screenshot of solitaire game

Microsoft’s Solitaire Continues To Be the Soul-Soothing Solution for Boredom

The 32nd anniversary of the beloved game is a celebrated milestone by all gamers, old and new — so what makes the card game revered after all this time?
June 1, 2022
8 mins read

What is your go-to activity when you get distracted? Maybe you’re reading this now to either take a break from your current project, or you’re making a feeble and failing attempt to suppress your boredom. The cycle of work and boredom has grown especially tricky in a world where most of our activities are either online, or require extensive pre-planning to make them come to life. But when everything is so quiet that you can hear the tick, tick, ticking of the second hand on the clock, how do you fill that gap?

For some, curing boredom is as simple as turning to their favorite hobby to keep busy. For others, satisfying the boredom hours is as easy as making a few mouse clicks and starting a game of Solitaire online. Microsoft’s virtual Solitaire card game has conquered hours of boredom, and recently accomplished an impressive feat that could put any new game to shame. Their 32nd-anniversary milestone is a testament to the program’s iconic gameplay that spans decades and desktops.

Microsoft’s Solitaire was introduced to the world in 1990. Called “Windows Solitaire” at the time, this first version of the game was included in a package with the Windows 3.0 software to familiarize users with the mouse. While those dial-up days feel far from today’s web-centric world, the game’s clicking motions helped users get their first taste of what was once “new” tech. Surprisingly, the simple dragging and clicking of each virtual card was enough to prevent boredom and capture attention for years to follow: According to Windows, Microsoft’s Solitaire “is the most played video game of all time.” Who knew that simply placing cards in number order could satisfy so many?

If anything, it was the simplicity of the Solitaire game that granted it its timelessness. This past April, a Vox article reflected on the game’s 32nd anniversary in May, reviving the Solitaire conversation thought to be long gone. Although the game eventually lost its status as the preeminent time-filling fad, that didn’t mean that anyone stopped playing altogether. As the article suggested, the milestone shows that the easy-to-learn game of Solitaire — more specifically, the style of the solitaire card game known as “Klondike” — kept fans intrigued year after year. The Vox author shed light on what this Microsoft milestone meant to them; they reflected on playing the game in 2022 as meeting “a familiar old friend I hadn’t thought about in ages.” The hit of nostalgia for those pre-2020s days comes flooding back with each round of Solitaire, while also feeling entirely fun and renewed.

Microsoft Solitaire’s 32nd anniversary is not the game’s first milestone either. In 2019, the game was officially inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame. While its beloved ability to “quell that boredom” cemented its place in gaming posterity, the Microsoft Solitaire’s celebration didn’t stop there. In 2020, with the game’s 30th anniversary, Microsoft revealed that over 35 million people log on to play their Solitaire game each month. The acknowledgments that Microsoft is gaining for their game in 2022 seem to wrap all these accomplishments into a nostalgia-packed statement for a game of one’s past.

With all this love for a virtual version of a card game, what makes Solitaire so much fun to click through? For one thing, the card-matching puzzle has remained a staple in the gaming catalog for its decades-spanning accessibility. No matter if someone is an experienced player or a first-timer, the “simple rules and straightforward gameplay” allow everyone to get in on the Solitaire action. Sitting at one’s computer to manually stack the 52-card deck also echoes the humble, man-and-machine beginnings that brought Microsoft’s Solitaire to screens everywhere.

Ever since the first version of the game was developed in 1988 by intern Wes Cherry, Solitaire has made single-player gaming an amusing sight in the hour of boredom. After all, the all-encompassing name, “Solitaire,” simply refers to the fact that the game is played by one’s lonesome. To entertain oneself with ease, comfort and familiarity: These qualities mark Solitaire as one of the most familiar things about card games — both on the table and online.

While there’s definitely substance in new games released for gaming consoles, phone apps and even browsers, the click-and-stack format welcomes every player to the game table. You don’t need fancy equipment or prior knowledge of storylines to play this virtual Solitaire either. Thankfully, for those who need a quick-fix distraction, these internet card games are tailored to those who love the single-player lifestyle. It’s these little bursts of fun that break up the daily grind and supply a feel-good satisfaction with just a shuffle of the deck.

After 32 years on the market, Microsoft’s Solitaire has also undergone some changes for the 2022 player. The original game is all grown up in the reinvented Microsoft Solitaire Collection. Complete with the original Klondike game, the expanded collection includes new Solitaire card modes like Spider and Pyramid.  However, if you can level-up through the tricky suites, be prepared for ads to be your next opponent; the free version is peppered with ads galore. Regardless of the introduction of ads to the game, it’s even more impressive that you don’t need to purchase a Windows device or Microsoft software to play a version of their virtual solitaire: There are playable versions of the suite online for whenever the desire to play comes on.

It’s no secret that the last few years have brought pivots and pitfalls for everyone. And for some, taking a breather through these changes requires adding an easy, stress-free hobby into their daily routine. Games like Microsoft’s Solitaire slide in to fill this need whenever the itch strikes. Returning to the Vox article that started the conversation, the author wistfully closed their review of Microsoft’s anniversary with the note that playing their Solitaire game “might be the closest one can come to going offline while staying glued to a screen.” The easy format and predictability are especially comforting, whether your brain break lasts 10 minutes or 10 hours. Even if this kind of break isn’t as active as making a snack or taking a walk in the park, playing a speedy round of Solitaire is just as soul-soothing.

Now that nearly everyone has a tech device at their disposal, it’s faster to click on a web link for Solitaire than to set up a physical deck of cards. After all, “Almost any site or app is going to offer you an enjoyable, quick hand of cards.” But Solitaire from the Microsoft company has something other card games do not: Its reputation as one of the first “web games” to gain popularity on the market has made it timeless amid decades of games. The excitement for new games will always arise, but there’s nothing quite like returning to a familiar sight. And at the very least, nothing can stop Microsoft’s momentum from recognizing these intimate relationships with Solitaire and keeping the game going. With all the time in the world, there’s always a moment to spare for another round.


Joy Young, Chapman University

Writer Profile

Joy Young

Chapman University
English Literature

Constantly searching for new inspiration, Joy strives to stay curious and expressive. Fueled by coffee and creation, she’s passionate about finding ways to write it down and share it around.

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