Unique Solitaire Games for Your iPhone

A New Deal

Video games have never failed to offer a solitary style of play for those who prefer it - but before the days of digital entertainment, lonely gamers had few places to turn. With no Mario or Sonic to keep them company, gaming in isolation before the 1980's almost always meant pulling out a deck of 52 cards. It meant solitaire.

Whether you prefer Klondike or Spider, official rules or regional variations, solitaire is a game that seemingly everyone has learned to play. Even if you've never enjoyed it with a physical deck of cards, the free version that was bundled with Windows (from 3.0 through Windows 7) helped even non-gamers distract themselves from responsibilities at work and school for more than two decades.

But classic, traditional solitaire isn't the only way to enjoy a deck of cards by yourself.

The App Store is cluttered with humdrum releases of the same standard solitaire that people have played for centuries. It's time to shake things up. These six solitaire games for the iPhone offer up something delightfully different.

Sage Solitaire
Zach Gage

Created by Zach Gage (SpellTower, #fortune), Sage Solitaire offers a very clever mix of Poker and Klondike Solitaire. Players are presented with a 3x3 grid, creating 9 different stacks of cards that players need to attempt to clear. To do so, players will form poker hands based on the nine cards they can see.

In addition to clearing all of the cards from the board, players will be trying to top their past high scores, making the quality of the poker hands they create just as important as the quantity. If you can create a full house for 70 points, that's a better move than cleaning a three-card straight for 20 points... unless doing so locks up your ability to make another hand, so you'll need to choose your cards wisely.

Sage Solitaire offers a variety of modes to keep players on their toes, instant accessibility (if you don't know your poker hands, the game will gladly teach you), and just enough depth to really put your mind to work. More »

Pair Solitaire
Vitalii Zlotskii

Pair Solitaire is based on a premise so simple, you'll be amazed that nobody had thought of it before. Shuffling a standard 52-card deck, the game lays out every card side-by-side, and asks you to find matching pairs of value and / or suits.

The catch? You can only remove one of the matching cards from play.

The matches you'll make are also constrained to a very small selection of cards. The cards you match must have a single card between them. For example, if you had cards lined up like this: 2♠, Q♥, Q♠, 7♣, Q♣, you could match the  2♠ and Q♠ by suit or the Q♠ and Q♣ by face value. You couldn't match the Q♥ and Q♠, because the weren't separated by one card.

It's a game that's incredibly simple to understand, but the forethought required to master it is exceptional. Your objective is to clear all of the cards from the game, and to so do you'll need to think many moves in advance. "If I remove this card in match A, it will make match B possible, which can lead to match C and match D." 

Winning is possible, though highly improbable. But with enough practice, you'll get close - and you'll feel pretty smart in the process. More »

card crawl
Arnold Rauers

If you're the adventurous type who enjoys games with sword and shields as much as those with spades and clubs, Card Crawl offers an RPG-style twist on solitaire that's unlike anything you've played before.

Players "compete" against a deck of 54 cards in an effort to clear a dungeon. Different cards will represent different RPG-style elements like equipment, treasure, and monsters. Using 8 spots on the table, players will have the ability to equip items, track their hero's stats, store an extra item in their backpack, and do battle with monsters.

Most components in the game are represented by a card suit, and their strength is determined by a card's face value. So a player may equip a sword (spades) with a strength of 3 and a shield (clubs) with a value of 5. Using these items will reduce their value or remove them from play, so you'll need to make some quick math choices to figure out they best possible play with the cards in front of you.

In addition to what we've mentioned so far, there are also ability cards that will trigger one-time effects and coins that will help determine your score. For fans of dungeon crawling who love a dash of strategy (and can't get enough of card games), Card Crawl is a solitaire game that should scratch an otherwise impossible orc-sized itch. More »

Fairway Solitaire Blast
Big Fish Games

While it has clear roots in traditional solitaire, Fairway Solitaire Blast is the sort of game that could only exist in a digital space. 

Far from the first game to bare the Fairway Solitaire title, Fairway Solitaire Blast is the most recent release in the popular franchise from Big Fish Games (and the first to be designed exclusively for mobile gamers). The style of solitaire in Fairway Solitaire closely resembles Tri-Peaks, a game in which players are given three towers (or peaks) of cards, and need to clear all of them away by matching sequential numbers that are unencumbered by other cards. In other words, if you have a 6, you'll need to match it to a 5 or a 7 that's face up with no other cards on top of it.

Chaining together matches is key, because if there are no visible matches, you'll need to draw a card from your deck - and there are only so many cards before the deck runs dry and the game is over.

Fairway Solitaire Blast takes this familiar formula and tweaks it by creating seemingly infinite layouts for cards (why stick with the standard peak formation?), and giving you a large deck -- but challenging you to make it last across three different puzzles (or "strokes," because there's a golf theme at play here).

Where things really get different, though, is in the game's "critter" cards and power-ups. Players will be able to trigger special bonuses like the Wormburner (a worm that streaks across the screen and lights fire to every card that crosses its path), or the Explosive Shot (a golf ball that explodes an area of cards, clearing them off the board).

Adding to the challenge are other appropriately golf-themed perks and challenges, from water traps and sand traps to wedges and mulligans. The series mascot is even a gopher, which gives the whole experience a decidedly Caddyshack feel. And who doesn't love Caddyshack? More »

Solitaire Blitz
PopCap Games

If you're looking for something with a similar Tri-Peaks feel, but with a focus on speed over complexity, PopCap's Solitaire Blitz: Lost Treasures is well worth a download. The game still tasks you with clearing a screen full of cards, but this time you'll have up to three card slots to draw from when doing it.

Technically that description should read the other way around, as Solitaire Blitz turns the Tri-Peaks formula on its head and tasks players to draw cards from the board rather than from the deck - but in practice the experience is virtually identical. The trick here is that, by giving players the chance to unlock up to three cards to play from rather than just one, they'll have the opportunity to move through the cards on the board at a lightning fast speed. And with "Blitz" in the title, you'd better believe that's the goal.

Completing stages in the allotted time will give players a chance to progress, as well as award them with undersea treasures, which in turn gives them a boost of game currency. They can spend this between rounds on perks that do everything from add cards to your deck to drop explosive depth charges to obliterate some of the cards on your behalf. And when every second counts, you'll be very glad to get any advantage you can. More »

Churchill Solitaire
WSC Solitaire

While we primarily remember him as the Prime Minister that saw England through the Second World War, Winston Churchill accomplished a great many things in his life. He was a charismatic speaker, penned the epic four-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples, and - most surprisingly - created a unique variation on solitaire that lives on to this day largely thanks to the involvement of former Secratary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

As the story goes (so far as the Churchill Solitaire app tells it), Churchill invented the game because he found traditional solitaire to be lacking in challenge. During the Second World War, he taught the game to a Belgian diplomat who was living in exile in London. That diplomat passed his knowledge of the game on to a young Donald Rumsfeld in 1973, who was then the American ambassador to NATO. For the last 43 years, knowledge of the game has lived seemingly exclusively with Rumsfeld, who in turn partnered with mobile game developers (and gained the approval of the Churchill family) to develop the Churchill Solitaire app.

So what makes Churchill Solitaire so special? In short, this is the most difficult, challenging, and thoughtful game of solitaire you're likely to come across.

Using traditional Klondike Solitaire as a base (that's Windows Solitaire to you digital types), Churchill Solitaire doubles the numbers of cards, tasking players to tackle 104 cards in 10 rows. The objective is to uncover all eight Aces and place them in a special slot, completing full suit sets (A, 2, 3, etc.. all the way to king) for all eight Aces. To do so you'll complete a variation on Klondike play in the 10 rows below. The biggest twist is that, when you run out of moves, new cards are drawn and played at the bottom of the rows, meaning you'll barricade many of the runs you've been building.

Churchill Solitaire further throws a curveball your way with "The Devil's 6," a selection of six cards that sit at the top of the board and can only be played to the piles of Aces; never to the board below.

If you think you've mastered regular Solitaire, Churchill Solitaire is here to make you feel like a Private storming the beaches of Normandy on his first day. As Churchill himself once said, "Victory at all costs." More »

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