New roguelike deckbuilder is suddenly one of Steam’s most played games

Slay The Spire and Dead Cells have fresh competition via a new roguelike deckbuilder that’s suddenly one of Steam’s most popular games.

New Steam roguelike deckbuilder Balatro: A smiling joker from roguelike deckbuilder Balatro

You take Slay The Spire’s robust, imaginative deckbuilding systems, Dead Cells’ often brutal roguelike difficulty curve, and, erm, poker, and you get what seems on paper to be an extremely unusual twist on traditional card games. But somehow, it works – and works exceptionally well. Despite a delightful deluge of games at Steam Next Fest, one perhaps unlikely candidate has managed to play its way into the most popular list. We’ve seen horrors, RPGs, FPS games, and survival sims, but a variation on poker where four of a kind is a lousy hand and you can draw three different jokers is a new one on us. Nevertheless, if you want to try what is suddenly one of Steam’s most popular games, it’s available right this second.

Welcome to Balatro, a deckbuilder and roguelike game that looks like poker, sounds like poker, and even occasionally feels like poker, but has about as much in common with poker as a bear does with a barn door. You think a full house is going to win you the hand? Think you’re sitting pretty on four aces? Well I’ve got a psychedelic bank card and a special ‘Spectral Pack’ that lets me play six kings, so read ‘em and weep.

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This is the twist in Balatro. While for the most part it uses conventional playing cards, it also includes an array of stat boosters, multipliers, and conventional-poker-rule-breaking wildcards that let you construct the kind of hands that’ll definitely get you banned in Vegas. There are tarot cards, planet cards, jokers with different abilities, and vouchers you can trade midgame for new draws and decks. In total, there are 150 different jokers, 15 decks, and 32 voucher cards that can add permanent buffs for each run. Complete with a campaign mode that has eight different difficulties, Balatro is the comprehensive bizarro poker experience.

The full Balatro release date is set for Tuesday February 20, but you can try it now thanks to a new Steam Next Fest demo, available right here. Alongside strategy game Homeworld 3 and RTS game Stormgate, Valve has confirmed that Balatro is one of the ten most-played demos in all of Steam Next Fest, so make sure to get in on the action and see what all the fuss is about.

Alternatively, you might want to try some other great card games, or maybe the best new PC games available right now.

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