Writing about the best slots that are based on video games for Video Game Day (July 8) made us extra keen to fire up the ol’ PlayStation after a day at work. But, as passionate South African online gamblers, we were a bit sad that we’d miss out on our favourite casino games at the online casino.
And then we remembered that we could do both if we played Red Dead Redemption 2 (although not for real money).
Which got us thinking – we know we can hit the poker or blackjack tables in RDR2, but what other games on console (or PC) do we remember that featured gambling as a part of side quests or just as additional content? There are, surprisingly, a number of mainstream video games that have these smaller gambling games in them. Sometimes they’re just there for fun and to take a break from the main storyline, other times they are part of your quests. Most times they also unlock accomplishments and trophies if you complete them.
The CasinoPlay crew, avid casino game fans that we are, usually spend a ridiculous amount of time on these seemingly meaningless objectives but we feel that (mostly) they really add to the immersive experience of the game, and – especially in RDR2 – really help to make the game more ‘real’ as you go about daily life in the Wild West. Playing poker in a saloon with a bunch of ne’er-do-wells while slugging a shot of rotgut whiskey and keeping an eye out for a Doc Holliday-style shootout got us feeling like genuine early American pioneers. Well, genuine early American gunslingers who operate on the very shady part of the law anyway.
RDR2 was the first game that sprang to mind when we wondered about gambling in video games, possibly because it was the latest game we had played that featured the mechanic and possibly because it’s so well done.
Your character is able to visit several locations around the game world and play a number of different gambling games. Our minds immediately went to the Texas Hold’em poker games, but they are just one of four different gambling games you can play. You can also play blackjack, dominoes, and a very interesting game called ‘Five Finger Fillet’.
The poker games are all based on the rules of Texas Hold’em. Blackjack is as blackjack does (and still one of our favourite card games in-game, online or at land-based casinos). Dominoes work on getting rid of all your tiles as fast as possible (is this how dominoes work IRL? We don’t know the rules).
Five Finger Fillet is one of the games that is a bit weird but okay, whatever floats your bankroll buddy. Remember that scene in Aliens where the android, Bishop, is showing off his speed and skills by spreading his fingers on the table and then stabbing a knife between them? That’s Five Finger Fillet. You spread your hand out, palm down, on a table. You take a massive Bowie knife and stab between each finger starting with outside your thumb, then between the thumb and index finger, then back to the outside of the thumb, then between the index and middle finger, then back to the outside of them, and so on until you win or cut off a digit by accident.
So, apart from Five Finger Fillet (FILLET! – we get it now – because if you miss you will fillet your finger – duh!), the games are as close to the rules and gameplay as you would find in any casino. You bet money you have accumulated during your gameplay. You can win or lose just like in real life.
A great way to spend some time just being a gambler while playing a video game.
Watch Dogs is an action-adventure game heavily focused on hacker skills. The original Watch dogs game also featured some very cool slot machines that the player could take advantage of to do some quick gambling for in-game (fake) cash.
While the slots were quite simple, they did have some awesome graphics and the ability to find different themes: StrikeZone, UltraTesla, and DemonRider. StrikeZone was very basic – align 3 symbols, no extra features. UltraTesla allowed you to hold and nudge reels. DemonRider allowed you to add up to 5 extra lines by increasing your bet.
Very basic but super fun and a great distraction from the main game.
The GTA franchise introduced gambling in GTA: Vice City during 2002 when you could pay to enter street races and win a pot. Subsequent releases then added casinos and various other gambling games like blackjack, roulette, slots, and poker. GTA Online has really upped the ante though by bringing in a dedicated casino for players – one where you can actually win or lose real money.
Rockstar have certainly created a bit of a storm with this new mechanic. Although they technically don’t let players gamble with real money, you can use your real money to buy ‘Shark Cards’ that can be redeemed for in-game currency to buy upgrades or items – or gamble at the casino.
It’s a conundrum that is really causing a ruckus in the gaming world – the grey area between gambling and gaming. Is it gambling? Is it just a game mechanic? Should loot boxes be considered gambling? We wrote an interesting article about Loot boxes and gambling that you can read here.
Whatever your thoughts on using real money to buy credits to play gambling games in a fictional casino, South African GTA fans are up in arms because they cannot interact with the casino in GTA online. They can enter, but they can’t play. Why not? Because our gov has deemed the GTA Online casino to be an online gambling site and so illegal for SA players under our murky laws.
Which is a pity, because this casino (the Diamond Casino & Resort in Los Santos) offers some wicked gambling games: street racing, roulette, 3-card poker, blackjack, slots, horse racing, and lucky wheel spin n’ wins.
The Witcher franchise from CD Projekt RED introduced dice poker in Witcher 2 and it became a huge hit. Dice poker works like poker, but you play with 5 dice instead of five cards. The object of the game is to get a higher roll than your opponent. Not having face cards meant changing the winning combos slightly and winning rolls were as follows (from lowest to highest):
The Witcher also features fist fighting and horse racing that you and the spectators can wager on.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt replaced dice poker with an incredibly unique (and complex) game invented and developed by CD Projekt RED called Gwent. Gwent is similar to games like Magic: The Gathering and makes for some challenging and rewarding-if-you-master-it gambling for players.
Interesting note: you can download and play Gwent for free without having to play The Witcher.
Interesting note too: there is actually an eSports Gwent championship where you can gamble in real life and for real money on the official Gwent iGames Masters Tournaments.
One of our favourite post-apocalyptic dystopian world video games, the Fallout series really brought their A-game with Fallout New Vegas. It makes the top of our list just because we love the nuclear desolation feel of one of the world’s most iconic gambling destinations and the great gambling games (and play style) you can play.
While there are only three main gambling games (blackjack, roulette, and slots), it’s the different casinos you are able to play in that make this our favourite in-game gambling choice. The graphics of the locations and the games are lovingly rendered and really draw you in. Each casino has its own unique vibe. And the gameplay is great!
There is also another in-game card-based gambling game called Caravans. This, much like Gwent in The Witcher 3, is a unique game created by the developers for this The Witcher and it is, much like Gwent, an insanely complex game. But super fun if you are able to master it (some CasinoPlay crew members are ‘experts’ while others just walk away every time someone mentions Caravan!).
Yes, the games are just like the ones you enjoy at your South African online, mobile, or land-based casinos – but they are set in incredibly detailed and complex video game worlds. And these video games are tools we use to take a break from our everyday lives – just like our gambling partners.
While we don’t have real money on the line when we gamble in these games, we have a lot of time, effort, and emotion invested in these characters we create and being able to merge our two great passions – gaming and gambling – just makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside!