Retro Gaming: The Best Emulators for 8-Bit Poker Games
Modern games might have left behind 8-bit technology, but it is as popular as ever with the people that matter, gamers.
Emulators have become very fashionable, with many 40-something gamers looking for an experience to remind them of their youth. That might be on home computers, such as the beloved ZX-Spectrum or Commodore 64, or early consoles, such as the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System. Those are the machines many emulate now, although 16-bit offerings such as the Super Nintendo and Amiga are also very popular.
Retro gaming is big business, and the sheer number of emulators proves the point. The games on offer are very basic, but what they often lacked in sound and visuals, they made up for in playability.
That is particularly obvious in the card game genre. Early PCs came equipped with two games, minesweeper and solitaire; how many office hours were lost playing virtual solitaire? Too many; in fact, historian Jimmy Maher has estimated it is the most played video game of all time. There are several reasons, with the accessibility of card games the obvious one. You didn’t need complicated instruction manuals to play card games, as many were already known to gamers. Poker is a fine example; most gamers know how to play poker, but 8-bit machines gave them a playing partner when they otherwise didn’t have one.
If you’re looking for something deeper than solitaire and want the 8-bt card game experience, we’ve brought together a collection of emulators you should try and the poker games you can find for them.
FCEUX – Poker III (NES)
FCEUX is a cross-platform emulator and one of the most popular Nintendo Entertainment System emulators. It’s easy to use; you download it, open the program and load a ROM. Its simplicity is backed up by debugging tools and other excellent features. The most recent version is a few years old now, but it is still a great option.
It will allow you to play Poker III, one of the best 8-bit poker games. It was one of the first to steer away from tacky strip poker games to the most serious poker we understand today. It had the poker hand rankings on-screen to help beginners learn the game and some strong graphics for an 8-bit title. Poker fans will appreciate the simplicity and playability of the title.
Xpectroid ZX – Las Vegas Poker (ZX Spectrum)
Of all the 8-bit machines, the ZX Spectrum is perhaps the most beloved. It always felt a bit behind other computers of the era, such as the Commodore 64, but its sleek black design and the rubbery keyboard left an indelible mark on the gaming community. Xpectroid ZX is one of the only Spectrum emulators that support ULA plus palettes, making it one of the most popular.
Players can use it to find Las Vegas Poker, a 1986 release that brings the video poker experience to your home. Video poker didn’t present a digital opponent; it was a rendition of five-card poker where a machine allowed you to pick cards and try to get the best hand. It’s simple but engaging.
GearSystem – Casino Games (Master System)
The Sega Master System was the early rival to the NES, and you can find a great emulator for it in the form of GearSystem. It is an open-source Master System and Game Gear emulator for Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, iOS and Raspberry Pi, making it flexible and accessible. It comes with various features, including a debugger with a just-in-time disassembler, CPU breakpoints, memory access breakpoints and code navigation.
It can be used to find the title Casino Games, initially released in 1989. It could be one of the more popular options on our list because as well as poker, it had baccarat and blackjack for gamers to enjoy. It was graphically strong, bringing you up against a dealer at the poker table. It bested the Spectrum in terms of visuals and sound and had plenty of options for gamers, including (oddly) a pinball game.