Microsoft has seen nine major releases since 1985. Over 36 years later, Windows looks very different but somehow familiar with elements that have survived the test of time including increases in computing power and a shift from the keyboard and mouse to touchscreen.
With each version of Windows released, Microsoft included different types of games for all types of players. There were puzzle games, pinball, and even classic card games. We’re looking back at all the games that have been included with previous versions of Windows.
Windows 1.0 was the first true attempt at a Graphical User Interface (GUI). This version relied heavily on the use of a mouse before the mouse was a common computer input device. To help users become more familiar with this new input system, Microsoft included a game, Reversi. Reversi relied on mouse control, not the keyboard — to get people used to moving the mouse around and clicking onscreen elements.
Windows 3 was released in 1990 and introduced the ability to run MS-DOS programmes in windows. This feature brought multitasking to legacy programmes and supported 256 colours bringing a more modern, colourful look to the interface.
The Microsoft Entertainment pack — released with Windows 3, was a collection of 16-bit games. These games were developed in house by Microsoft to show the gaming ability of Windows at a time when most games were being produced strictly for DOS.
This was also the first version of Windows to introduce the card game, and mouse-use trainer — Solitaire.
The next notable release of Windows was version 3.1. This was the first version to introduce TrueType fonts and required only 1MB of RAM to run. This is where Minesweeper made its first appearance, replacing Reversi which was first introduced.
In 1992, Windows for Workgroups 3.1 was released and included the card game Internet Hearts. The game was included to show off the networking capabilities of Windows 3.1, allowing players to play simultaneously across a computer network. A version of Hearts has been included with every major release of Windows since and was completely reprogrammed for Windows Vista.
Freecell was introduced throughout the NT versions of Windows as part of Microsoft’s Entertainment Pack Volume 2. FreeCell was bundled with the Win32s package that allowed 32-bit applications to run on the 16-bit Windows 3.1. Its purpose was to test the 32-bit data processing subsystem, which had been introduced as part of Win32s. If the data processing subsystem didn’t run correctly, FreeCell wouldn’t run.
3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet is a version of the Space Cadet table bundled with Microsoft Windows. With blinking lights and arcade sounds, it was originally packaged with Microsoft Plus! 95 and later included in Windows NT 4.0, ME, 2000, and Windows XP.
Windows 98 was the first version to introduce features that would become standard in future generations of Windows, such as Disk Cleanup, Windows Update, multi-monitor support, and Internet Connection Sharing.
Microsoft used Microsoft Hearts to showcase the new NetDDE technology by enabling multiple players to play simultaneously across a computer network. Hearts was released with Window 98. The original version called Internet Hearts was released with Windows 3.1 in 1992 and continued to be included in every release of Windows until Windows 7.
Spider Solitaire is known as Microsoft Spider Solitaire and was the most played game on Windows PC, surpassing the shorter, and less challenging game of Windows Solitaire.
Internet Backgammon, Internet Checkers, Internet Reversi and Internet Spades were all introduced with Windows ME. Windows Me was targeted specifically at home PC users and included Internet Explorer 5.5, Windows Media Player 7, and the new Windows Movie Maker software.
Windows Vista includes a Games folder (also known as the Games Explorer), which provides access to all installed games from a single location, thereby making it easy to manage multiple games.
Inkball was a game that was introduced in Windows XP Tablet PC Edition and Windows Vista except for the Starter and Home Basic Editions. Inkball wasn’t a very popular game and was removed when users updated from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7.
Purble Place was first introduced in Windows Vista. Purble Place was a suite of three games developed for Microsoft and was also included in Windows 7. Microsoft Mahjong was also introduced in Windows Vista, along with Chess Titans, Tinker and Hold ‘Em. Microsoft Mahjong and Chess Titans were the only two carried over to Windows 7. They were only available on the Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise editions.
The Microsoft Windows 7 operating system was originally released in several “editions” including Home Premium, Ultimate and Professional. The operating system includes games that are considered to be part of a compilation — not available elsewhere as stand-alone games.
In several cases, the games are repeated versions of those included with previous versions of Windows, but with upgrades to graphics, sound, and options similar to those in Windows Vista. Initially introduced in Vista, Purble Place is the only game aimed at children. Mahjong and Chess are included in Microsoft Windows Vista Business Edition.
All of the Internet games that were part of Windows XP (Backgammon, Checkers, and Spades) have been recreated. However, Hearts is an offline-only application, titled The Microsoft Hearts Network in XP.
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 were both released without any preloaded games like Chess Titans, Microsoft Mahjong, Purble Place, Minesweeper, FreeCell, Hearts, Spider Solitaire, and Solitaire because Microsoft wanted to promote their app store. These games were still available for free to the public however, they had to be downloaded using the Microsoft Store.
Microsoft has rebranded their games and brought out Microsoft Solitaire Collection under the Microsoft Casual Games brand. It combines the Solitaire, FreeCell, and Spider Solitaire titles that were included with previous versions of Windows. Pyramid and TriPeaks have also been introduced for the first time, as well as new daily challenges and themes.