Since winter is apparently here to stay, we thought we would take a look at some of our favorite games that take place in a frozen setting. Not necessarily survival-type games alone, just anything that spends a great deal of its time in a snow-covered, cold place. We tried really hard to include games that are actually worth playing. There were a few we found that were so atrociously bad that we couldn’t in good conscience enter them into the list. So here it is, the ten freeze-your-ass-off titles that we figure were at least worth a shot.
This Wii title follows the story of Eric Simmons, who is searching for his missing brother in the Himalayas. Eric’s brother was contracted by a man who wanted him to retrieve an ancient and sacred artifact from the upper levels of the mountain. And since we all know how that stuff usually turns out, it’s no surprise that the goddess of the mountain is angered by them trying to steal her stuff. So she gets pissed and traps Eric’s brother and his whole crew on the mountain of Chomolonzo. One of the cool parts about this game is the huge amounts of Tibetan and Buddhist references. They help to offset the sometimes mundane gameplay.
Motorstorm: Arctic Edge
For all you post-apocalyptic race fans out there, this game is a blast to play. Sure it’s an overt Twisted Metal rip-off, but it happens in the snow. There are no emo back stories for any of the drivers in the game, either. It is seriously just a bunch of cars, trucks, snowmobiles and arctic cats racing against each other in a high-stakes Mario-Kart style game that just happens to be running in an arctic wasteland in Alaska. This game is actually the third entry into the MotorStorm series. Some of the coolest bits of gameplay involve trying to avoid massive environmental hazards like avalanches and disappearing shortcuts. This game is just a fun, mindless, destructive romp through a winter wonderland.
This game covers a lot of genre bases. It is a psychological, survival-horror, first-person-shooter developed by Action forms for Microsoft Windows. The game takes place in 1981 and follows a meteorologist named Alexander Nesterov. He is trying to figure out what happened to a ship called the North Wind that has been shipwrecked in the arctic since 1968. The strangest part is the fact that the crew has survived but has undergone a serious transformation into something far more sinister. Throughout the game, Alex will find out all the sordid details that led to the crew’s demise, but then something really strange happens. I won’t give it away for those of you who want to play it. There is a boss battle with a seemingly out of place character that ends up being pretty cool, and that leads to an interesting twist.
Syberia allows you to play through the eyes of Kate Walker. She is an agent of a law firm that is trying to close a large sale and she is sent to seal the deal. Throughout the game, you will solve a ton of puzzles and enjoy some serious steampunk aspects as well as a little French lore thrown in for good measure. The sale that Kate is trying to complete involves a toy factory, the owner of which has just died and divulged that she has a brother. To close the sale, the brother will have to be contacted. This journey leads Kate all over Europe and eventually to Hans, the brother of the deceased. He leads you on an adventure even more zany and surreal than the one Kate had to find him in the first place. There are giant automatons, flying wings, trains, airships and all sorts of other steampunky goodness in this game. It’s a little dated, but still worth a play through.
Penumbra is an episodic, survival-horror game series from Frictional Games. It is only on PC, Mac and Linux, but we won’t hold that against them. The series follows a young physicist named Phillip. His mother passes away and shortly thereafter he receives a letter from his father who is supposed to be dead. It leads him to a remote and uninhabited region of Northern Greenland where the conditions are so harsh that Phillip has to take shelter in an abandoned mine. It is this choice that would make his life a nightmare. After playing through the first episode of this series, I am fairly sure that Phillip would much rather have taken his chances with the cold outside.
We include Borderlands 2 simply because the bulk of the game occurs in a frozen part of Pandora. That’s where the journey begins, anyway. That, and you will pay several visits to the frozen tundras of Pandora throughout your quest to stop Handsome Jack. There are actually some incredibly fun moments where you are reduced from vault hunter to being ClapTrap’s minion…at least he thinks you are. There’s also a great mission where you are doing some research for Sir Hammerlock in his quest to rename the Bullymongs. Then there’s the Bullymongs themselves. They are kind of like the Skags were in the first Borderlands . They are the most prolific enemy you’ll face in this jaunt through Pandora. And they come in all shapes and sizes, which makes killing them wholesale in the arctic wastes of Pandora all the more enjoyable.
Personally this is one of my favorite Playstation 2 games of all time. I picked it up out of sheer boredom and have played it all the way through at least a dozen times. As a fan of the old-school Resident Evil games, I have always been a sucker for survival-horror titles. Most of the time, they don’t really have anything that shines far and above their peers, but this title was different. First off the cold is my own personal hell, which only adds to the intensity of this game. Then there’s the whole murder, mayhem, intrigue and mutants aspect of this game that I adore. Also it gives you a great deal of problem solving and puzzling as well. So it really covers all the bases of a great game. Sure it’s old and the controls are clunky by modern standards, but give it a whirl if you still have your PS2. You won’t be disappointed.
We know we give Capcom a hard time about stuff, but they really managed to create something special with the Lost Planet series of games. Not only is it a solid third-person shooter, but it also handles the business of arctic survival very well. You have to keep killing your enemies and collecting cells to stay warm, otherwise you freeze to death and your story ends. The best part is that they didn’t stay the same throughout the series. Capcom realized that Wayne Holden and his quest to thwart NEVEC needed to be refreshed if it was going to survive. And they did just that. They changed just enough of the features and updates to make the subsequent games feel fresh and new, but still capture the overall feel of the original.
John Carpenter’s film has been a masterpiece of horror films…twice. Both versions are equally awesome in their own right. So back on the PS2, when I heard that there was going to be a game that was set after the events of the original film, I was hooked. I ran to the nearest game store and picked up a copy. You play as CPT J.F. Blake, part of a team sent to investigate the happenings of the original film. There is also a secondary team that dropped into the Norwegian base that was affected as well. You will interact with both teams throughout the game and find all sorts of clues and Easter eggs from the movie. The game really plays on the whole “You can’t trust anyone cause they could be an alien” ordeal. So if you are a fan of the films and you want to play through the events following the film story, then grab this game for PS2 and enjoy. It may be a little older, but it is truly a disturbing experience.
Metal Gear Solid
This game marked the beginning of an era in gaming. Up until its release, there were so few titles that engrossed gamers like MGS. Hideo Kojima managed to craft an intensely absorbing story with memorable characters that would live on through many iterations of the series. He also managed to wrap it up with great gameplay and (for the time) great graphics. Even the re-releases of this title were great (the one on Gamecube was my favorite). But no matter what your vehicle of play is, this game is quite possibly one of the best arctic survival games ever created. So if you have never played it before, or if you just want to reminisce, go out and pick up a copy of this game in one of its many formats. To this day it still manages to be an epic title despite its antiquated graphics and older-feeling control scheme.