No starry-eyed child ambles through a snowy playground chanting things like “I want to be a freelance Santa Inspector when I grow up.” But when the holidays roll around, and you’ve accidentally spent your entire gift budget on a life-sized John Romero-style replica of your own bloody head on a spike, you sometimes have to make sacrifices.
I guess the nog-soaked bureaucrat who assigned me this rotten crop of Kringles (that’s what we call them in the biz) saw the words “video game” on my resume and breathed a sigh of relief. Otherwise, I’m not sure how I ended up with this many stinkers. Anyway, these delightful cat-shaped wine-stoppers aren’t going to pay for themselves. So let’s get this party started!
Pursuant to the Yuletide Act of CE 343, I shall rate these Video Game Santas according to their aptitude at delivering presents to children all over the world, and looking damn jolly while they do it. The three categories are as follows:
Proper Equipment: A possible 3 points. Does this Santa have a sleigh or other form of transport ready to roll, or are they sitting on a beach somewhere sipping mai tais? (Piloting a mystical sleigh while under the influence is highly illegal, for the record. Yes, even eggnog cocktails.)
Seasonal Attire: A possible 3 points. Does this Santa look the part, or do they look like they belong on a novelty billboard somewhere in California?
General Jolliness: A possible 4 points. Will this Santa bring joy to children everywhere, or terror and general unease? Ideally, I should be able to see cookie crumbs on his garments.
Sumo Santa, from Clayfighter 63 ⅓
Now, I can already hear the wails from the peanut gallery. Surely this Santa has already changed his career, given his evident investment in the art of sumo! However, according to the Bureau of Holiday Enforcement, this guy is still holding onto his Santa license. I guess the inspectors of Claydonia are a little more lax in their enforcement. Still, for the sake of propriety, I have to let him have it.
Proper Equipment: Besides the ability to propel himself with his girth, I’m not seeing a viable way Sumo Santa can make all his deliveries this year. It is rather impressive, though. 1 point.
Seasonal Attire: The red-and-green loincloth is a nice touch, but I’m not sure how well it’s suited to the conditions of low-earth orbit. 1 point.
General Jolliness: Sumo Santa’s willingness to smash and/or maim his fellow Clayfighters seems contrary to the benevolent spirit of Christmas. However, the much-lauded backstory of 63 ⅓’s follow-up, Sculptor’s Cut, reveals that Sumo Santa is actually fighting in the hopes of vanquishing Bad Mr. Frosty and bringing his toy factory back to life. His methods might be a bit suspect, but his ends are jolliness incarnate. 3 points.
Overall: 5/10 points. I can’t bring myself to fail Sumo, but he better bring his A-game next year.
Jetpack Santa, from Toejam and Earl
True to his mythological station, this Santa has a tendency to fly from view when confronted. (Given that the protagonists of the game in question are extraterrestrial beings who love hip-hop, maybe his concerns are warranted.) That makes it difficult to draw many firm conclusions about him, but I’ll try my best.
Proper Equipment: You know what beats a stupid sleigh? A damn jetpack. Truly, this Santa is living in December 3018, when climate change renders the North Pole uninhabitable and he must find a new home… among the stars. 3 points.
Seasonal Attire: It’s a bit on-the-nose, but it checks all the boxes. Not so sure about those goggles, though. 3 points.
General Jolliness: This Santa loses points for not sharing his bounty with the titular duo. Still, perhaps ToeJam and Earl’s present duties are handled by an Alien Santa, and they’re saving them for the children of Earth. Or maybe he’s just a little bit of a hoarder. 2 points.
Overall: 8/10 points. This Santa has jetted to the head of the pack.
Evil Santa, from Gex 3: Deep Cover Gecko
This guy’s not giving me a lot to work with. Though I share this Santa’s dislike for a certain ill-considered gecko mascot of the late ‘90s, everything else about him is bad news.
Proper Equipment: Listen, Santas. I understand the impulse to keep your bag of presents on you at all times. I wouldn’t trust the elves either. Still, that doesn’t mean you can use it as a weapon, especially if that involves detonating them on the face of your game’s quipping protagonist. 0 points.
Seasonal Attire: Yeah, I get it. You want to stick to the tried-and-true all-red-everywhere. At a certain point, though, you look like a Coca-Cola ad, and nobody likes that sort of crass commercialism in 2018. Plus he’s barely visible on-screen, since he’s so far back in the stage. 2 points.
General Jolliness: Look, it’s right there in the name. This Santa has let his annoyance with Gex’s Johnny Cage-lite shtick drive him to murder. We can sympathize, but even as a tendril of our incompetent government, I can’t green-light that. 0 points.
Overall: 2/10 points. I recommend anger management classes.
Side-note: Due to a clerical mistake, we have been informed by a weeping Mrs. Claus that this Santa has been deceased for almost 20 years, following his defeat that the hands of Gex in 1999. Fanbyte regrets this tragic error.
Bowler Santa, from Elf Bowling
Maybe you don’t remember Elf Bowling! You probably don’t remember Elf Bowling… But it was a seminal shovelware title from 1999. Maybe you spent your early 2000s doing more productive things than knocking over elves with bowling balls, over and over, while waiting for the real Santa Claus to bring you that damn GameCube already. Like it or not, this game was bafflingly popular in its day, and this guy’s on the list, so here I go.
Proper Equipment: This particular Santa seems more interested in injuring his employees in a makeshift bowling alley than delivering presents. He does have a reindeer by the lane, however, so maybe he’s just taking a break. In the spirit of the season, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. 2 points.
Seasonal Attire: Very traditional, with glasses to boot. I do love the bowling-themed decal on his red coat, though, so I’ll give him a little extra here. 3 points.
General Jolliness: According to the text blurb that pops up before you commence your elf battery, this is Santa’s way of getting back at his elves for striking for better (or any) wages. We here at Fanbyte stand in solidarity with all workers and understand the value of labor. For our elf comrades, I rate this Santa accordingly. 0 points.
Overall: 5/10 points. Legally, I can’t take his license away from him, but I can shun him in my off-hours. The shunning will commence shortly.
Sad Santa, from Sam & Max: Ice Station Santa
There’s no suspense here: the most memorable video game Santa is terrible at his job. It’s time he gets a report card that reflects that.
Proper Equipment: This Santa’s North Pole verges on the post-apocalyptic, with few elves in sight and almost no toys to speak of. I can understand how sitting with your unpaid interns all year-long would make you a bit paranoid, but I don’t think Santa should be blasting people with a submachine gun. 0 points.
Seasonal Attire: He looks like somebody’s dad getting ready to mow the lawn, not Father Christmas. At least he has the beard, I suppose. 1 point.
General Jolliness: He hates children, gets possessed by a demon, and tries to murder our lovable duo. Case closed! 0 points.
Overall: 1/10 points. I think it’s time for this particular incarnation of our favorite “bloated pagan god” to report back to the Bureau, stat. I’ll be waiting and ready to give these Kringles their Christmas bonus… a stern talking-to.