video games young and old.
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”
When I think of snow in video games, the world of Skyrim immediately pops into my mind. Everything about the fifth “Elder Scrolls” game perfectly encapsulates the feeling of a long, dark, brutal winter.
Farmers huddle around fires in woody, dimly-lit taverns. Wind howls and snow whips the higher you climb the mountainous landscape. Frost trolls and ice wraiths are constant reminders of the frigid temperatures.
Nothing makes me want to grab a cup of hot cocoa and a warm blanket more than when I dive into the realm of Skyrim. For that, it makes the list.
“Rise of the Tomb Raider”
This year's stellar “Rise of the Tomb Raider” reminded me of the callous mercilessness of winter. The game starts in the blistering climate of Syria but quickly moves to the snowy mountains of Siberia.
Lara Croft spends half the game battling the elements, from icy waters to infinitely black nights with nothing but a fire to comfort her. Luckily she has a nice, puffy coat to keep her toasty through her adventure.
“Donkey Kong Country”
“Donkey Kong County” was the first platformer I played for the Super Nintendo, and what a treat it was. The game started out easy enough, but things quickly got challenging in the snowy levels, such as Snow Barrel Blast.
In the middle of a blizzard, I had to navigate spinning barrels and use flying vultures as platforms to keep me from falling to my utter demise. Eventually, snow consumes the screen, making for a challenging, yet fun, winter level.
“Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots”
It's probably a sin to list “Metal Gear Solid 4” instead of the original “Metal Gear Solid,” but something about the beautiful graphics and sense of nostalgia that permeates Shadow Moses in “Guns of the Patriots” earns it a place on my list.
One of the most memorable moments from this game was fighting Crying Wolf—a cybernetic wolf suit worn by Crying Beauty—in the middle of a snowy field as waves of enemies tried to distract me. Through the fog in the dark, I often had to rely on my thermal vision to locate Wolf and eventually take her down, and what a satisfying win that was.
“The Last of Us”
“The Last of Us” tells the tale of Joel and Ellie's yearlong journey across part of the United States as they seek to cure a fungus-related, zombie-like disease that has ravaged the world. The best section of the game takes place during winter.
After Joel suffers a terrible injury in autumn, players control Ellie for the first time and hunt to keep her and Joel alive for another day. Things quickly take a turn for the worse, and Ellie finds herself using the snow and fog to hide from cannibalistic killers. This section of the story ends with one of the most emotional moments in the game, and for that reason alone, the winter in “The Last of Us” will always be memorable to me.
“Jak and Daxter”
“Jak and Daxter” was one of the first PlayStation 2 games I ever played, and it's still one of my favorites to this day. Throughout my journey through that colorful world, it was possible to see places I'd been hours before by reaching certain vantage points. There was no better spot to get a lay of the land than atop Snowy Mountain.
I remember the mountain trolley trip to reach the summit taking what felt like forever, but the journey was worth it. The late-game level featured fun platforming challenges, including slippery ice that always made moving around a challenge. And it was the location where I found my last precursor egg and completed 100 percent of the game. Plus, that view of the world below was hard to beat.
Last updated: 7:27 am Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing email@example.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.