A reader offers a selection of favourite video game tunes that sounds Christmassy, even if they were never originally intended to be.
Depending on how long you’ve been forced to spend in supermarkets this season, nothing can get you in the festive spirit better than your favourite Christmas soundtrack. Hopefully you haven’t been exposed to too much Wham, Slade or – heavens, forbid – Paul McCartney’s wintry offerings.
There isn’t much in the way of actual Christmas content in video games, even many ice levels don’t sound all that Christmassy, but there are still plenty of tunes that will get you in… da mood, Ariel. I’m not even going to try to quantify the examples I’m providing here. And I’m sorry if I haven’t talked about one of your obvious favourites here – I can only play so much. But what I do talk about is sure to hit you hard in your mulled wine glands. Which are definitely real.
The season of giving can be a tough time of year, and many a Christmas song will reflect the holiday blues from A Winter’s Tale to Happy Xmas (War Is Over). Video games will have their own examples. So, we’ll start with the tears, move on to longings for the Christmases we remembered best and finally onto the joy. Now, let’s get emotional!
Final Fantasy Prelude
An odd choice to start with, perhaps. Almost any version will suffice of the iconic anthem, but best to listen to anything purely vocal or orchestrated. If Heaven were actually real, this is what the angels would be singing as you walked among the Chorus. And there is something so desperately sad about this music, as if the prelude were to some tragedy or was the lament over a profound loss. The notes seem purpose built to stab you in the heart and twist the blade. The cascading of the piano and the pseudo-Christian feel puts certainly myself in the feel of the season. But in the melody, there is also a swell of hope, just like Yuletide itself. That the nights may well be at their darkest now, but a brighter day is not too far away.
A Christmas Gift (You’re The Inspiration) – Elite Beat Agents
This is a game I haven’t played, not ever having owned the Nintendo DS it appeared on, but oh boy have I seen this mission alright! The song, originally sung by Chicago and made more famous by Deadpool, was first introduced to me here. Technically this is a festive-style remix, which I should probably disallow, but it’s the player interactions that give the song its more seasonal stylings. And boy, if you are human, this is likely to hit you like a brick in the face.
I really can’t say any more than that. Just go watch it. Even if it’s a version with the weirdly fetishised ladies, just make sure that you see and hear this. That you’re not allowed to fail this, so I hear, is a brilliant touch. You can’t let Lucy down! Get a girlfriend for Teddy! Aw man. The feels.
Kazarov Stonehenge – Dark Chronicle
This evocative number first played when Max, the game’s protagonist, meets his mother again for the first time in years. That’s hardly a spoiler, if you thought that wasn’t going to happen from the moment she was mentioned, then I’m afraid you may not know how stories work.
Regardless, this music has a bittersweet feel to it, as I picture a doomed couple dancing underneath the shelter of a bandstand as a gentle snow falls down around them in the cold, night air. The moment is fleeting and they’ll never see one another again and so cherish even this small amount of time. A slow waltz for a last encounter.
Silent Night – Shenmue
A traditional Christmas Carol should put anybody in the right frame of mind for the holidays. This was my favourite as a child and still one of them – I can never decide between this, Away in a Manger or O Holy Night – Shenmue does not provide vocals. It is, instead an instrumental version that invokes midnight mass so much I can almost smell the incense.
This is a personal one for me having spent my entire education in Catholic schools. It always tugs on my heartstrings while still leaving me feeling hopeful.
Star Light Zone – Sonic The Hedgehog
Many of us will have spent time with one of Sonic or Mario’s adventures at Christmas during our formative years, and this was the most Christmassy of the first game’s music. Working as a lovely apology to the previous level of Labyrinth Zone – Star Light Zone was just a very pleasant place to be.
Sonic Team decided to take it down slow, with a little smooth jazz number. The original Mega Drive tune has many remixes, but only a handful capture the essence of what I feel was originally intended. There is something sweet and romantic to this, like hearing a jazz band play for the only couple left on the dance floor, building towards that first kiss underneath the mistletoe.
Merlin’s Magical House – Kingdom Hearts
Think back to your first pet. Those holidays when you were happy to see extended family visit, play with the cousins your own age. Your first time in a toy store. The first time you saw a Christmas tree. Tasted a candy cane. You can almost smell the spices of a mulled wine when you listen to this.
The almost religious tone, along with the silly feel of the percussion, makes you think you’re in the greatest toy shop on Earth. Or Disneyland. When I was young, this was Toys ‘R’ Us. This music always makes me think of it, especially their early adverts. It wasn’t necessarily about the toys you got but imagining all the wonders that could be there.
It’s Good If It Ends Happily, Isn’t It? – Dynamite Headdy
I love this game. This, appropriately enough, is the music that plays during the rather sweet end sequence. You’ve beaten Dark Demon and it’s time for peace to return to the land. It is heavily reminiscent of the ending to Sonic 2. Because the central conceit of the game is that you’re seeing a play take place in front of a theatre audience (this game is very weird), you can see workers start to pack up the scenery of the stage. The panels of the sky being taken down by ropes and cranes.
It’s all just so darned nice and heart-warming. Like being crooned at by Bing Crosby.
Red Star – Super Mario Galaxy
This is the flying theme to Super Mario Galaxy. Do I really need to say anything else, here? How can you not be filled with Christmas cheer at the sound of it? How is such a thing possible? I feel this would still have strong seasonal vibes if the game had been released in August.
It obviously conjures up images of soaring through the sky and it is but a baby’s step away from inferring that it is a cold, December sky – Santa racing across the world to deliver all the presents to the boys and girls before morning. All the stars are out, the children far below are asleep, the magical feeling is so powerful you can all but touch it.
Claris and Elliot Ending – NiGHTS Into Dreams
And finally we come to this. This will also get the tear ducts flowing, but in a good way. Some background on the characters: Elliot wants to be better at basketball while Claris wants to have the confidence to be able to sing in public.
After beating the game with both kids, you get this very special ending. The city in which the two children live, Twin Seeds, is celebrating their centenary with a parade and a concert. Elliot gives one of his buddies a high five after having beat their rivals at a game. Elliot sees a poster for the concert: Twin Dreams. He gets a vision from NiGHTS and he decides that he should go. He bursts in and who should be performing but Claris, decked out in a classy, white ball gown. She is surrounded on stage by strange, floating diamonds the same colour as her gown.
The music is clearly building to a crescendo as Elliot recognises her, beams with delight and races towards her. Then Claris starts to sing. A beautiful, wordless melody of happy reunions and triumph through adversity. The diamonds crumble into an ethereal snow, swirling about her as though she were in a globe. And then, the stage melts away and Elliot and Claris are left standing facing each other on a surreal field near a tree, exactly where they came in. Each has achieved their dream and found a new friend. Which is the perfect note on which to end. Because isn’t that part of what Christmas is all about?
I can promise you, there won’t be a dry eye in the house, but you’ll be left with a warmth and optimism that is so very precious and so very easy to lose sight of. Which I hope you will retain if you have it and find it again if you’ve lost it. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!
By reader DMR
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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