Gaming Windows

Celebrating 25 Years of Microsoft Solitaire: The History, Rules & a Tournament

Matthew Hughes 22-05-2015

If I was to ask you to think of a timeless computer game, what immediately springs to mind? Perhaps the ultra-violent Doom Paint The Walls Red Like It's 1993 With Brutal Doom [MUO Gaming] In December 1993 a little-known game developer called id Software sent shockwaves around the world with the much-celebrated release of Doom. Released as shareware and distributed non-commercially for two years, Doom was experienced by an... Read More , or Age of Empires, or even Tomb Raider?


How about Microsoft Solitaire?

Solitaire – the preserve of procrastinating office workers and bored housewives – is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Microsoft is commemorating it by bringing an updated version of the game to Windows 10, and a no-holds-barred group tournament.

It’s an iconic game; one that’s shipped on hundreds of millions of computers, with billions of games played. But why has Solitaire been so successful, and how did it start out?

The History Of Solitaire

Cast your mind back to 1989.

Microsoft was about to release Windows 3.0; this was a radical (for the time) change in the way operating systems were designed, with a richer, more colorful graphical interface, and a reduced emphasis on the MSDOS prompt.


It was released during a time when few had a computer in their home, and the idea of using a computer through a graphical interface was novel and dangerous.

3.0 would be an phenomenal success for Microsoft, and cement their position as market leader, but it had to overcome one major hurdle first.

At the time, relatively few people knew how to use a keyboard and mouse in tandem, within the context of a graphically oriented computer system. Things now taken for granted, like dragging and dropping a file, were alien for many.



So, Microsoft, with the help of an intern called Wes Cherry, developed a basic card game that would ship with every copy of Windows 3.0, and every copy of Windows to ship since (minus Windows 8) 8 Features Missing in Windows 8 and How to Get Them Back Microsoft removed a variety of features from Windows 8. Many of them aren't great losses to most people, but they are if you depended on them. Luckily, Windows 8 isn't yet a locked-down mobile operating... Read More .

That game was Solitaire, and ostensibly it was to train office workers how to cope with the shape of computers to come. But in reality, rather than being a training tool, it became the ultimate tool for procrastination and time wasting How This MakeUseOf Writer Procrastinates In 8 Easy Steps As you may know, MakeUseOf isn't staffed by robots that churn out articles daily through an automatic system. All of us have our own methods of getting down to the writing. Since I'm not a... Read More , and one that will once again ship with the latest version of Windows – Windows 10.

The version of Solitaire that shipped with Windows 7 was controversial, with some choosing to port over the older version from Windows XP Replace The Terrible Windows 7 Games With The Classic XP Ones Ditch the shiny and slow. Get old-fashioned but familiar Windows XP games working on your Windows 7 computer. They're ugly, but they work the way you're wired. Solitaire, Minesweeper, Hearts and Spider Solitaire remain a... Read More rather than use the newer one.

The Rules

Solitaire is a paradox. Firstly, the card game itself isn’t called Solitaire; it’s called Klondike, and is one of the many card games in the Soltaire family. It’s also deceptively hard, despite being ostensibly simple to play.


A standard 54 card deck is shuffled, and the two jokers are removed, leaving 52 cards remaining. 28 cards are then removed, which are then divided into seven piles of cards. The first pile will have one card, the second pile will have two cards, and so on, until the seventh pile has seven cards.


There are then four “foundations” above the piles of cards. These allow the player to store stacks of cards that are of the same suit, thus making it possible to complete the end-goal, which is to build a stack of cards that ranges from 2 to king.

As the name suggests, Klondike Solitaire is played with only one player. But with over 7,000 trillion possible hands, it can certainly offer enough variety to keep you guessing. Not every hand dealt is winnable, and it’s possible to make a mistake at any point that can transform a game from theoretically winnable, to impossible to win.


The simplicity of its rules, and the fact that no two games are the same, has lead to it being enduringly popular, and now this iconic game has reached a major milestone.

Solitaire at 25

Microsoft, not one to shy away from a grandiose celebration, is commemorating this particular anniversary in style.

Firstly, they’ve announced that Solitaire will be returning to Windows 10 as part of their default install. Solitaire has, of course, been a part of every Windows, with the exception of Windows 8 as a downloadable extra. Also joining Solitaire as part of Windows 10’s default games collection is Candy Crush Saga.

They’re also going to challenge your Solitaire skills, in a card-game battle royale, taking place in June.


In the run-up to the public tournament in June, Microsoft has been hosting an internal Solitaire contest among its employees. That competition has been taking place over the past few days, and the same challenges the Microsoft staff have faced will be put to the public in June.

Microsoft have been pretty hush on the specifics, and as Peter Bright writing for Ars Technica put it, it’s not obvious how they’d be able to turn a single-player, randomized game where only 80% of all games are theoretically winnable into a competitive tournament.

How Do I Take Part?

Taking part is easy. Just download the Microsoft Solitaire Collection for Windows Phone or Windows.


Details of the tournament will be announced later this month, so keep an eye out on Microsoft’s Blogging Windows site.

And if you’re desperate to play the original How to Run Really Old Software on a 64-Bit PC: 6 Methods Windows reverse compatibility is fading with every advance. Here's how you can run 16-bit programs on your 64-bit Windows. Read More Windows 3.0 version of Solitaire on your modern computer, Justin Pot has you covered.

What’s Your Strategy?

Solitaire is notoriously unpredictable and the multi-player games are fast-paced.

Will you be joining the tournament? Do you have a winning strategy? I want to hear about it. Drop me a comment below, and we’ll chat.

Photo Credits: Solitaire (Roger H. Goun),  Excel for Windows 3.0 (Microsoft Sweden)Ace of Spades Card Deck Trick (Stephen DePolo)Playing Cards (SamCat) 

Related topics: Retro Gaming, Windows.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. John Williams
    February 8, 2016 at 5:33 am

    Great web site Mat. I would like the XP version of Free Cell and you are the only one to give good info on this. Thanks.

  2. sl0j0n
    May 24, 2015 at 11:35 am

    Hello, all.
    Love this article, but I couldn't find a download link at the "Microsoft Solitaire Collection" .
    BTW, since I've been 'disabled,' I'm up to 51% win ratio on Win 7 HP.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 27, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hey! It's the first few link after the "How Do I Take Part" section!

  3. suzybel
    May 23, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I still play Solitaire on my desktop, Microsoft Solitaire Collection. I started playing with Windows 95 when I had dial up while I waited for a page to load or download a picture. Still my favourite game, I never get sick of it.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 27, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Ha, same. It was one of the few games I could play on my P1 133MHZ with 24MBs of RAM in 1998.

  4. Laura
    May 23, 2015 at 5:53 am

    I looked but says it is only for Windows 8. You may have written that, I'm a skim reader, so I missed it.

    I remember playing solitaire on an IBM PC in the 1980's. :) That was DOS running WordStar. MS Windows wasn't around right away. But there were so many great little games by the mid 1980's. My favourite was a Tetris knockoff I could play on the office PC when I had a break.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 27, 2015 at 10:28 am

      Oh wow! You've played a lot of solitaire over the years, eh?

  5. dragonmouth
    May 22, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    You do realize that Microsoft did not invent Klondike or Minesweeper. Neither were they the first computer company to offer Solitaire, Apple offered it in 1984, six years before MS did. Solitaire games date back to mid-1700s. Minesweeper dates back to the mainframes of the 1960s.

    • Matthew Hughes
      May 22, 2015 at 11:09 pm

      Did I say they did?

    • dragonmouth
      May 23, 2015 at 12:46 am

      That's the impression I got from the article. Sorry if I misinterpreted what you wrote.