Gambling, in its legal definition, involves the elements of consideration (essentially the payment needed to participate), chance and prize. When applied to examples in video games, it becomes a debate-conjuring matter. As Dr. Daniel King told Hack: "The word gambling is a constraining word. We might need some other term that recognises an activity that looks and feels and has all the same mechanics of gambling, but doesn’t have the same financial return.”
While it’s hard to determine whether many video games feature what can be legally constituted as gambling, it’s easier to point out those with mechanics that bring the “G” word to mind. Here are a few examples of those games, specifically the ones in which those mechanics form a pretty big or noticeable part of the game that can’t be ignored.
Even as someone who has not played the game, stories of players “rolling” for Servants - in this case, people of myth or the past who are commanded in battle - and not getting the desired result have been heard in person. While Servants can be obtained from special events in this highly popular free-to-play mobile RPG, the primary method of doing is through summoning, which requires spending of Saint Quartz (which can be bought with real money) or Friend Points and results in random results depending on rarity.
This sort of mechanic originated from Japan’s gashapon/gachapon machines and is known as Gacha, and FGO is far from the only mobile title to use it.
Poker Night at the Inventory and Poker Night 2
The selling point of the Poker Night games is actually less the poker and more the characters you play with, along with their dialogue. The first game had The Heavy, Max, Tycho, and Strong Bad; the second had ClapTrap, Brock Samson (from the Venture Bros.), Ash (from Army of Darkness) and Sam.
Nevertheless, the gameplay itself is centered on the first word of the titles - poker. Both games offer Texas Hold ‘Em, while the second adds Omaha Hold ‘Em. The funny thing is that a judge actually ruled that poker involved more skill than luck, but generally-speaking, whether the game counts as gambling is still up for debate, though it’s likely to still be often associated with it.
Big Fish Casino
There’s a virtual casino experience involved, so it’s only natural that virtual gambling would be too. These type of games are perhaps the most literal form of gambling in video games, seeing as they are meant to be virtual replications of casino experiences. Apart from slots, Big Fish Casino has games like Blackjack, Poker (hmm…) and Roulette which can be played.
As for whether real money-gambling is actually involved, it appears that it does, but only in the UK. Elsewhere, it’s just virtual currency.
Fable 2 Pub Games
This game features, well, pub games from Fable’s country of Albion. There’s card game Fortune’s Tower, dice game Keystone, and slot machine-like Spinner Box, making it sort of a fantasy version of real-world gambling games. There are fifteen tournaments in total that have to be entered to unlock the unique items. The interesting thing here is its optional integration with Fable 2. Gold and items that are won can be transferred to the player’s Fable 2 character. The same goes for debt.
Fire Emblem Heroes
Another example of a gacha game. Like FGO and most other similar titles, characters are gained through summoning. One difference in this case - at least compared to FGO - is that their levels are also part of the roll result. For example, a player may summon a particular character with three stars, or he/she may summon that exact same character albeit with a different star level. Basically, it becomes not just about obtaining the desired character, but obtaining the desired star level as well, as Kotaku pointed out. It is possible to achieve a higher star level by leveling them up, but it’s a grindy affair.
“Bring a casino home to your living room! Up to four high-rollers can play Blackjack, Roulette, Keno, or Slot Machines. Odds are you are going to love VEGAS DREAM!” That’s the description offered by GameFAQs anyway. Like Big Fish Casino, it’s a virtual casino-like experience, albeit a much older one that was developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System and creates more of an environment. Loot boxes and such may not have existed back then, but it appears that creating video games based on real-life gambling games was an idea that was jumped on early.