What Is the Oldest Game That Is Still Played Today?

We humans have always played games. The Romans created a whole host of different ones, including many that resembled modern-day dice games, field sports, and lotteries. Before them, other human civilisations also had their own sports and games as forms of entertainment.

Of course, today billions of us play games on our computers, consoles, and mobile devices, though many still also enjoy old fashioned board and parlour games.

But of all the games that are played today, which one is the oldest?

Blackjack

Blackjack is a popular card game thatís played in casinos and online. It is a little tricky to trace the exact origins of this classic because it appears to have evolved from several different games that were invented independently of each other in different regions.

Some historians theorise that it may have been the Romans that invented blackjack because they were known for having a flutter. If they did, then this Roman blackjack used wooden blocks instead of cards, though there isnít enough evidence to say this is the true lineage.

The earliest recorded version of a game that contained all the elements that we recognise today as blackjack was Trente-un (31), which was referenced by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes in his book, Rinconete and Coradillo. It used a deck of cards, was played against the dealer, and required players to make a hand as close to 31 as possible. This makes blackjack at least 400 years old , though it could be even older than that since another game of the same name was written about in 1440.

Chess

Chess is one of the worldís most popular board games and is taken very seriously by some players.

It is a strategic test that requires much more concentration and consideration than other titles, with some players dedicating their entire lives to mastering it.

Most historians agree that modern chess evolved from an Indian game called Chaturanga which was first played sometime during the 5th century, making it around 1,600 years old.

While there are other games that share many similarities, Chaturanga used pieces with different values, just as chess does today.

Lotteries

There is some evidence to suggest that lotteries, at least in some form, were organised around 200 BC during the Dan Dynasty of China. However, they didnít take on the modern form that we would recognise today until Augustus Caesar introduced them during his time as the Roman Emperor.

He needed to raise funds for the state but believed that increasing taxes would upset the people. So he organised a lottery, hypothesising that it would help to increase his popularity as well as raise much-needed funds to undertake civic projects like road repairs and building construction.

It worked and became a model that is still used to this day in countries right around the world.

Augustus reigned between 27 BC and 14 AD , making the modern lottery around 2,000 years old.

Draughts (Checkers) and Backgammon

There is a lot of debate over which one of these two games is older, but both originated around 5,000 years ago.

Draughts (or checkers as it is known in the US) looks similar to chess, but it is much simpler. This is because all pieces hold equal value and can move in the same way. It is so old that versions of it exist in almost every continent, albeit with slightly different rules.

Backgammon is believed to be one of the first games to ever use a die. It uses a format that is common in almost every board game today, with players taking it in turns to move counters around the board.

There is a consensus among historians who believe these are the oldest surviving games. There are some other contenders for the title, but there isnít enough evidence to really understand how they were played. Therefore, we canít be sure that modern iterations are true representations of what our ancestors would have enjoyed.