There Was Really a Game that Encouraged Kids to Gamble

There Was Really a Game that Encouraged Kids to Gamble

February 28, 2022 0 By retrogamingdev
Casino Kid for the NES

Yep, you read that right. Before the dawn of the 90s (just, we’re talking 1989), when we were all enjoying the 8-bit graphics of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), there was a game that nobody really remembers for the right reasons – Casino Kid.

To be fair, there were a lot of bizarre games back then. Even Mario is an odd premise, and we’re talking the old skool Mario, who climbs a tower to defeat Donkey Kong. Heck, even the Mario we know nowadays, who battles goombahs and koopas, is a little strange. It’s not really what a plumber does. But if people today can condemn Grand Theft Auto for glorifying violence and carjacking back then, why wasn’t there an uproar for encouraging kids to spend their hard-earned pocket money in the casino?

Manga Means Money

Casino Kid NES Screenshot

Casino Kid is the American/European version of the Japanese game, which started out as the Million Dollar Kid, the manga on which the original game was based. The aim? To take the role of the eponymous kid and defeat the best gamblers in the world. Who, of course, are all in this one casino.

Win their money, and you can go on to face The King of the Casino and show him who’s boss. But as we’re talking about a game from 1989, the manga-esque graphics didn’t really shine through. Nor did the JRPG elements it wanted to. Instead, what we got was a bizarre little game where we played as a kid in a casino, diving headfirst into games like blackjack and roulette with no explanation.

Enter the Town of Lost Wages

If you get your hands on a copy of Casino Kid now, you’ll probably laugh at the gameplay on offer. The characters’ raised eyebrows and dramatic hairstyles during the cutscenes definitely pay homage to its Japanese origins. But then you can enjoy the puns and start playing against bosses in the town of Lost Wages (guess which place that is based on!)

Like lots of NES games, the map has the same look and feel as Zelda or Dragon Quest, where you navigate around to then open up a new battle sequence. Though this time, you’re walking around a casino, not an enchanted forest.

And it’s an odd walk around too. Some characters will give you some clues in odd cutscenes that expand the screen and, to be honest…aren’t really worth it. Thankfully, you can’t speak to every NPC in the game, which is good as you’d waste a lot of time talking about nothing. Which makes it a difficult game to begin with, especially if you’re an 80s kid and this was the title you got for Christmas.

Dive in Headfirst

Nowadays, if you’re over 18 and you want to play games like blackjack, poker, slots, or roulette, you can do it at online casinos. You can play live casino games and get a thorough explanation before even betting your first-hand. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on Casino Kid.

Casino Kid NES Screenshot

The first thing you have to do is play blackjack. And you really do dive straight in. You must try and get to 21, but if you’re a kid playing this game, you’ll have no idea what to do. There’s no explanation, no learning curve as you go, just a series of Game Over screens to really dishearten you.

It’s not as if adults are going to want to play it either – they can just play the real thing instead. So, it’s up to kids to understand all the nuances of a casino and its games.

To advance in Casino Kid, you play either blackjack or roulette, taking on the casino’s dealers. By then, you’ll have figured out how the game works and how to bet more money. Then you can place even bigger stakes; we’re talking thousands on just one single hand.

Soon, you’ll get to $1million and have enough to take on The King. It’s certainly no Bowser battle, but you definitely worked your socks off for it if you got that far.  

Although an odd theme, Casino Kid still had lots of traditional NES features. The long 30-digit password to save your progress, for example. It makes you realize how much we value Quick Save nowadays.

And it had a catchy soundtrack as you navigated the casino, with the music changing when you took on the dealer as if you were entering a dungeon for a boss fight.

However, you were learning how to play cards and thrive in a casino at the end of the day. Which is what every 10-year-old something wants on their first games console.

Perhaps now, these kids have evolved into proper casino players, netting millions because they grew up on Casino Kid. Or perhaps they played it for a bit before switching it out for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game or tearing up the ice rink on Blades of Steel.