These days, it is not enough to just put out a good video game without adding plenty of side content.
Every game has quests you can do that are not related to the core game missions, often making you head off into large, open-world areas and hunt for collectables and Easter eggs. Some side missions and minigames come to be as big as the game itself, which we saw with the Gwent card game in The Witcher 3. Gwent was part collectable quest, part card game, and ended up being released as a standalone title. Recently, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla developed a strong minigame too, called Orlog, which also kept players busy when they could have been out conquering England.
Developers do not have to spend many hours developing their own card games though, although plenty do. Instead, adding something as simple as a game of poker can accentuate a gaming experience and give the gamer a mechanic by which to earn in-game credits to spend on ammo, weapons, or whatever else is available to them. Often, these games of poker can become addictive, and gamers find themselves turning their system on just to play, especially those that allow you to play with friends.
Here are four of the best poker minigames in big console releases.
Watch Dogs was one of the standout titles of the early PlayStation 4 era, and despite being largely forgotten after the excellent Watch Dogs 2 came out, it is still worth revisiting. There are four levels of poker to be found around Chicago, low stakes, medium, high and super stakes. As a hacking game, it goes without saying you can gain an advantage over other players using hacked security cameras and profiling. As with many of the games, Watch Dogs uses the Texas Hold’em variant of poker.
Far Cry 3
Far Cry 3 is ranked as the best Far Cry game ever by many, and it is little surprising. Strong plotting and brilliant antagonists make this a must-play game, although fans of the series will be hoping the upcoming Far Cry 6, starring Giancarlo Esposito, comes close. If it is to be a success, it could do with a poker minigame just as the 2012 release was. There were eight poker locations scattered around the map, unlocked as part of one of the later main quests.
Grand Theft Auto V
Poker is very much a social game, which is where the Grand Theft Auto V version excels. If you like to play poker online with friends, then Rockstar’s behemoth title is the one for you. Poker features as part of the Diamond Casino and Resort update for the online version of GTA V, which means you and up to three friends can join a game and face off against each other. The only downside to the GTA version is that they use the three-card poker variant, which means you will use little skill and rely an awful lot on luck.
Red Dead Redemption
Both of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption titles have playable poker, and if you do like to play online with friends then Red Dead Online, the spin-off from the second standalone release, will allow you to do so. The first release, in 2010, did not have an online version but did have several great poker locations, from the MacFarlane’s Ranch to the Blackwater Hotel, a high-stakes game. The mechanics feel a bit clunky compared to the second game, but it was one of the first big releases to make use of poker as a minigame.