Christmas NiGHTS What? A novelty demo ranking in above OutRun, Crazy Taxi and any one of a hundred Sega classics? Yes, actually. I know it’s short, but considering it’s more NiGHTS, it’s a wonder it isn’t positioned higher.

The joy of Christmas NiGHTS is revealed slowly over the course of a few months. It uses the Saturn’s internal clock to initiate different events – on April 1st you can play as Reala instead of NiGHTS, for example. The real beauty, however, starts in November: the title screen reads “Winter NiGHTS”, and there’s a soft covering of snow on Spring Valley. From December, all the characters start to dress in Christmas-themed outfits (see the image above right), and wreaths, bells, Christmas trees and more all appear in the game’s levels. It’s odd to draw a comparison between NiGHTS and Animal Crossing, but it’s always good to point out that Sega came up with an idea first. After finishing the boss, you get to play a card-matching game that reveals presents, from rendered artwork to sound tests and more. Some games offer these as standard now of course, but for a game as beautifully crafted as NiGHTS to show itself off is always a joy. There are some less welcome presents, mind – I’d be happy never seeing the promotional videos again.

I could list all the presents and why they’re so great – Sonic fights a Puffy Robotnik! Dreams Dreams Karaoke! – but really, if I could be slightly cheesy a second, the whole game is a present. Yuji Naka was inspired to make it when he saw the extra content Christmas Lemmings offered, and his gift was given away in various forms – pack-in deals, send-off promotions, and in the UK a covermount on Sega Saturn Magazine. Obviously serving a dual purpose as a reward for fans and an introduction for NiGHTS virgins, it was a good piece of marketing all around, and the sort of treat we don’t see enough of.

I’m disappointed there wasn’t more use of the Wii’s internal clock in NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, which you might be surprised to discover hasn’t made it into this countdown. For a long while Christmas NiGHTS was as much a part of my Christmas preparation as presents and carols; I remember the first time I played on Christmas Eve and kept noticing a strange object whizzing around in the background. After evading me several times I managed to pause the game and saw a miniature Santa Claus and reindeer dashing around Nightopia. You cannot imagine how much this made me grin, and for that alone it’s worthy of a place in my top twenty.