The Best Gambling Features & Scenes in Video Games
I was considering writing this article entirely from memory – I could probably think of dozens of games which feature gambling scenes. From the cartoon-style versions of Blackjack on the eight-bit micros, which featured Mickey Mouse unnecessarily popping up and declaring “great card!” every five seconds.
Fast forward to the present day, and our modern consoles can render a perfect poker simulation, such as in Red Dead Redemption 2. The Poker tables in Rockstar’s second attempt at creating a “true” wild west environment look unbelievably real. The game has been a smash hit, and the Poker tables are so accurate that they are not just a great way to earn extra credits in the game – you can even use it to learn how to play poker as well!
Gambling Scenes/Features: The Best of the Best
In the end, I decided to combine some of my best memories of gambling in video games with a little extra help from google. Additionally, I decided to only include games which are regarded as being excellent away from their gambling features, too. With that, let’s take it away!
Moonstone: A Hard Day’s Knight (Released 24th April 1991) – Commodore Amiga
American readers are likely unfamiliar with this title, as the Amiga never really had the same impact in the States that it did throughout Europe. The release of the upgraded AmigaOS 2, included with the Cartoon Classics Pack, sold an insane number of units throughout 1992, far more than commodore had been expecting.
Moonstone allowed up to four players to compete to make It across a map littered with obstacles, monsters, and, later, the reincarnated dead. So, why include it in this list?
Moonstone featured a strange gambling game based on dice which were covered in strange symbols. To be honest, I don’t think I ever truly understood it – but I do remember it was absolutely essential if you wanted to get yourself kitted out with the best equipment later in the game. Moonstone taught me about gambling and is also an amazing game too – it’s actually quite surprising that the gore on show in Moonstone did not cause an uproar in the tabloids at the time!
Grand Theft Auto 5 (Released 17th September 2013) – All Modern Platforms
How can you write a list of games with gambling features without including the legendary Grand Theft Auto 5? The casino launched in the online version of the game but ended up being pulled after thousands of players complained that allowing players to purchase casino chips with real money would automatically make the game “Pay to Win”, rather than requiring any time or skill.
In 2019, Rockstar decided to give the idea another go – other companies were getting away with it now, so why shouldn’t Rockstar? The new casino was called the Diamond Hotel and Resort and features several games both traditional and non-traditional. Because game developers are not bound by the same laws as those who produce a physical machines, there is no way of knowing what odds you are getting on games such as Inside Track and the Lucky Wheel. For this reason alone, I’d stay away from these and stick to games such as Blackjack and Roulette.
Ken Uston Blackjack & Poker (Released 1st October 1982) – ColecoVision
I received this game for Christmas when I was around seven years old, and as far as I can tell, this is one of the first dedicated card games available for any system. Playing it today for the first time in around 30 years, I was shocked by the crazy sound effects which play during every hand.
It’s a perfect representation of both Blackjack and Five Card Stud – Texas Hold’em had not taken over the Poker scene when this game was released! The graphics may be simple, but I found Ken Uston extremely addictive, and it’s always fun to look at the past.
Red Dead Redemption 2 (Released 26th October 2018) – All Modern Platforms (Eventually!)
Rockstar seem to enjoy adding Poker to their games, and even though Texas Hold’em certainly was not the variant being played in the era this game was set, I think we can let them off for that. Poker games can be found in various locations all over the map, and some players are much more dangerous than others.
One of the greatest aspects of Red Dead Redemptions poker tables is that you have the option to try and cheat if you want to – something that isn’t available in any other game on this list. If you get away with it, you’ll no doubt leave the place with a huge smile on your face. Get caught, however, and there’s no guarantee you will be walking away at all. Players REALLY didn’t like cheats in the Wild West.
The Witcher 3 (Released 18th May 2015) – PC, PS4/5, Xbox One. Xbox Series S/X, Switch
Last but certainly not least, we must give The Witcher 3 a mention. Almost universally agreed to be the best game of 2015, Witcher 3 had so much depth with complex storylines leading to intriguing gameplay. Witcher 3 was hugely addictive, and its online mode is still stacked with players in 2021 – that’s pretty amazing, really.
The gambling section is a card game known as “Gwent” and plays a very important role in this game. Playing Gwent can not only win you money, but it can also open new areas as you get deeper into the title. Collecting cards and building a strong deck is essential if you are going to see the real ending of this game, so keep that in mind if you have avoided the casino so far – you are missing out big time!
Poker fans will love this implementation but be careful if you try to take all the cards from any establishment – you have been warned…