Winter

When I was in seventh grade in Little Rock, Arkansas, I was sledding with some friends during one of our precious snow days when we didn’t have to go to school. Because snow. We put our sleds on the frozen street, laid belly down on the sleds, and then hurtled downhill along the frozen asphalt, hoping a car wouldn’t come along. It was winter and there was ice everywhere, so cars never came along. But for whatever reason, ice isn’t as uniform as you might think. Something to do with physics. So when my sled hit an unfrozen patch, the runners caught on the asphalt and the sled stopped. I didn’t. My body continued hurtling downhill along the frozen asphalt. I basically did a fullspeed faceplant along a frozen street. When I got up, my entire face was numb, I could taste blood, and my tongue was probing a strange new gap in my front teeth, like an explorer who’d just found a pass through previously inviolable mountains.

“Whoa,” my friends proclaimed when they saw the blood and especially the jagged lines of my broken front teeth. “Whoa!”

“You guys have to help me find my teeth! You guys have to help me find my teeth! You guys have to help me find my teeth!” That was my panicked mantra as I fumbled around in the snow, looking for things tiny and white, with images in my head of having shiny gold front teeth replacements for the rest of my life. If I could just find my tooth pieces, the dentist could glue them back into place. So that’s why I live in California now, where winter isn’t allowed.

Anyway, this is an article about the ten best games about winter, none of which will knock your teeth out. Okay, maybe the #4 pick, because it’s just that good.

After the jump, don’t forget your fur-lined parka.

10) Midwinter

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I’ve never actually played Midwinter, which is probably a good thing, because the actual game can’t be as good as the description of it. You have a team of ski troops scudding about a snowy post-apocalypse doing action sorts of things. But this was back in 1989. Since then, we’ve been spoiled by the graphics in a bunch of crappy snowmobile sequences in Call of Duty games.

9) Katamari Damacy

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If there’s one thing this game teaches us, it’s that just because there’s no snow doesn’t mean you can’t roll up a giant gratifying snowball.

8) Dominant Species

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There’s an iPad version of this boardgame, so it totally counts for this list. In this game of survival of the fittest, an ever expanding glacier in the center of map wipes out all life, but also creates a new biome for other life. To paraphrase the Emperor of Dune or someone, he who controls the glacier controls the penguin card. Which can be worth a fair amount of points, so don’t neglect it. Dominant Species teaches us that even lousy winter territory can count towards victory. Take heart, Wisconsin!

7) The Sims 3 Seasons

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How did the Sims 3 not have seasons before Electronic Arts sold them to you?

6) Company of Heroes 2

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You have to give props to Old Man Winter when he will freeze your soldiers to death and drop your tank into a lake because you foolishly thought you could drive across it because it was frozen. Which sounds like something I would have done as a kid if I’d grown up in Maine, except with my Mom’s Corolla instead of a tank.

5) Drive on Moscow

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The map and the rules change dramatically when winter hits. The overall arc of this game is that Germany has to get in position before winter hits, because then it’s Russia’s turn to be badass. It’s especially nice how the visuals change from the autumn mud slog to the stark white winter. I mean, it’s still a nerdyman wargame on the iOS, but it sure is lovely.

4) Bully

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Before Grand Theft Auto V, this was Rockstar’s best game. Now it’s tied for Rockstar’s best game. Bully’s representation of seasons taps into your kid memory of how they progress and ultimately culminate in a grand endless summer. But the winter vibe in the middle of Bully’s school year is top notch. Snowballs to the face, anyone?

3) Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader

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Because, frankly, Hoth is just a metaphor for winter. And what better way to capture the spirit of winter than taking down AT-ATs with splitscreen co-op. Wait, you do still have your Gamecube hooked up, don’t you?

2) Dead Space 3

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The earlier games were inspired by Alien. The first half of Dead Space 3 is still inspired by Alien, but the second half is inspired by The Thing. Namely, very weird pissed off things in very cold weather!

1) SSX

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Beautiful beautiful snow. I don’t know how to ski or snowboard. I don’t need to. I have SSX to recreate the thrill of hurtling down a freezing mountain. Electronic Arts’ latest entry in this venerable series is one of the finest racing games you can play, and it’s certainly one of the most picturesque. If any game puts a glamourous face on cold weather, it’s SSX!