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Top-tier deckbuilder Balatro hits 1 million sales in less than a month, which hopefully justifies all the hours we’ve collectively lost to it

I don’t like poker, but I love Balatro—and I mean, hey, I’ve at least got that in common with its creator (though I’ve played considerably more deckbuilders than they have). It’s pretty astounding that someone with zero experience in almost anything their game is about could make such a banger, but here we are.

A few weeks after its release, almost everyone on the PC Gamer team has an embarrassing amount of hours logged into this thing. My attention has been split almost evenly between Balatro and Helldivers 2, the latter of which has completely shaken up the landscape of live-service shooters, which gives some indication of the former’s quality.

Luckily, Balatro has enjoyed a success that’s proportional to just how dang good it is—it hit 500,000 copies sold in short order, and now it’s doubled that number to a staggering 1 million copies, as announced on the game’s official twitter. Personally, I’m just glad some of the baffling issues with its age rating haven’t slowed it down.

As for why? Well, your typical roguelike deckbuilder tilts more towards the RPG genre—throwing enemies and bosses at you, making you manage HP and resources, that sort of thing. Balatro, by comparison, simply tasks you with getting your number as high as humanly possible. There are minimum scores you’ve gotta reach, and “boss blinds” that interfere with your strategies, but it’s devilishly simple otherwise.

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Balatro’s the distilled, potent moonshine to Slay the Spire’s colourful cocktail with three umbrellas in it—the latter is tasty, but the former will mess you up to the tune of “wait, I have 30 hours logged in this thing already?”

If you’re anything like me, you might’ve been put off by the game’s poker-adjacent aesthetic. One of my issues with real-life card games that use a traditional deck is in just how much memorisation is involved. Mercifully, Balatro involves precious little card-counting, and you don’t need to even know the rules of poker to get stuck in, thanks to a menu you can open at any time to remember the difference between a Flush and a Straight.

What Balatro does get right is letting you stack up a bunch of unique modifiers, breaking the typical rules of poker over your knee. There is no ‘best hand’ in Balatro after the first three rounds, only the hands you’ve actually built for—and the discard system helps you manage your bad luck. Unless you’re me, and the universe conspires against you. I just needed a four or a ten, man.

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