Why pay $70 for disappointment when you can get Balatro for $11?

Balatro and Mugato saying "Balatro is so hot right now"
(Image credit: Local Thunk/Windows Central)

In the Beginning, there was Nothing. And now, there is only Balatro. I sleep, eat, and breathe Balatro, and am forever changed by Balatro. If Balatro has a million fans, then I'm one of them. If a million fans worship Balatro, count me as one. If only one fan remains, let it be me. Should Balatro find itself without fans, I shall fade into oblivion.

Ok, so seriously — in the 2024 gaming landscape, I'm sensing a huge fatigue with AAA $70 games that promise the universe and deliver nothing but dust. We've seen the rip-roaring success so far of lower-budget indie titles like Palworld, Helldivers 2 and Last Epoch storm the top-seller charts and the latest game on everyone's lips and tweets is Balatro. I initially dismissed it as 'not my kind of thing' because it is a card game, but priced at a mere $15 on Xbox, I took the plunge, and oh, what a plunge it was. But before I tell you why, a word of advice: If you're eyeing Balatro on PC, Steam isn't your best bet. Third-party sites are currently offering discounts, with Balatro's irresistible charm priced at a mere $11.29.

Balatro | $17.89now $11.29 at CD Keys  |  $13.49 at Fanatical | $13.49 at GMG

Balatro | <a href="https://cdkeys.pxf.io/c/221109/1566025/18216?subId1=hawk-custom-tracking&sharedId=hawk&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdkeys.com%2Fbalatro-pc-steam" data-link-merchant="cdkeys.com"">was $17.89 now $11.29 at CD Keys  |  <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-100624765-15565864?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://www.fanatical.com/en/game/balatro" data-link-merchant="fanatical.com"" data-link-merchant="cdkeys.com"">$13.49 at Fanatical | <a href="https://greenmangaming.sjv.io/c/221109/1219987/15105?subId1=hawk-custom-tracking&sharedId=hawk&u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.greenmangaming.com%2Fgames%2Fbalatro-pc%2F" data-link-merchant="greenmangaming.com"" data-link-merchant="fanatical.com"" data-link-merchant="cdkeys.com"">$13.49 at GMG

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 at 97% <a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/2379780/Balatro/#app_reviews_hash" data-link-merchant="store.steampowered.com"" data-link-merchant="greenmangaming.com"" data-link-merchant="fanatical.com"" data-link-merchant="cdkeys.com"">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:
<a href="https://store.steampowered.com/app/2379780/Balatro/" data-link-merchant="store.steampowered.com"">$14.99 at Steam

🎮Also available:
<a href="https://click.linksynergy.com/deeplink?id=kXQk6%2AivFEQ&mid=24542&u1=hawk-custom-tracking&murl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.xbox.com%2Fen-us%2Fgames%2Fstore%2Fbalatro%2F9pk087lngjc5" data-link-merchant="xbox.com"" data-link-merchant="store.steampowered.com"">$14.99 on Xbox

What is Balatro?

Balatro is a game where you play hands of poker to achieve high scores and in-game gold. With that gold, you can buy extra cards to cheat and take on increasingly difficult levels and challenges. You play hands and levels until you fail, then start again. To be honest, it didn't sound that appealing to me at all when I first heard of it. Yet here I am, singing from the rooftops that you need to play this game.

Much like the unexpected charm of Vampire Survivors, Balatro's seemingly basic appearance belies its addictive gameplay. You're not pitting your poker skills against opponents; rather, you're challenging yourself to achieve ever-higher scores and mastering the art of strategic cheating. Surprisingly, you don't even need to be a poker aficionado to enjoy it; logic and a penchant for outsmarting the game are your greatest assets. The allure of collecting various Joker and Arcana cards mirrors the addictive thrill of amassing characters in Vampire Survivors, or cards in Slay the Spire. 

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It's rather odd, but Balatro has managed to stir up some profound nostalgia within me as well. Despite being rooted in a different card game, the simple act of sorting through cards and laying them out to the backdrop of a tranquil synth soundtrack catapults me back to those after-school moments spent endlessly clicking through Solitaire. The serene familiarity of it all is surprisingly soothing—a perfect way to unwind. Except before I know it, three hours have slipped away, and the kids are clamoring for dinner, a stark reminder that I'm no longer 14 years old and I have responsibilities. So I'll play Balatro again later. 

For a little over $11, I strongly encourage you to experience Balatro for yourself and see what all the hype is about. While I initially grabbed it for Xbox (and let me add, 31 achievements are waiting to be conquered), I'm now eyeing another purchase for the Steam Deck. At such a steal, why hesitate? Give it a shot—you might just find yourself sucked into your next favorite game.

Jennifer Young

Jen is a News Writer for Windows Central, focused on all things gaming and Microsoft. Anything slaying monsters with magical weapons will get a thumbs up such as Dark Souls, Dragon Age, Diablo, and Monster Hunter. When not playing games, she'll be watching a horror or trash reality TV show, she hasn't decided which of those categories the Kardashians fit into. You can follow Jen on Twitter @Jenbox360 for more Diablo fangirling and general moaning about British weather.