One of 2024's best games has been an absolute life-changer for its solo developer — and you need to make sure you've played it

Balatro in-game screenshot
(Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Balatro is one of the most highly reviewed games of the year from critics and players alike, and it has truly changed the life of its solo developer. 
  • The creator of Balatro, localthunk, has recently celebrated the past year and now getting to do what they love as a career. 
  • Balatro has sold over 1 million copies to date, and can be played on both PC and console. 

If you speak to some of the Windows Central team, our early contender for game of the year isn't some big budget epic, like Dragon's Dogma 2, or the insanely popular Helldivers 2. It is, in fact, the best indie game to slide into our lives in some time, the deck building roguelike known as Balatro

Balatro is pure brilliance. I haven't become so addicted to a game so quickly in a long time, and I'm both delighted and a little mad that my colleagues turned me onto it. "Just one more run" very quickly becomes two, three, or playing until my eyes physically hurt. 

Balatro has truly been a success story, not least for its solo creator, localthunk. Currently, Balatro is the second highest scored game on Metacritic this year, it's sold over 1 million copies, and everyone who touches it immediately falls into a state of hardcore addiction. But it's localthunk that has benefitted the most, of course, and is richly deserved. 

It's easy to forget the kind of impact such runaway success can have on a human level. It's enough to make even the most cynical of us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Facts don't lie, though. Localthunk made an incredible game. 

With a 90 on Metacritic, over 30,000 overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam, an update in the works that makes it even better, a mobile version planned for iOS and Android, the world is Balatro's, and we're just living in it. 

For Q1, Balatro was the number 10 game on Twitch of all titles released in 2024. It was also one of the most played games in March on the Steam Deck, and let me tell you, Balatro and the Steam Deck is the combination I didn't know I needed in my life. My Deck goes everywhere with me now, you know, so I can just have one quick run. 

Seriously, just play it. But be prepared for the impact it'll have on your life.  

What even is Balatro? 

Balatro is life.  (Image credit: Windows Central)

I could spend a long time and a lot of words really getting into what Balatro is, its mechanics and addictive gameplay loop. But I'll try and keep it short. 

At its core, Balatro is a roguelike game based around Poker hands. If you've never played Poker, or you're just not a fan, you might think it's not for you. But you'd be wrong. 

Like most roguelikes, Balatro has a never ending gameplay loop. While its core is building the best Poker hand, it goes far beyond this. Part of the thrill is building the best deck you can, pairing it with the best modifiers, Jokers and multipliers you can, all with the sole goal of getting the highest score possible. 

All of the different mechanics combine together in a ridiculous number of ways, making it possible (and extremely satisfying) to put a build together that triggers some insane scores for each hand. But even when you think you have a good thing going, one wrong decision or one boss blind that goes against your deck means game over. 

It's frustrating and exciting in equal parts, but it will always suck you back in for just one more run. Friends have asked me to explain why it's so addictive, but I'm not really sure I can find the words for it. Some of the Steam reviews do a pretty hilarious job, though! Ultimately, I just tell everyone to play it. There is no better pick up and play game right now. It's easy to pick up, challenging to master, and truly one of those games you can't put down. 

Balatro | $17.89now $9.39 at CD Keys

Balatro | was $17.89 now $9.39 at CD Keys  

Bolatro is a poker-inspired rogue-lite deck builder. Balatro challenges players to create powerful synergies and win big by playing illegal poker hands with unique Joker cards and arcanas. It's currently reviewed overwhelmingly positive on Steam for its addictive gameplay and psychedelic visuals. 

✅ Buy if: You like games with an addictive rogue-lite loop, like Vampire Survivors and Slay the Spire.

❌ Don't buy it if:
You ever want to sleep again.

💰Price check:
$14.99 at Steam

🎮Also available:
$14.99 on Xbox

Richard Devine
Managing Editor - Tech, Reviews

Richard Devine is a Managing Editor at Windows Central with over a decade of experience. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him steering the site's coverage of all manner of PC hardware and reviews. Find him on Mastodon at