Tetris may have pioneered the puzzle genre and gone on to spawn countless clones and remakes, but there's one puzzle game that's arguably even more successful: Microsoft's timeless brainbending classic, Minesweeper. A favorite among bored office workers and grade school students, the tiny program has entertained the truly desperate for nearly twenty years.

   Minesweeper's concept is simple, but undeniably unique. A certain number of mines are hidden beneath a grid. With the game clock steadily ticking, players must make dangerous click after dangerous click to try to determine the layout of the mines, where to click next, and just what that damn question mark is for anyway. It's one of those addictive concepts that takes a minute to learn, but five minutes to master.

   Metroid is frequently crediting for pioneering the concept of a "best ending" available only by beating the game quickly. Minesweeper, however, pioneered that concept years before Metroid's release -- Minesweeper masters can race the clock to see the coveted Secret Ending, in which the player's name is enshrined in the high scores list. Sadly, due to the game's age, no Internet ranking mode is included -- but if the proposed DVD re-release, Minesweeper: Criterion Collector's Edition, ever gets off the ground, expect this feature to be included.

The gritty "film noir" look of the black-and-white mode

   And as with any good puzzle game, Minesweeper offers a host of extra options. Players can select from three different difficulty levels, and even design their own custom grid sizes. A secret black-and-white mode can also be accessed by unchecking the "Colors" option in the Game menu.

   Minesweeper's enduring popularity nineteen years after its original release is a testament to its easily-minimized screen and inclusion with every copy of Windows. While Solitaire may still be a more recognizable name in the mass market, devoted fans of desktop games know that Minesweeper is the true classic; a perfect blend of addictive puzzling action and cute smiley face icons. If you've never given this masterpiece a try, it just may be worth buying Windows to experience.

Retrospective by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Developer Microsoft
Publisher Microsoft
Genre Puzzle
Medium Executable file (24 kb)
Platform Windows
Release Date  1981
Minesweeper FAQ
45 screen shots
8 character designs / 3 scenes