It’s rare to come across Christmas-themed video games, but they exist. Think of Dead Rising 4 and Batman: Arkham Origins. However, arguably the best Christmas game is a more recent entry in an acclaimed PlayStation superhero franchise, and it’s one you absolutely must play ASAP. Whether or not you’ve experienced it already, the fact that it’s about friendship at Christmastime means everything. And a hefty holiday discount doesn’t hurt either.
We’re talking about Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a launch title for the PlayStation 5 (but it’s also on PS4). It takes place after the events of Marvel’s Spider-Man (2018), but instead follows the story of Miles Morales, who is a half-Black, half-Hispanic teen living in Harlem, New York.
A more concise game than the original, Miles Morales features some of the best video game characters to date, with inclusion at the forefront. Thankfully, you can grab it on the PlayStation Store for only $30 right now.
But what makes this game so special?
A storytelling marvel — Serving as a coming-of-age story for Miles Morales, this game tugs on the heartstrings while making you feel like an absolute badass along the way. In it, Miles must take over as Spider-Man for Peter Parker, who is away on vacation for the majority of the game.
Throughout his journey, Miles has to figure out how to protect the city while juggling all the responsibilities that come with being a teen. This is something we’ve seen in Spider-Man stories before, but it’s particularly well-done in Miles Morales thanks to the clever writing and believable performances from the actors.
Miles himself is funny, earnest, and a genuinely good person, which makes him easy to root for. The fact that we get to witness his struggles and triumphs makes him more relatable and adds to the enjoyment. Other supporting characters such as Genke, Phin, and Miles’ mother, Rio are fantastic additions that help flesh out the story, bolstered by the high production value.
The poignant story also never overstays its welcome, clocking in at around seven hours. If anything, you’ll wish it were longer when it ends — but that brevity is a strength. T narrative beats are that much more impactful when there’s little to no filler padding it out.
One of the other fascinating aspects of this game is the context in which it was released. It launched in November 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The game itself takes place during Christmastime, and one of the themes is sticking with your family. Since many of us weren’t able to spend Christmas with loved ones in 2020, this game was — and still is — particularly timely, giving us a virtual sense of family instead.
Inclusion at its finest — Another thing Miles Morales absolutely nails is the way it handles inclusion. Almost every major character is a person of color, which still isn’t as common as you’d expect in 2020. But it’s more than that. These characters are represented in such an authentic way, proving that Sony and Insomniac Games were determined to do this right.
Miles and his mother often speak Spanglish, with a concoction of words that native bilingual speakers frequently use, weaving in and out of Spanish and English in the same line of dialogue. Miles’ friend Ganke is Asian, and he features prominently as a sort of “guy in the chair.” Miles’ childhood friend is a young Black woman named Phin, and she also gets plenty of screentime. Another person in the cast is deaf, and seeing Miles use ASL with her makes the world feel more lived-in while also convincing us that Miles is a hero worth of the title.
There’s a scene when Miles and Ganke walk through a street fair where you can see characters dancing to Latin music and enjoying food, with Puerto Rican flags waving in the blustery wind. It’s a seemingly simple little prestige tour, but one that makes the city feel more diverse and alive.
Everything from the depiction of the characters to the music and little cultural nuances is done so tastefully. This is genuine inclusion and not obligatory checkmarks on a list.
In-game, there’s a massive Black Lives Matter mural in the heart of Harlem, sending a strong, beautiful message. We applaud Sony for using its platform to take a stance, made even more effective by its inclusion in a game as popular as this.
Swinging for the fences — Beyond the wonderful characters, timely messages, and excellent writing is unmatched gameplay that somehow feels better than the original.
Miles isn’t exactly like Peter. He has similar but different powers. For instance, Miles can temporarily become invisible, and the way this is interwoven into the arsenal of attacks is so smart and never feels clunky. The combat is fluid, offering enough variation to keep things interesting. He can also electrify some attacks with a Venom shock power.
There are a lot of mechanics and moves to keep track of, but once you master all of them, everything comes together in such a satisfying way. It looks and feels amazing to bounce between enemies or swing through the streets of upper Manhattan.
We also love the puzzles, side-missions, and collectibles hidden throughout New York. These extra activities make the world feel much more alive, giving you a reason to stick around. Our favorite side activity sends Miles on a mission to rescue a bodega cat named Spider-Man (you read that correctly), who ends up being featured as part of the game’s many costumes. The cat can be seen popping its head from Miles’ backpack as you play. That’s reason enough to buy this game.
Above all else, nothing feels as good as swinging around the city in this game. There’s a subway system that can be used to fast-travel, but you’ll never need it. Swinging around, taking in the sights, and enjoying the beautiful snow-covered New York is powerful, especially during this time of year.
Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales is available for PS4 and PS5 now.