I’ve got a hunch that most serious gamers are gamblers at heart. After all, we’re a bunch of pasty-skinned, socially-awkward recluses who spend an inordinate amount of time mesmerised by a pastime that most of the population dismiss as dangerous and unhealthy.
Throughout the history of gaming, developers have managed to sneak a handful of gambling minigames into our cherished titles – running many a delicate mind in the process. Read on for the 13 most addictive gambling opportunities in video game history.
Even in the wake of nuclear oblivion, Sin City never sleeps. There are six casinos in New Vegas, from the seedy Atomic Wrangler in Freeside to the even seedier Gomorrah on the main strip. Super-high table limits make the Ultra-Luxe my personal favourite, along with the yummy entrees. I can never resist grilled mantis with a nice, old world vintage.
In this underrated Gameboy classic, Link finds himself washed up on the Island of Koholint, which may or may not exist entirely in the dream of a flying whale…go figure.
I gave dozens of hours to this pocket-friendly adventure back in the day, and a fair slice of that time was spent trying to nail that friggin’ shield on Koholint’s deviously addictive crane mini-game. By the time I figured out the knack, I’d pushed hundreds of rupees into the operator’s greasy mitts.
San Andreas really ramped up the stakes for open-world games, allowing players to rack up virtual Gs in a variety of creative ways – none of them savoury. And what’s more appealing to an off-the-clock pimp/thief/gang enforcer than a full-blown, in-game casino?
The Four Dragons in Las Venturas was the most detailed virtual casino of its day, with a whole bunch of games to choose from. Cleverly, C.J.’s gambling ‘skill’ would improve over time, making San Andreas’ in-game wagering deliciously compulsive as your winnings started to stack.
The Mass Effect trilogy was a majestic space opera and one of the highlights of the last console generation. The second game is generally regarded as the series’ peak…but that’s not so say it didn’t have its grubby moments.
The Krogan race, being a truculent bunch, tend to favour pastimes of the ‘blood and guts’ variety. One of their favourite distractions involves two Varren (vicious, reptilian predators) being pitted against one another in a fight to the death, with spectators gambling on the victor. 250 credits on Red Brown Thunder!
In addition to ground-breaking, open-world adventuring, ingenious dungeon design and a roster of iconic characters, Ocarina of Time also boasts some of the most devilishly moreish gambling mini-games in the history of the medium.
I’ve ploughed through thousands of rupees on Hyrule’s bombchu bowling, sling-shot and archery ranges in my time, conquering my bank-busting habit in my youth only to fall off the wagon all over again for the 3DS re-release. Goddammit.
We all grumbled about forking out 800 Microsoft points to download this dull cache of mini-games for Fable II…until we figured out that the DLC was riddled with game-breaking glitches.
Suddenly, players were wringing absurd amounts of gold from Pub Games, while developers Lionhead Studios struggled to come up with a fix. A patch eventually came out, which sorted out the debacle…for about six hours, until gamers figured out new techniques for spamming the crap out of this overpriced turkey. It feels good to beat the house.
It’s fair to say that Dead Rising II was a significant departure from the (relatively) gritty tone of its predecessor. In-keeping with the game’s more light-hearted vibe, protagonist Chuck can blow off steam between undead-mulching sessions by indulging in a spot of strip poker with fellow survivors. Hey, what happens in a zombie apocalypse stays in a zombie apocalypse.
While at present you can only get your opponents down to their skivvies, a dedicated fan-base has been working on seeing the ‘whole show’ with the use of mods. Get a girlfriend, guys.
Squeezed out of the ‘princess rescuing’ niche by his better-known sibling, Luigi tried his hand as a pit boss in the DS re-release of Super Mario 64. While his card-matching game is actually pretty crummy, I like to liven things up by imagining Luigi in the role of Nicky Santoro in Casino, right down to the needling Italian accent and foul language.
In addition to crafting the most memorable entry in the Star Wars canon since The Empire Strikes Back, BioWare actually invented its own card game – and it’s damn good to boot!
Playing pazaak in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is awesome fun. It is however, hideously complicated. The gentleman in this video does a better job of explaining the rules than I ever could, so give it a watch. Just remember Han Solo’s advice: don’t ever play against Wookies.
John Marston’s voyage across the Old West remains a shining firmament in Rockstar’s crown: moving, clever, detailed…this game’s got it all.
It also boasts a really rather diverting poker mini-game. The card tables in Red Dead Redemption can actually provide a decent revenue stream, particularly if you invest in the ‘elegant suit,’ which allows you to slip an extra card into your hand. Just be careful not to get spotted being a cheating varmint, or you might pay with your life.
The game corner of Celadon City irredeemably poisoned my fragile mind as a child, gluing me to my Gameboy like a preadolescent cyber-zombie as I mindlessly plugged Pokdollars into Team Rocket’s slot machines.
We contacted David Merry, the brains behind the slots information hub at Right Casino, to see what impact playing Pokémon had on his chosen career: “Those games taught me an important lesson at an early age…that there’s a shedload of money to be made from virtual slot machines.” Hard to argue with that logic.
Triple Triad could have been a standalone game in of itself (and was in fact released in paper format by Bandai in 1999) but is completely superfluous to the rest of FFVIII. You don’t need to play it to progress and all you stand to win is more cards, but by crickey it’s fun.
Final Fantasy VIII might live in the shadow of its predecessor, but for my money, it’s the superior game in pretty much every respect (I’m sorry, I just didn’t care about Aerith. Like, at all.) It’s the little touches that make FFVIII so special, and this monster card mini-game is a particular highlight.