A look at the most popular ‘old-school’ games gone digital

Today, gaming is associated with consoles like the Xbox and cutting-edge technology like VR. In fact, the majority of modern pro gamers are involved in the eSports industry, playing for teams like G2 or FaZe Clan in worldwide tournaments. Others prefer to monetize their gaming with a Twitch stream or are locked into the frontiers of gaming, pushing VR and AR into new formats with XR, or eXtended Reality, projects.

Still, the digitization of gaming is a relatively new concept. Back in the early 1900s, the first electronic ‘games’ were attempts at simulations. These projects targeted pilots and were designed to instruct them on how to fly a plane via large-scale equipment. During the same period, most ‘gamers’ stuck to decks of cards, board games, and strategy games.

Many of these old-school games were lost in the shuffle of modernization. In other words, popularity waned as the arcade era took over, then led to the console wars of the 1990s. But that’s not the case ‘across the board’. Today, these five old-school games have survived with famous digital counterparts.


With murky origins and a slow evolution over time, poker is one of the world’s most popular old-school games. Today, thousands of players log on to play online poker, testing their skills in table games and tournaments. In fact, some sites are so popular that they have over 100,000 active users. Global Poker, for example, includes a playing pool of over 250,000 players.

But how did poker survive the jump online? During the 1970s, the World Series of Poker kicked off in Las Vegas. The popularity of the tournament meant that it was broadcast around the US and, eventually, the world into the 1980s and 90s. Hole cams were introduced, which let remote viewers ‘spy’ on the action. The online poker boom of the early 2000s helped cement the game as a global pastime.


With its origin in the Ancient Chinese Qing Dynasty, this domino-style game has been around for millennia. Along with Go, which emerged around the same time period, mahjong can be considered one of the oldest old-school games gone digital. Today, you can find the title in multi-player formats, which highlight the game’s social nature along with its competitive side.


Chess is one of the world’s oldest and most competitive strategy games. Today, the United Nations celebrates the game as an international treasure and estimates that around 605 million adults play the game regularly. You can find people playing in public parks, in international competitions, and at home.

In recent times, the game has even seen a huge resurgence. Similarly, to the poker boom, the 1972 World Chess Championship put Bobby Fischer on the map, while Netflix’s recent ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ introduced an entirely new generation to the game. And while chess is still largely played in person, most new players today will learn the game online.


Similar to mahjong, backgammon has been around for millennia. Some scholars estimate the game has been played for close to five thousand years—and some modern publications that cover the game consider it one of the world’s most popular online board games. This is largely due to the number of variations available to players online. One way that backgammon platforms stay relevant is by creating brand new variations, which challenge long-term players while also intriguing newcomers.

Rubik’s Cube

A Rubik’s Cube isn’t an old-school game, but it’s one of the gaming world’s most iconic puzzles. The original cube came from a Hungarian professor in the 1970s, but one of the latest modern iterations is known as the WowCube. The WowCube is similar to the original but includes a tiny touchscreen on each side, which create new challenges for players at every turn.

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