History of Mahjong Solitaire

Mahjong Solitaire takes its roots in a tile-based board game "Mahjong" created in China during the Qing dynasty, the 19th century. The original game is usually played by 4 players using special mahjong tiles with engraved images. Mahjong Solitaire, however, is a completely different game and is played solo.

Mahjong Solitaire is a computer puzzle game that uses Mahjong tiles. It was first developed and designed by Brodie Lockard in 1981 for the PLATO computer system and was named Mah-Jongg. PLATO was the first computer-assisted instruction system built by the University of Illinois and used mostly for educational purposes.

Mahjong Solitaire for PLATO system - excerpt from the book "The Friendly Orange Glow".

The game received widespread popularity in 1986 following the release of Shanghai Mahjong published by Activision for Atari ST, Macintosh, and many other popular platforms at that time. The Macintosh version was developed by Brodie Lockard. The game quickly became popular and sold over 10 million copies.

Shanghai Game cover and gameplay screenshot on Atari system.

Since then, hundreds of clones and newer versions of Shanghai have been made. To this day, the name "Shanghai" is trademarked by Activision, so game authors had to be creative and name their games anything but that. This has created a lot of confusion as to what the correct name for the game is. Popular variations include "Mahjongg", "Mah-jongg", "Taipei", "Kyodai", "Shanghai Solitaire", and "Mahjong Solitaire".

The game had its second popularity hit with the advent of personal computers and the Windows operating system. The version of the game was included in Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows 3.x in 1990 and was named Taipei.

Screenshot of Taipei Mahjong Solitaire for Windows.

Fast forward to the 21st century and the game is still one of the most popular casual games enjoyed by millions of players worldwide with hundreds of different versions of Mahjong Solitaire available online. The game grew into a whole new genre, with some games adding unique features or totally different gameplay. Some games allow the user to set their own backgrounds, tile images, or even create own layout sets. See the Variations page to get familiar with different types of mahjong solitaire games.

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