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Frosty games to cool you down during a heatwave

Be safe and stay cool!

Please stay cool today and drink lots of liquids! And stay indoors if you can - it's absolutely baking outside.

To take the edge off just a little bit, here's a quick list of some of our favourite chilly video games.


Mario 64 - Cool, Cool Mountain

Cool, Cool Mountain.

Is this video games' greatest icy mountain? It's certainly the only one where you can race a penguin through its innards. Rumour has it that Mario 64's designers sometimes built locations before they had decided what to do with them, and there's something of the open-ended playground here. Cool, Cool Mountain belongs on any list of beautiful, chilly video games, but it's also an heir to Isamu Noguchi's legendary Play Mountain.

Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves

Sang-Froid 2
Sang-Froid is a genuine classic. Seek it out!

Few games capture the bitter burn of an icy wind as well as Sang-Froid, an ingenious strategy and tactics game about defending your frozen winter farm from werewolves. Each day you chop wood and earn money to buy and place traps. Each night, you hope your strategising paid off as you head out into the cold to smack any weakened werewolves around with an axe. The crunch of snow underfoot is the heartbeat of this game, and there are few sounds quite as wintry as the howl of a wolf in the wind-whistling distance.

Gradius 2

Gradius 2
Gradius 2.

There are a lot of things I love about Gradius 2, and just one of them is that when the obligatory ice level arrives in Konami’s 1988 STG masterpiece things really begin to heat up. Clusters of icy crystals clink across the stage, breaking up under fire to create intense fields of debris for you to dance through. It’s intense, yet there’s still something cooling about Gradius 2’s third level - a sort of calm under fire that’s necessary to see it through, which is why I’ve always liked to think of it as playing through a well-poured glass of gin and tonic on a hot summer’s evening.

Journey

Let's Play Journey - Lo-Fi Games to Relax to.

Journey is synonymous with shimmering dunes of sand, but its climax comes once the legendary mountain-in-the-distance is in the distance no longer. The 90 minutes you've played suddenly feel like hours and days, as the snow weighs you down and the drifts threaten to engulf you. This is winter at its most impenetrable - and euphoric.

Edge of Nowhere

Edge of Nowhere trailer.

Here is a game that celebrates the Lovecraftian nature of the frozen wastes, the ability of snow and ice and blinding whiteness to rob you of all hope. Edge of Nowhere is a lavishly realised VR horror game in which you work your way through the caverns and labyrinths of Antarctica, battling horrors. Insomniac has a flair for ice, whether it's the milky, glossy ancient ice that cracks when you sink your axe into it, or the stone-like slabs of the stuff that might just make up the bones of demonic temples. A frosty horror!

SnowRunner

Snowrunner trailer.

Finally a game with the guts to ask: is getting stuck in snow as much fun as getting stuck in mud? The answer is yes, just about, as muddy opening levels steadily give way to frost and sleet and ice. Kill your engine in a snowdrift or lose control on an icy lake - there's still nothing quite like this series, regardless of the temperature.

Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing snow
Animal Crossing.

Typing up this list it's surprising to see how many games associate wintry colds with horror - even Mario has to meet that Lovecraft penguin fellow. In Animal Crossing, though, winter has that surprising brightness. One day, you walk out of your house and snow has transformed the landscape. So what do you do? Make snowmen, collect snowflakes, and revel in the chilly wonder of it all.

Frostpunk

Frostpunk trailer.

Possibly the coldest game ever made, Frostpunk is a strategy game and a city builder, but really it's all about huddling around a chunk of warmth as you build your community outwards and try to keep the heat flowing. Failure means frozen death, and even success sees your people trudging through knee-deep wastes. This is something special.

Skyrim

Skyrim trailer.

The peak Skyrim moment of cold, excuse the pun, is when you're on an early mission to scale the huge mountain in the middle of the map known as the Throat of the World. You know it's going to be cool when it has a name like that, right? Again, excuse the pun. And it doesn't take you long to realise how colossal the mountain really is, as you wind and wind around it seemingly endlessly without the summit coming into view - and of course the summit doesn't come into view until a bit later in the game. This place is central to the story, as you know.

But what makes the ascent so memorably frosty is how, the higher you climb, the atmosphere around you changes, as I suppose it does when you climb a massive mountain in real-life. It doesn't require an oxygen tank but the wind noticeably picks up and you effectively end up battling against a raging blizzard. It really amplifies the feeling of cold in an already frozen land.

The Lords of Midnight

Lords of Midnight
The Lords of Midnight.

This is a proper one-off, both adventure game and wargame in one, as you set off across the wastes to destroy the Ice Crown. An innovative display system meant the landscape - and your computer screen - was bleached white as you plotted and picked your way forwards. Few games are as horribly suited to playing on a warm summer's evening. The chill remains palpable.

Destiny 2 - Europa

Exploring Destiny's planetary zones is always a delight - I think the way Bungie uses topography is where the magic lies - and Jupiter's frozen moon of Europa is up there as one of the game's best. It's surprising how much variety you can get out of a frozen wasteland - there's a vast icy lake, shining blue caves and the occasional blizzard that obscures all but the occasional glow of a waymarker - through to a network of mysterious underground facilities, with sprawling, glossy corridors that feel as cold as the surface.

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