The humble deck of cards is beloved the world over thanks to its flexibility, which has given rise to dozens of popular games. This has even resulted in the format finding its way into digital spaces, serving as a direct inspiration for a new generation of video games and entertainment on online platforms.
Below we’re going to take a look at the very best of these out there in 2022 – each brings something new to the table, while staying true to the basic kernel of gameplay that we associate with the best physical card classics.
When Blizzard Entertainment’s record-breaking game World of Warcraft burst onto the scene in 2004, it single-handedly revolutionized the MMORPG sector. At its peak, no less than 12 million players were logging into its vast open world – meaning, were the game’s servers a nation, they would have claimed a population larger than Tunisia, Bolivia or Belgium.
The success of this title spawned multiple spin-offs, from expansion packs to graphic novels and even a Hollywood film. But, without a doubt, the most successful new property to emerge from the franchise was Hearthstone.
This free-to-play digital card collecting game uses the rich lore surrounding the Warcraft series to color and shape a surprisingly deep and competitive two player card title. Each player makes use of a custom deck of 30 selected cards, as well as a specific hero character with special ability in order to battle it out against their opponent.
Taking turns, each player must make use of their limited supply of mana crystals to power attacks and moves, with the winner being determined as the first person to defeat their opponent’s hero character.
Hearthstone is now one of the most popular esports played today, and has a loyal following of streamers who eagerly tune in to watch matches taking place on the Twitch platform.
Few games, let alone ones based on cards, have become quite as emblematic in popular culture as poker. With a huge cinematic pedigree spanning Bond outings to Scorsese masterworks, poker has long retained its title as the king of cool card games.
And while in physical form poker is still going strong, in the 21st century the unstoppable rise of online poker has paved the way for a new generation of players and the emergence of wholly new play-styles, formats and rule-sets.
This makes digital versions of its classic variants among the most compelling ways to enjoy poker, even for those of a less tech-savvy persuasion. The other games on this list demonstrate there’s no limit to innovation on the card-gaming template in digital spaces. In light of this, the fact that poker has successfully made the jump into video game territory, not only intact, but all the better for it, is commendable.
A novel take on the card gaming format, Reigns puts you in control of a monarch who must dispense justice, make critical decisions, and contest rivals for the kingdom, all by way of a series of binary choices presented as drawn cards.
Players don’t know which cards will emerge, making each playthrough unique and engaging. The consequences of each decision made by the player can have unexpected ramifications that end up leading to outcomes that cannot be easily foreseen.
The use of the simplistic art-style and card format belies what is, in essence, a truly challenging game that gives new meaning to the phrase ‘heavy is the head that wears the crown.’
The game has enjoyed several sequels, with Reigns: Her Majesty coming out in 2017, followed by an iconic collaboration with George R. R. Martin’s blockbuster franchise Game of Thrones in Reigns: GoT in 2018. Reigns: Beyond dropped in 2020 and shifted the focus to charting the rise to stardom of your very own intergalactic rock band, and a fifth entry, Reigns: Three Kingdoms, is due for release in 2023.
The evolution of Reign and its many different versions is testament to the flexibility of the deck of cards and its continuing role in the world of gaming.