Pixelitis Picks: Best in-game gambling minigames


Something about impressionable children and gambling being a horrible addiction has changed the amount of gambling we see in our games.

Much like the candy cigarettes of our childhood, they have slowly faded from memory; some mature-rated games may still throw in some roulette or poker, but anything rated for a younger audience probably won’t feature any slot machines these days.

It’s kind of a shame, really. We here at Pixelitis grew up with gambling in our games and haven’t turned into casino junkies (except for Karen. She has a mean Pachinko addiction). Some of us have a lot of nostalgia for gambling minigames of yore, and we’re dedicating this week’s Picks to those childhood afternoons spent waging our hard-earned Gil to afford that slick new piece of equipment.


Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow: Celadon Slot Machines

Ever since I can remember my parents have claimed that they’re going to win the lottery. Need money to go to University? Don’t worry, we’ll win the lottery. Want to write about videogames for a living? Don’t worry Lowell, we’ll win the lottery so you don’t have to get a real job. Despite all this, I never developed a sense of gambling myself, but I certainly made use of my parents’ affinity for slot machines when I was young.

Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow versions all featured a gambling minigame with coins. These coins could be traded in for technical machines to teach your Pokémon new tricks, or they could be traded in for wholly new Pokémon. And I really wanted a Porygon to complete my Pokédex, but I didn’t want to gamble for 9,999 coins for the damn polygonal creature.

That’s where my mom came in. In between her soap operas I’d pass her off my Pokémon Yellow version tuned into a slot machine. She would play for hours while I went and played Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on my Nintendo 64. Before long I had enough coin for my Porygon, and every TM and other Pokémon along the way. I’d hear her cheer when those three sevens lined up for her, and throw out some profanities when she barely missed that third seven.

When I unlocked everything I could from the game, I thought that would be the end of my mom’s participation, but no—she would harass me to let her play the slots as I was gearing up for the Elite Four. To this day, she can still hum The Game Corner’s jingle. Recently she found the black hole that is Facebook slot machine games, and I can’t help but feel slightly responsible for her gaming slot-machine addiction.

My Porygon and I regret nothing.

- Lowell Bell


Final Fantasy VIII: Triple Triad

Prior to Final Fantasy VIII, I had never experienced a minigame so enjoyable that I could spend hours not progressing through the story just to have another go at it. Triple Triad was an entirely optional collectible card game that you could play against many NPCs throughout the game. By pressing the ‘Square’ button as opposed to ‘X’ (or ‘Circle’ in Asian territories) when speaking to an NPC, you challenge them to a game of cards.

Unlike Final Fantasy IX’s Tetra Master, there was more to Triple Triad than simply winning and collecting every card just to have them. Every card you got could be “modded” into rare items and magic that could not only help you in battle, but aid in junctioning and crafting early on. It was actually quite possible to make your party laughably overpowered early on by playing your cards right (pun intended) and refining them into magic early on and increasing your stats considerably.

With that said, the minigame kind of took a nosedive for me when the game’s different regions imposed new rules. I particularly loathed the “Random” rule where you weren’t allowed to pick out which cards in your deck to use. Nevertheless, I have yet to see a gambling minigame that’s as intuitive and addicting as Triple Triad. Oh, and that music? So catchy.

- Patrick Kulikowski


Final Fantasy IXTetra Master

Tetra Master, the second card game to appear in a Final Fantasy title, can be very confusing. The basics of the game are simple enough to grasp and are explained very early on, but learning how the cards work past their basics takes a lot of time to figure out – much like getting into the advanced stats of a Pokémon. Every card has stats that are never directly explained. In fact, I just recently figured out what each stat actually is by reading about it on the Final Fantasy Wiki.

That mystery is what kept me intrigued. While Triple Triad used cards with set stats where higher number beats lower number, Tetra Master mixed up skill with luck, which means a weaker card always has a chance, even if ever so slightly, to beat a stronger card.

Unlike Triple Triad, Tetra Master did not have much use outside of the card game. However, it was designed to be a game of its own. As you traverse Gaia, you can challenge others to Tetra Master and attempt to collect all the cards, which in turn raises your card collector rank. And in that sense, that made Tetra Master feel even more like Pokémon.

Tetra Master does share one common trait with Triple Triad: its equally addicting song.

- Allain Richard


Assassin’s Creed 3: Fanorona

I’ve got to be upfront about this, Fanorona is kinda boring. But honestly, I can’t extract myself from it. As we all know, I’m a fan Assassin’s Creed 3, warts and all. And with all of that invested into the game, I still have to say Fanorona is one of my favorite parts. I don’t know what it is, but I just waste far too much time and far too much money on this game. In the game. Right.

The other thing is the newness of it. There are so many other games that have versions of slots and blackjack and poker but none I’ve played that have Fanorona. There are no other Revolutionary War era, frontier games anywhere else to be found. And in a lot of ways, this is perhaps one of the most important things about it. The real draw is something different, something I had to learn wholly and utterly separate from all my other experiences.

I kinda want this game to be something that I can go buy at Cracker Barrel. And then lose money in real life on. And then use it to take people’s clothes off. Strip Fanorona. It’s a thing.

- Matt Brown




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Author: Pixelitis Staff View all posts by

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