My Most Memorable Winter Wonderlands

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Hi, internet!

LightningEllen here and still filling in for the almighty Goddess of Wisdom while she takes a well-deserved break from writing brilliant articles here on AmbiGaming. Warning: I’m certainly not a great Athena substitute, but I’ll be babbling at my best during this blog-sitting gig!

Ugh. My dear winter and I certainly have a love-hate relationship. The first light snowfall of the season is great and all that, but it quickly loses it’s charm after the Christmas cheer is over. Dark dreary days and regular dumpings of snow really don’t help with my mental health and stuff. Not to mention the winters have been crazy here in Nova Scotia, Canada lately. I painfully remember digging my car out of a snowbank after winter decided to give me 80 cm (about 31 inches) of snow for Valentine’s Day a few years ago…

Snow Dump
Winter is such a sweetheart… yeah, our relationship status is complicated, and he just keeps coming back no matter how hard I try to ditch him. Sigh. 💔
Snow Dump 2
Thankfully, all Canadians have a passive +10 shoveling buff. I dug my car out and made it to Tim Hortons like a proud Canadian champion, eh.

And nope, I can’t even escape winter in video games. A lot of games have a snow world or at least one snowy themed area. Just like in real life, winter areas in video games can be a total frozen hell (slip-slide-y platforming mechanics, anyone?) or cute magical wonderland. Without further cranky ramblings about my dealings with winter, I’m just going to take a merry ol’ stroll through a top 13 list of my favorite frigid related virtual memories!

13) Fallout 3 – Anchorage

I once had a stubborn ‘no paying extra for DLC’ policy when it came to video games (BioWare got to me, man). This cranky old woman still feels that ALL content should be included in an initial game purchase, despite the moments of weakness with Mass Effect and Dragon Age (oops). Ranting aside, I bought a cheap copy of the Fallout 3 GOTY Edition that came with all of the DLC packs, including Operation Anchorage. This mission sent me through a historic computer simulation of the Battle of Anchorage to unlock a weapons cache deep in the DC ruins. Even though my game constantly crashed here, it was interesting to see firsthand what the war was like before the nukes dropped, while trudging through the snow and commanding my glitchy troops.

Fallout 3 Anchorage
Sadly, my biggest enemy here was constant game freezing…

12) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – The Last Wish Quest

I am definitely on Team Yennefer and think her and Geralt make an adorable pair. By the way, this says A LOT since I usually hate romance stories in my games. Anyway, I love Yennefer! She is cranky, stubborn, and wonderfully sarcastic. She’s just amazing! I know she truly loves the White Wolf even if she’s trying hard to hide her feelz by being overly bossy and whatnot. And the way she cared for a certain ugliest man alive really showed she has a caring heart. I haven’t played the other games in the Witcher series, but apparently Geralt’s love for Yen may have been the result of djinn’s wish-granting. I took the side quest to help the pair find out if their love was true, and in my game it was. That lovely moment at the end of the quest where they cuddled on a ship, teetering on top of a snowy mountain, was truly d’aww worthy.

Witcher 3 Last Wish
So… beautiful!! Why can’t winter and I have a nice relationship like this? 😭

11) Yoshi’s Island – World 5

Oh wow… thinking about Yoshi’s Island on the SNES always lights up my cranky heart. Young me invested a ton of time into this masterpiece Mario game. I remember my parents even letting me stay up late one school night because I was SO CLOSE to pwning a boss. The game’s World 5 was all about the winter themes. I have fond memories of riding ski lifts and grinning with glee while skiing down treacherous slopes. Unfortunately, Baby Mario did end up crying a lot due to my abysmal sill level.

Yoshi's Island
Watch out for that snowman. He’s not as friendly as he looks.

10) The Last of Us – Winter Chapter

I’m not going to spoil anything, but the thing that scared me the most in this cruel post-apocalyptic world wasn’t the creepy Clicker monsters, it was witnessing just how low humanity can sink when survival mode consumes us. The winter part of Joel and Ellie’s depressing adventure hit me with this harder than any other part of the game. From winter to the end credit roll, I was physically unable to put down my controller, while the tears swelled in my eyes.

The Last of Us Winter
This whole game ruined me emotionally, but oh god the winter part still gives me night terrors… but it was so good!!

9) Banjo-Kazooie – Freezeezy Peak

Banjo and his sarcastic squawking partner were a major highlight from my childhood gaming experiences. The whimsical Freezeezy Peak immediately brought a smile to that innocent little kid I once was. I remember recovering lost presents for poor little Groggy, Soggy, and Moggy. I had a blast racing their father Boggy after Mumbo Jumbo transformed Banjo into a cute walrus, complete with tiny tusks and adorable yellow shorts. I was amazed at the view when I flew to the top of the giant snowman’s hat. I was also mystified by the odd Ice Key that the developers placed just out of reach.

Banjo Kazooie
How the heck does anyone build a snowman this tall?

8) Diddy Kong Racing – Snowflake Mountain

Diddy Kong Racing is the very first 3D game I played. I remember dear Santa surprising me with this game and a shiny Nintendo 64 under the tree that year. For that magical Christmas reason, this game will always be extra special to me, and it’s why I prefer this title over Mario Kart 64. Young me found all of the winter themed race tracks in Snowflake Mountain difficult, especially with that damn Silver Coin Challenge thrown in, but it was very rewarding to finally defeat that smug walrus boss.

Diddy Kong Racing Walrus
This pompous blue walrus taunted me so much as a kid. It was nice to finally put him in his place.

7) Super Mario 64 – Cool, Cool Mountain

Okay, so it seems that I like racing things in snowy environments… The Big Penguin race in Super Mario 64’s winter themed painting was the most thrilling part of this cool level to me. I had tons of fun sliding down that winding slope, but Mario plunged into the oblivion surrounding the track more times than I care to admit.

Super Mario 64 Cool Cool Mountain
I’m not sure why this snowy track is surrounded by a frightening dark abyss, but it was fun to slide down.

6) Dragon Age: Inquisition – Frostback Mountains

I’m sure my boss Athena will highly approve of this item on my list! The chilly themes are strong with this one and for a large part of the game including the opening. I’ll never forget wandering lost and alone through a blizzard after big bad finally made his devastating debut. Luckily, the inspiring song scene that soon followed really lifted my spirits!

“Shadows fall
And hope has fled
Steel your heart
The dawn will come”

Dragon Age Inqusition
I’ve actually walked to work in conditions like these… I know how you feel, Inquisitor Ellen. (Weary Sigh)

7) Assassin’s Creed Revelations – The Intro

Ezio Auditore is my second favourite video game character. I loved seeing the playboy from Assassin’s Creed II evolve into the wise Master Assassin of Assassin’s Creed Revelations. The wintry opening scene is narrated by Ezio, complete with smooth Italian accent, as he writes a letter to his sister Claudia. He is seeking the wisdom of the great Assassin Altair so he can understand what he is fighting for, and seek truth from the library hidden below Masyaf Castle.

Assassin's Creed Revelations
Taking an arrow to the shoulder like a champion and still kicking ass after. I love Ezio!

4) Metroid Prime – Phendrana Drifts

I’ve enjoyed my time with side-scrolling Samus, but nothing can match Metroid Prime’s behind the visor view to me. After enduring the searing heat of Magmoor Caverns, Samus gets to cool off in this frigid section of the Phazon corrupted Tallon IV. My favourite boss fight and the most chilling background music of the game take up residence here. I’ll never forget my up close meeting with a 3D Metroid for the first time here.

Metroid Prime Drifts
First-Person Samus will always be my favourite. Look at that breathtaking view!

3) The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time – Ice Cavern

My all time favourite game’s first mini dungeon is quite a frozen hell, but not nearly as terrifying as the Bottom of the Well’s undead fright fest to get the Lens of Truth later. In order to sink down into the Water Temple you need to brave the unforgiving creatures in this frosty cave to get the Iron Boots (I remember what a pain it was equipping those every couple of minutes). There’s tricky sliding block puzzles, pesky Ice Keese, and lots of Freezzard blowhards chipping away at Link’s precious Hearts. Oh and watch out for falling ice. That hurts him a lot too.

Ocarina of Time Ice Cave
This cave is filled with many things that freeze Link to death. I just wanna Din’s Fire the whole place.

2) World of Warcraft – Northrend

I am free of this MMO addiction now, but my greatest memories were in Northrend during the Wrath of the Lich King expansion. I remember flying through the snowy skies on my big purple dragon mount, and fearing the Lich King’s massive hordes of undead minions.

WoW Northrend
I wasn’t social enough to face this fallen hero in a raid, but his bone-chilling presence in the single player quests were memorable.

1) Final Fantasy XIII – Lake Bresha

I do admit this one is a stretch, but dammit this is my article and I wanna ramble about a game that is VERY important to me! So yeah, Lake Bresha isn’t frozen by ice in the traditional winter way, but rather by crystal in the malevolent Fal’Cie way. Whatever. Just a trivial detail since the area still looks very cold, and also eerily beautiful. Anyway, this crystallized lake marks the starting point of an epic linear journey that a group of hapless L’Cie were forced into. It was here where I realized that one of those L’Cie was exactly as cranky, stubborn, and fiercely independent as I am in real life…

Final Fantasy XIII Lake Bresha
Stop judging me, Lightning! I know crystal isn’t ice, but this looks close enough to me….

And there you have it! I’d still like winter to disappear, but there are some nice things about snowy times, I guess. Oh and I’ll add, punching snowflakes doesn’t work nearly as well as actually shoveling them aside. Alas! I tried.

What about you, internet? Agree with anything on my list? What are your favourite winter-y themed game areas? Do you think winter and I will ever be happy together? I’m listening so feel free to use the comments section thingy down below!

Thanks for reading!
~ LightningEllen

You can totally help the Goddess of Wisdom’s Video Game Relevancy Crusade by supporting AmbiGaming on Patreon. You know, only if you wanted to, of course!

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