Play the holiday season away with these festive Android games

Grab these new and updated games while they're decked out with seasonal spirit.

holiday games 2015 lead

Holiday fun

Just as the world around us is increasingly decked out in holiday cheer, so too are many of the games we play thanks to seasonal updates. If you love the sight of candy canes, trimmed trees, and Santa outfits, then you’ll probably get a kick out of these games, which infuse the spirit of winter and/or Christmas—or at least toss in some familiar sights.

Nearly all of these games are brand new for 2015, and most of them are free—so it’s a good opportunity to check out some notable games from the last year. Enjoy the holidays, but not the hustle and bustle? Relax, grab your Android device, and enjoy these festive games.

holiday games 2015 skisafari2

Ski Safari 2

While Ski Safari 2 already fits the bill for seasonally appropriate gaming, given the theme, it’s also been decked out with loads of Christmas spirit. You’ll find Santa and elf costumes, a gingerbread man snowboard, a sleigh to ride, reindeer to pick up along the way, and loads of other holiday sights on the new themed course.

Like the fun original, Ski Safari 2 is a pretty zany endless runner, but that’s even more true when you’ve got a couple reindeer pulling your sleigh, plus a penguin and abominable snowman riding shotgun as you evade the coming avalanche. You can earn that content bit by bit through consistent play, or just drop $2 within to unlock the whole bundle at once. 

Ski Safari 2 ($2)

holiday games 2015 goodsnowman

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build

Unlike the rest of the games on this list, A Good Snowman is Hard to Build doesn’t make an overt effort to be a holiday game, even though it just released this month. But it is a puzzle game built around the premise of rolling up and assembling proper snowmen, so we can’t help but think it’s perfect for the season. Also, it’s incredibly charming. 

The title might be a mouthful, but it’s absolutely true: building a good snowman is indeed difficult, as you must roll three snowballs around a yard filled with fresh powder. Each roll makes the smaller balls larger, but you’ll need one of each size to build your snow buddy. Finding success means figuring out the correct positioning, order of maneuvers, and number of moves needed to get the job done right.

A Good Snowman is Hard to Build ($5)

holiday games 2015 minionsparadise

Minions Paradise

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Minions are utterly ubiquitous this year. And if you love the little yellow bumbling idiots, then you’ll probably get a kick out of EA’s Minions Paradise. It’s a familiar premise: build up an island with all sorts of structures and fun distractions, which involve timers, coins, and a lot of busywork. But it’s also silly, amusing, and has dance party breaks, which we could all use from time to time. 

Right now, the island is covered in holiday décor: Phil’s beachside bar has candy canes, a Santa hat, and a wreath, and is bookended by candy cane-striped, one-eyed wacky wobblers. Elsewhere, you’ll find gingerbread Minion decorations, gifts, a snowman cutout, and more. Minions Paradise is little more than a cute time-killer, but at least it matches the season now.

Minions Paradise (Free)

holiday games 2015 angrybirdspop

Angry Birds Pop

Angry Birds Pop isn’t the most original freemium game we’ve seen: it’s the Rovio-made equivalent of bubble-popping puzzle great Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble, but at least it has sterling production values. And those are on fine display in the latest version, which adds a nice bit of holiday sheen to the game.

With the holiday update engaged, levels now have special holiday bubbles to pop, as well as items like candy canes and Christmas trees that fall when freed from their bubble-walled prisons. The game also offers daily tasks to complete from Terence, the Santa hat-wearing big red bird, plus there’s a whole new area of winter-themed levels. Problem is, you’ll have to finish the 406 previous levels to access those.

Yeah…

Angry Birds Pop (Free)

holiday games 2015 shootingstars

Shooting Stars!

Depending on your sensibilities (and sense of humor), Shooting Stars! may either crack you up or drive you absolutely mad. It blends arcade-style shoot-‘em-up action with dungeon-crawling elements, but the presentation is heavy on Internet meme references, flashing lights, and parodies of popular YouTubers and other personalities. It’s a little abrasive; luckily, it’s also pretty fun.

And now it’s decked out for the holidays. The latest update adds a couple of festive bosses in the form of Santa and a Gingerbread Man, both of which have been taken over by aliens and will pummel you with projectiles. It doesn’t feel great to shoot up Santa, but then again, he’s infested by aliens: take him down!

Shooting Stars! ($3)

holiday games 2015 jetpackjoyride

Jetpack Joyride

Sure, it’s the oldest game on this list, but Jetpack Joyride still delivers marvelous fun. And if you haven’t played in a while, now’s a good time to check back in, since this frenzied side-scrolling runner has been decked out for the holidays. Lit-up Christmas trees, wreaths, and stockings now populate the hallways, amidst the rockets and electric hazards. It snows occasionally, too.

You can also dress up Barry Steakfries with some sweet seasonal gear. A Santa hat and outfit are available for purchase with in-game coins, along with a Christmas tree jetpack that replaces your normal bullet-spewing one. And there’s a Santa sleigh available for purchase if you really want to rock the Christmas theme: it usually sells for $5, but it’s down to $1 as of this writing.

Jetpack Joyride (Free)

holiday games 2015 slingkong

Sling Kong

Armed with more than just a clever name, Sling Kong is an amusing little pull-and-fling platform game that challenges you to guide a cartoon monkey ever upward. You’ll launch him from peg to peg—some moving or near deadly hazards—with only seconds allowed to rest before he falls to a likely doom. Despite the cutesy look, it’s actually pretty challenging.

Right now, Sling Kong is done up with holiday cheer, including a winter theme that drops snowy trees on either side and silhouettes of stringed ornaments in the background. Little gift boxes appear along the way, and if you collect 30 of them before the promotion ends, you’ll unlock a rare Kong. Santa hats can also be snagged, and as the Play Store listing explains, “They don’t do anything… but who cares?!” Well put.

Sling Kong (Free)

holiday games 2015 balloons

The Balloons

It’s always sad to lose grip of a balloon and watch it float until it’s too far away to see—but in The Balloons, it’s actually fun and challenging. You’ll tap repeatedly on either side of the screen to nudge your balloon in one direction or the other, attempting to keep it flying not only upwards but also around spikes, enemies, and barriers. It’s an endless floater, but these aren’t the wide-open skies you’re used to. 

If the screenshot doesn’t give it away, The Balloons has doused its game world with a liberal sprinkling of pixel snow, plus there’s a Fat Nick (Santa) costume awarded right from the start. Other special holiday balloons can also be found, although the Christmas cheer doesn’t cool off the difficulty.

The Balloons (Free)

holiday games 2015 laracroftrelicrun

Lara Croft: Relic Run

Relic Run isn’t even the year’s best Lara Croft game on Android—that honor goes to the stellar Lara Croft Go—but this Tomb Raider spinoff is still a fun little spin on a Temple Run-esque runner. And it has a nice, albeit small holiday update available now in the form of a Santa costume for Croft. Unlike the other costumes in the game, it’s available right from the start.

Curiously, if you haven’t popped into Relic Run since summer, Square Enix has changed its approach to feature a world map and bite-sized missions, now offering content unlocks based on progress. In any case, the holiday update means now is a good time to check it out, whether it’s your first time or a return run.

Lara Croft: Relic Run (Free)

holiday games 2015 mynewbornsister

My Newborn Sister: Christmas Miracle

Dig into the top charts of the Play Store and you’ll discover a strange, unsettling phenomenon: an array of popular, nearly identical pregnant mom and newborn baby simulators. Some are even themed knockoffs of popular franchises, like Frozen. And now the odd trend has embraced a Christmas theme.

My Newborn Sister: Christmas Miracle makes supposedly fun games out of checking mom’s blood pressure and rubbing cream on her feet, and dips into very creepy territory with a peeping Santa who looks through the window while you bathe your infant. There are Christmas trees and holiday attire all around, of course, although the core game really is as mundane and bewildering as the rest of these.

My Newborn Sister: Christmas Miracle (Free)