The Three Most Played Solitaire Card Games in the World

Which Games Are They?

Solitaire card games played with a traditional deck of playing cards have existed for decades, going back as far as the 19th century. But there’s no doubt that the arrival of the personal computer into office spaces and homes has had an enormous impact in introducing these classic games of patience to the masses, and in popularizing them.

Arguably the single biggest reason for this is Microsoft. Microsoft first began packaging a simple version of Klondike Solitaire with their operating systems with Windows 3.0, which was the third major release of Microsoft Windows, and came out in 1990. At the time, desktop computers had only just become a staple in homes and work-places. Part of the rationale for including a solitaire card game was to assist new users in learning how to use a mouse, and to help them become familiar with features like dragging and dropping, and the overall graphical interface of a personal computer. As Microsoft continued delivering new versions of their Windows operating system in later years, a couple of other solitaire card games were added, notably Spider and FreeCell.

This development single-handedly revolutionized office-culture around the world. It’s a little known fact, but sources within Microsoft have stated that Solitaire is in fact the most used software program in the entire Microsoft family, even ahead of programs like Word and Excel. At the time, it even led to debates about whether introducing computers into the workplace would actually decreas productivity, due to real concerns that Microsoft Solitaire was leading to many hours of time wasted by employees.

What accounts for this tremendous success? First of all, digitizing what was already a popular game meant that it removed the practicalities and constraints involved in using a physical deck of cards. By eliminating the hassles of shuffling, dealing, and physically moving cards, and taking away the requirement for a reasonable amount of table space, all the book-keeping and tedious elements of the game were instantly eliminated. Now solitaire card games could be played much more quickly and easily.

Software versions also created new opportunities for the game that didn’t previously exist. Digital implementations made it possible to record percentages of wins, best times, and win streaks, all of which give additional incentives to return to the game. They also made possible forms of the game that – for logistical reasons – would be difficult or impossible to play in real life with a physical deck. Digital versions of solitaire were also easier to learn, given the enforced rules, automated layouts, and instructional tutorials that typically accompanied them. And of course, solitaire has an addictive quality about it, given the inherent challenge of trying to win from a deal. Being able to easily and quickly play a game of digital solitaire makes it a highly attractive time-filler. Despite the advent of flashier and more impressive games, people keep returning to the simplicity of dragging cards around for a quick five or ten minute fix of Solitaire.

But this also explains how the three most played solitaire card games in the world accomplished this status. As Microsoft Windows was slowly conquering the world and asserting its monopoly on the global market of operating systems and personal computers, their versions of solitaire were the ones that became firmly established into homes and offices. So we have Microsoft to thank for making Klondike the solitaire game that nearly all of us are familiar with. For many people, this is the game that they identify “Solitaire” with.

With Microsoft adding Spider and FreeCell in later years, these two games were quickly adopted and became beloved by solitaire fans as well, causing them to leapfrog many other classic solitaire games in popularity, and make them the most commonly played versions of solitaire behind the evergreen Klondike. With the release of Windows 8 in 2012, this trilogy of titles was rebranded under the name “Microsoft Solitaire Collection”, as part of an ad-supported freemium package that also included two new solitaire additions: Pyramid and TriPeaks.

While there are many other classic solitaire games that exist and are played around the world, in terms of the sheer number of games played, Microsoft’s holy trinity of Klondike, Spider, and FreeCell unquestionably reigns supreme. As proof of its success, Microsoft Solitaire was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2019, alongside other greats like Doom, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Super Mario Kart, World of Warcraft, and The Legend of Zelda. To get there, it had to meet criteria that included being widely known and remembered, having enduring popularity, and not only influencing other games but culture in general. It’s estimated that it has been installed on over a billion devices, localized in 65 different languages, and is considered to be instrumental in paving the way for the growth of the casual game market.

Of course today there are many more ways to enjoy these popular solitaire greats. Besides apps for your mobile device, all you need is a web browser, and sites like Solitaired.com enable you to play them for free online wherever you are in the world, as long as you have an internet connection. Besides dragging and dropping cards with the click of a mouse on your personal home or office computer, touch screens have only helped to increase the number of ways you can play solitaire, especially on mobile devices. So let’s take a closer look at the three most popular solitaire card games.

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