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The History of Retro Video Games




Video games and casinos have a long history together. The mathematics that makes casino games work transfers easily to programming. In the past, this meant developers could make quick and easy titles to sell to gamers.

Early Experimentation

One of the earliest forays was from the publisher Datamost. Designed for the Apple II computer, ‘Casino’ provided poker and blackjack in the most basic format available. In an age where it was easy for amateur programmers to create and release their own games, casino titles flourished. The availability of low-cost home computers spurred this on, like the Commodore 64. According to the National Museum of American History, systems cost as little as $250 brand new. 

Nintendo was one of the first game manufacturers to bring the casino to major consoles. They cleverly began to add narrative to their casino games, blending them with traditional storytelling and gameplay. 

Handheld Gambling

The roots of this still exist in many of today’s online casino games. Slot games, in particular, focus on blending interactive stories with traditional casino entertainment. Mr Green Casino has a wide range of slot machines that each distinguish themselves using a narrative. Book of the Dead features the adventures of Rich Wilde setting off to find lost riches. Titles like Gonzo’s Quest allow you to discover the lost gold of the Incas. However, unlike retro games, these can be played on modern smartphones like iOS and Android with a dedicated app.

Nintendo also continued to innovate by creating the first handheld casino title. High Stakes Gambling arrived in 1992 on the iconic Gameboy. Described by Smithsonian Magazine as “A huge success due to its durability and battery life” the console is now part of cultural history. The game took place in depression-era America, where you play an undercover FBI agent. Your task is to bankrupt the mafia by winning games of blackjack, poker, and playing on slot machines. The more your bank account increases, the harder the game gets.

Sega Casino

While Nintendo continued to improve its casino titles, one of the most comprehensive experiences came from Sega. Sega Casino arrived in 2005 on the Nintendo DS console. By this point, the company had retired from the console market and was making games for their once rival. The game featured a sizable five games with six more unlockable ones. Several poker variants, baccarat, craps, roulette, and more provided the closest experience to a casino floor yet.

What set the game aside was that the DS hardware now allowed gamers to play together. By downloading Sega Casino onto your friend’s devices, you could hit the virtual casino floor together.

Realism was further increased by the inclusion of three game modes. Free mode allowed players to unlock new games. Wireless mode allowed you to play with friends. Casino mode allowed you to turn your $1000 starting total into millions. This could be achieved by playing tournaments and unlocking high-stakes rooms.

Modern Mobile Gaming

Casino games are not limited to the retro realm. All you have to do is take a look through the Playstation store to see how many popular titles are still available. While many do not allow you to wager real money, they blend the console and casino floor perfectly. Casinos have even arrived as minigames in sandbox titles like Grand Theft Auto. For those who do want to up the stakes, mobile gaming with integrated betting options are now indistinguishable from their console counterparts.


Editor-in-Chief at DroidJournal. A tech-enthusiast, guitarist, and an anime fanboy!

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