Loot boxes have given gambling a bad name. Okay, sure, gambling has always had a bit of a bad name, because it's gambling and all, but when it comes to gambling in PC games, loot boxes certainly haven't done it any favors.
But gambling in games is a tradition—a tradition like save-scumming when you've just lost a lot of money gambling in games. Let's take a day off from fuming about loot boxes to celebrate all the wonderful ways to enjoy gambling without risking any real-world money. Here are the best PC games to gamble in.
Far Cry 3
We can all agree that Jason Brody sucks, and we're pretty sure his friends think so too. After all, Brody is supposed to be rescuing his chums from a pack of insane drug lords, but he still takes time out to play a shitload of poker. On the plus side, Far Cry 3 has a decent Texas hold 'em poker sim: it's fun, it has different skill levels to choose from, and there are five different poker shacks to visit around the Rook Islands when you want to forget about the plight of your pals for a while.
Fallout New Vegas
Naturally a game set in Las Vegas would feature a wee bit 'o gambling, even in a mutant-filled post-apocalypse. When you've got enough hard-earned caps to spare, the casinos in Fallout New Vegas have slot machines (except for the Ultra-Luxe), blackjack, and roulette. (The Tops casino also has craps tables, though you can't actually use them.) Players who have invested points in Luck will have improved odds of winning, though if you're too lucky the casino will show you to the exit.
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Not all gambling games feature dice and cards: some feature swords and shields. At Imperial City's Arena in Oblivion, you can gamble on fighters in the gladiator pit. You can fight in the pits too, of course, to become the Grand Champion, which means you'll be followed everywhere by a fawning blonde elf, which must be the worst prize ever conceived of. Unfortunately, though, you can't gamble on the fights you participate in.
It must be a bit boring for the shopkeepers of Spelunky, who have opened their stores deep underground where pretty much only a single customer will ever spend some money. Maybe that's why some shopkeepers have turned their shops into gambling dens that use a set of enormous dice or a wheel of fortune (depending on which version of Spelunky you're playing). Of course, just encountering a dice room itself relies on chance since the levels are randomly generated. Also, those shopkeepers are a bit on edge. Hope you're feeling lucky.
Self-proclaimed do-gooder Aiden Pearce is out to right the wrongs in Chicago, but that doesn't mean he's above cheating his ass off at poker games. You can use his phone to access security camera to peek at the other players' cards, monitor their stress levels to see if they're bluffing, or check their odds of winning. Aiden Pearce: he's not the hero Chicago deserves or needs.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
There are lots of ways to gamble in San Andreas, everything from blackjack to video poker to slot machines. There's even horse racing, accessible from Inside Track Betting shops in Los Santos, where you can use machines to place bets on the ponies. ITB shops also appear in GTA 4 and Vice City Stories, though simply as non-interactive store fronts. Booo.
Kingdom of Loathing
What could be lower risk than gambling with fake money in a free game? You don't even have to download anything since Kingdom of Loathing is played in your browser. KoL's casino has several slot machines, a roulette table, poker, and the bluntly named Money Making Game, where you can bet Meat (which is what KoL uses for money) against other players.
Assassin's Creed Brotherhood
When Ezio's got some florins to spare, he can gamble them at the inn of La Volpe Addormentata (The Sleeping Fox), which features a dice-rolling game called Hazard. Throw a 7 or 11 and you win, throw a 2, 3, or 12 and you lose. Anything else becomes the chance number, giving you another toss of the dice and higher stakes. It's nice to have other hobbies besides stabbing people.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Pazaak is basically blackjack: the player closest to 20 without going over wins, and the first player to win three rounds takes the match. It's also a bit of a CCG, with specialty cards you can purchase on your travels throughout the galaxy. You can play in cantinas and various Pazaak dens, and it makes a nice alternative to holographic monster chess.
Leave it to Borderlands 2 to put their own spin on the spinning wheels of slot machines. Gamble some cash and you might win more cash, but you can also win weapons (sometimes rare ones), skins, and eridium. A run of bad luck doesn't just mean you'll walk away empty handed: if your slot lands on three matching psycho masks, the machine will dispense a live grenade. Brutal.