After selling 1 million copies, Balatro creator admits it's "held together with hopes and dreams" as game devs rally around the roguelike's beautifully nightmarish code

(Image credit: Playstack)

With 1 million copies sold, Balatro has cemented itself as the roguelike hit of 2024 - despite the fact that its underlying code is apparently "held together with hopes and dreams." After some examples of the game's beautifully nightmarish code hit the internet, game devs are rallying to say, basically, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

The original tweet that spawned all this discourse has since been deleted - probably smart - but the gist is that Balatro has bespoke code for many objects where modern programming standards would typically suggest that you build some universal ways of handling those objects. That is a gross oversimplification, and this breakdown from game developer Sean Barrett will give you a much smarter overview of what's happening here, but that's the gist.

Balatro developer LocalThunk has been quick to cop to the idea that the game's code is messy, noting that it's "held together with hopes and dreams" and joking that "they won't teach you that in a fancy Software Engineering course." But game developers are rallying around the idea that it's never really been about creating clean code - if it works, then that's enough. 

Ultimately, that's what LocalThunk figures, too. "It's not perfect but I know where every single thing is and I'm the only one that needs to maintain it, so it makes sense to me. If it's dumb and it works then it's not dumb!"

We spoke with LocalThunk about Balatro's ingenious twists on poker earlier this year. 

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.