For many folks, December marks the start of colder weather, barren trees, and of course, snow. And just like real life, video games often include snowy and wintery levels or entire areas. Let’s put on some gloves and a good coat and trek out into the best snow in video games.
Just a quick note: We already ran a similar post in the past about snowy levels and zones in video games. However, that list is nearly seven years old and I feel like it’s time for an update. If you enjoy some classic Kotaku content or just want to see that original blog, feel free to check it out too!
While the first game had some snow that looked fine, Rockstar’s sequel-prequel added more snow that looked better and reacted more like would expect. Snow plays a big part in the opening hours of the game, allowing you to see Rockstar’s snow tech right away.
The game has snow RIGHT in the title, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that is has some great snow areas to explore. In Snowrunner, you drive around in trucks and other offroad vehicles, making deliveries and questioning where everyone else is. It also features some of the most realistic and therefore annoying snow in video game history. Be prepared to get stuck in snow for 30 minutes while you desperately use your wench to inch slowly out of the mud and ice. Video games are so much fun!
I could probably list any SSX game on this list and it would be a good choice. But, even if I love SSX 3 a lot, I have to admit that Tricky is still the king of the series. The snow tech here isn’t super advanced any more, but at the time it looked nice. More importantly, it’s still a blast to play Tricky’s snowy levels, like the iconic Garibaldi, in 2020.
Capcom put out this strange third-person shooter way back in the early days of the Xbox 360. Lost Planet was a game built entirely around snow. So it does have a single snow level or area, but is instead is one giant snow zone. At the time I remember being impressed by the snow seen in the demo, however, the rest of the game left me feeling a little... cold. (Get it? Like snow, which is also cold.)
Just like RDR1 to RDR2, the first Last of Us had some great looking snow during its Winter chapter. However, The Last of Us Part II Electric Boogaloo improves on the snow tech seen in that game in some big ways, with better deformation. It also includes a cute snowball fight. Who doesn’t love snowballs?
Cool Cool Mountain might be the very first snow level to appear in a 3D platformer, which makes sense considering Super Mario 64 is one of the very first 3D platformers ever made. As such, the snow tech here is basically non-existent. But you get some nice snow sliding and snowflakes. Oh, and penguins.
While The Division 2 is a better game, I still miss the snowy streets and back alleys of the original game’s NYC. Few games have truly nailed the feeling of walking around a wintery cityscape as perfectly as The Division. I’d sometimes boot the game up and just walk around, not killing or shooting or questing at all. Instead, I was just taking in a cool, snowy night in the city. If we get another Division game, it needs snow.
Sure, the new Battlefront games look wonderful and have some great Hoth maps. But nothing can top the cold, empty magic of Hoth from 2005's Battlefront 2. Whenever I come back to play some of this classic shooter I always make sure to play a match, or two, on this large snow-covered map.
Ice Cap Zone is one of the best snow levels in any Sonic game. You get to ride a snowboard, the world looks fantastic, and best of all that music. Ice Cap Zone has a banger of a track. This song is a huge factor in what makes this level feel so wintery and fun. That, and the sick snowboard.
The Halo franchise has a lot of snowy maps and levels in it, but one of my all-time favorites is the medium-sized multiplayer map Snowbound from Halo 3. (Or the better, more balanced variant, Boundless.) I spent many hours on this map, winning and mostly losing. But it didn’t matter, because the map was so nice. It’s smaller size made it feel like we were all kids foolin’ around a snow-covered playground during recess. Until someone tossed a grenade at you.
These are just some of my favorites. What are some of your favorite snowy levels or video games?