Entertainment Through the Ages: A Timeline of Asia’s Most Popular Games

People have been searching for ways to entertain themselves since time immemorial. Some have turned to sports, others to creative outlets like reading, writing, painting, or drawing. One pastime that’s remained popular across millennia is gaming.

Enjoyed by people around the world, games can take many forms, from traditional board games to video, slots, and more. Asia has a long history of popularising and refining both ancient and modern forms of play. That’s why we thought it would be interesting to look at Asia’s most popular games throughout the ages. Spanning from prehistory to the 21st century, looking at the development of everything from dice to tarot to modern-day technological innovations.


Dice represent one of the oldest forms of entertainment. In their original incarnation, they were most likely made from animal bones, hence the saying “shake them bones”. Because their beginnings are so old, it’s almost impossible to say where they originally came from, but we do know they existed as far back as prehistoric times.  

Certainly, in Asia, dice have been used throughout recorded history. The oldest known example was found among a backgammon set at Iran’s Burnt City archaeological site and dated at a phenomenal 5,000 years old.  

Many scholars believe dicing may have a South Asian origin. It’s mentioned not only in the Buddha games list but the Hindu epic Mahabharata. While we don’t know exactly how old it is, we do know from these and other texts that it was immensely popular in ancient Asia – and remains so to this day.   

Playing cards

One type of entertainment that’s been enduringly popular throughout history is the humble playing card deck, and we know for certain this originated in China. While it wouldn’t make its way to Europe until the 13th century, it had existed in Asia for at least 400 years before that.

Invented during the Tang dynasty, the original cards were printed on paper. It’s believed these were copied from the money of the time and that people played both with and for the cards. Two main types of deck existed, one with three suits and another with four.  

We know these cards were popular when Kublai Khan conquered China since one of his subjects recorded his views on the subject i.e. that gambling with cards should be treated the same as gambling without. This implies that the game was widely played in the royal court, as it is to this day.

Board games

Next came board games, with more of these developing in Asia than anywhere else. This isn’t surprising when one considers that Asia is both the largest and most populous of the continents, with many diverse cultures existing alongside one another.  

Key contributors to the world’s board games were India, China, and Korea, where an infinite number of games exist. These include what many views as the original version of chess, chaturaji. This four-handed dice variant hails from India and has four players. Other popular board games include Korea’s five-field Kono, horseshoe, which is known under various names depending on which Asian country you’re in, and pachisi, aka the national game of India.     

Video games

As we move forward to modern times, video games have come to reign supreme. First becoming popular in the 1960s, these have changed markedly over the years. We discussed seven of the most addictive in this article previously published on seganerds.com, including Tetris and Dark Souls.

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The country with the largest video gaming market in the world is China, with the pastime being hugely popular across Asia. Consoles became accessible in the country from around the 1990s onwards, and the industry has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Today, China’s gaming market has an estimated value of over $100 billion, with the number of gamers in the country reaching 665 million in 2020. Notable trends in the past few years have been increasing female participation, the rise of eSports, and the emergence of cloud-based gaming.   

Online gambling

Another industry that’s seen a surge in popularity in the last decade is online gambling. While traditional gambling has been popular for centuries, the internet has transformed the face of gaming forevermore, making it more accessible to and convenient for the average individual.

One game that’s particularly popular in Asia is dragon tiger. As asiabet.org explains, this is offered by many different casinos and has numerous incarnations, with the rules being eminently simple to master. Players new to this game will also find tips to help them get started. Beyond that, It can be played for free on-site or, alternatively, players can take advantage of one of the no-deposit bonuses listed.

This type of gaming has become so popular in the last few years that the Asian betting industry is expected to be worth $94.2 billion by 2027. When it comes to the most popular forms of entertainment in Asia, gaming has always ranked among them. However, the most widely played type of game has changed over the years, so that today, there are dozens of different options to choose from for those in search of some guaranteed fun. 

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