Despite its status as the biggest holiday of the year, Christmas doesn't have as much of a presence in video games as you'd think.
Sure, the holiday manages to work its way into games with a yearly schedule--real-time or not--and I've definitely celebrated Christmas in Persona 4 and Animal Crossing. But only a few games tackle The Season explicitly, and the ones that do would make Baby Jesus cry. Elf Bowling? Santa Claus Saves the Earth? That Game Boy Advance platformer based on Tim Allen's The Santa Clause movie franchise? Odds are you don't remember these, and for good reason. Heck, Batman: Arkham Origins can be considered the best Christmas-themed game at this point, simply because it takes place during Gotham City's most wonderful time of the year. (And while it's not the best Arkham game, it's certainly no Daze Before Christmas.)
Of course, there are times when Christmas content sneaks up on you. One of the first instances of this I encountered can be found in 1993's Secret of Mana, a SquareSoft RPG that actually features Santa Claus as a boss. Well, it's a little more complicated than that: Since children no longer believed in him, Santa sought out a seed from the Mana Tree, which changed his form into that of the terrifying Frost Gigas. Once you end the fight, Santa returns to normal and is reunited with Rudolph, who seems to be the last living reindeer of the sleigh team. (We can only assume santa needed a huge supply of venison to fuel his monstrous form.)
Since that's the most obvious example of surprise Christmas content, let's fast-forward 17 years to the overlooked-but-lovable tri-Ace RPG, Resonance of Fate, for something a little more unknown. Now, RoF's trio of protagonists are essentially guns for hire, taking on any and all requests--which often results in some zany situations. But since these requests typically involve dispatching enemies through the game's complex battle system, the non-violent objective in Chapter 13, "Christmas," would definitely be memorable, even if it wasn't related to the holiday in question. But the way Tri-ace goes all out to dress up RoF's combat with Christmas trappings makes this segment one of the most memorable RPG quests ever.
So, instead of turning Christmas into a standard fetch quest and tasking Leanne, Zephyr, and Vashyron with a more expected way of delivering items to NPC, Resonance of Fate builds a battle-focused level around the concept itself. Your characters find themselves trapped in ridiculous Christmas garb, the standard enemies are replaced with children, and gifts supplant bullets as the instruments of destruction. Granted, these encounters are much easier than what you'd normally encounter in Resonance of Fate, but the sheer goofiness of the situation--and how much Tri-ace commits to it--completely makes the idea worthwhile. As characters whip wrapped gifts at high velocity that literally explode in children's hands, you know someone on the team had a lot of fun putting together this chunk of content.
So, has any Christmas-related content snuck up on you when you were least expecting it? There have to be more games out there to do justice to the one time of the year we can all take a break--even if it's only for a day.