Balatro was primarily inspired by Cantonese card game Big Two

I can't wait for the sequel, Big Three

02 May 2024
by quence 0

When Western gamers see the roguelike hit Balatro, the first card game that likely comes to their minds is poker. As it turns out, poker wasn’t the primary inspiration behind the title. According to designer LocalThunk, that honor goes to a lesser known Cantonese card game called Big Two.

Big Two is a gambling game in which players are trying to get rid of all their cards (similar to Crazy Eights, or Uno). In the premiere episode of a podcast called Dear Dwyery, LocalThunk delves into the history of Balatro, including its origins and influences. According to him, the game was given poker-like aesthetics to make it more palatable to players unfamiliar with Big Two.

“I think there’s a contingent of people more willing to interface with a game if it’s talking about blinds, discards, and all these words. It was like an onboarding tool, a coat of paint to make this seem approachable for a particular audience.”

[LocalThunk, Dear Dwyery]

LocalThunk also notes that Big Two “thematically doesn’t have a lot going on,” which explains why poker was a better fit for a video game. In any case, it seems like he made the right call, as the game has proven to be a big hit since its release.

Click here to listen to the full podcast for a deep dive into the making of Balatro.

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