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History of Minesweeper: 20 Things To Know (Origins, Microsoft,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Since its digital release with Microsoft Windows in 1990, Minesweeper has become a staple of home and office computers globally. However, some interesting historical facts surround this simple yet challenging puzzle game. 

Microsoft Minesweeper was developed for OS/2 by Curt Johnson in 1990. Upon its completion, Robert Donner, another Microsoft employee, was responsible for porting Minesweeper as part of the Microsoft Windows Entertainment Pack 1. The success of Minesweeper led to clones and tournaments in the 21st century. 

To find out more about Minesweeper, the following is a list of the 20 things you need to know about the history of Minesweeper:

1. Minesweeper Can Be Dated Back To Mainframe Games 

Before the development of Minesweeper, the developers were heavily influenced by the early mainframe games of the 1960s and 1970s. These early mainframe games influenced Mined-Out, which was believed to be a leading influence on Minesweeper upon its development and publication in 1983. 

2. Minesweeper’s Predecessor Was Made In Six Months 

Ian Andrew developed Mined-Out in 1983. Due to the two-color limitation of Ian Andrew’s Sinclair Spectrum, he believed the best genre of game to develop was a grid-based puzzle game. 

The development of Mined-Out took Ian Andrew six months to complete, whereafter Quicksilva published it.

3. Ian Andrew Had A Long History With Game Development 

Despite Ian Andrew only being 24 years of age at the time of Mined-Out’s development and that video game design and development was in its infancy during the 1980s, Ian Andrew had an established history with games before Mined-Out. 

This is because; Ian Andrew was involved in the development, design, and manufacture of traditional games like Pinball in his free time. Hence his passion and drive for game development and design.

4. Ian Andrew Didn’t Know Of Minesweeper’s Development

Although there are numerous similarities between Mined-Out and Minesweeper which suggests that Mined-Out’s success was a clear influence during Minesweeper’s development in the 1990s, Ian Andrew was not aware of Minesweeper’s development

“When I saw Minesweeper, I [Ian Andrew] absolutely thought that it was based on my idea.”

Furthermore, it would appear that Ian Andrew did not look favorably on Minesweeper’s design changes compared to Mined-Out. 

“I also thought Mined-Out was a much better game for the simple reason that you didn’t need to take random chances in Mined-Out like you do have to with Minesweeper.”

5. Minesweeper’s Theme Came From Relentless Logic

Although Mined-Out is arguably the biggest influence on Minesweeper, other mainframe games influenced the design, rule-set, and aesthetics of Minesweeper. One of the biggest influences on Minesweeper’s aesthetics was Relentless Logic.

RelentlessLogic was released for MS-Dos in 1985 and featured the player taking the role of a private in the US Marine Corps that needs to navigate a minefield to deliver a message to the US Command Center. 

Consequently, RelentlessLogic influenced the use and display of mines as a threat for players to avoid. 

6. Curt Johnson Developed Minesweeper  

Minesweeper was developed by Curt Johnson for the OS/2 and later ported to Microsoft Windows as part of Entertainment Pack 1 in 1990. 

7. Robert Donner Ported Minesweeper  

Although Curt Johnson created Minesweeper, Robert Donner, another Microsoft employee, was responsible for porting Minesweeper to the Windows platform in 1990. 

8. Microsoft Minesweeper’s First Release Was In 1990 

Although created for the OS/2, both Curt Johnson and Robert Donner are cited as the co-creators of Minesweeper in 1990. Consequently, this association between Microsoft Windows and Minesweeper is inseparable and iconic in popular culture.

9. Minesweeper Became A Standard Windows Release In 1992 

After the success of Minesweeper as part of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack 1 in 1990, Minesweeper became synonymous with the Windows platform, having been released as standard on all Windows operating systems until 2012.

However, Oberon Media replaced Curt Johnson and his teams as the developers of Minesweeper in 2006, hence their updated versions becoming the standard for Windows Vista and Windows 7. 

10. Minesweeper Stopped Being Standard From Windows 8

Although Minesweeper became a staple piece of software on Windows Platforms from the time of its release, the introduction of Windows 8 led to the removal of Minesweeper as a standard piece of software on subsequent Windows platforms. 

However, a free version of Minesweeper developed by Arkadium & Microsoft Casual Games in 2012 could be downloaded for free off the Windows Store. 

11. A Free Version Of Minesweeper Is Available 

Along with the official Microsoft Minesweeper available for free on the Windows Store, there is also a free open source version of Minesweeper called KMines.

KMines is available for free download and is functional on operating systems other than Windows, such as Linux. 

12. It Is Easy To Cheat In Minesweeper 

Despite being a fairly complex puzzle game, older versions of Minesweeper had cheat codes built into the game that was easily accessible to the player. 

To access the cheat code in Microsoft XP’s version of Minesweeper, the player had to type “xzyyz” and press the shift key. Doing so would allow the player to hover their cursor over covered tiles, whereby the top left hand-screen would let the player know if the tile was “safe.” 

A white pixel indicated a “safe” tile that the player could click on without any consequences, while a black pixel indicated a “mined” tile that would end the game.

13. Later Minesweeper Variants Have Daily Challenges 

Microsoft Minesweeper, developed by Arkadium & Microsoft Casual Games, is notable for incorporating modern video game features into a classic title. An example of the quality of life changes for modern Minesweeper players is the inclusion of daily challenges and an “adventure mode.”

14. Minesweeper Was Developed To Teach Mouse Controls

Although Minesweeper was a successful and enjoyable game, its main purpose was to teach users how to use the mouse. While the use of a mouse has become ubiquitous with modern PC and laptop users, many users were unfamiliar with how to use a mouse in 1990. 

Therefore, Minesweeper requires players to accurately place their cursor over tiles with the mouse while opting to either left-click to expose a tile, right-click to flag a tile, or click both left and right mouse buttons on an exposed tile to open all non-flagged tiles, (alternatively, players could use the middle the mouse button.)

15. There Are Various Minesweeper Clones/Spinoffs 

Numerous Minesweeper clones can be found online by independent developers; however, the most common clones include open-source Minesweeper variants or Minesweeper for other operating systems such as:

  • KMines, 
  • GNOME Mines, 
  • MineHunt. 

16. Minesweeper Has A Dedicated Following  

Despite dating back to 1990, Minesweeper saw continued success into the 21st century. Minesweeper developed a dedicated scene in North America and Europe. It saw an explosion of global popularity and competition when China began producing some of the best Minesweeper players from 2007 onwards. 

17. Various Games Reference Minesweeper  

Because Minesweeper influenced the video game industry, it’s unsurprising to see variants appear in other popular games.

Two examples of Minesweeper include a variant in Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver known as the Voltorb Flip Game and Minecraft’s 2015 April Fool’s update, which introduced the Minescreeper variant.  

18. Minesweeper Has Proven Controversial In Some Countries

Although Minesweeper is known to be a fairly uncontroversial, family-friendly game, the inclusion of mines was deemed controversial in countries that had experienced the aftermath of war and its association with ongoing tragedies such as landmines.

Consequently, Microsoft Vista included a version of Minesweeper that allowed players to swap out mines for flowers to address these concerns. 

19. Most High-Level Minesweeper Players Are Male 

Most high-level Minesweeper players are males between the ages of 17 and 25. Furthermore, most of them studied mathematics and/or science at a university level.  

20. Many High-Level Minesweeper Players Compete In Other Games  

It is common to find high-level minesweeper players competing in related fields, such as Rubik’s Cube world championships. 

Last Word

In conclusion, while Minesweeper may not be a staple piece of software on modern Windows devices, the game’s continued popularity makes it free and easy to access across a host of platforms!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.