The holidays can be a tough time of year. Between trying to find the perfect gift, stay within a budget, decorate the house, and plan family get-togethers, the stress can get a little overwhelming. Relax, kick back, and take a break with a holiday-themed game or two. Here are a few possibilities.
Updated for 2013 holidays
Chicken Invaders 3: Christmas Edition is a corny but amusing arcade game that pits you against an invading army of intergalactic chickens bent on revenge for centuries of human transgressions against their earthly brethren. Dodge egg bombs as you try to catch bonus items and wipe out squawking chickens. There are 120 waves of chickens to survive, and 12 power levels. Chicken Invaders 3: Christmas Edition supports multiplayer gaming if you want to play against a friend or family member, on the same computer, your local network, or over the Internet.
Fishdom: Frosty Splash is a fairly typical Match 3 game. The addition of seasonal icons, such as snowmen and Christmas bells, give it a holiday twist. Unlike many Match 3 games, though, Fishdom: Frosty Splash includes a bonus: it also functions as a screen saver. As you play the game, you earn money that lets you buy and furnish aquariums with a variety of plants, decorations, and marine life. You can also snap photos of your tanks, and save them in a photo album.
Santa Claus is missing and the Abominable Snowman is hiring you, Arthur Knight, private investigator, to find him. Christmasville is a mix of hidden objects scenes and puzzles. There are three different types of hidden object challenges: list, outline, and type. Interspersed among the hidden object scenes are mini games, including jigsaw puzzles, word scrambles, and tile-matching. In each scene, you're given the opportunity to question (or at least chat with) various characters, and hopefully pick up a few clues along the way. You're only given two possible questions each time, which may cramp your style, but fortunately, most of the characters are pretty talkative. You can also skip the conversations entirely, if you prefer. Christmasville isn't especially challenging, but it is fun and diverting.
Holly: A Christmas Tale Deluxe is a colorful holiday-themed hidden object game. In addition to helping Santa find the toys and other items he needs from among the crowded shelves, you'll also be asked to find things by silhouette, find things that don't belong, or spot the differences between two seemingly similar photos. Holly: A Christmas Tale Deluxe is a surprisingly difficult game; many objects don't look like you'd expect them to, or are hidden so cleverly that they're nearly impossible to find. We can't really recommend this game as a stress reliever, but if you're up for a challenge, give it a go.
Twisted: A Haunted Carol is a hidden object adventure that puts an entirely different twist on the Charles Dickens classic tale. In this version, Scrooge murdered Marley and Marley's ghost is out for revenge. As in the original version of the story, you'll meet the ghosts of past, present, and future, but that's about where the similarities end. The hidden object scenes and mini-games are fairly easy to solve, but it's worth taking the demo for a spin, if only to check out the Victorian-era scenes.
Relax, take a load off, and climb aboard the Holiday Express! Holiday Express for Mac is a little like Tetris, except that you pick up and place blocks rather than arrange their position as they fall. As the Holiday Express moves down the line, your goal is to pick up gifts of various shapes and fit them neatly into the train. Each time you successfully fill the train (it's more difficult than it looks), you'll reveal another holiday photo. You can race against the clock in Flurry mode, or relax and take your sweet time in Snowy mode.
It's almost Christmas, and Santa is facing a catastrophe. Mr. Stink has stolen all of the toys, and Santa's workshop is empty. Santa's Super Friends is a time management game that will have you racing against the clock to create new toys as well as get the originals back. There are three levels of difficulty, and 60 levels of play.
The Nutcracker is a classic and much-loved Christmas tale. This game puts you in the middle of the story, albeit a slightly different version of it. As the heroine of the story, you'll help the Nutcracker rescue his beloved princess, who has been kidnapped by the evil Rat King. In addition to the Nutcracker, an animated candle and a fuzzy gray cat will help you in your tasks. The graphics are truly stunning, and some of the puzzles are quite challenging. There are three levels of difficulty: casual, advanced, and hardcore. If you get stuck, you can use a hint or take a peek at the built-in strategy guide. Christmas Stories: Nutcracker Collector's Edition is available for both the Mac OS and Windows; a one-hour demo is available.
Christmas Wonderland 2 is a hidden object/puzzle game that is chock full of toys, ornaments, trees, and other Christmas items. Your job is to help Santa and his busy elves try to fulfill the wish lists of boys and girls around the world. The scenes are colorful and deceptively simple; some of the objects are harder to find than you might expect. In between searching for hidden objects and bonus items, such as candy canes and Santa figures, you can play a variety of mini-games, such as assembling toys, completing jigsaw puzzles, or rotating tiles to repair a map. Christmas Wonderland 2 is available in both Mac and Windows versions; a one-hour demo is available.
Christmas Mansion from Notus Games is a match 3 puzzle game brimming with colorful Christmas-themed icons and backgrounds. The goal is to match three or more images, clear the board of certain background tiles, and free coins that you can use to buy decorations for your house. The puzzles are reasonably challenging, and the graphics are cheery and colorful. Christmas Mansion is a fun way to while away an hour or two, and gear yourself up to start decorating your own house. Christmas Mansion is free.
It's Christmas Eve, and children are nestled all snug in their beds. Meanwhile, at the North Pole, Santa is getting ready to hit the road, er skies, and deliver presents. He decided to give the reindeer the night off this year, and is instead using a sleigh powered by the latest in Acme technology. Of course, you know anything powered by Acme is doomed. Santa ends up delivering presents the old-fashioned way: on foot.
Christmas Eve Crisis is an entertaining side-scrolling game. Using the arrow keys to navigate forward and back, and other keys to move around, you gather the presents one by one, and help Santa deliver them to the correct houses. Sounds like a simple task, but don't bet on it. Every new level will throw a different twist your way.
Christmas Eve Crisis is free.