When you think of the most contemporary video game franchises, your first thought will be apocalyptic zombies, modern-day warfare, or perhaps open-world titles like Grand Theft Auto.
State-of-the-art video console gaming is unlikely to conjure up thoughts of sitting down at a card table and playing a game of blackjack. This classic casino game, also known as 21, has managed to maintain its broad appeal in online and offline casinos by maintaining its cultural relevance in the leading video games.
One of the main reasons that video game developers have opted to incorporate blackjack into their game dynamics is its sheer simplicity that can be seen on platforms like PokerStars. Players don’t have to worry about beating others at the table, except the dealer of course.
In land-based casinos, classic table games like blackjack and roulette can carry long-standing etiquette which players must abide by. There is no such thing as blackjack etiquette at the tables in most of these video games.
Not least in Resident Evil 7, where losing players face being electrocuted or having a finger chopped off — a far cry from the age-old traditions of the world’s most popular casino card game.
With the mental image of dismembered fingers and electric shocks lingering large, let’s take a look at the video games that have embraced blackjack into their game dynamics for the better in recent years.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Blackjack is one of several card games that is made playable in Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s one of the most popular mini-games. There are multiple locations available to play blackjack, including the saloons in Rhodes, Van Horn and Blackwater.
On occasion, you can also play in your gang’s camp when certain story chapters allow it. If you can be successful at the blackjack tables, it will help you to earn money for your travels.
There is also an in-game blackjack challenge which proves distinctly unpopular with many Red Dead Redemption 2 fans, simply because of how long it takes to complete. The blackjack challenge requires you to “double down and win your hand five times”.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It takes so long because your character is forced to watch the hands play out from the other players at the table. There is also a need to complete the challenge to unlock future challenges, which creates a sense of frustration in itself.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
The iconic Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is one of the most successful versions from the GTA franchise — and still one of the most played, even with GTA 6 due for release in the next two years.
It also happens to include a healthy dose of blackjack action and other forms of gambling too. Character Carl Johnson is given the ability to improve his gambling skills over time by accruing skill level points for every $1,000 wagered at the tables of the in-game casino.
Johnson’s reputation in the casinos starts out as a relative nobody, but the more you wager over time, the more he becomes recognised as a legitimate “Gambler”, followed by the following titles: “Professional”, “Hi-roller” and “Whale”. When you sit down with Carl for a game of blackjack, the majority of classic table rules apply.
The only one absent is the option to split. There are other table games available too, including roulette, as well as video poker and slot machines and a gameshow-style Wheel of Fortune game.
Resident Evil 7
If you fancy your chances playing one of the deadliest games of blackjack ever, get your hands on Resident Evil 7. It’s not often you are forced to play 21 and win like your life depends on it, but that’s certainly the case here in Resident Evil 7.
It’s part of the game’s Banned Footage Volume 21 DLC. Clancy Jarvis is captured by Lucas Baker and wakes to find himself in a darkened room, tied to a chair, with a tired old blackjack table for company.
Lucas Baker appears on-screen proclaiming to Clancy that if he wants to stay alive he must win a game of blackjack. The loser will be electrocuted. Is that a gulp I hear?! It gets to the final round of gameplay and a spinning saw appears, which will fall on the losing player’s fingers.
The gameplay itself stays true to the classic blackjack rules, except from the fact that no face card symbols are in play, with only cards numbered one to 11 used for convenience.
Fallout: New Vegas
It’s hardly a surprise that blackjack is included in this Fallout version considering its “New Vegas” title. In this open-world game situated in the Mojave Wasteland, it’s possible to play 21 in any of the six open land-based casinos. Five of the six casinos pay 3:2 for a blackjack, with the only casino paying 6:5 for a blackjack being the Atomic Wrangler on Freeside.
The most intriguing characteristic of blackjack gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is the “Luck statistic”. Each player starts off with neutral Luck, valued at six or lower on the scale. If a player starts to see their Luck rise to seven or above on the scale, it moves the odds and the likelihood of maintaining a winning streak in your favour.
When a player hits eight on the Luck scale, they can be much riskier and as for ten on the Luck scale, you can virtually expect to win every hand.
This quartet of world-renowned video game titles is proof that you can incorporate blackjack into almost any game dynamic, replicating the drama and intensity of the casino tables.