Solitaire has been a staple on PC almost since the invention of the PC, but there are other reasons to play than just pure conference call-related boredom! Solitaire games these days have stories involving wizards, monsters, zombies, romance, football, and giggling women who are incredibly turned on by your ability to match simple numbers and symbols.
I spent some time this week—far too much time—trying out a number of solitaire games I found in the Steam store. Below, I evaluate them in terms of story, gameplay, music, something I found weird about it, and how much room each game gave me to type in my name. Maybe that seems like an odd set of criteria with which to judge card games but when you've spend two solid days playing solitaire, then you can judge me.
Legends of Solitaire: Curse of the Dragons
The story: An ancient and nameless evil has awakened, which seems to happen so often in fantasy worlds I'm surprised it even makes the news. The kingdom cries out for a great hero to defeat the evil by traveling the realm and stopping regularly to play a bunch of solitaire. The story is related to us by a voice-over, in a somber tone reminiscent of someone narrating a nature documentary that's just reached the part where we find out the animals' natural habitat is being wiped out by the logging industry.
The game: It's not bad, really, it's just a little dull. The animation isn't great, the colors are a bit bland, the art is a bit cheap-looking, and things that should be at least mildly enjoyable, like using an axe to smash cards trapped in ice, ain't.
The music: Sort of generic fantasy-lite. It's not too distracting.
Enough room to enter my name of choice? No. I wanted to be 'Prince Chris' but there was only room for 'Prince Chr'. Maybe that's why the ancient evil went nameless.
A weird thing about it: There's a dragon (unseen) who sometimes sets a couple of your cards on fire, which is strange. You're a dragon, why not set all the cards on fire? Wait, no, forget the cards! You've spotted a hero squatting in the dirt playing solitaire, just set him on fire! Anyway, the cards eventually stop burning, no harm done, so maybe it's just a wimpy-ass dragon.
The story: In early 19th-century England, a young woman named Bella is smitten with the handsome and wealthy Lord Henry Worthington (swoon!) but her father wants her to marry not-handsome but still wealthy Mr. Bleakly (booo! hiss!) to whom dad is in debt. How will Bella catch Worthington's eye? By holding a fancy ball in her mansion. How will she accomplish that? By playing several hundred hands of solitaire.
The game: It's a really nice game. Expertly made, wonderful art, animation, and well-written characters especially considering this is a friggin' solitaire game. Playing cards earns Bella money to spend on her ballroom, for things like fancy furniture, new clothing and jewelry, and even a portrait of Henry to hang on the wall (though the last one frankly feels like coming on a bit too strong).
The music: Quite enjoyable! I didn't even turn it off.
Enough room to enter my name of choice? Nope. I wanted to be "The Duke of Christopher" but alas. It's going to be embarrassing when they announce me at the ball.
A weird thing about it: Bella is helped by several family members who want to protect her from the gross Mr. Bleakly (booo!). But instead of just giving her important items they hide them in decks of cards. Why would you do that? Just give her the damn pearl necklace! There's a lot at stake here, you buncha weirdos.
The chronicles of Emerland. Solitaire.
The story: A rock monster, perhaps of the ancient and nameless variety, comes out of the ground and laughs at you. A Gandalf-lookin' wizard takes you as a disciple but turns out not to be very Gandalf-like because he needs you to do everything for him, including picking up his lost playing cards even though they're not really lost, they're quite visibly just lying around his magic treehouse. An evil wizard named Seth (no, really) who sounds exactly like Gargamel from The Smurfs wants to destroy the world, and begins by sending a few caterpillars to eat the nice wizard's fancy tree (again, really). Only you can stop him, via solitaire.
Really: it's Seth, the evil caterpillar-dispensing wizard.
The game: It's a decent game, though a little unforgiving if you fail a hand. And when you fail, Seth's gross face always appears and mocks you. Seriously, Seth, you seem way too invested in my little card game.
The music: More generic fantasy. Lutes 'n flutes. You know the drill.
Enough room to enter my name of choice? I tried naming myself Card Playing Wizard Student but there's no spaces allowed and there wasn't enough room anyway.
A weird thing about it: I know that title above looks a little like I messed it up with the missed capitalization and the oddly place periods, but that's genuinely how it appears in the Steam store. It's 'The chronicles of Emerland. Solitaire.' That's weird!
The story: How is it that no one has ever captured Santa and forced him to build things more important than rocking horses, like homes for the poor or experimental military weapons? Because every year he abandons his workshop and builds a new one somewhere else, to throw the media/government/reddit off his trail. You need to help an elf build a new home for Santa, and your help will come in the form of playing cards by yourself.
The game: It's pretty okay, really! As you play you earn money to buy buildings for Santa's new compound. There's a building called "Elf Hut" where I presume the elves live. It's tiny, even for elves, and goes in the farthest corner of the screen. I think Santa is probably a terrible Elf Lord when you get right down to it.
The music: Generic and blaring Christmas music that really captures the "I'm stuck in an endless line at the shopping mall on December 24th" feeling.
Enough room to enter my name of choice? Not only is there more than enough room for my name, it's officially the most room for a name allowed in any game, ever. I just kept typing and typing and it let me, even though the text gets smaller and smaller so it fits. Point is, it fits! All of it! It's a Christmas miracle!
A weird thing about it: Cards glow when you hover over them, as in many solitaire games. But it happens when you hover over any card, not just the playable cards. That is weird! That is not helpful!
It's your lucky day! There are more solitaire games on the next page.