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The original Microsoft Windows games: ranked in order of how much they make you want to rip your own head off

Minesweeper, Solitaire, Freecell and all the classics

The original Microsoft Windows games: ranked in order of how much they make you want to rip your own head off
11 September 2018

Oh man, nostalgia, eh? Strong old emotion, that. Really gets in the blood, properly squeezes that gut, punches the heart, makes the finger click on the mouse. Yep, this is the internet, everyone, and I’m about to start talking about something from the past, and you, mate, are going to LOVE IT.

You remember the first time you got a PC, and had a little play on one of the pre-loaded games, don’t ya? Had a swift whizz on Solitaire? A quick flutter with Minesweeper? What fun they were, those games - what a great way to spend a bit of down-time.

OR NOT. Or absolutely not, or red-faced, neck-bulging, blood-vessel-splitting, screaming (just absolutely screaming) not. These simple games, designed to be fun (as well as teach us how to use computers), were decidedly on the other end of the fury scale. The bad end.

“But it was just a dumb 2D card game!” you hoot. Ostensibly, yes, but it ate into your time just as much as any Champ Manager quest would so many years later. So let’s show them a bit of respect, eh, and have a deep look at each one, whilst also ranking them on their propensity to cause an eyeball to dislodge, mid-scream.

From least to most stressful, here they are:

11. Hearts

I never understood Hearts, but I found very early on that if you just rapidly clicked the deal button over and over again then you… just won? I never… lost? Would still play it though - just see how fast I could click until everything was over. I think I was… winning it? Still, nice to win, isn’t it, and I was, so this was the most pleasing of all the games.

10. Freecell

Obviously, to begin with, when it came to cards, I was a Solitaire man - why wouldn’t I be? Everyone was. But hey, you, let me tell you this: once you discover the true wonders of Freecell, you have never lived. It’s actually another version of Solitaire, didn’t you know, only in this case, nearly every combination is winnable. And who doesn’t like winning? Everyone! Everyone likes winning! (see above)

If there’s one problem with Freecell, it’s that there’s no pay-off. If you won, you just got a stupid pixelated King sitting in the corner mugging you off - no fun waterfall of cards, no exciting message, just a poxy “Congratulations, you win! Do you want to play again?”. Of course I do, but at least give me a goddamn card-cascade before you ask.

9. Taipei

This was a relatively easy game in the grand scheme of things - match up the pretty tiles, clicky-clicky, winny-winny. It’s a fun game of observation, and you can take as long as you want with it, there’s no pressure. Until of course you reach the last few tiles and you realise: I cannot win this, I cannot complete this game - I have done myself a disservice and I must repent in some way. Like, maybe just throb one temple until your eye goes bloodshot or something. Yes, very very frustrating, but not the end of the world. Simply reload, and enjoy matchy-matchy, clicky-clicky, hopefully winny-winny.

8. Minesweeper

This game is literally about mines, which isn’t exactly calming or “fun” as a subject or notion, but once you get the hang of the definitely-not-actually-dangerous game featuring make-believe mines, then it has the capacity to be a worthwhile investment of your time.

At first, when you do not know the rules and you, as a small child, strongly believe it is all based on luck, thereby preventing you from winning in almost any circumstance, then it invited stress of the highest velocity. The sheer brazen bloody-mindedness that the makers possessed to make a game that is impossible to complete lest you are The Luckiest Man In History, well, that warrants a screaming table-flipping.

But then you get older, and you actually look up the rules through two glazed waterfalls of tears, and then you realise: oh, it’s an actual game, with skill involved. Oh. Oh, I can play this and it’s actually quite fun, quite soothing, nice to play. Yeah, that’s it. Until of course you hit a mine and the laptop goes in the fireplace.

7. Pinball

Pinball in real life is horrible and shit and each and every pinball machine should be put into one of those machines that crushes cars into cubes, so that I can fire them into a landfill site, where they will continue to pollute the earth, just in a far less directly personal way for me. They are bad because you have to pay money for them, there is no end game and they are hard because normally when you play them, you have had “a few” drinks.

However, on a computer, the stakes are far lower - it is free, you are not normally “rat-arsed” and the whole affair requires less physical effort on the whole; you sweat less, basically. Also, the balls are unlimited on Windows - you can just keep playing and playing, forever and ever, until you are a missing person. It’s great!

6. Chip’s Challenge

Consider this piece of music:

Nice, fun, happy, upbeat stuff, ain’t it? Cute little ditty to accompany a fun puzzle-solving game, no? Yes, it is. It is, until, as the game wears on, and gets harder and harder, that lovely ditzy tune begins to grate, to gnaw away at the insides of your skull, to BANG BANG BANG on your forehead, to NEVER CEASE, to prod, to jeer, to mock. 

It is the single worst piece of music ever written, and I hate it with a power not seen on the surface of this earth - it is unexplainable by science how much I hate this godforsaken collection of notes that exists solely to goad me into the world’s first spontaneous head explosion.

Then, if you lose the game, you hear this:

And there it is: the medical community are stunned into silence. They found him in front of his family computer. A boy who heard “BUMMER” and his brain swelled to such a size and in such a short time that his cranium detonated. 

At the funeral, only:

5. Rodent’s Revenge

Revenge is an immensely exhilarating emotion - getting one over those who have wronged you is unrivaled in the satisfaction stakes. As such, taking the role of a rodent, and getting revenge on cats, well that should bring with it an immense feeling of gratification. Thing is, when revenge is this hard, it’s not so appealing.

The aim of Rodent’s Revenge was to trap the cats by blocking them behind walls, where they would change into cheese, that you could then eat. This is fine for the first couple of levels but then it all gets extremely difficult and hard and frustrating and there ARE MORE CATS AND YOU CAN’T TRAP THEM AND THEY DON’T TURN INTO CHEESE AND THERE ARE MOUSE TRAPS AND THIS RODENT DOES NOT GET REVENGE.

This of course means that this game is entirely unconducive to keeping your left eyeball in its socket. I do not like this game and also I believe that it was giving the false impression to kids that cats turn into cheese when you trap them. Nonsense.

4. Pipe Dream

Any sort of game with a time-limit is shit. It sucks all the fun out of what could be a very relaxing and enjoyable puzzle game. Stick a ticking clock into the mix and what was once an amusing time-waster is now an impossibly urgent and terrifying battle for survival that I want nothing to do with. It is anxiety in a digitally-rendered box.

Because look, this game could be fun - it’s a simple puzzle that shouldn’t take too much time out of your day, or utilise too many brain cells, but then, THEN, the green goo is released and your ability to think on your feet is whipped from your skull and catapulted into the wasteland - you are suddenly an incapable moron and hey, guess what, this is what a heart attack feels like.

3. JezzBall

Jezzball also has a time-limit on it, so is therefore bad. But regardless, even without one, it would be bad. Here’s why:

1. You’ve got to separate the balls

2. You can’t separate the balls

Real hard, is Jezzball - particularly as it nicely sets you up with a comfy and definitely false sense of security. The first level is so easy! This is pipsqueak!

But then look how horrible this is:

That is horrendous, that, and it’s only level SEVEN! I couldn’t even watch all of that, let alone play it. I hate this game so much. It’s given me a full body hemorrhage. A soul hemorrhage. This is - I think - what Hell looks like.

2. SkiFree

I love SkiFree, because it’s very easy. It’s just skiing down a mountain doing tricks - just a barrel of laughs through-and-through. So why is it so high up on this list? Because, my mates, once you get 2000m down the slope, a heart-stoppingly terrifying monster starts to chase you, and guess what? It’s impossible to get away from it. It will eat you.

What a way to undo all your hard work - all that fun you had on that there slalom, it’s over now, because the monster has eaten you, and you are dead. Also, can’t enjoy playing it ever again now, because the entire time you know that there’s a hellish monster just getting ready to murder you. It is no longer fun, the anticipation is too much, and it becomes merely an existential, inevitable downhill plummet to your unavoidable and violent death. Not really what you want from a computer game, really. 

1. Solitaire

Two Solitaire-based anecdotes for you here:

1. I was once playing it as a child, and my mum called from downstairs saying that dinner was ready, but I hadn’t yet completed a game that session, and so was unable to go downstairs until I had. As such, I desperately tried to finish one, but as I was rushing, I couldn’t, and I began to cry. My dinner went cold. I got in trouble. The stupid game made me cry.

2. In my first job, I used to play Solitaire on the office computer at lunchtime. I once took a Thursday off work, and at the very time I would have been playing the game that day, the ceiling collapsed and the sewage pipe sprayed urine and faeces onto the desk, computer and chair where I would have been sitting. I have now unavoidably created a lifelong association between this game and real actual human turds. 1/10.

Regardless, this game remained an obsession and the after-effects are still present - I still regularly have dreams that are just games of Solitaire, for example. This is a dangerous game, it made me cry, and although it is physically impossible for a digital game to carry with it a stench, this one absolutely does. I hate it.

I love it and I can’t wait to play it until I cry when I get home, I mean.

(Images: Microsoft/Getty)